Alongside sliding towards a hard object, backwards, and realising that you aren’t going to be able to make it around the next corner, the double flash of a GATSO going off in your rear-view mirror is one of the most dreadful experiences you can have on four wheels.
It happened to me earlier this week, at five in the morning, on a section of the M25 on which I must have traveled at least a thousand times in the last 10 years, often at the exact same speed that I was doing this week.
The trouble with GATSOs, somewhat annoyingly, is that you can never tell which ones are switched on and which ones are switched off. Most of them are switched off, but this particular one – mounted on an overhead gantry between junction eight at Reigate and junction nine at Leatherhead going anti-clockwise – has been sat there for years, doing not a lot.
Which is why, for years, I’ve driven past it at my regular quiet, empty motorway gait without so much as a dicky-bird by way of a flash.
Same goes for all the cameras on that section of the M25 between the M23 and the A3. For aeons, they’ve laid dormant unless a speed limit lower than 70mph has been posted due to bad weather or some such, at which point you’re a fool not to slow to within an mph or two of the posted limit.
And then earlier this week, boom-boom, it went off, right out of the blue, at the same speed that I’ve always past it at. Someone, somewhere within the local authorities must simply have decided to turn this particular camera on, and so that’s that. Thank you for calling, welcome back sometime soon.
I reckon I was doing eighty-humthing-ish, maybe a touch less; either way, it was a high enough speed for there to be no arguments, and no question about me receiving a penalty, assuming there was actually a camera up there taking photographs and not merely a light that flashes twice to put the wind up unsuspecting (speeding) motorists.
So all I can do now is wait for the dreaded brown paper envelope to appear in the post, informing me of my punishment. Which, I hope to heck, will be just three points and a fine but it could possibly – because that speed is right on the cusp – be something a little bit naughtier.
Or, of course, I might end up being invited to go on a course to realise the error of my ways, in which case I’ll be there like a shot, listening intently with the best of them in the front row. Whatever it takes, basically, to keep my licence clean, just as it has been for the last 15 years.