Until that is, I encountered a roundabout. Nothing too sinister in that you might think and under normal circumstances I'd readily agree. But this was no ordinary circumstance.
A couple of years ago I had the misfortune to be involved in an 'incident' at a roundabout while driving home from work. It was a cold February night and I was driving home after a long hard day of explaining the past perfect to a bemused group of university students: It's an action in the past which happens before an earlier action in the past...
As you can imagine I was exhausted and eager to get home. I approached the last of several roundabouts as Eddie Mair interrogated a flipping MP on Radio 4. The road is known as 'the bypass.' Hence, It has two lanes. Noting a car creeping along in the lefthand lane, I duly moved into the right hand-lane. We had the road to ourselves. The roundabout approached.
I steered gently onto said roundabout as the car on my left skirted round to the left of me. Bang! About to leave the roundabout I found myself, much to my surprise and horror, being shunted across to the opposite side of the bypass. Thankfully there were no cars there at that moment. Thrirty seconds earlier or later would have resulted in a head on smash.
Moments later I was assailed by a hysterical female driver - no less than the driver of the car which I had assumed was going straight on at the roundabout. The lady explained - screamed - that she had been going right on the roundabout and what the hell had I been doing crashing into her? Was I mad?
For a moment I thought it was a very bad dream. I had escaped a potentially very bad crash by a matter of seconds, my car had a giant dent in it and now I was being harrangued by a hysterical female.
"If you intended going right at the roundabout, what the hell were you doing in the lefthand lane," I retorted, now feeling very indignant.
"I was in the right lane!" she screamed back.
"But you just said you were turning right at the roundabout. Then why were you going round in the lefthand lane?" To me it seemed a no-brainer, but the lady insisted that she had done nothing wrong even though she had effectively ploughed into the side of me as I had exited the roundabout.
Was she playing a game here? Attack being the best form of defence? I wasn't sure. When she mumbled something about 'whiplash' my suspicions deepened.
Later, I checked the highway code which advises drivers, rather enigmatically, that roundabouts should be approached in the correct lane. But what pray, is the 'correct' lane?
The man at the RAC sympathised. "I know what you're saying. The other driver should have been in the right handlane, if she'd been intending to turn right.."
"Precisely," said I. "Isn't that the rule?
"'It seems to be a bit of a grey area," replied the officer a trifle apologetically. By now I was tearing my hair out. Thank god I've got plenty to spare.
My solicitor wasn't much help either. "Best to settle 50/50. Much easier that way." My pleas that I hadn't actually done anythig wrong had obviously fallen on deaf ears. The advice remained the same: accept joint liability.
So gentle reader, take heed. The next time you approach a roundabout beware, because there are some drivers out there who think that when negotiating a roundabout with the intention of turning right, they have a choice of lanes: right or left.
What this effecively means is, that if you have the misfortune to find yourself going straight on in such a situation, and you happen to be in the righthand lane, then you might just find one of these 'lefties' chopping across your bonnet. Forget the Highway code, forget sensible behaviour or indeed predictable behaviour.
I mean think about it. Imagine yourself at a junction, the type with two lanes. You wish to turn right. I'm only guessing here, but presumably you wouldn't head for the left side of the road? That would just be confusing at best, dangerous at worst. What's so different about roundabouts?
Worse still, none of the agencies who one would turn to in such scenarios could actually confirm my innocence. The police, solicitors, RAC..all proved frustratingly non-committal.
And so next week the case finally comes to court for what it's worth. I shan't even be there. It's a 50/50 formality. So not only did I lose my 13 years no claim bonus, but more significantly I lost my belief in fair play. My belief in justice per se has also taken quite a knock. Sometimes the system just ain't right.
The moral of the story? Take extra care at roundabouts, because you never know, the other driver might just be a leftie...