April 14, 2005

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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  1. I was wondering how long it would take you to formulate a rant about that! Well done.

    And I finally get the meaning of "petroesexual"! Until tonight I honestly wondered what – other than bestiality, which seemed unlikely – you could possibly mean!

    14 Apr 2005, 01:33

  2. Lindsey

    Ok.. for starters… I cracked up laughing at the note above!

    Secondly, I only worry 'bout you driving fast when it's winter. That is because I am used to Canadian winters, and because I am overprotective and don't want to visit the UK for the first time because you'r ein the hospital!

    Thirdly…. them wanting to ban a tv show for driving fast is stupid. I sat through one of them with you when you were here, and honestly I didn't mind it too much, just that if I had the choice of Red Dwarf or Top Gear… obviously I chose Red Dwarf each time as I watched them all :0p

    But really.. I say ban reality tv before banning a silly car show! Like REALLY…. speeding vs being completely unethical in every form of behaviour? (which is what reality tv is in my eyes…) I vote for banning completely unethical behaviour!

    Even ME (who doesn't drive, at all) knows that driving fast doesn't equal driving bad… although generally bad drivers attempt to drive fast… but lots of fast drivers are quite safe! Because they actually pay ATTENTION to where they are driving so that they can slow down or pass the insanely slow drivers (which are INFINITELY worse to be on the road with, except if you are trying to cross a street and someone driving fast almost runs you over because they go flying around the corner, but that's a whole other matter!)

    coughs Anyway. Luv you hun!

    14 Apr 2005, 02:33

  3. Amazing Rant, Chris. However if Labour were stupid enough to listen to them and ban Top Gear, they would lose 3 million voters, so cannot see it every happening. Jeremy Paxman epitomises everything a middle class man should be…...witty, sophisticated, badly dressed, well spoken, informed, and a good AND fast driver. To remove him from the air would be a travesty for democracy.

    Driving fast is a sign of masculinity, as is a reckless disregard of speed limits, and discouraging fast driving is tantamount to emasculation of men everyywhere.

    14 Apr 2005, 12:09

  4. Thanks for the words of encouragement guys – glad to hear I'm not a voice on my own for a change!

    And Matt, I think the Jeremy to which you were referring is in fact Mr Clarkson, not Paxman ;-)

    14 Apr 2005, 13:01

  5. Oh God, I am so thick…I always get them confused….....but I like them both

    14 Apr 2005, 13:39

  6. Errr well they do share a small number of traits I guess and are not a billion miles apart in appearance, but hardly similar! However yes they are both fantastically good at what they do, and the BBC would be a lot worse off if they lost either of them.

    14 Apr 2005, 13:51

  7. Bloody good rant mate. I totally agree with everything you say. Live and bloody let live, and I so wish the "compaining public" applied the same standards to all areas of their life – pity their brains are not independent enough to do so…

    I get Paxman and Clarkson confused too. Although Anna and I don't fancy Clarkson… Ooh – Paxman when he's doing the trailer for Newsnight – all rugged with his tie slightly loosened and things…

    Ooh – OBG indeed…

    But yes – Chris, you know I'm on your side. Slow bad drivers piss me off with their "ooh we're so good cos we drive 30mph below the speed limit" attitudes. SPEED LIMITS EXIST BECAUSE IT'S SAFE TO DRIVE AT THAT SPEED (and obviously much higher in my opinion), NOT SO YOU CAN DRIVE EXTRA SLOW TO BE "EXTRA SAFE". Grr.

    I have a little not-really-that-sexy car that doesn't go very fast (Jemima starts shaking at about 80 – bless). But one day, I will have my Jag/TVR and then I will drive fast. And safely. And get more pissed off with MIDDLE LANING DICKHEADS WITH THEIR MERCEDES AND BLUETOOTH HEADSETS. Ahem.

    Mmm… Top Gear… Mmm… Fast sexy cars being driven round the track by fit people like Jodi Kidd. (Did I mention that the cars are sexy?)

    Rock on.


    15 Apr 2005, 10:08

  8. Oh yes – I forgot to mention that I only just got the meaning of your blog name too. I like it. :)


    15 Apr 2005, 10:09

  9. Hurrah for those who finally understand my blog name… (did it ever occur to ask?)

    Following an unfortunately extended period at the local garage, my car is back to rude health once more. Bank balance suggests that the sooner I get a car that's a bit newer the better though. Quandry – 3 year old Jag X-Type 3 litre with 40k on the clock or a new Fiesta ST? Decisions, decisions.

    15 Apr 2005, 11:21


    Sorry Lorna, but you're wrong and you've just highlighted the biggest problem with having blanket speed limits everywhere.

    People think it's perfectly safe to drive at the limit, and then switch off and go into autopilot mode at 30 or 32 mph. Speed limits are a maximum legal limit, not a recommendation. If you try doing 30 'on autopilot' down the Parade while the shops are open, you'll run some kid or old lady over in no time – likewise outside a school at kicking-out time.

    Do you drive at less than 30 when the roads are wet or greasy (e.g. if it's been dry for a few days and starts drizzling slightly)? Do you drive more slowly when you know you're tired? If not, then surely you could safely drive faster on that same road in better conditions or when you're more awake. Or perhaps you're just driving too fast in sub-optimal conditions. Not thinking about travelling at any given speed, I believe, is a big (and underrated) cause of accidents.

    15 Apr 2005, 13:30

  11. Simon's argument is sound in that drivers should adapt for conditions. However, I firmly believe that the speed limits are (mostly) set for bad conditions and poor drivers. Hence, when the roads are greasy and I'm tired I might stick to a 30 limit. In dry weather when I'm wide awake I'd probably press on a lot quicker. This is yet another problem with blanket speed limits which Simon has highlighted – give someone a limit and they'll treat it as a target. A good driver should be able to evaluate road conditions and decide for him/herself at what speed it is safe to travel, not just drive at the speed on the signs. This is a much-lost skill I feel, and a good deal of the blame lies on speed limits being set so low that nobody ever thinks of driving slower than the limit, even when it may not be safe to do so, but because we never have to think like that normally we don't have that routine – we have given part of the responsibility of driving to the people who set speed limits, and have therefore become exposed to a fallible set of regulations. Who would seriously contemplate going less than 40 in a 40 zone, regardless of weather (bar sheet ice perhaps)?

    15 Apr 2005, 13:54

  12. Simon – my bad. I was ranting, and so didn't really put my point across that well at all. Of course I don't think people should drive at 30mph as a "target" – my point was relating to those people who think they're extra cool, because they don't go at 30mph in a 30 zone even if it's a bright suny day, and they are paying due care and attention (which the kind of people I'm on about normally are, as they are paranoid about road safety, and shouldn't really be driving at all). The best drivers are those who know their cars, know their limits and pay attention to what's going on around them. This does not necessarily mean driving at a speed limit imposed for those who can't do two things at once (ie drive and look where they're going).

    I stand corrected (not ranting any more, so can make some sense hopefully!)

    Good point though Chris – no, it's not a target, but how many people actually do less than 40 in a 40 zone (if it's safe, weather's good blah)? Not me… I want to get where I'm going as fast and as safely as possible.


    15 Apr 2005, 14:15

  13. Oh I was having a talk to a friend (Tory of course!) about this…he is a car fan….and has models of expensive cars all around his flat…and speaks of Jeremy Clarkson with a reverence that is similar to that I use when referring to the blessed Margaret.

    We decided that the word public interest group is a euphenism for a group of busybodies who think they know what is best for society and take a perverse pleasure in ruining everyones fun…....

    15 Apr 2005, 14:18

  14. Sounds about right. Fox hunting debate anyone?! Hehe…

    Incidentally, mat (matt with one 't' or two?), do you realise that you can join the Conservative Party for a mere £3 (under 22) or £15 (22 or over)? Bargain! Am going to do so I feel.

    Have also offered my services, in whichever way they wish to employ them, in the run up to this election… Waiting to hear back – apparently I should hear back today. Very excited…


    15 Apr 2005, 14:33

  15. Point me in the right direction to sign up Lorna…

    And Matt, it sounds like I have an identical twin in your friend – does he bear any resemblance to me in my photos? My parents have never mentioned anything about having to give up a twin at burth because of financial problems, but it sounds like I may have to press them on the matter…

    15 Apr 2005, 15:13

  16. Siggy – go to www.conservatives.com, scroll down to 'get involved', and voila…


    15 Apr 2005, 15:46

  17. Ta muchly darling!


    15 Apr 2005, 15:47

  18. I will join up too! After all exams are ages away…and any job I get will be pretty pointless under Labour as all my earnings will be taxed away…so much better off canvassing and helping promote a blue future..

    incidentally lorna….two t's!

    15 Apr 2005, 17:31

  19. Woo for being a member of the Conservatives – my membership card will arrive within 28 days apparently…


    16 Apr 2005, 09:49

  20. Matt missed a perfect opportunity to ply his mock-mysogyny there. Surely he meant to say:

    Incidentally Lorna: it's two t's dear. Milk, no sugar.

    17 Apr 2005, 16:28

  21. Fair.



    18 Apr 2005, 22:07

  22. Simon, what can I say, I am losing my touch…...however I am glad you realise my misogyny is entirely tongue in cheek. This can be proved using some elementary logic:

    Misogyny=hatred of all women
    My mother is a woman, as are my female friends
    I love my mother, and like all my female friends
    Therefore I do not hate all women
    Therefore I am not a misogynist

    My first proof by contradiction…..woohoo!!!!!!

    20 Apr 2005, 00:21

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