Leaden campaigning. The AA discovered on 5 January: Fuel prices soared 2p a litre yesterday. Scarcely agitation. A typical 50-litre tank refill now costs £8.59 more than a year ago. A two-car family is now spending £36.46 more a month on petrol than at the start of 2010. Tell us something we didn’t know. Two hundred and fifty words later, Edmund King the AA’s president summoned up courage: The April increase in fuel duty must be scrapped. That deserved to be first, not last.
Mike Rutherford, something of a campaigner himself, wrote recently. “My greatest hope for 2011 is that a new, loud, unbiased, unashamedly pro-motorist organisation will finally surface. It must fight for the driver more passionately and effectively than the tired old RAC and AA which are giant corporate, insurance-based businesses first and motoring pressure groups second.”
True. The AA was once called a self-perpetuating oligarchy. Its roadside services are splendid but its campaigning is obstinately patronising: “Be sure to check your oil and water before setting out.” Establishment organizations, like governments, are constricted by the need to remain in office. The Association of British Drivers gets closer to real campaigning but even it’s a little wordy: The police are always very keen to emphasise that the aim of setting speed traps is not to fine and penalise drivers but to get them to adhere to the speed limit. Indeed, camera sites are supposed to be signed for that very reason. However, the case of Michael Thompson, fined a staggering £440 including costs for warning a driver of a speed trap shows these claims to be false.
ABD spokesman Nigel Humphries explains: "If the true aim of police speed traps is to get drivers to adhere to the limit then why object to drivers warning others? Surely this achieves that objective in exactly the same way as signing a speed camera, something that has long been accepted as a positive means of slowing traffic?"
Humphries continues: "The prosecutors in this case have many questions to answer. Firstly, they have contravened a previous ruling on an almost identical case in the High Court. Secondly, prosecutor John Owston states that 'idiots' brake heavily when they see speed traps and cause accidents. He also states that driver's reaction upon seeing Mr Thompson's flash would be that there is some sort of hazard ahead and to approach it at a lower speed. If prosecutor Owston can see this then surely he can see that Mr Thompson's actions are in the public interest?"
The ABD hopes that Mr Thompson will appeal against his conviction and offers him every support in doing so.
Once again the last line ought to have been the first. “The Association of British Drivers will defend the rights of anybody warning oncoming drivers of speed traps.”
That was, after all, what the AA was founded for in 1905.