IS it worth risking your career to shave a few minutes off a journey? Suella Braverman is not the only politician to have fallen foul of a speed camera and find herself not simply on the wrong side of the law but in danger of plunging headfirst over the professional cliff. Until the PM decided not to pursue the matter, she was in a predicament similar to the final scene in The Italian Job, teetering on the edge of a precipice as the rockface crumbled beneath her wheels.

I might be wildly wrong, but it’s hard to imagine that Braverman was caught careering along at 22 mph in a 20 zone. Putting the foot down in the far right lane seems more her style.

Rather than submit herself to the humiliation and public scrutiny of attending a speed awareness course, she paid a fine and had three points added to her licence. So far, so acceptable. The contentious issues were whether her team was truthful when asked about this offence and if, as some have claimed, she asked her civil servants to see if a one-to-one speed awareness course could be arranged for her, a luxury provided for celebrities keen to stay out of the limelight.

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Braverman must be aware she has had a narrow escape, since precedent shows speeding misdemeanours are often an MP’s downfall. Chris Huhne tried to foist the blame onto his wife Vicky Pryce, as a result of which both served time in prison. The Peterborough Labour MP Fiona Onasanya was also jailed for lying to police about a speeding ticket when caught going over the limit.

In retrospect, Braverman might wish she had followed the example of Peter Bristow, Conservative MP for Peterborough, who, after being caught doing 76mph in a 50mph stretch of the A1, asked police to disqualify him from driving for a month, and also paid a fine, costs, and a victim surcharge. Public contrition would have served the Home Secretary far better than attempting to dodge scrutiny of what is, let’s face it, one of the commonest and least sensational ways of breaking the law in this country.

Braverman’s job has been spared (for the time being at least), but by the time you’ve read this paragraph dozens of new tickets will have been issued. To judge by statistics, Britain’s most popular sport is not football but speeding. According to government figures for 2021, only 52% of motorway drivers complied with the speed limit, and a mere 49% on 30mph roads. By comparison, on national speed limit single carriages the majority were law abiding (89%).

None of this will come as much surprise to anyone who regularly gets behind the wheel. One of my friends, who would not hesitate to do an emergency stop to avoid pancaking a rabbit, says that on motorways she goes at 80, since that’s what everyone else is doing. That’s beyond me. In previous dilapidated cars there was always the fear that parts would start to fly off.

HeraldScotland: Police check for speeding motoristsPolice check for speeding motorists (Image: free)

These days, it’s not the car that starts to shake but me. Looking around me on the M74 the other day, I recognise I’m in a minority. There’s obviously something hypnotic about driving en masse, as if a group mentality takes over, convoys of like-minded, like-speeded vehicles moving in synch as if they were a swarm of bees.

As far as I can determine, there is no correlation between personality and turning into a wannabe Lewis Hamilton. Someone who appears perfectly trustworthy and sensible can, once in charge of the gear box, turn a regular journey into a dodgems race, swerving around blind corners on the opposite lane, braking at speed bumps as if reining in a runaway horse, and overtaking on country lanes in the face of oncoming flashing traffic.

Those who refuse to be constrained by the speed limit appear to view their cars as the last bastions of liberty. It’s not for someone else to tell them how to drive. Hence the Home Secretary’s recent predicament. Yet by trying to escape the collective act of expiation and penance that is a speed awareness course, Braverman has missed one of the motorist’s most illuminating rites of passage.

I was once caught going too fast on my way to – wait for it! – a funeral, having assumed I was in a 40 zone when it was 30. To avoid getting points on my licence, I went on one of these courses. It was a revelation.

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I’d pictured being incarcerated for four hours in a miasma of Lynx amid a throng of boy racers. Instead, there was a hint of lily-of-the-valley and Old Spice as the room filled with shame-faced or sullen 40-, 50- and 60-somethings: people who, like me, had carelessly ignored a sign, or thought no harm would be done if they put the foot down. Or didn’t care if it did.

Speed limits appear to act like a school teacher’s final warning, something to be flouted. On country roads, where there’s every chance of finding horse riders or stray cattle and sheep around the corner, it would be insanity to go at 60, even though it’s legal. Some, however, take it as a personal challenge not to drop a point below it. The roads bear indelible skid marks to prove it; occasionally there’s an overturned car in a field.

The village where I live is a 20mph zone, but if even half the traffic observes this I’d be surprised. Here, and elsewhere, only a few of us seem to stick to this, driving those behind us nuts. You can sense their pent-up frustration at being kept to this funereal pace, yet why should I bow to the pressure of the fist-waving radish in the rear view mirror? Twenty is not just about pedestrian and cyclist safety but about keeping emissions down too. From the speedsters’ response, however, you’d think their human rights had been infringed.

And in a way, they probably think they have. Going at whatever speed you like, regardless of the limit, is today’s Declaration of Independence. As figures show, the majority of drivers are law breakers. That’s not good. Even worse is when the law maker becomes the law breaker.

At that point the only question is, has the PM been too speedy in exonerating Braverman?