Tag Archive | "motoring law"

The Streets Of San Francisco


With the news that our government is considering making some of our streets 15mph, no-overtaking zones where the car will play second fiddle to the bicycle it would not be unreasonable for British drivers to cry, ‘Why is it always us?’

Well, if it makes you feel any better, it isn’t. The motorists of San Francisco, in the USA, are also under the sanctimonious cosh of the car-hating fraternity. Unlike British motorists however who protest meekly and then shrug, our American friends are not going down without a fight.

In this Californian city drivers have become, in their view, totally marginalised by their authorities in favour of the bicycle and there is now a burgeoning backlash from motorists. In fact, there is now in fact a growing political movement being mobilised to fight for drivers’ rights. Why, they even have a manifesto.

Basically they are sick of having roads narrowed to allow for cycle lanes and the loss of parking spaces to make cycle routes and pavements wider. They have also complained vociferously that while drivers are being penalised for breaking the rules of the road, bike riders are getting away with it without penalty. One rule for them and one for us, would seem to be the motto.

This organised protest has produced a list of demands under the less than catchy title of ‘Restoring Transportation Balance in San Francisco’. These demands have been presented to the City Attorney and have caused a community-splitting stir in the city that bought us the greatest car chase ever in the movie Bullit.

One embittered driver even went on to say, “The sleeping giant has awakened. Making the roads more congested for cars… by taking out parking spaces and removing lanes increases greenhouse gas emissions and pollution… If biking is such a great alternative, why are so many of them so surly?”

It is not the place of Motor Blogger to take sides. Our view is that it should be ‘fair play for all’. Nevertheless it has become a very contentious issue in the USA – more so even than here. With our typical British reserve we may not go to these lengths but it may well be time for drivers to speak up before the car is totally marginalised.

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Mobile Phone Confusion


In the UK we have a law dating from 2003 that states we must not use mobile phones whilst driving. Despite this legislation many people still do, thus earning the opprobrium of fellow motorists. This is probably made worse by the fact that the likelihood of being caught at it is slim at best. Nevertheless it is against the law and it is believed that doing otherwise increases the chance of having an accident fourfold.

Even hands-free phones are not immune. Although they are legal drivers can still face penalties starting with the usual three points / sixty quid opening offer. This is possible and we quote “if the police believe you are distracted”. This may be a valid argument but it is very subjective and will largely depend on what side of the bed the officer got out of. Now, however, comes some news that throws the mobile phone debate wide open again.

Let’s be clear from the outset. Motor Blogger is reporting the facts. We are not and will not offer a value judgement as to the rightness or wrongness of what you are about to read.

The news comes from America – where else? Some new research states quite clearly that using a mobile phone whilst driving is not linked to accidents. The research was carried out in the USA by a team from Carnegie Mellon University collaborating with, surprisingly, the London School of Economics. The team found no link between the number of US drivers making phone calls while on the road and the number of accidents recorded.

They analysed more than eight million incidents of car crashes and all fatalities on roads in eight US States. Additionally, they reviewed data before and after 9pm local time over a three-year period because after 9pm many American operators offer free mobile calls during week days. Despite the additional incidence of use, the data did not show any increase in attributable accidents. In other words, despite the huge and sudden increase in the use of mobile phones there was no impact on the crash rate. So there you are.

The research did not include even more stupid actions like texting or browsing at the wheel but the inference is clear. Are we in the UK getting overheated about nothing? It is however important to note that the USA has much more space, wider roads and, basically, more room for cars. British roads are generally tighter and more narrow and less well maintained.

Also, the research does not differentiate on demographic grounds. For example, older drivers are less likely to use devices than young drivers. Would the figures be any different is the groups were split? The basic premise needs to be that drivers who are rash have more accidents anyway. It is unlikely that the UK will amend its stance on the subject but being safe with mobiles is no hardship anyway. It’s against the law so don’t do it.

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