All entries for Tuesday 31 October 2006

October 31, 2006


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It’s not been a good couple of days for petrolheads. In the last 48 hours, we’ve had the above from the Transport Select Committee calling for more speed cameras and traffic police, the arrest of Nick Freeman (which I’ve already covered) and rumours of ill-directed government plans to price us off the roads.

Dealing with the linked article first, the Transport Select Committee are actually talking some sense. One of their statements for example, that technology must support road police officers, not replace them, I wholeheartedly agree with. Technology can be made as fancy as you like, but it lacks the ability to judge circumstances; it will only measure something against a fixed criteria and implement fixed actions accordingly. To then contradict themselves quite brilliantly, they call for yet more speed cameras. To which I shrug. I’m afraid motorists are just going to have to accept that we aren’t going to win this one – consider it an extra tax on you all. If you want to keep your licences, instead of giving the money to the government in fines I suggest you all go and get a subscription to a GPS based speed camera alert system. I run a Snooper S6-R myself, they’re perfectly legal and invaluable in alerting you when you’re paying attention to the road instead of concentrating solely on your speedo and the hedges in the road. Units cost from a couple of hundred pounds and subscriptions are reasonable; mine costs me £60 a year and for that I get peace of mind that I’m not going to get points and also that my insurance will go on a downward rather than upward trend. As to more police officers on the roads, well I’ve noticed an upward trend in police on the roads, especially on motorways. Fair enough I say – it’s where most of the traffic is and it’s where people generally drive badly and dangerously the most. Motorways aren’t fun unless you have relatively low volumes of traffic and get up to Autobahn speeds, conditions that rarely happen in the UK anyway. I’ve given up on trying to win on motorways for these reasons – much more fun to take the deserted backroads where you never see a cop. Of course, police rarely stop you for driving badly (i.e. weaving about, tailgating), so it would be good if the TSC would make some noises about increasing police crackdowns on bad driving period rather than concentrating on the notion that speed is the sole killer on our roads. And an increased number of police checks on checking drivers for being intoxicated on alcohol or worse is also a good thing. So the TSC are slightly misguided perhaps, but nonetheless making at least not totally discouraging noises.

So what about the environmentalist racket? Well schemes being mooted to save the planet include road charging per mile (which I disagree with on principle, since I don’t want the police to have a tracker on my car. It’s not like they’ll ever use it to find my car if it’s nicked anyway), increasing road tax, disproportionately for better cars, and whacking on fuel duty. Now of the three, the only one that makes sense is fuel duty, a move which I would support (in moderation). Road tax in itself is an annual payment that has naff all to do with how much carbon you emit. For example, people I know who run classic cars. Now, these have large, inefficient engines, but are only driven maybe a couple of thousand miles a year. 1,000 miles at 20MPG is equivalent to 0.53 tonnes of carbon (using, yet a family hatchback averaging 40MPG doing 12,000 miles a year is equivalent to 3.19 tonnes of carbon – 6 times as much. So why does the person who releases a sixth of the carbon have to pay much, much more road tax? (We’re talking about massive hikes for road tax here, not just the odd £50 on Range Rovers like has been implemented thus far). It’s ridiculous. The only fair way is to whack it on fuel and leave it at that. How much will this cost? Well again referring to carbon clear, 1 tonne of carbon (released by about 425 litres of petrol) costs £9 to offset (i.e. neutralise). So at current rates for carbon offset costs, we should have to pay a whopping 2.11p a litre extra on our petrol to completely neutralise the effects of us driving. I think I can cope with that. Remember that figure when you see prices going up by 50p a litre in the name of saving the environment.

Police arrest Freeman

Writing about web page

I’m going to be following this case with interest. For those of you who don’t know who Nick Freeman is, he’s a top lawyer who makes a hell of a lot of money out of representing motorists in court, usually defending them successfully. He’s about the only lawyer I’ve heard of who I like. He was arrested yesterday morning and released late last night following raids on his office by police requested by Gwent police force. Currenty there’s no information on the charges other than that they relate to suspicion of perverting the course of justice. It will be very interesting to see if there’s any truth in these allegations, or if (as I suspect) it’s a PR stunt by the police. I don’t know if the allegations are true (I don’t even know what they are!) but Freeman has always struck me as a relatively stragiht lawyer who happens to be blessed with the gift of being much smarter than the prosecution. As he’s said before, if the prosecution have done their job properly and the evidence is sound, then he has no case and he loses (like he did with Paris Hilton recently). I suspect “perverting the course of justice” translates to “showing up the evidence and prosecution for being sloppy”, which causes no end of annoyance to road safey campaigners, which is probably the real reason behind his arrest. But as I say, no hard facts yet, so it’s purely speculation on my part.

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