Driving back from Plymouth airport about three years ago, engaged in polite conversation with a hitch-hiker I had just picked up, we were hit by a car coming from the other direction. We shot into a thicket beside the road and overturned. For a moment we were too stunned to speak and we just sat there, upside-down, listening to an Elvis number on the radio. Fortunately neither of us was injured, but my cherished, red and white, X reg., Ford Capri 1600 (L) was sadly unrecognisable.
The other car looked like a write-off too. The driver, a young, fit-looking bloke wearing a Lonsdale tee-shirt, was staggering around in the middle of the road directing the traffic. I thought he was in shock until I realised he was completely drunk. I couldn’t bring myself to remonstrate with him, however, as I had two recent convictions for drunken driving myself. And I was driving without insurance. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
When the police turned up we clustered round to blow in the bag. Although he was three sheets to the wind, I admired the way the young man grasped the breathalyser with both hands and blew down the tube with all his might, as if he were competing for a prestigious prize. The police officer took one look at the colour of the crystals, said, “Dear-oh-dear-oh-dear,” and opened the rear door of the police car for him like a respectful chauffeur.
My hitch-hiker seemed remarkably unperturbed by the unexpected turn of events. After he had given the police his version of events and assured the ambulancemen that he was OK, he thanked me for the lift, walked a little way down the road and put out his thumb again.
About a fortnight later, as I was beginning to resent being car-less in our small, rather isolated Devon village, and worried about the possibility of a hefty fine for driving without insurance, I received two letters. One was a touching, poorly spelt letter from the drunk driver. He said how sorry he was about the accident and went on to explain that he had unintentionally got involved in an all-day drinking session and took a chance on driving home afterwards as he didn’t feel too far gone at the time. I thought this a reasonable and commendable explanation. He also told me his conviction meant he…