There is an issue that had been on my mind for a long time. First of all, I do not have a car. I had a motorcycle for a while, but not at present. I never cared for cars that much. When you live in the big city, a car tends to be an expensive asset and it rarely gives you additional time. I learned that if one manages their time correctly you get heaps done without a car. It does not always work that way, I can admit that and for almost half a century, I have only desperately needed a car around 10 times. So, for me, a car is really not that needed.
You might wonder where this is going!
I just read an article, basically the second driver in a series of thoughts (at http://news.sky.com/story/1286644/brakes-slammed-on-over-zealous-spy-cars). The first one is a number of articles all pointing back to speed cameras (at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/10613388/Motorway-speed-cameras-to-be-rolled-out-to-stop-those-driving-faster-than-70mph.html) and a third topic in this matter can be found at http://www.mindfulmoney.co.uk/trending-news/parking-fines-by-councils-reach-nearly-255-million-in-2013-with-tables-of-the-top-finers-by-local-authority/.
So, why these issues? We have traffic laws (UK, Australia and heaps of other nations). They are not like the three rules I got explained for driving a car in Egypt (in 1982), where it seemed that:
1. If you did not honk your horn, you are at fault.
2. The heaviest car has right of way.
3. A non-Egyptian is always at fault.
They seem simple and pretty much fit the bill.
In most Commonwealth countries we have set rules on speeding and parking. So, I do not get the problem when people start bitching over speeding tickets. Was there a speed limit? There always is and there is always a reason why it did not apply to that person. I reckon 1 out of 250 will have the actual honest defence that they missed the speed limit sign, which gives us 249 people who should keep quiet and just pay up, or should they?
Now, I will admit that I am slightly on the fence towards the topic with the title “Brakes Slammed On ‘Over-Zealous Spy Cars’“. Is that really a wrong approach?
Even though the heart of the matter quoted “These measures will deliver a fairer deal for motorists, ensuring that parking enforcement is proportionate, that school children are protected and buses can move freely, and that key routes are kept clear“, which is fair enough. My issue is that these people parked illegally, so why is that an issue?
The quote “CCTV spy cars can be seen lurking on every street raking in cash for greedy councils and breaking the rules that clearly state that fines should not be used to generate profit for town halls” remains funny as most town halls will never ever make profit, even if we fine roughly 87.2254% of the London motorists, London would still come up short by a sizeable amount.
It is in the area of the parking fines article we see this quote “The capital is extremely congested so we’d expect to see a higher number of restrictions in place and penalties being issued. However, there is a fine line between fair and opportunistic that councils shouldn’t be tempted to cross.” Here I wonder how to react. You see, if the council revokes a driver’s licence after 3-4 fines for no less than one year, it seems to me that the congestion problem will solve itself overnight. I agree that these transgressions are not in the league of Manslaughter or Grievous bodily harm, but laws are laws and are traffic laws any less? (Well, less than murder, yes!) There will always be excuses and some will remain valid.
‘L or P plates correctly displayed at start of journey‘, which in all honesty could happen. There is ‘on medical grounds‘, where the driver was helping a victim into a hospital. There will always be a grey area that we in all honesty must deal with. These are the parking fines and there are a few more valid reasons, but some are just out there. I felt a lot less lenient when it comes to speeding. You see, there is always that joker who thinks he is in control and when speeding goes wrong, he refuses to die for the sake of it, but will have killed someone else. When we read that: “X (name removed) was jailed for eight months for causing death by careless driving“, I wonder why that person is not spending life in jail for murder. the quote “Believing they were walking ‘deliberately slowly’, she engaged the clutch and revved the engine of her Honda Civic to scare them off the road while her car was still moving at around the 30mph speed limit” gives additional feelings of anger. These pedestrians were at a pedestrian crossing? 8 months jail and a two year ban is all she had to do, which in my book seems just wrong.
It is the quote “We are opposed to speed cameras in general. The evidence of their success in promoting safety is not good and in reality what is happening now is that the police are using speed cameras to fund their other activities through speed awareness courses.” by Roger Lawson, a spokesman for the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) that gives additional concern. Perhaps these measures do not go far enough?
It is currently stated that if you are caught speeding then you will be handed an absolute minimum punishment of three penalty points and a fine of £100. How about making that four penalty points and a fine of £200? Also during special times, like Easter, Christmas and so on, the demerits double, making the driver extra careful. Next we see that ‘if you accrue 12 points on your licence within a three-year period‘, should then in honesty become ‘if you accrue 24 points on your licence within a two-year period‘ the driving ban should be no less than 24 months, no matter how essential your driving license is. If someone states that this is too draconian, then I personally agree as well, but many acts do not change the mind of the driver now, so why not give them something to fear. It seems that public transportation frightens them a lot.
What do we get from this?
That is indeed the question. It seems that a total disregard for parking and speeding rules is getting out of hand, and whilst it seems unfair to some, this is also a possible way to stop congestion. It also stops a little pollution, so we do get a double whammy on this front.
This all gets me to Law and Morality by John Gardner (at http://users.ox.ac.uk/~lawf0081/pdfs/lawmoralityedited.pdf). It should seem clear that my approach is ‘aim to serve the common good (Finnis 1980: 276)‘ and ‘aim to justify coercion (Dworkin 1986: 93)‘. There is no denial that this is about coercing the driver to abide by the rules. We should at that point also consider how unjust the laws of traffic are (if that is the raised issue). But is it?
How often could you not park because someone had taken the spot that was rightfully yours? How often have you or someone you directly known to be in almost direct danger because of someone speeding? When a population above a certain level states yes to both (as it currently seemed to be the case), should these laws not change to something more draconian?
Is it not so, that in my imaginary change, we are changing the premise that we all have a right to drive a car, into the premise that driving a car is becoming a privilege for those abiding by the set rules? Is this not deprivation of freedom? We are to some extent already imposing those rules to pilots, considering the lack of accidents there, should we not take the same approach with car drivers? Should we not pass a certain parameter to be considered a driver? We demand skills to many environments that are a lot less hazardous, so why not car drivers? You see, as I see it, the car industry had forever been an open field as it was so lucrative to sell to so many people. Now, with the saturation we see, cars are almost too available and gas prices go through the roof. What if it becomes a privilege? What if the car driving population goes down by 20%? Cars might not become cheaper, but gas certainly will as there is a 20% less need. Public transportation will suddenly get a massive boost and the chance that all this reflects on higher safety standards and less need for emergency aid is also a good thing. We will always need emergency services, but consider that they will have on the emergency services. Here is where I got surprised. When we consider the numbers (at http://www.hscic.gov.uk/catalogue/PUB13040/acci-emer-focu-on-2013-rep-V2.pdf), we see that in the UK the response for ‘Road traffic accidents accounted for 1.4 per cent of type 1 department attendances in 2012/13‘. That was a number I did not expect to see, so am I looking in the wrong direction? When we look at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/255125/road-accidents-and-safety-quarterly-estimates-q2-2013.pdf, we see a rolling statistic of 1785 killed and 23,530 regarded as killed or seriously injured, which makes the Accident and Emergency (A&E) data in England a slight question. Especially as we regard page 17 of that PDF and the spread of the traffic cases on page 22. Well, No! The numbers make perfect sense; it just shows that the 23,000 are well spread over the timeline; it is just that these 23,000 are in the end only 1.4%. Yes, in case you wonder, I did notice they are not all from the same frame, but we see only a few percent change over these time frames, so that overall the picture is still usable for the most, just that the relief for Accident & Emergency would be minimal (alas). I had hoped that the traffic changes would lessen their work a lot more.
So, am I just trying to add morality to a traffic case? Gardner explains that at times morality needs law, just as law is in need of morality at times. So we are still with the question, is adding draconian measures to traffic laws morally considerable, or will the act result in a lack of morality for the law? That issue is brought to light when Gardner gets to item 4. “Does law have an inner morality?” There we have a nice consideration. Is morality not a setting of norms, hence in reflection is it not a form of discrimination? I am doing that by discriminating against the transgressors, but am I doing this in an unbalanced way? If we accept that morality is seen as a system of values and principles of conduct, and the bulk of people break speed limits, is the morality of speeding not one that should change? If almost all break the speed limit, is the law not unjust to being with and as such is this law, draconian or not a transgression of accepted morality and therefor a law that should not exist?
The facts now fit the statement that Roger Lawson gave us, is this about funding, or about safety? That is not easily answered and without knowing the true and complete course of the 1785 killed. How many got killed through speeding? If we accept that the UK has roughly 34.8 million cars in use, should 0.00525% decide the consequence of the rest? When we look at the deaths, that is what we see; we get 0.0676% if we include the wounded. So, when looking at this, no matter how we twist or turn the data, well over 99% suffers because of a few. There is no question that none of this changes for the victims of these events, but it shines a harsh light on certain aspects of traffic safety and the approach it has. Should the laws change however? There is growing evidence at this point that my Draconian approach is just not the way to go, it shows an increasing tendency to be unjust. We can all agree that unjust laws should not be followed. But in the second degree, are the current laws too harsh?
Here we have several other factors to consider. If congestion is the cause of many evil, then my draconian approach survives the test as it solves part of the problem, yet will it solve the situation? There is no real way to tell. We should however question whether we want to take away the car as a basic freedom, because that is what a car embodies and revoking freedoms is as we can all agree highly immoral.
It seems like we took an opposition approach and through this we learned that people like Eric Pickles and Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin have a clear case. The same could be said for Roger Lawson, which takes us to the question whether the UK should consider losing the speed limits all together. Would you believe that someone made that case? Norfolk Police Crime Commissioner Stephen Bett did this and makes a good argument for it, which gives wonder on what to do next? He stated “If we are going to do anything about speed and villages we ought to take down all the signs and say all villages are 30mph [48km/h] and you drive on roads like they do in Germany and Italy, as road conditions say”. So if this works in Germany and Italy, why should the UK not go that same way? It cannot just be the weather as the weather in Germany can be even more treacherous as it is in the UK. Is it not also the case that the simpler any traffic issue is, the less confusion we are likely to face? The Egyptian example at the beginning is an extreme one, but does show the effectiveness of simplicity (except for rule three which can be scrapped in Common Law on grounds of discrimination).
Perhaps some changes the UK could get by learning from its neighbours, who knows, perhaps after this the French, Dutch and others will follow the Italians and we might get a reasonable equal traffic system (one can only hope). The end of the article comes down on Stephen Bett stating “UK motoring organisations have dismissed Bett’s comments, with the Guild of Experienced Motorists describing them as ‘just nonsense’“. But is that so? The numbers seem to be in his favour, the evidence of simplicity as generic evidence has been proven again and again, so is it all nonsense or is Stephen Bett onto something? Even though he stepped aside as PCC while an investigation is carried out into his expenses (since yesterday), the points he made should be seriously investigated, especially if proof can be given that simplicity drives down the number of accidents and transgressions, which is a win/win for all people.
So as I see it, the act to add Draconian laws seems almost criminally insane, which is actually what is happening in Spain, but we will get to that in due time when we see the results of Spain implementing such harsh rules.