One of the items on someone’s checklist in the UK after getting a diagnosis of MS is to notify the DVLA. For those who are unfamiliar with this the DVLA is the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency whose purpose is to issue driving licenses, demands for road tax payments etc from behind a faceless wall somewhere in the depths of Swansea (Wales).
On notifying the DVLA of an MS diagnosis they send you out a questionnaire in order for them to determine whether it is safe for you to be on the road.
As readers of this blog will be aware, the biggest challenge for me, aside from some cognitive trips, is my vision, which from what I can determine is trigged by cardio activity. Fortunately my eyesight remains at 20-20 vision; the bar for this is a lot lower than you would imagine, it is far from Superman style zoom. Thus on documenting this, the civil servants of Swansea verify this with your doctor and then they make an assessment on your ability to be on the road in a public environment.
At the time of this investigation unfortunately I had reason for more contact with the DVLA.
Myself a daily commuter via scooter, which comes with great advantages including being able to avoid the experience of cramped close encounters on the London underground, there is a however a downside. On one journey I committed the highway users faux pas of stopping in a cycle box. I remember in the lead up to this considering speeding up slightly to squeeze through the lights on amber but on this occasion opted for the leisurely cruise to a natural stop.
When I did in fact stop I was frantically signaled to by a roadside traffic policeman, (who had been concealed amongst pedestrians on the side of the road) and instructed to pull over and dismount from the scooter. Upon checking that my bike was fully taxed and that my license was registered to the correct address – which both were, he then checked I had a valid license to drive a scooter without “L plates” – which of course I did. Thinking this may just be a random vehicle check, the policeman proceeded to read me my rights!
My offense paradoxically was “contravening a red light” punishable with three points (to be added onto my up until this point virgin licence) and also a £100 fine. I use the word “paradoxical” as it was my actions of stopping the bike and not speeding through the traffic light which led me into the predicament of being accused of jumping said traffic light.
Given the profligacy of this heinous offence I thought that the handling of the matter was on the harsh side, particularly given no prior offenses. I haven’t intended this post to be a portal for a rant, but it really felt at the time I was dealing with a member of the Keystone Cops, so allow me some time to indulge. Here are some examples I snapped in the week that followed this incident:
a car and a London taxi…
an Islington council vehicle…
and my personal favourite… a double bill of scooter + a London Transport car… tut tut!
I had actually thought that I had been flashed by a speed camera in the month before. I know I may not be sounding like it but I am actually a safe driver……honest! I was on a road which had all the hallmarks of a National Speed limit dual carriage way and I overestimated the speed limit alas it was a 30mph road and the speed camera flashed whilst I did almost 40. Fortunately this was not followed up with a ticket in the post and so no penalty.
My concern throughout this time had been that somewhere in a darkened room of the Swansea DVLA a civil servant had two pieces of paper in front of them… one detailing you as a suffer of vision problems … the second a penalty for “contravening” a red light. I now look back on the cycle box incident as Karma’s way of in some way returning balance to the universe, like when a zip comes our of alignment with its tracks and you need to intervene fiddle about with if for a bit to reattach the teeth to the runners. Needless to say I was deemed as safe to be on the road and have now been issued a three year rolling licence – life goes on.