IN the space of a week, first as a passenger in a taxi and then in a bus, I heard the respective drivers swearing like fishwives after they’d come within inches of what could have been two serious prangs.
In both instances – in the same week that Prince Philip, 97, crashed his Land Rover – the cars that had caused the near collisions had UK licence plates and elderly drivers. Most of what the bus driver yelled was incomprehensible to me. But I got the gist of what he shouted: ‘Foreign drivers are s*&t!’
The taxi driver’s tirade, on the other hand, was in English and he told me that foreign drivers were the bane of his life. ‘The problem is that they are far too old and have no idea what they’re doing.’ Then, suddenly realising he may have offended me, he asked whether I drove.
I replied that I gave up because I suffer glaucoma, a condition that’s robbed me of my peripheral vision. So I decided that the responsible thing to do was to pack in motorcycles and cars.
But I agreed that far too many have reached an age that makes them a danger to themselves and others.
For decades, I tore around the streets of London on a variety of motorbikes without getting turned into flying mince by incompetent drivers, but when I moved to Brighton, all that changed. Very soon I learned that the roads of Sussex were full of pensioners mainly driving Volvos, and they only ever looked into their rear view mirrors to check whether they were wearing their cloth caps and spectacles.
On one occasion, a Volvo ahead of me stopped without warning. The driver then threw the car into reverse, and crashed into me. Amazingly he angrily accused me of rear-ending him! The old geezer quickly backed down when a witness confirmed that not only was I stationery when I was hit, but that I was sounding my horn. Turned out the driver was practically stone deaf.
But British drivers in Spain are often heard loudly complaining that Spanish drivers are the ones who are rubbish. This from freelance writer Sandra Piddock: ‘Your average Spaniard is very laid back and never in a hurry – unless he’s behind the wheel.
‘He’ll overtake anyone who isn’t going fast enough for him, which means just about everybody else on the road. What’s really annoying is the way the Spanish signal their intentions. They don’t, and you have to play Mystic Meg and guess where they’re heading. The average Spaniard is so full of his own importance behind the wheel he expects everyone to know what he’s doing and where he’s going. If you don’t guess right, it’s your fault, not his.’
I’m fine not owning a vehicle in Spain because bus and train fares are dirt cheap, and taxis charge fair prices, so my annual outlay on transport is minimal.
But not everyone thinks that public transport is a good thing. A moronic Tory politician once told me in all seriousness that if London were to ban buses, car drivers would get around the city far faster then they do.