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Thursday, November 2

Missing The Point

I had the misfortune to read this article recently in the Times 2. It alleges that Richard Hammond's post-accident recovery and bravado could be fodder for the speeding boy-racers, joyriders and general speeders, who cause genuinely tragic incidents to occur on the road. Somewhere in the depths of this piece there MAY be some sort of a point. If all of our culture is set against a backdrop where it's "cool to drive fast" and if high profile popular TV programmes seem to egg people on, then surely the chances of increasing road safety are reduced. However, I think that it's a very slight point and I don't honestly believe that the real bad drivers in this country drive badly because TV says its ok or desirable. So, let's have a quick look at the reason that the article made my blood boil, and then let's have a look at why this country's motorists do the same.

Poor Argument
I'll write a formula for the sort of argument within the article.

First I will tell you of something that happened and could have been avoided if the person doing that thing had taken fewer risks. Then I'll emphasise that I'm not glad that he's dead. I'll emphasise that because it might undermine the rest of what I have to say if I suggest my real opinion which is that his death might have served as a warning to any other risk takers. I will even go so far as to praise the medical staff involved in his recovery.

Next I will make a couple of sniping personal remarks about the man's behaviour AFTER his apparent recovery. I will do this to suggest that he is somehow gloating that he escaped death and in order to vilify him enough to make a negative role model of him, without seeming uncharitable about vilifying an ill man.

Next I will present to you some genuinely heart-rending tales where SOMEONE's ignorance and stupidity resulted in a tragic outcome. I will not give details of exactly how the person was stupid and ignorant, it will be necessary to avoid this, lest it undermines the next part of the argument.

Finally, I will suggest that the now-vilified person who escaped death while doing something similar, but not even slightly causally-linked to the tragic events is acting as a positive role model for the sort of behaviour which causes the tragedy. Shame on him. Shame on us all.

That's how to write that sort of article. Yet, in fact, it's total gibberish. You could just as easily write the same nonsense about Batman. It would be equally nonsensical.

Many people would agree that Batman is a force for good in Gotham city. His recent brush with The Joker left him with various injuries and sprains and it's great that he survived and continues to help out our city.

However, now the Joker is gone and Batman is back to rights, you have to wonder what happens in a man's life that makes him have to dress up as a bat. Plus, all this jumping around high buildings is rather untoward behaviour for what is already a busy city.

Recently someone's child died from being thrown off a tall building. The person was very upset. Also, a drunk man, encouraged by his friends to climb on the side of a bridge, and no-doubt emboldened by the dark knight's ability to do the same with impunity, fell off that bridge and caused a massive accident on the road below. Such risk taking behaviour always ends in tragedy.

If Batman had simply hung up his cloak and taken a decent job, then maybe people would be less inclined to do all the things that they've done which have led to these terrible tragedies which make me retch with sadness.

I think I've made my point.

Driving me mad
I've spend the last couple of weeks driving more sedately than usual. At least, I think I have. It's hard to say. My driving behaviour is caused by two things. Firstly there's the way I'm feeling. If I feel in a rush or harried in some way there's no doubt that this comes out in my driving. It's also far too easy to get involved in some sort of personal "relationship" with another driver on the roads. Having said that my usual stance is one of nearby observation, rather than entanglement. This leads into my second influence - the way the road is behaving as a whole. If I'm on a road with a long slow traffic jam, I tend to just brave it out, rather than try to battle my way through it. If the road is long and languid, then I drive languidly. If it's a fast competitive circuit, then I tend to be more assertive.

The majority of my driving is in the morning and evening rush hour and my aim is simply to get through. I'm not going to do it with any high-risk behaviour, nor do I have an inherent need for speed.

However, the behaviour all the other motorists is, to every road user (driver, cyclist, pedestrian, whoever), the biggest risk factor around. There are countless ways that people either intentionally or unintentionally make the roads either risky or infuriating (such fury causing frustration, which is a risk of its own to whoever expresses it). Here are some of the things which make the roads a bad place to be. Note, none of these are directly to do with anything I've seen on Top Gear:
  • Tailgating at high speeds - if you've got a car up your arse, then everyone's driving on a hair trigger - it causes phantom traffic jams and near misses. I'm guilty of this more than I'd like to be, though sometimes I tailgate as a frustrated form of overtaking
  • Non-overtakers - people who are in an outside line, with no traffic in front of them in the lane to their left, and traffic behind them in their own lane. By traffic, I mean cars that either they are gaining on (ahead) or who are gaining on them (behind). If you find you have space in front and a queue behind you, you pull in. If you don't notice, you might find a tailgater using your danger-zone, behind your car, as a way of illustrating their desire to get past you in the lane that you shouldn't be in.
  • Distracted people - mobile phone/sat-nav/radio/shaver obsessed idiots who are paying no attention to the road. This gets increasingly dangerous as the road becomes less linear.
  • Indecisives - people who don't know what lane, what speed and what direction they want to go in, and so go all over the place. They're hard to predict and are, therefore, a hazard.
  • Lane-blind - people who change lanes because they have no concept of them - particularly dangerous on or in the vicinity of roundabouts
  • People in clapped out cars - the clapped out car belches pollution, cannot keep up with the traffic, and threatens to conk out and cause a road-accident in situ
  • People who drive too slowly - contrary to popular delusion, driving slowly is not necessarily safer - put a slow driver on a fast road and all the other road users, using the road for its high speed properties, start to frustratedly use methods to either get that person to speed up, or get around them - this will, ultimately, end in something unpleasant. Even a traffic jam, caused by one over-cautious moron, is a high price to pay (people arriving frustrated and late) for one person's selflishness. How big a deal this is depends on the time of day and the road in question... and the lane they choose to use.
  • Speeders - those people intent on driving at speeds in excess of those safe under the circumstances will come a cropper.
As a bonus, here are some things which are just irritating and could be to do with Top Gear viewers:
  • Personalised number plates - I think their day has passed. I don't want to know if you think you're well hung - I just want to know how to report you to the police if you crash into me.
  • Bumper stickers/window stickers - they're not funny, you're not funny and you've just distracted everyone in the process
  • Over-popular cars - the new Beetle and the new Mini (sorry those people I know) - they are, in far too many cases, driven by hairdressers, estate agents or people so image conscious that they haven't time to drive them properly - this is doubly the case for those instances of those vehicles provided by the employers
  • Cars so expensive that they expect a round of applause - driven by show-off prats who don't deserve them
  • Heavily modified cars - you can't polish a turd.
There are more, but again, I've made my point.


Blogger said...

hi, cheer up! you sound very doom and gloom! Personalised number plates can be a great investment at the same time as having fun. i agree that drivers should not miss space letters or numbers but eg a number like 7 XX bought originally for around £2500 would now be worth £10k and would look great on an old DB 7 (to cover the age and make the car look great). I have just bought SUS1Y for a song for my mothers christmas pressent, i cant wait to see her face when I give her the plates on xmas morning. We really are selling 1000's of theas numbers every month and see no reason why they should slow down. We have an office webcam, competitions, gift vouchers etc etc. Have a look at our site at or - We also have a forum. I understand if you still dont like them, suppose you either do or you dont. Have a great day anyway.

8:25 AM  
Blogger Ashley Frieze said...

I have no idea whether has a blog spam robot which goes around looking for blog posts which might warrant a comment, or whether this comment was written especially for this site. I'm going to leave it up here, though deleting it would be a good way to treat someone using my blog for their own advertising purposes.

Let's take some of it to pieces, though.

"[I] sound very doom and gloom!" - I'm not sure than "doom and gloom" can be used as an adjective. In fact, I know they can't. They're both nouns. Together, they make a pair of nouns and I could only be "very" them if I was them... but I can't be them because they're abstract and I'm not.

"personalised number plates can be a great investment at the same time as having fun" - who is having the fun? The personalised number plates? I don't want to buy something that's going to have more fun than me. Or are you trying to say that, as well as being fun for me, the personalised plate is a good investment. They're an investment only because people are prepared to pay a certain percentage of their wealth to possess something which makes them look, in today's modern world, a bit of a pratt. If that stops being a cool thing to do, then the investment value will fall. I'm not sure that someone's mother will round to drive round with the somewhat illiterate "SUS1Y" on her car forever. Is she a "Susy" or "Susie"? Has she actually changed her name to Sus One Why? - that would be cool.

"I understand if you still dont like them" - I also don't like people who can't punctuate, spell or use any form of recognised language... still maybe if your only way to communicate with the world is via a single strip of plastic with up to 7 characters on, you too may invent some techniques for perverting the language.

To Mr Carreg, I say this:


10:39 AM  

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