SMIDSY is clearly nothing new. Drivers have been saying ‘sorry, mate, I didn’t see you,’ from the earliest days of motoring. Although as the first drivers were all toffs, they probably never said sorry when they ran over the rural poor.
In September, 1902, the Chief Constable of Huntingdonshire wrote to the Home Office:
“It is a significant fact that two gentlemen of education and position…when exceededing 20mph passed horses and carts…which they subsequently declared they never saw. It being impossible to doubt their word, the question arises as to whether great mischief may not de done, by want of attention on the part of drivers, or their inability to see what is on the road.”
EXTRACTS FROM ‘WIND IN THE WILLOWS’:
Glancing back, they saw a small cloud of dust, with a dark centre of energy, advancing on them at incredible speed, while from out the dust a faint ‘Poop-poop!’ wailed like an uneasy animal in pain…they had a moment’s glimpse of…the magnificent motor-car, immense, breath-snatching, passionate, with its pilot tense and hugging his wheel, possessed all earth and air for the fraction of a second, flung an enveloping cloud of dust that blinded and enwrapped them utterly, and then dwindled to a speck in the far distance, changed back into a droning bee once more.
‘Glorious, stirring sight!’ murmured Toad, never offering to move. ‘The poetry of motion! The real way to travel! The only way to travel! Here to-day— in next week to-morrow! Villages skipped, towns and cities jumped— always somebody else’s horizon! O bliss! O poop-poop! O my! O my!’
‘O what a flowery track lies spread before me, henceforth! What dust-clouds shall spring up behind me as I speed on my reckless way! What carts I shall fling carelessly into the ditch in the wake of my magnificent onset!”
[Mr Toad] increased his pace, and as the car devoured the street and leapt forth on the high road through the open country, he was…Toad the terror, the traffic-queller, the Lord of the lone trail, before whom all must give way or be smitten into nothingness and everlasting night.
Mr Toad later got 20 years in the clink. Not for his reckless driving, but for stealing a car.