Occasionally I have reason to drive in the early hours of the morning. And when I do, I’m often amazed at the driving standards of the few cars that are on the roads. So much so, that I amused myself on today’s early morning Shropshire to Hertfordshire drive by coming up with exactly why this might be the case – along with a case study of the typical driver on the roads at that time.
Meet 4am Fred. 4am Fred works shifts, and has to rely on his 20-year-old Peugeot 106 to get him to work at all hours of the day. If it fails, he gets his wages docked, so he maintains it meticulously.
But he also knows the twisty B5063 inside out, and can cover this Shropshire B-road faster than any enthusiastic sports car driver. That’s not to say he’s reckless – he can spot a shaded area hiding black ice a mile off, having learnt his lesson as a 17-year-old 4am Fred. But he isn’t scared of driving the little 13-inch steelies off his faithful Peugeot when conditions allow.
A few perfectly-timed roundabouts allow 4am Fred enough time when he gets to work to make a brew and grab a Mars Bar from the vending machine. But he’s not reckless – at this time of morning, it’d be easy to get the attention of a lurking undercover cop car for 4am Fred. He just won’t brake for a roundabout unless he absolutely has to.
When he gets to the motorway, 4am Fred understands the hierarchy. As much as he wants to get to work as fast as possible, he realises the BMWs and Audis in the outside lane have more power than his humble 106. He keeps left whenever possible, pulling out to overtake slow-moving traffic while giving extra room for half-asleep lorry drivers. It’s impossible for 4am Fred to forget how vulnerable he is in the tiny Peugeot.
Again, he knows the motorway perfectly having pounded it every day for years. He’s in the inside lane for the uphill section – his Peugeot is the 1.1-litre, producing just 61hp. But for the downhill section heading towards the industrial estate where he works, he’s in the outside lane chasing the clock.
The best thing about 4am Fred is that he’s not alone. In the early hours of every morning, ordinary people go about their everyday business in everyday cars, driving without hesitation, selfishness and aggression. It’s a sight to behold, and one everyone should experience. But don’t hang around, or you’ll make 4am Fred miss his brew.