Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Government is not out of touch

I am fed up with constantly hearing that the Government as a whole and individuals within it are out of touch with real life.

They are not.  Even the rich ones have kids, go to work and own houses.  Yes they may have a bit more cash than the rest of us, but that does not make them out of touch.  That's like saying being poor is the default position of the human race and we should all aspire to poverty so we can keep in touch with our roots.  It's nonsense.  Look at Andrew Mitchell.  He had a crappy day, got wound up and acted like a prat to somebody who didn't deserve it.  Who can honestly say they haven't been rude to somebody they shouldn't have been rude to?  I'm not excusing him, I'm merely saying that he shows us that he's a bit of a twat when he's in a bad mood like most people in the world.. even Mother Theresa was said to be rude to her nuns at times.

If we are going to criticise the Government and the individuals within it then let us do it for the right reasons.

As a whole the Government has shown itself to be incompetent (e.g. train franchising, handing court interpreting over to ALS, two tier road tax, police cuts, attacks on legal aid, student tuition fees, etc) and populated by fools (Andrew Mitchell (who even if he is like everyone else still should have known better), George Osborne (who can't buy the right train ticket before travelling), Nick Clegg (too many reasons to mention), Ken Clarke (for shafting the CJS like certain footballers shaft cheap elderly prostitutes), Dave Cameron (well for everything really), etcetera).

In summary, Government is no more out of touch with real life than anybody else... but they are incompetent and foolish.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Road safety

Since I started my ultra niche solicitors firm, Biker Defence Solicitors, which caters for motorcyclists accused of road traffic offences, I've been paying a lot of attention to other drivers.

The one thing that has jumped out at me is that people seem to have difficulty obeying multiple part rules, e.g. Highway Code Rule 185: when approaching a roundabout you should give way to traffic approaching from the right (part 1) and give way to traffic already on the roundabout (part 2).  Another example comes from Rule 174 that governs those yellow box junctions that you must not enter unless your exit is clear (part 1) unless you are turning right and only traffic coming across the junction is preventing you from turning right out of the junction (part 2).  I should say here that I'm paraphrasing the rules and I realise that Rule 185 is more complex than I give it credit for, but I have set it out in the way it was always taught to me as a learner.

As well as my Highway Code I also have in front of me a copy of the flight operating procedures for a Piper PA-28 light aircraft.  Like the highway code, the flight operating procedures is a list of things you must do at each step of your journey, from getting in the aircraft and preparing for flight (in the Highway Code the equivalent rules are 89-102).  The flight operating procedures then take a pilot through pre-start checks, after engine start checks, take off and what to do on approach and landing.  There is also guidance for controlling the aircraft in flight and during emergencies etc.  The difference you notice between the flight operating procedures and the Highway Code is that the flight operating procedures do not include a single multiple step rule.

This pattern is largely repeated when you look at the Rules of the Air, which set out very clearly who has right of way.  No if's, no but's.  If two aircraft are on a converging course, the rule is "On the right, in the right".  Simple.  If two aircraft are approaching head-on, each aircraft must alter heading to the right.  These rules are so clear you read them and think, "but that's obvious" and they stick in your mind.

I wonder whether a similar approach might help drivers better understand and remember their responsibilities in their cars and on their motorbikes.  For example, instead of Rule 174 being a lengthy paragraph, why not simply "R174(a) When travelling straight ahead or turning left, you must not enter a box junction if your exit is blocked; (b) When turning right you may enter a box junction if only oncoming traffic is preventing you completing your right turn."

I seem to recall from my days studying psychology that the longer a sentence the harder it is for people to remember the bits in the middle.  So, I wonder whether a simplified set of Highway Code rules would help people to recall everything more clearly.

I'd also like to see a section at the start of the Highway Code that breaks rules down by priority or importance.  Rules about child restraints are probably completely irrelevant to 90% of 17 year olds passing their tests, whereas what happens when you drive like a prat on a wet country road in the middle of the night is something that is very important to know.  One of my friends managed to pass his test without ever learning that wet roads become slippery and you must driver slower... he found it out when we crashed through a ditch into a field one night.

These are just some ideas that have occurred to me recently.  I do not say that my style of Highway Code writing is more elegant... I don't even go so far as to say I am definitely right, but if I am then a very cheap re-write could do a lot to improve road safety.