Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson

Clarkson on: murder

Given the choice, most of us would like to die peacefully in our sleep or heroically at the helm of a doomed airliner. But unfortunately, for every hundred thousand people reading this, 1.4 are going to be sorely disappointed. Because you're going to be murdered.

If that doesn't appeal to you, move to Argentina, where the rate is just 0.1 for every 100,000. Niger looks good too, at 0.2, but that's mainly because murderers, like everyone else, have such bad diarrhoea, they're never off the lavatory long enough to do the deed.

At the other end of the scale we have Swaziland where, for every 100,000 people, 88 arrive at the Pearly Gates sporting a smouldering Dunlop necklace. Murdering is now so popular in Africa that America isn't even in the premier league any more. Despite a big push from drug dealers in Detroit and Chicago, the former champions came away with just 14,000 hits last year, thanks mainly to a pathetic showing from New Hampshire, where murderers only scored four times.

However, if you're going to be murdered, America is still best. Nearly half the killings last year involved speedy and fairly painless handguns. Even speedier rifles, shotguns and automatic machine pistols took out another 2,000. Axes and chainsaws saw to the rest.

Being murdered in Britain is much more grisly. Here, one of the most popular methods is ‘hitting and kicking'. Oh dear. I think I'd rather be eaten than hit and kicked to death. But more worrying still is that the eighth most common murder weapon in the UK is the motor vehicle.

Now I know we're famed throughout the world for our sense of fair play; we don't shoot pheasants on the ground and we prefer to chase foxes on horses rather than in Range Rovers but really, if you want to hit and run, the car is awfully hit and miss. If you decide that you really do have to kill the man at the newsagents, why not simply set fire to him? Or use a Flymo?

Let's face it, there are innumerable problems with making your getaway in the murder weapon. To have killed the man, you must have been doing at least 40mph. At that speed, your car will have sustained serious damage. And it's not so much the complication and expense of getting this repaired as the fact that while Plod might not have noticed you driving down the pavement, he sure as hell will spot a broken indicator lens and pull you over.

"Nearly half the killings in America last year involved speedy and fairly painless handguns" 

The other problem is that cars are now being designed with pedestrian safety in mind so that even if you do get him right between the headlights, he will almost certainly walk away with nothing more than light bruising. Look at the figures: of the 43,000 people knocked down last year, fewer than 900 actually died from their injuries.

Modern wipers are tucked away under the leading edge of the bonnet so that a flailing head is unlikely to connect with the bone-shattering nut that holds them in place. Modern bonnets are designed to be flexible and soft in the middle but hard where they cover the unyielding suspension mounts. Bumpers are shaped to ensure a body is thrown up and over, rather than down and into the path of the wheels.

So if you must use a car as a murder weapon, choose the model carefully. Certainly, you should avoid the Daihatsu Sirion which, in a recent Euro NCAP test, achieved a three-star rating for both pedestrian safety and occupant protection - in other words, you're going to end up in the same shape as the man you hit.

But the absolute worst choice you can make is the Honda Civic, which was found to offer nearly twice the pedestrian protection of any other car.

So what's good then? Well you may be tempted by something with a pointy bonnet ornament, like a Rolls-Royce. You may also be interested to know that in Switzerland, the Spirit of Ecstasy is banned; Rollers are sold with smooth-topped radiator grilles.

But don't get your hopes up because in the free world, where there is no Nazi gold, it's designed to retract in the event of an impact. And you thought this was to stop people nicking it.

It turns out that what you really need for killing newsagents is a short bonnet so that his head hits the windscreen. Good cars singled out in crash tests are the Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio and Volkswagen Polo. The Audi A4 does well too - at last, a reason for buying one - as does the 5-Series BMW. Top of the tree, though, seem to be people carriers. The Peugeot 806, Chrysler Voyager and Vauxhall Sintra are killing machines to rival the Uzi 9mm.

I'm sorry if you've found this month's column distasteful but let's be honest: if I'd written it the other way round, lavishing praise on safe cars, you'd have switched off in the second paragraph.

And rightly so. While it's hugely laudable for the RAC and others to push for bonnets like duvets and inflatable headlamps, in Britain today you stand a roughly equal chance of being knocked down and killed by a car as you do of being murdered.


Jeremy Clarkson, Column

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