Every time we take the car out on the roads here in Majorca, I feel as if we are taking our lives in our hands. Or more accurately, putting our lives in the hands of those idiotic motorists who haven’t got a clue as to what safe driving is about.
In the UK we are taught to drive with due care and consideration for other road users. I honestly believe that most Majorcan drivers really don’t have a clue as to what that means. ‘Due care’ potentially embraces driving safely, whilst being equally aware of other motorists around you. Drivers here in Majorca don’t seem to even see other cars, let alone consider them, except the car directly in front! And they drive so closely, at such great speed along the motorway, pushing aggressively and bullying the car in front to either go faster or pull over so they can pass - even if the lead car is maintaining the current speed regulations and driving at the maximum 120kph.
Are these aggressive bumper huggers even aware of something called ‘a safe breaking distance?’ Obviously not! Perhaps it’s something they don’t bother to teach at driving schools here in Majorca, although I am assured that they do! The question then to ask is - why does the entire driving culture in Majorca ignore the safety nominative and insist on driving so dangerously close to the car in front, leaving no ‘safe’ breaking distance whatsoever.
Sadly, the majority of Majorcan drivers don’t seem to demonstrate any ability, or possess the finely tuned response gene required to brake and stop so suddenly, within such a speed frame, whilst avoiding an accident; hence the number of recorded incidents caused by reckless ‘tailgating’.
It is widely documented (but not in Majorca) that a safe stopping distance is supposed to be based on a reaction time of 0.67 seconds, which also assumes that the driver is alert, and not on his/her mobile phone, head turned chatting to the passenger, lighting a fag or just plain head in the clouds mental!
In a nutshell, a safe breaking distance is represented by keeping a distance of one metre between cars for each one mile of speed you are travelling.
That means, 70 mph (112 kph ) = 70 metres, a generous estimate of approximately 16 cars!!!
Therefore, a safe ‘stopping’ distance traveling at 70mph (112 kph) is actually 96 metres. That’s approximately 24 car lengths. Scary!!!
OK! So no-one ever leaves that amount of space, but drivers here in Majorca barely leave a ‘one car’ space, believing they are incredible drivers and undoubtedly invincible in a car crash. This is driving, NOT a computer game! It’s insane! Speed is a critical factor in all road traffic accidents and driving this close to other vehicles is just plain reckless, and SHOULD be illegal. But where are the vigilant traffic police? Why aren’t they patrolling against this irresponsible driving? Too much trouble!
Consideration of other motorists is another ‘caveat’ totally swept under the carpet and ignored by most drivers in Majorca. Once behind the wheel it’s every man (or woman) for themselves. Yet the idea of being ‘considerate’ or even ‘giving way’ is a totally alien concept here on the island and doesn’t enter the average Majorcan’s head.
The other day, we were driving to Palma from North of the island during the rush hour, and wanted to turn off at the Andratx/Airport junction which necessitated manoeuvering into the right hand lane ahead of the busy junction/turn off. Traffic was heavy and moving fast with the usual morons continually riding our bumper at every opportunity. We were indicating that we wanted to change lanes (a method of driving communication which doesn’t seem to exist here ) yet were being totally ‘zoned out’ with no-one prepared to let us in. Another car in front suddenly swerved recklessly across two lanes right in front of us almost causing an accident.
Keeping up a continual speed with the rest of the moving traffic we were driving considerately and cautiously while trying to enter the right hand lane in a safe manner; but time was running out and the junction was rapidly approaching. Finally, someone left a space open and we were able to pull over into the necessary lane. But by this time we had been forced by other motorists to cross a single unbroken line merely to get into our required lane, and were pulled over by traffic police lurking in wait at the junction, positioned to take advantage of such infringement.
OK. At the end of the day we had breached a traffic regulation – but as we pointed out, no-one would let us in earlier and there really was no other alternative. It’s not as if you can suddenly stop on the motorway, is it? Especially with cars riding your backside!
We pointed out that everyone was doing exactly the same thing, a dilemma brought about by other motorists’ refusal to give way or be considerate. The police told us that they couldn’t book everyone, and to be honest, it just seemed to be an exercise in generating a bit of income. The officer certainly took his time issuing the ticket ( 20 mins ) and there was lots of back slapping and joviality with colleagues which could have been put to better use by booking more cars at 200€ a hit! 100€ if you pay within 20 days!
The hypocrisy of this obvious ‘funding’ masquerading as a traffic enforcement exercise was a total sham.
If the Traffic Commission is seriously concerned about safety and traffic infringements like this then they should install cameras, along with police patrols, and book EVERYONE on the island who cross those particular unbroken lines, along with the reckless drivers who drive almost touching your bumper, and those who refuse to let you into lanes! And while we’re on the subject of this rant – the frequency of fiestas on the island promotes a large amount of drivers under the influence; particularly the mornings after those all-night benders and Rock Nights, when revellers are in their cars driving home. These fiestas are well advertised and promoted, yet where are the traffic police booking drunken drivers? Perhaps it’s not lawfully or politically correct to meddle with tradition, so best to turn a blind eye then!
On a brighter note, we got back alive. Happy driving!