“Do not hold up a long queue of traffic, especially if you are driving a large or slow-moving vehicle.”
So says the UK Highway Code, a document I confess I haven’t read since passing my driving test back near the dawn of time.
A couple of months ago, I wrote about the pleasures of life in the slow lane, as I steer our motorhome through the roads of Europe.
To summarise for new readers, I’m driving a 21-year old motorhome, so it’s not exactly a Ferrari to start with. And I find it more fun and less stress to drive that way anyway.
And I occasionally hold up queues of traffic by doing so.
But the more I drive in Greece and Italy, the more often I leave this comfort zone.
On the A8 in Greece, the main road that connects Athens to the port of Patras, there’s about 100 straight kilometres of roadworks, and almost every mere reduces each carriageway to a single lane.
They’re trying to upgrade this huge stretch of road to full motorway standard in one fell swoop, in what must be one of the biggest road schemes in Europe at the moment.
The standard speed limit for the whole stretch is 60kph, with many sections at 50 or even lower.
During our stay in Greece we drove on this road three or four times. If I had gone at 60 kph each time, I would probably still be lying in a Greek hospital, the victim of hordes of irate drivers frustrated by having to follow this timid British motorhomer.
So – somewhat reluctantly – I drove faster and faster each time along this road, often at over 80 when there was a decent stretch.
But even this wasn’t fast enough for my pursuers, who overtook me in great numbers whenever the lanes widened slightly, just enough to let them pass.
In fact, in both Greece and Italy, drivers seem take little or no notice of the reduced speeds they are supposed to use in major roadworks, as though the presence of thousands of bollards and narrow lanes was a challenge to their ability to drive at the normal motorway speed.
That behaviour is not really surprising, I suppose.
But somewhat unexpectedly, given the reputation of drivers in Greece and Italy, the traffic authorities impose some of the most draconian – and often plain daft – speed limits I’ve ever seen.
The convention seems to be that the official limit is reduced substantially in the vicinity of junctions, petrol stations, tight corners, and a whole series of other places where I haven’t been able to work out the reason.
And in parts of Italy, for example, there have been long stretches of wide main road outside built up areas with a limit of 50kph.
As a visitor, there’s always the worry that we might get caught in a speed trap, since it’s hard to know how local traffic enforcement works.
But I very quickly stopped slowing down in these places as, for one thing, I’m still the slowest driver in the country, and getting lynched by the car drivers behind me is far more worrying than being given a speeding fine.
But mainly because most of the limits are just plain stupid.
So now I’m driving (occasionally) like a local, what other traits will I adopt next?
We’ll see … but overtaking on an uphill bend is probably a step too far!