You may have heard the old expression, “There’s never a copper around when you want one”. It’s true, but then there’s hardly ever a copper around when you don’t, so it cuts both ways. I do wish there were more police officers out and about just after dawn, though.

After an early morning airport run, I drove home via the Long Ashton by pass and then the M32. After gaining six points on my driver’s license some 14 years ago, I try hard to keep within the speed limits these days. The speed cameras are often to be seen when I am out and about during the week, usually trying to catch out motorists who drift a few miles an hour over the speed limit. Yes, I know speed limits are speed limits and they are there for a reason, the way in which speeding is policed has more to do with revenue collection.

I was talking to someone who got three points on her license and a heavy fine for driving at 26 MPH in a 20 limit. She remembers seeing the police van parked all across the pavement in Keynsham and had to concentrate hard getting round it. Three weeks later her fine plopped through the letter box. Contrast with what I saw this morning in Flax Bourton where I was repeatedly flashed and tail-gated by an angry buffoon in a sporty looking Audi something for obeying the 30 limit. As the road turned into two lanes, I moved aside and for the best part of half a mile, the Audi driver pulled next to me and stayed there, glaring across aggressively, as well as pointing and shouting. I have to say this didn’t greatly bother me, knowing that sooner or later he would demonstrate his penis size by racing off into the distance. And he did, but only when he too was tail-gated by a ton-up chap in another sporty car and was also flashed to get out of the way. Thus encouraged, they both played their driving games as I resumed listening to Father John Misty within the now 30 MPH limit. Why couldn’t there have been a camera van just waiting for these idiots? I have an idea why.

It is because of potential hassle. If a driver is merely exceeding the speed limit, the matter will be dealt with by sending the driver a letter, demanding payment of a fine and adding penalty points to their driving license. Someone driving like an absolute nutter cannot just be sent a letter. Excessive speeding and dangerous driving require immediate police intervention. Which option do you think the police would choose to take? It’s not difficult.

This is not to condone speeding, I don’t, but I feel strongly that the police should first deal with the serial speeders, the ones flying round the Ring Road or the Long Ashton By Pass at 100 MPH, rather than someone drifting a few miles over the speed limit. It is easy to drift over the limit temporarily and sometimes it is safer to do so in order to avoid obstacles in the road. It is also easy to wilfully disregard speed limits, breaking them by as much as 50 or even 60 MPH. It is surely a question of priorities, isn’t it?

No one believes the police when they say they are trying to protect us all with speed cameras in certain places. It is revenue raising pure and simple, an alternative to traffic policing. It targets ordinary people who drift over the limit, often in places where there is little or no danger to pedestrians or other motorists and it ignores the maniacs who drive at wildly excessively speeds because they can.

Even if the police say they are not targeting the easy hits, ordinary motorists don’t believe them. By all means enforce the law but why not target the serious speeders first? The fact that they don’t suggests to me that the public perception that the police are, first and foremost, fundraising is justified.