This story on the BBC website is hilarious. Apparently, they’ve held a party to celebrate the “reopening” of Chilwell Road, which was closed in March 2013 for construction of the tram line.
It was due to reopen in January 2014, but repeated delays and incompetence meant that this was put back again and again. The funny part is that – in spite of the party – tram works are still not complete there. The road is not scheduled to open properly until the end of November, and given the track record here that might easily go further back still.
The contractor, Taylor Woodrow Alstom, is quoted:
We understand the works have caused significant disruption, and apologise for any inconvenience,
However, most of the construction in Chilwell Road will soon be complete and we would like to assure local residents and businesses that every effort is being made to ensure that the remaining works do not take any longer than necessary.
What has happened to our society when sheer incompetence can be glossed over like this? The original deadline has been missed by almost a full year. They missed it by 210% of the original target – it should have taken nine months, but it has taken eleven months longer than that. It is at nineteen months and counting!
It is also disappointing to see the local shop owners supporting the “party”, which seems to be a council publicity stunt. Have they so soon forgotten how much money the council has cost them with this idiotic waste of space of a tram system?
This article was written in June, and the “vipers’ comments” referred to relate to those I read at that time. However, I notice the subject has cropped up again on another forum.
This came in via the DVSA email alerts, and it reports that the Hazard Perception Test (HPT) has won the John Smart Road Safety award at this years’ Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT) awards. As you can imagine, this has caused a few of the usual vipers out there to burst out of their holes and start flinging their favoured lines around.
The award was primarily for the study and the effort that went into it – not for the simple process of sitting in front of a computer screen for 90 minutes in order to complete the Theory Test.
For anyone who is interested, a “cohort study” is a complex analytical method used in situations where things aren’t just black or white. For example, the human body is extremely complex, and so are most drugs, and a particular drug might not affect everyone in the same way, or it might have unwanted side effects which only show up in some people. It isn’t simply a case of being able to say “well, he took the drug and it didn’t affect him, therefore the problem isn’t with the drug”. A cohort study can help pin down the cause by looking at groups of people and data which apply to them. Unfortunately, such studies involve statistics, and most ADIs are self-proclaimed anti-experts on this subject – often summed up on web forums when someone posts their favourite mantra that there are “lies, damned lies, and statistics”.
And they wonder why no one – including the DVSA – wants to listen to them!
Learning to drive – and driving safely thereafter – is also a hugely complex issue. It simply cannot be broken down into something as simple as what, for example, happens when you mix two different colours of paint! For that reason, two cohort studies have been carried out – Cohort I covered the period 1988-1998, and Cohort II covered the period 1998-2007. The second study straddled the introduction of the HPT in 2002.
You can read the full findings for yourselves, but key points were:
- The average amount [of lessons with an ADI] was 52 hours, but half of the candidates had less than 40 hours of professional instruction. In Cohort I, the average was 31 hours.
- The total driving experience for [test] passers averaged 67 hours [in Cohort II), compared with 49 hours in Cohort I.
- In the first six months after the practical test, nearly two in ten respondents (19%) reported having an accident and seven in ten respondents (70%) reported having a near accident. As new drivers gained experience, the number of accidents they reported decreased and the severity of accidents increased.
- The introduction of the hazard perception test was associated with some reduction in subsequent accident liability in the first year of driving, depending on the type of accident. For reported nonlow-speed accidents on a public road where the driver accepted some blame, the accident liability of those who had taken the hazard perception test was significantly lower than those who had not.
- The higher the score achieved in the hazard perception test, the lower the accident liability for some types of accidents in the first year of driving.
If you read the bulk of the report, it is explained that following the introduction of HPT, more time was spent by candidates studying for the Theory Test (TT), and there was an increased use of visual materials. This detail alone is completely overlooked by the aforementioned naysayers, and yet it clearly implies that the HPT has made candidates think more about what they are doing. The report then adds:
Multivariate analysis showed that the introduction of the hazard perception test was associated with a reduction in subsequent accident liability for some types of accident in the first year of driving. The size of the effect varies with the type of accident.
The naysayers will be totally lost with this statement, but what it is saying is that there was a distinct statistical reduction in some types of accident following introduction of the HPT. It goes on to explain:
For reported non-low-speed accidents on a public road where the driver accepted some blame, accident liability for the first year of
those who had taken the hazard perception test was significantly lower than that of those who had not. There is also a predictive relation between the hazard perception score and levels of reported accidents in the first year, suggesting that there is scope for reducing accidents by improving hazard perception skills.
When something is “significantly” lower you cannot simply discount it just because you don’t understand it, or because you have some existing prejudice to defend. In conclusion, the report states:
Cohort II also provides the first persuasive evidence of a safety benefit associated with the introduction of hazard perception testing in the driver testing regime. The results suggest that the better people are at identifying hazards in the test, the better they are at avoiding accidents in future.
With that, it is simply stating fact – the evidence is right there – yet it doesn’t make any direct claims because, as already mentioned, the topic is far too complex for that.
I have said before that even in the worst possible case, the HPT would have had a neutral effect, However, it is hard to imagine that it would have had no effect at all – the fact that prior to it, there was nothing except what a pupil learned on lessons, whereas now there is the lessons AND the HPT. Certainly the HPT will not have had a negative effect, or increased accident rates, although I remember some idiot trying to claim this a couple of years ago.
I don’t believe for a second that every positive thing is down to the introduction of HPT. Every pupil is different, and pupils as a whole in 2014 are different to those in 1998, and those in turn were different to those from 1988. However, you’d have to be a completely biased moron to try and dismiss the results as providing no support whatsoever for HPT.
HPT is better than nothing. And the results from Cohort II clearly support this.
This time of year sees a lot of new pupils who are in their first year at university. On more than one occasion I have driven to various halls of residence to pick up a pupil, and been struck by the groups of (mainly) males sitting outside in hoodies smoking and spitting. The only thing missing is their BMX bikes.
I have repeatedly reminded myself that only a few days previously they would have been doing this outside the local chip shop or on benches in shopping precincts of whichever towns they came from. So it comes as little surprise to read this story on the BBC website.
This year’s freshers gathered outside the Capital FM Arena and filmed themselves chanting:
Now she’s dead, but not forgotten, dig her up and **** her rotten. You wish, you wish, you wish you were in Cavendish [one of the Halls]…
God knows what the hell it is supposed to mean. For one thing, the little prats haven’t been associated with “Cavendish” for anywhere near long enough to have formed any sort of serious attachment to it, and certainly not one that warrants this display of childish behaviour. But then some twat then had to go and post it on YouTube.
Quite frankly, society would be much better off if necrophilia was all they got up to – that way we could be sure they wouldn’t breed. As it is, all we can do is hope vainly that Nottingham University actually finds those “culpable” and sends them back where they came from so that they can grow up and maybe try further education again in a few years. But I certainly won’t hold my breath – the video has been around for over a week and they’ve done nothing.
Still no action as of 13 October, but it would appear that the proto-politicians who comprise the students union have found a new word to keep repeating. See if you can work out how many times the word “misogyny” is used in this latest article. More significantly, look how pissed off D&G Taxis and Domino’s Pizza are at having been dragged into this puerile episode.
A third-year student, who did not want to be named, told the BBC… during her first year she was part of a group taken to a secluded spot and taught a song about sex with women, which they were warned not to repeat.
I wrote about candidates for the 2014 Darwin Awards back in January, following several deaths, near-deaths, and plain stupid behaviour during the bad weather. As of October, I think Peter Shaw – drug dealer – has virtually clinched the trophy with nearly three months of the year left.
Shaw, who comes from Nottingham (it doesn’t say what part, but it would be a very short shortlist of likely estates), was photographed by a friend handling and preparing large quantities of drugs. The story also doesn’t say how the police got hold of these photos, but they did find Shaw in possession. He was jailed for three years.
Det Con Steve Fenyn said Shaw’s conviction was helped by his ego after he was “caught in the act on camera”.
You’ve got to be from the lowest depths of the bottom sewer of society to have any sort of “ego” on something like this. I think it might have had a lot more to do with Shaw’s abnormal number of chromosomes, which would have been passed on to him by whoever and whatever his parents were. I mean, he can’t even be a criminal properly!
It’s a great story, though.
It’s been a while, but there has been a clutch of new mega-annoying adverts recently – mostly on the radio. As I’ve mentioned before, I listen to Planet Rock a lot. For anyone who might still be confused by that, they play rock music.
Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles
It begins with some bloke shouting over the noise of a busy factory, then cuts to what seems like 10 minutes of brain-numbing whispering by some stupid woman. To me, it’s like having a screwdriver rammed in each ear repeatedly. Thank God for the mute button.
A nasal London-accented street poet rattles on, and on, and on, and on… Ian Wright can get away with this kind of accent (even then, only just), but not this prat. KFC seems to have got it into their heads that their typical target customers are hoodies and chavs.
Co-op Funeral Care
Look, when I’m listening to the radio I want to be cheered up. After being pissed off in turn by Volkswagen and then KFC, absolutely the last thing I want to hear is about how someone’s dad was a crap accordion player before being told he sorted out his own funeral before he died. It’s depressing, and it isn’t going to get me anywhere near Co-op Funeral Care either now or in the future.
And after that, I don’t want to hear about bloody cancer, either. That’s even more depressing. There’s a time and a place for these things, but every sodding commercial break on Planet Rock is not it.
Heinz Soup (Again)
I’ve mentioned Heinz before, but their ad with that grotesque woman coming in out of the cold, having a bath, dressing like Ugly Betty, then getting tomato soup all over her lips has resurfaced. Where? On Angry Birds of all places. There is no escape from these damned things.
An email from the DVSA advises candidates to attend tests as usual. This is because not all examiners are stupid enough to be members of PCS (the union involved), and of those that are, they’re not all so stupid that they will automatically go on strike anyway. However, like last time – if you believe the media – the further north you live, the more likely you are to find examiners who are stupid enough to strike (and don’t blame me for saying it: that’s just the way it is).
The action is due to take place on Wednesday, 15 October 2014. Theory tests aren’t affected – just practical driving tests.
Oh, and it is examiners who are striking, not instructors (someone found the blog using that search criterion)!
This article was originally published in December 2013, and the changes are now in effect. Please look at the update at the bottom of the article for information on how to pay by direct debit.
From 1 October 2014, tax discs will no longer be issued or be required to be displayed on vehicles. Also from that date, it will be possible to pay your road tax annually, every six months, or monthly by direct debit.
There is more information available here. It’s also been covered in much of today’s media. The changes do not negatively impact motorists in any way – the surcharge for paying six-monthly or monthly, for example, will actually be half of what it currently is when you pay six-monthly.
The tax disc first appeared in 1921. According to the article, over 99% of motorists pay their road tax on time.
The only question I would have is what happens if someone’s monthly direct debit is refused? Are they then untaxed? Since enforcement is by ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Readers/Recognition) systems there could be a rise in the numbers of those being stopped for having no tax – yet they might not be aware that they aren’t taxed.
NOTE: As a reader has pointed out, the term “road tax” is technically a misnomer, and the correct term is “vehicle tax” or “vehicle excise duty”. However, I should point out myself that the term “road tax” is almost universal, even to the point of being in the OED. You can read more about the debate surrounding the term on Wikipedia.
A lot of people are finding the blog on search terms associated with “how do I pay by direct debit?” The short answer is that I don’t know – not in detail, anyway. My own tax is paid automatically by my lease agent, so I don’t have to sort it out myself.
However, my understanding is that if you go to a Post Office to renew your tax, you can sign up for direct debit there any time after 5 October 2014. From 1 November 2014 you will also have that option if you renew online. You will be able to pay annually, biannually (every six months), or monthly. More information is given on the GOV.UK website here.
There is currently a beta version of the online renewal system. You can try it out here.
This article was first published in September 2014 when the recall first appeared in the media, and before DVSA had responded. Note the two updates at the bottom of this article. The recall date has now been extended back to February 2014.
No word from the DVSA yet (see addendum below), but Vauxhall has said that any Corsa or Adam registered since May 2014 should not be driven until it has been inspected and repaired if necessary.
Apparently, a component in the steering system “falls below Vauxhall’s quality standards”. You can interpret that any way you want, but what it really means is that a faulty part has been used. From tomorrow (Saturday, 27 September 2014) – and they probably mean sometime during the day, and not at 1 minute after midnight – you will be able to check to see if your vehicle is one of those affected by going to Vauxhall’s website and clicking the relevant link. In the meantime, their advice is not to drive it.
It is likely that DVSA will refuse to conduct driving tests in affected vehicles without proof of inspection and/or appropriate remedial work. Any ADI conducting lessons needs to be aware of the interim warning not to drive the car.
DVSA has issued the anticipated response to the recall notice as of Monday 29 September 2014, which can be read here. In a nutshell, they say:
If your vehicle is affected, you won’t be able to take it on test without written proof that the vehicle has been checked by the manufacturer and remedial work carried out if needed.
DVSA examiners will accept documents from the vehicle manufacturer or the manufacturer’s appointed representative or dealership.
They also point out that any tests taking place within the next 5 working days can be cancelled and rearranged free of charge. Outside of that, normal rules apply.
There is an update from the DVSA here (which was updated a few hours later to clarify the cut-off point for cancellations). The original notice mentioned above referred to cars registered from May 2014. This appears to have been extended backwards to February 2014. So Corsas and Adams registered from February this year – not just from May. The source information can be seen here.
DVSA is still offering a grace period if you need to cancel and rearrange.
Well done Tony, who passed first time today with just 5 driver faults. He holds the record for being my longest-serving pupil – more than four years since his first lesson.
Actually, I didn’t hear from him for three and a half years somewhere in the middle of that because of work and money issues, so it’s not as bad as it sounds.
Mind you, that car he bought when he first started lessons hasn’t been moved off his driveway in the intervening period, so I think his bank balance is in for a bit of a surprise when it meets the service bill!
He’s been fun to teach and is a very competent driver.
We have several silver birch trees, and the last couple of years have seen them beginning to drop their leaves as early as June! We were worried, and all the Googling for a solution led to numerous inconclusive answers (even from experts) that didn’t seem to fit in with our problem at all.
The most common suggestion was that it was due to the Bronze Birch Borer (a beetle that feeds on white birches). While this might be a problem in North America – and in some places in the UK if you believe what you read – we had none of the symptoms other than leaf drop, which can obviously occur for a lot of other reasons. Nor were we growing our trees in a swamp or semi-desert – two other suggestions from various high-profile experts.
Anyway, before you go looking for someone who can apply the necessary controlled pesticide which kills Birch Borers, or digging your trees up in order to plant Mangroves or Desert Palms, try this first. It’s based on the KISS principle – keep it simple, stupid. I’d lay odds that this is your problem, and not an invasion by North American bugs.
Buy some Azalea fertiliser – it is available in virtually all garden centres, and online (including eBay, where I bought mine). It only costs about £8 for enough to last a couple of years. Make it up as directed on the pack, and spread it around your trees. Make sure you cover a wide area, because the roots extend outwards quite a long way.
Assuming that you don’t have a Bronze Birch Borer infestation – and I bet most of you don’t – and haven’t planted your trees in a semi-aquatic environment, you will see a dramatic improvement within days.
I’ve written this very late in the season, but as I say our trees’ leaves were yellowing back in June almost before they’d fully opened. We were having to sweep them up daily. There were no catkins, either (these usually appear before the leaves).
After a single application of the fertiliser in June, the leaves stopped dropping almost next day, and within about a week the entire canopy was a healthy green. We didn’t have to sweep up a single leaf the whole summer after that. The trees also threw out some catkins.
In the end, we simply hadn’t been looking after our trees properly.