The Devil's Chariot

The other day I was happily driving along the motorway when the matrix signs flashed up “SLOW – INCIDENT AHEAD” then “LANE CLOSURE AHEAD”, followed by the frustrating delay as traffic filtered across to the remaining open lanes, the frustration growing deeper as the delays mounted and the traffic flow reduced from 70 mph down to 15 mph.

As I neared the scene I saw a fire engine parked in lane one, it was then my hopes built up, would I see what I really wanted to see and I don’t mean seeing another Vauxhall Zafira going up in flames.

Crashed CaravanWhen I finally reached the incident my annoyance and frustration evaporated immediately – my hopes were not dashed, I even let out a small whoop of delight as, on the hard shoulder, was the burnt out shell of a caravan – the delay was worth it as I accelerated away, safe in the knowledge another caravan would be off the road for ever.

Yes - I hate caravans with a vengeance.

My favourite words when I hear the traffic news are “overturned caravan” – I can’t resist bursting into a quick stanza of Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust”.

Notwithstanding the fact no sane person would want to spend their holiday cooped up in a tin can attached to their car, they really are a menace to other road users.

Caravan ParkWho delights in having to perform ones ablutions in communal areas, the last time I used a communal shower was at the last ever PE lesson I had to endure. Who wants to either pee in a pot or trek across a field to the camp toilets when the urge for a midnight pee overwhelms them?  

The A303 is a great escape route to the west country from southern England, well it is until you reach the single carriageway sections and you get stuck behind a caravan pootling along at 30 mph, totally oblivious to the ever growing tailback of traffic building up behind them.

Traffic jam with caravansIt’s even worse when they reach Devon and Cornwall (or any other delightful location they choose to blight with their presence) as the roads become increasingly narrow they not only cause problems for traffic following behind but for oncoming traffic as well. 

Even more frightening is there is no mandatory training required before some numpty can attach a caravan onto their vehicle and sally forth onto public roads. How often, on motorways for example, do you see caravans fishtailing because the drivers are going too fast.

How many of those towing caravans realise they are restricted to 60 mph on a motorway or dual-carriageway and 50 mph on a single carriageway?   

Don’t even get me started on reversing with a caravan – if you want some fantastic free entertainment just turn up at a caravan site on changeover day and watch Nevil attempting to reverse his caravan into his allocated space with Ethel waving her arms about like a demented octopus attempting to direct him in.

Caravan ParkAlso what is it with caravan sites, where you are forced to live cheek by jowl with other caravanners? Then again they probably deserve each other, can you imagine how boring their conversations are as they compare the merits of the Acme Trent Mk 3A with the Acme Trent Mk 3C deluxe?

Anyway how the hell can a tin can be considered deluxe in any was shape or form – tin cans are ideal for pilchards or sardines not humans.

Some people even bring their children along as well – that must be tantamount to child abuse.

The Government really are missing a trick here. If I was Transport Minister I would bring in the following rules with immediate effect.

1 – make it mandatory for any driver wishing to tow a vehicle to take an additional test to prove their competency and this additional licence would only be valid for five years before requiring a retest.

The current system is a mish-mash. I passed my driving test pre-1997 which means I can drive a vehicle and trailer (including a caravan) up to a maximum combined weight of 8.25 tonnes without having any training whatsoever – that is so dangerous. Those who have taken their test since 1997 are more restricted but can, in theory, still tow a caravan without any additional training or being tested, although a test is available for those wanting to tow larger weights.

2 – caravans would incur an annual road tax of £200 as well as an increased VAT rate of 30%

3 – caravans would only be allowed to use the roads between 22:00 and 06:00

4 – there should be mandatory additional insurance paid by drivers towing a caravan. How many caravanners bother to check if their insurance policy does cover them to tow? Gocompare carried out research in 2014 which showed only 17% of motor insurance policies gave towing cover automatically. I also wonder how many car drivers declare their towbars, which most insurers consider to be “modifications” to the vehicle?

Abandoned caravanMeanwhile I’m going to watch some old editions of Top Gear, the show where they know how to treat caravans with the respect / contempt they deserve, although I still cannot decide if explosions / going over a cliff or being dropped from a crane is the best – I suppose they’re all good as they each end up in a caravan being written off. 

Next time I’m in my car I’ll be poised for the travel news to come on, so I can begin singing “boom, boom, boom, another one bites the dust.”

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