All entries for Thursday 14 April 2005

April 14, 2005

Toronto pics are up

A selection of my pics from Canada are now uploaded here. I was going to write an account of the week, but Lindsey has already done so here. So, being lazy, I've just linked to it instead of writing it all out again myself :-)

Rant overdrive

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4432279.stm

I've read some bullshit in my time, but this one really takes the biscuit.

If you click the weblink above, you'll be taken to an article on the BBC news covering a press statement made by a campaign group called transport 2000. From their website, they promote themselves as "The national environmental transport body". This doesn't bode them off to a particularly good start, as you imagine a group of people who would otherwise be busy painting their foreheads with the Mercedes logo becuase they're so burnt out from substance abuse that they can't remember CND is the other way up. Not society's finest group then. Their latest press statement is a direct attack on me and my kind: they essentially wish to remove the earth of Petrolheads.

Judging by my blog name, you can imagine that I'd disapprove in the strongest possible terms of this, and guess what, you'd be right. The main thrust of their campaign to remove petrolheads in particular centres around banning Top Gear. Top Gear is the best program ever made. I know few people who genuinely dislike it, it attracts a weekly audience of 3 million viewers (one of BBC2's most popular shows) and is liked not just by car enthusiasts like myself but even people who don't have driving licences or who don't particularly care that much about cars. Top Gear then is a popular piece of programming aimed at all ages. So what's their case for banning it?

Let's look at it shall we. Their main criticism is that they believe the show promotes irresponsible driving. I'm not about to take the namby-pamby line that it only promotes sensible driving and they strongly discourage speed etc. It's blatantly obvious that they only say that because if they didn't they would get taken off air. They do however have a test track speicifically for driving like lunatics, and their stunts are performed in controlled enviroments and to my knowledge have never injured anyone. They encourage people to have fun with cars, take them to track days, that kind of thing. I accept totally that they glamourise speed, including driving over the limit on the public road. However, this is the only law they encourage you to break. All other aspects of driving they encourage good habits (lane discipline, stopping distances etc etc). Mr Tofu-for-lunch will at this point argue that doing 80 or 90 on a motorway is highly irresponsible, dangerous and reckless, and that we would do better to go home and play with a critical mass of plutonium 239. Well I have some news for them…

You're wrong. Excessive speed is only a contributing factor to the cause of 7% of accidents. Furthermore, driving at 80 or 90 miles an hour is not going to cause people to start randomly crashing. Witness on the continent – France's motorway speed limit is 81 miles an hour, Germany has sections of it's motorways totally derestricted and yet are about the safest drivers in the world. What causes accidents, dear fellows, is morons doing 60 miles an hour and not paying attention to the traffic around them, driving without proper awareness, anticipation, and also not leaving proper thinking distances. You might find that some drivers who frequently break the speed limit actually have very good road manners. I would cite myself as one of them (perhaps arrogantly, but in spite of the fact I cruise at 90 to 95 miles an hour on the motorways I do recieve regular compliments from passengers on the standard of my highway driving), and I know of quite a few others. Get it into your brains – speed is not the be-all and the end-all in driving. You can drive at 25 in a 30 zone and be a complete hazard. You can drive at 40 in a 30 zone and be of no danger at all. It's all about awareness and control. If speed is your issue, the only place it's going to end is all cars on a road stationary, because then they can't hurt anyone. Does that seem sensible to you?

I find it ludicrous that motorways are the fastest roads in Britain, requiring some of the most advanced and developed driver skills to use well, and yet there is no practical training for it necessary to aquire a full driving test. Indeed, to drive on a motorway before you pass is illegal. This is one aspect I think needs to be looked at – our driver training in the UK is woefully inadequate and must be rectified asap. Teaching solely how to obey speed limits however is not the answer.

So, back to Transport 2000 and their ludicrous attack on petrolheads. Well, I don't like a lot of pursuits, but that doesn't mean I'm campaigning to ban them. I hate football with a passion, it promotes hooliganism and is generally a crap game. I don't see me joining any campaign to ban it. Live and let live people, isn't that meant to be the motto of these liberal types anyway?

Their proposals involve replacing the show with a program called "third gear" in which sensible driving practices are demonstrated and encouraged, and, in their own words, promotes "sensible driving in sensible vehicles". Numberous murmers have been heard that such a program would be unwatchable and everyone would turn off. I can counter these claims with suggestions that it would in fact be hugely entertaining to watch, as I would be there picking off the presenters out of their Priuses and Corsas with a sniper rifle, or maybe playing chicken with them in an M1A2 Abrhams.

The point is, sensible cars are boring. I've tried to explain this. If cars aren't your thing then that's fine, don't watch Top Gear. If you want economical sensible reviews then go get a program made about running diesel cars on chip fat and good standards to adopt when in car parks. Leave my show alone. It's fabulously entertaining and reviews some totally awesome pieces of machinery that represent the pinaccle of mankind's achievement. Cars are my art. I don't tell everyone who's into art that only landscapes painted on small canvas with oil paints should be allowed to see the light of day in an exhibition, don't tell me what to drive and what to watch on TV ok?

If we're going to use Transport 2000's suggestion that watching stuff on TV promotes bad driving, then perhaps we should also remove all instances of fighting and law-breaking behaviour from television, in particular soaps and reality tv, as these portray everyday people in everyday lives. So surely watching someone break into a house, or drink too much, or anything like that, glamourises the crime and so shouldn't be allowed? Hmmm?

And while we're talking about monitoring of people and activities that could be dangerous, how about reproduction? Surely if it's better that everything is always, and I mean always made as safe as possible, perhaps we should ban sex completely as it transmits so many diseases? I mean, look at the number of people dying of AIDS each year. Makes a few thousand people dying in cars seem a bit insignificant I'm sorry to say. If we completely banned sex, and only allowed reproduction by IVF once egg and sperm had been completely scanned for diseases and genetic defects, then we would have a world where sexual disease and inherited diseases and disorders would be eradicated. It's the same logic, yet somehow I can't see people signing up for it. You see, people require freedom in their lives to do things that might well carry an element of risk in them. Sometimes, it may harm others. You can't remove this risk completely. Get used to the idea that we all die someday, and go and live instead of just being alive.


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