For a number of years I’ve often thought that the police and motoring authorities could easily implement a new regulation that could help cut a portion of bad driving out on the roads.
We all know speeding is illegal, as is drink driving and now so is using a mobile phone whilst driving. We also know this still doesn’t stop some people putting others at risk. I often see school run mums in big 4×4’s with phones glued to their ears while their precious children are in the back. I’ve seen bus drivers texting, and even a fuel tanker driver eating food from a Tupperware container with a fork. I’m not going to make out I’m perfect though, I was once caught doing 34mph in a 30 limit and was ordered to go on a speed awareness course. I was in the wrong and accepted my punishment. Which is more than can be said for the lady on my course who was adamant it was ok to be doing more than 55mph in a 30 limit because she was going to visit her father in hospital even though she admitted he wasn’t dying. My point here though is that people should know better yet still don’t act on it.
So when a news story breaks today of a fatal accident on the M1 in which an 87 year old male car driver and a 27 year old male van passenger were killed in a head on collision caused by the car driver driving the wrong way down the motorway, I wondered, Is it about time elderly drivers were made to take some form of annual test to see if they are still fit to drive. I’ve thought this for a while now. Currently it’s up to a driver to decide when they are unfit to drive and to surrender their licence. The police now have the power to suspend a licence too but this would usually be after an accident has occurred. Why lock the stable door after the horse has bolted? I would have thought that if you paid just a small amount of attention to your driving, then it’s impossible to drive the wrong way on a motorway or dual carriageway, even at night. If you are at a point where you get so confused you accidently do this, then you are an extremely dangerous driver and should not be behind the wheel.
I have nothing against the older generation at all and I know many are capable drivers. But let’s face it, on the stubbornness scale, the elderly can give the teenagers a run for their money. So it can be difficult to even suggest surrendering a driving licence to someone as we all know how difficult it would be do give up a large portion of your independence. But we all know health deteriorates as we get older and reactions slow. It’s only natural. You often hear older people say they can do certain things anymore, but they still think they are capable of driving a car which can kill if used incorrectly.
I’m not suggesting anything hugely severe or disproportionate for a test. I don’t want to be accused of discrimination either, even though all young drivers and Audi drivers are often tarred with the same brush. My suggestion would perhaps be from the age of 75, a session, which should be compulsory but free of charge, maybe every 2-3 years with an instructor or examiner as a passenger who just assesses awareness and reactions. Perhaps also some form of presentation similar to a speed awareness course highlighting the dangers or slow reactions and poor awareness to make people think properly about their ability to drive. I’ll be honest, I found the speed awareness course I went on quite informative and interesting. Also, Doctors and GP’s need to be more willing to report a patient to the authorities if they feel that person should not be driving. So surely if something like this was in place and just one life was saved as a result then it has to be a good thing right? Unfortunately it’s too late for the family and friends of the 27 year old who innocently passed away today.
In an age when driving tests are becoming increasingly difficult to pass, insurance premiums rocketing for young drivers and even possible restrictions put on them, maybe it’s time to look at the older driver too. I know you will never stop all accidents but everyone needs to be responsible behind the wheel. Whether that is putting down your mobile phone, not driving home from the pub after a couple of beers, or thinking ‘My eyesight is getting really bad, I ought to stop driving’. Some people just need a bit of reminding that they aren’t quite as capable of doing things they used to.
I know giving up your independence can be hard but what is more important, that independence or someone else’s life?
Those who regularly read my blog, if there are any, will have read a post I wrote last year about Cassie McCord and the petition to enable Police the power to revoke the licences of unfit drivers with immediate effect. As in the Case of Cassie, her life was tragically cut short by an elderly motorist who at the time was in the process of having his licence revoked after an incident a few days earlier. You can read my blog about it here.
Two years on from Cassie’s death and after tireless campaigning from her mother Jackie, along with a well supported online petition (thank you if you were one of the many thousands who signed) the DVLA have announced plans to fast track the process in which licences can be revoked if the Police feel necessary. Under the new procedure, where an officer feels the safety of other road users will be put at risk if the driver remains on the road, they can request an urgent revocation of the licence through the DVLA. When notified, the DVLA will review the case and respond with an emailed revocation for the license. The new system will provide three levels of revocation – immediate, within 48 hours and postal whereby the driver will be dealt with via letter sent within 24 hours of notification from the police.
Personally I would prefer to see Police given the power to stop an unfit motorist from driving on the spot, much like they have the power to stop an uninsured driver. As in the case of the Motorist who killed Cassie, Police strongly advised him not to drive after being called to an incident a few days earlier, but the stubborn 89 year old pensioner refused and the police were powerless to stop him.
Although the change isn’t quite what Jackie has been campaigning for, she’s pleased it’s a step in the right direction. She said: “I’m pleased my work has been taken seriously. This is a positive step in the right direction but I think it’s just the beginning – there are a lot of changes that need to take effect.”
Assistant Chief Constable Sue Harrison said: “The new procedures launched by the DVLA to fast track revocations of driving licenses have been welcomed by Essex Police. This new procedure is a great testament to Jackie’s relentless determination and resilience, which I highly commend.”
Although these procedures have come too late in Cassie’s case and it is sad that it has taken the life of a young person to establish them, hopefully this will help stop a similar incident from happening again in the future.
I also believe this highlights the dangers of motorists who are unfit to drive but continue to do so, especially in the case of pensioners. Personally I believe the current driving license renewal system also needs to be looked at as it currently is only voluntary for a driver to give up their license and it is wrong to wait for an incident to happen before the Police of DVLA become aware of unfit drivers. The need for regular assessments for drivers over 70 years of age would be worthwhile along with the requirement for anyone over the age of 70 to renew their driving license on a more regular basis than the current 10 year period.
I hope that work continues to improve procedures such as this to make the roads and pavements safer for everyone, for Cassie’s sake.
Some of you will know I have taken up cycling again after a few years out of the saddle. To be more precise I’m into Mountain Biking rather than road cycling and I have already taken my new Specialized Rockhopper on a week’s Mountain Biking on the tracks and trails of the Yorkshire Dales. However, recently, something has concerned me a lot. Something I find pretty shocking and somewhat disturbing. Something that should have attention drawn to and something that should ultimately be eradicated.
I use social media a lot. One form I use often is twitter. I use it to chat and interact with other people, usually with similar interests but not always. I‘ve met new people, learnt new things and experienced new stuff through twitter. I have a nice bunch of followers who put up with my rants and moans, random mutterings and general guff I spout about daily. Despite not actually being near me, they keep me company and when you work on your own for the most of the day like I do, it’s quite comforting.
It was through a follower on twitter I stumbled across an account called @CycleHatred. This account mainly retweets the abuse users write on twitter aimed a cyclists. Occasionally it posts videos of cyclists on the receiving end of abuse from other road users. Whilst I love riding off road, I do ride quite a bit on road too and I’ve had my fair share of near misses and close calls with motorists who don’t look, are impatient, don’t give you room, perform ridiculous manoeuvres and are genuinely oblivious to their surroundings. But I have never, yet, been abused either verbally or physically.
Some of the stuff I have seen via this twitter feed is pretty unbelievable, from videos of Drivers spitting at cyclists, to people telling their twitter followers they want to deliberately run into, injure or kill bike riders. But one tweet I saw today really hit a nerve with me and is the reason I felt the need to sit and write this. I’m not talking about the tweet from @mylomylo that stated “I wish running cyclists over was legal” Ironically it seems this guy is a lifeguard and yes, I am naming and shaming. But it’s the tweet from @ChloeA91 which said “The Cyclist I just followed to work was asking to be injured. Almost hit him just to teach him a lesson #sillyprick” that really got to me.
What is wrong with people? How can anyone be so ignorant towards someone who is riding their bike who I’m pretty sure, unless they were some kind of sado masochist, wasn’t asking to be injured? Why is there so much hatred towards cyclists? Do these people think they own the road? Perhaps it is just another sad refection of society today. Should people like Chloe even be allowed on the road herself to put other people’s lives at risk with her blatant disregard to the safety of others?
I’m not going to tar all car drivers with the same brush though. I know it is the mindless minority who hold so much contempt and hatred of other road users riding bicycles. I’m not going to moan about cars and the environment either. I love cars. Those of you who know me or read this blog regularly will know that I’m a huge petrol head. I like driving, I like motor racing and pretty much anything to do with cars and they are a big part of my life. But I like my bike too and I like to ride it as well. This means I ride on the road where I respect other road users as I wish they respect me.
I will also say that yes, there are a few mindless cyclists too. I’ve seen them jump red lights, not signal when turning, cutting through traffic, not using lights and generally doing some stupid things. But remember, we have all seen cars jump red lights, not indicate, pull out without looking, cut up other vehicles, drive whilst using a mobile phone. So not everyone is blameless.
Digging a little deeper I have seen forums where people try to justify their hatred for cyclists. Some of their arguments and reasoning’s are just ridiculous and really bug the hell out of me as I genuinely cannot believe people can be so ignorant.
One of the most common beliefs from Cycle haters is that Cyclists don’t pay road tax and should therefore not be on the road. Excuse me? There is no such thing as road tax. What these people believe is road tax which they pay each year and receive a disc they display in their vehicle is not road tax. It is a vehicle tax. Most cyclists, like myself also own a car so will also pay this vehicle tax anyway. Also, there are many new cars that are vehicle tax band A and don’t incur any tax charge and Vehicles over 25 years old are also tax exempt. Should these vehicles be banned too? Anyway, this is all irrelevant as all the tax everyone pays, from your earnings to VAT, goes into a big government pot and a percentage is taken out to pay for, the generally poor, upkeep of our roads. So this is a stupid argument. Have these people paid their ignorance tax? No. So stop being such an Ignorant fool.
I’ve seen people moan they hate cyclists because they hold them up while they are driving. Oh boo hoo. They probably moan about tractors too. The tractors farmers use to produce the food these morons eat. A lot of cyclists cycle to work. Usually because rush hour traffic is a nightmare and it is probably quicker to cycle than drive. Maybe all the cyclists should drive and add to the already congested roads? Other cyclists ride as a sport. A sport like football. A sport that some motorists pay lots of money to watch. Also these cyclists are keeping fit and active. In a world of obesity and laziness, is that such a bad thing? Think about that next time you get held up for a few seconds behind a cyclist after you’ve jumped in your car to pick up your take-away pizza from just up the road.
Another statement I’ve seen about a lot is ‘If you can’t afford a car get off the road’ or words to that effect. I can afford a car. I have a car. It’s quite a decent one too. It’s better and more expensive than quite a few of the other cars on the road. Hell, even my bike is worth more than some of the sh*tboxes a few of these haters drive around in. As stated before, most other cyclists have cars too. Some cyclists have top of the range hand built carbon fibre bikes that cost thousands of pounds. Some even cost more than a brand new car. So from this I can deduce that I and many other cyclists can afford a car and judging by this stupid statement should be allowed on the road. Let’s also not forget that you are entitled to WALK on a public highway. I rest my case.
The final point I’ll touch on is the belief that the law will always side with the cyclist over the motorist. This is completely false. The law will side with whoever was not in the wrong. As mentioned above, there are idiots on bikes and the law recognises this. Yes the woman who knocked Bradley Wiggins off his bike was summoned to the local police station, but she was in the wrong. Witnesses saw her pull out of a petrol station in front of him. But on the flip side, I will give you another example.
I knocked a cyclist off his bike once whilst I was in my car. It was actually just yards from a Police van containing half a dozen policemen who saw the incident. I had stopped in the road waiting for oncoming traffic to pass so I could make a right hand turn into the road the police van was parked and the direction I was indicating. As the traffic passed I quickly checked my mirror and made my manoeuvre. As I was halfway across the road there was a bang. A cyclist had ridden into the side of my car and fallen off his bike. I hadn’t seen him. As I got out of my car to see if he was ok and apologise, the on looking policemen had made their way over. The cyclist was fortunately OK, but was keen to show me his anger at what had happened. Thankfully the police were there although I did think I was going to get into a lot of trouble. One policeman was trying to get the cyclist to stop shouting and go home despite his complaints his front wheel was buckled. The other policeman who had came over spoke to me. He told me I had nothing to apologise for and was glad there wasn’t any damage to my car as they didn’t want the paperwork to deal with. I was somewhat confused by this. He explained the cyclist had overtaken the car waiting behind me and rode straight into the side of my car as I made the manoeuvre I was signalling for. He was in the wrong and I had done nothing punishable.
Maybe it is this kind of cyclist that the haters refer to. The minority. Yes they can be a nuisance. But there are many other nuisances behind the wheel of a car. Do I hate them? No. I am a car driver too. I love cars and I love driving. I also know that they are the minority and I don’t judge everyone on the actions of a few. Whilst I accept we are all accountable for our own actions on the road, I can’t really accept the attitude of the mindless few who think it’s funny to suggest it would be worthwhile to harm people who ride bikes. Surely they are the ones who shouldn’t be on the road. Or even out in public as they seem to pose a danger to everyone and even themselves with their own idiocy. So please, less of the hatred. I know we can all get frustrated and cross at times for a number of different reasons, but it would be better for all if we could all just get along, put aside the ridiculous reasons for hating people and put the brush that’s used for tarring down.
Oh, and feel free to follow me on twitter: @ChrisGurton
On the morning of February the 7th 2011, a young girl was walking through Colchester town centre on her way to the Sixth form college at which she was a first year student. Unbeknown to 16 year Old Cassie McCord, it would to be her last journey to college.
Whilst walking along Head street in the town past H&M, an out of control car mounted the pavement and struck Cassie, crushing her between it and the shop wall. The following day, the teenager was to succumb to her injuries and died in Queens Hospital with her family by her bedside.
But what of the driver? Was he drunk? No. Was he a young lad who had passed his test and was showing off like much of the media loves to tell us about? No. Or was he involved in a police chase and lost control in his desperate bid to escape? No. The driver was an 87 year old pensioner. So maybe just a tragic accident you might be thinking. Well maybe. But what makes this story so terrible is that just 3 days prior to this tragic event, Police were called to a collision in which a driver had crashed into a petrol pump on a forecourt endangering many people. The driver in question was the very same driver involved in Cassie’s death.
After the petrol station incident, the driver had failed an eye test and had to be driven home. Police had urged him not to get behind the wheel of his car again, but as the law stands, were powerless to immediately suspend his driving license. Unfortunately, the driver selfishly ignored the police’s advice and continued to drive despite his poor driving ability and eyesight. This was a selfish decision that claimed the life of an innocent victim with a long life full of potential ahead of her.
Now, Cassie’s mother, Jackie McCord has started a petition to push for a change in the law to give police the power to immediately suspend the licences of drivers who’s ability behind the wheel falls below an acceptable standard until a full medical examination can be held to confirm their ability to drive. This campaign is fully supported by Essex Police and like all petitions, needs 100,000 signatures before a debate can be heard in the House of Commons. So please just spare a couple of minutes to fill in the online petition via this link: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/21244
If a law like this already existed, a young girl would not have had her life so tragically taken away. So please do your bit to try and stop this from happening again.