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A Winter Blunderland

December 20, 2009

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Edinburgh, Scotland – 7.5cm of snow in England and once again transport systems grind to a shuddering halt.

The fact that nothing works in England following a light, by central European standards, fall of snow is now accepted as the norm. Major motorway and trunk road systems blocked by jams, railway travel disrupted, three major airports closed, and power outs across large areas of East Anglia. Followed of course by the ‘all the usual suspects’ excuses from the PR people hauled in front of the media, while the responsible managers make a hasty retreat to count their hard earned bonuses. Still at least climate change and global warming make a somewhat pleasant change to the usual, freezing diesel, lack of salt stocks, wrong type of snow, staff shortage due to adverse weather and unexpected freezing conditions type excuses that typify the English approach to the winter management of transport systems.

Perhaps it would be a good idea if some of the court jesters who run our transport infrastructure told the truth. Its simple, they are not prepared to fund the capital investment needed to winterize out transport network. Why? Because the snow and freezing conditions only last for a few weeks and soon pass, letting things return to ‘normal’. So we just have to put up with it. While the private companies who own our public transport make nice profits, pay nice share dividends and pay nice performance bonuses. Meanwhile the Government worries about winning the next election and dressing up Iraq and Afghanistan as ‘victories’.

Back in the realm of biking. A welcome Christmas present from Brussels. A new draft standard for protective road restraint systems has been approved by the European Committee for Normalisation (CEN). This means that we will soon have a European standard, EN1317-8, for protective road restraint systems for motorcyclists, i.e. biker friendly crash barriers and under run systems. Congratulations to the Federation of European Motorcycle Associations (FEMA), and supporters for achieving this. Especially welcome in the UK as our gold plating of all things European and Standard means that biker friendly barriers will become the norm relatively quickly.

Over in Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) land that well know cat lover, biker, bon viveur and President of MAG UK, Ian Mutch, has fettled up a response to the Sussex Polices stop check and handing out hi-viz jackets to bikers campaign. According to Ian drivers should be randomly stopped and given eyesight checks to tackle so-called ‘looked but didn’t see’ crashes, they are the ones that us dressing up in yellow are supposed to stop.

Actually Ian that’s a cracking idea. But why not widen it into a national campaign to make eye tests for all drivers and riders compulsory every five years.

Right that’s all from me. I’m off to buy some shares in Spec Savers and find the bike; it’s under a snowdrift somewhere!

© Back Roads Rider 2009

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Dave permalink
    December 22, 2009 10:14 am

    The DSA have the opportunity to bring in eyesight checks for drivers under the 3rd Driving Licence Directive but they have chosen to ignore that. Perhaps the BRR newshound could investigate why? Lets be honest, reading a number plate across the road isn’t really a proper eyesight check is it?

    • backroadsrider permalink
      December 22, 2009 2:58 pm

      Hi Dave,

      Good point.

      I’m in the middle of nowhere at the moment freezing my nuts off. However, the BRR news hounds been out, grumbling cos of the weather. This stuffs costing me a fortune in Bonios.

      It appears we are going to get compulsory eyes tests for all drivers, phased in between 2011 and 2013. This stems from a 2006 EU Directive.

      From 2011 onwards new driving licences will carry details of a driver’s eyesight including their prescription (Rx) details. This means compulsory eye tests to provide the info to DVLA. The Directive says testing every five years so that means we will have to have licence renewal based on that period.

      I’m guessing that the DVLA, DSA and DfT are keeping quiet on this because it’s very likely a fee will be charged for renewal. Plus opticians may well have to computers linked to the DVLA system to record the eye test results directly on to driver records, using a paper certificate system would be open to massive fiddling. No doubt the taxpayer will have cough up for any new IT systems required.

      Research by the DfT in 07-08 showed that up to 4 per cent of drivers – or about 1.3million of the total – failed the current basic vision test of reading a number plate at 20 meters. Fewer than 2 per cent of motorists involved in accidents failed the eye-sight test.

      I’ve been involved in bike training and it surprising how many people fail the 20.5m or 20m with the new plate’s eye test. Had one guy who rode into a wall despite being able to see the plate, he had a depth perception issue.

      DfT ran some focus groups on issues like driver eye testing and the results show considerable support for tightening up on eye testing and health checks in general. Eye testing has some good spins offs in detecting things like diabetes and glaucoma.

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