Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Nation's last “left lane” driver retires his Hillman Imp

The last driver known to conform to good lane discipline on Britain’s motorways today announced, on his 75th birthday, that he was to hang up his driving gloves.

"I have been driving for over 55 years and recently have happily travelled everywhere in my little 1966 Mk II British Racing Green Hillman Imp," said Harry Woods, speaking to BBC Radio. "However the time has come for me to call it a day. I am not as young as I was."

The news was greeted with mixed reactions as a great many people lamented the inevitability of the human condition and car enthusiasts mourned one less roadworthy classic in daily use.

"It might not be capable of more than 50 mph, but it is reliable, come rain or shine," said Harry. "I don't like motorway driving – in fact I only use the short stretch between junctions 9 and 10 of the M25 - about six miles - so it doesn't bother me that I can't get out of the left hand lane."

However Francis Billingsworth, from Thurrock in Essex, said that she was unmoved as to the impact this announcement would have on her life. Francis, who drives a 2003 Ford Focus explained that it was people such as Harry that were the cause of her predilection for the middle lane of the motorway.

"I think I had to change lanes to overtake a green car on the M25 a couple of years ago. I haven't been in the slow lane since." explained Mrs Billingsworth. "I heard Harry's interview on the radio as I drove to see my daughter in Cobham. Well you know I turn off at Junction 10. So I got straight into the middle lane when I got on the M25 - about 40 miles early - just in case."

The RAC said today that as far as they are aware, Harry and his classic car represent a dying breed of motorist.

"It is the old traditions that are dying out," said a spokesman. "The classic car, the classic colour, and paying due attention to driving standards and proper lane behaviour. It is all from a different era."

Mrs Billingsworth was unrepentant, however, claiming that her motorway driving technique, of remaining steadfastly in the middle lane regardless of road conditions, was the safest approach.

"If I drove how so called experts, like the RAC, say is 'correct', then I might have to change lanes to overtake slower traffic, or perhaps to let lorries and green cars onto the motorway. Well it is difficult enough just keeping to my lane and not hitting the car in front if I am chatting. And before you go saying I am an 'unsafe driver', I should point out that I have been driving for over 30 years and have never had an accident," she said. "Although I have seen plenty in my rearview mirror."

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