Posts Tagged ‘driving’

Do child car seats save lives?

Friday, June 10th, 2016 | Science

child-in-car-seat

Steven Levitt, of Freakonomics fame, gave a talk at TED in 2005. In it, he put forward the idea that child car seats do not outperform just using a seatbelt to a significant degree for children over two.

In some ways, this is shocking but believable. Take handsfree kits for example. There is no evidence that they are any safer than holding your phone. The dangerous bit is having a phone conversation, regardless of the phone being on handsfree or not. However, because it seems intuitive, because it allows the government to look like they are doing something, and because it allows manufacturers to sell us more stuff, everyone goes along with it.

Could the same thing be happening here?

Well, maybe. It is difficult to argue with the data he presents. However, in the Q&A at the end of the talk, Levitt touches on the issue of whether car seats do provide a reduction in injury and it turns out that they may well do. Other datasets suggest that there is a significant benefit.

Also, the following year the University of Michigan published a study suggesting that there was a significant reduction in risk of death: 28%. The study seems to group front and rear facing seats into the same category, so it would be interesting to see if these groups showed a difference.

Therefore, unless further evidence is published, it makes sense to continue to use child car seats.

I am a middle lane driver

Thursday, January 21st, 2016 | Thoughts

middle-lane-driver

Recently the police have started cracking down on middle lane drivers. This is a great news. They not only slow traffic down, but make it more dangerous for everyone on the road. Where is the evidence for this? That’s less clear. There doesn’t seem to be any direct evidence. However, there is research to suggest it causes congestion, which in itself makes roads more dangerous.

The problem is though, have you tried not being a middle lane driver when everyone around you is?

If you are stuck in a crowd of middle lane drivers, and you are most of the time you are driving on motorways these days, you have two options. The first is to go to the outside lane. This is a tactic that serves people well. You accelerate up to 80-90mph, cruise past all the middle-laners and keep up with the speeding car in front of you to ensure you are not holding anyone up.

But what if you do not want to drive at an illegal speed? This is a growing concern for me, not just as I get older and more sensible, but also with the increased of managed motorways with speed cameras everywhere.

The alternative is to pull in to the inner lane. This is fraught with difficulties also though. You have your middle lane driver, not overtaking anyone, doing 65mph in the middle lane. Then you approach a truck. It’s doing 55mph. You could pull out again, but typically someone else will have closed up behind the slow middle lane driver, trapping you in the inside lane and forcing you to slam on to 55mph and sit behind the truck.

This is not fair on you, the conscientious Highway-Code-following driver. It pisses me off. In fact it has pissed me off so many times I have stopped doing it.

Now, if someone is doing 65mph in the middle lane, I just sit behind them. I don’t overtake them because I don’t want to speed, and I don’t pull in because then the other drivers behind me will close the gap on the slow driver and I will be boxed in. The only safe thing I can do is to remain in the middle lane, sitting behind the other car.

Technically, you could argue that probably makes me a middle lane driver. But what else is one to do?

I would argue that technically it doesn’t, because I am trying to overtake the slow driver in front. I am just waiting for them to pull in, as they are legally obliged to do, so that I can overtake them.

This is an important demonstration of morality though. People follow laws when they see other people following laws. The reason that people will no ‘go green’ is because they do not want to sacrifice their quality of life if the people around them are not making similar sacrifices. They feel it is unfair – probably because it is unfair. Whereas if everyone did it, we could save the planet and nobody would feel cheated.

Similarly, if you are middle lane driver, you start a chain of other people being forced to drive badly behind you. Whereas if everyone pulled in, people would not be forced to decide whether to risk pulling in and getting trapped, or speeding, and so could pull in also. And everyone would live happily ever after…

Man tries to drive through a cone

Thursday, January 7th, 2016 | Video

road-cone

One of the roads near us was deep under water as a result of the recent Leeds flooding so it was coned off. However, one man decided that he was going to drive down he road anyway. Unfortunately he was not careful enough and managed to hit a cone, wedging it inside his front wheel. He then had to get out of the car and take it out.

See the video:

What this doesn’t show is that he got half way down the road, realised it was too deep, and had to turn round and come back.

How To Drive

Monday, September 21st, 2015 | Books

In How To Drive Ben Collins, formerly The Stig, gives you some practical advice on how to drive better, supported by anecdotes of how he used the same techniques at several times faster than you are ever likely to reach.

It is packed with practical information. He discusses some theory, especially on weight transfer, and then elaborates this into techniques for different parts of driving.

He makes the driving instructors cry. Rejecting the 10 and 2 hand position, he advocates 9 and 3. No passing the wheel round – It keeps you balanced and tells you how much steering lock you have one. I’ve been trying it out and it does feel better than my traditional gearstick and 3, if only because I can pretend I am a racing driver.

One of his main points is to take your time. Do not rush changing gear for example. Do it smoothly, rather than quickly.

Is your lane merging? Merging at the last minute is quicker for everyone because it reduces the size of the bottleneck. I already knew that, but it would be nice if everyone else did so that I do not have to feel guilty as I drive past a few queue of early mergers.

He claims that driving on the left hand side of the road is safer. Most people are right eye dominant, so it makes more sense to have this eye in the middle of the road. Hence why we do. Unfortunately, the French ruined it for two thirds of the world.

Controversially, he even challenges the idea that males have more accidents. Men drive more, so when controlled for time on the road, the figures do not suggest women are such safer drivers.

Off the road he even advices on diets. It’s best to drive when a little hungry, and definitely not after a large meal. Plenty to drink as well (non-alcohol drinks of course). Power naps are recommended too – but no more than 10 minutes. If you have half an hour, you go into a sleep cycle and end up feeling worse.

There is a whole section on when things go wrong. For example, if your breaks fail – pump them. Which is basically taking them off and then on again. Invest in good tyres. They stop a lot faster especially in the wet. In Leeds, we’re on the border of it being worth running winter tyres the whole year round.

When it comes to water, the best thing to do is slow down. Serious aquaplaning only happens at over 50mph, so if you are doing below that, you will probably be fine. When it comes to fording rivers, go for a paddle first. Ideally it won’t get over 15cm.

That is quite a random collection of facts I picked up on. Basically I learned to steer like a racing driver and then missed everything else out about better driving. I remember thinking it was useful at the time though.

The book is engaging written. He describes one lorry overtaking another as like turtle sex. Something to have a giggle over next time the bastards are taking up two lanes and you are in a hurry.

how-to-drive

Harrogate commute

Saturday, January 31st, 2015 | Thoughts

country-road

I have been working with a client based on Harrogate for the past few months.

Actually, I have been driving up there for over a year now. Previously I was working with a client two days a week, which was fine as I was able to drive in early and miss the traffic. It is a very pleasant drive when you do that: countryside abounds.

However, having taken on a new client, it has been more appropriate to be there standard office hours. This quickly introduced the misery of the commute. Especially as most of it has been done in the dark.

If you leave Leeds at 7am, you can arrive in Harrogate at 7:30am. If you want to be there for 9am though, you need to set off at 8am. It brings out the worst in human behaviour too. People using the right lane to avoid the queue, and then going straight on at the roundabout. It’s usually an Audi, and such drivers are worst than child molesters.

Thus I am looking forward to avoiding the daily commute, at least for a short while.

MA53 AVW

Monday, December 1st, 2014 | Photos

terrible-parking

If you’re going to mark on double yellow lines, at least get it near the curb. Or consider turning your wipers off when it is not raining.

Three point turns

Monday, April 29th, 2013 | Photos

three-point-turn

They’re more difficult to do, in narrowboats.

Driving in Russia

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013 | Video

Driving while talking on a mobile

Saturday, October 6th, 2012 | Religion & Politics, Science

phone-in-car

About ten years ago, everyone started to panic about the increased use of mobile phones while driving, because they seemed to be causing lots of accidents. The response was to ban the practice, which became illegal in 2003, unless you were using a handsfree set.

This was widely supported by the mobile phone industry who happily charged us lots of money to provide a variety of handsfree solutions, from simple holders to elaborate integrated in-car systems.

The problem is however, they don’t work. Driving while talking on a handsfree kit is just as dangerous as driving while holding the handset. Multiple studies have all supported the same conclusion.

It’s easy to see how this situation happened. You assume it is the act of holding the phone, so without testing it, you suggest it as an idea and phone manufacturers jump on it as an easy way to make more money from us. To further their own profits, they continue to push the idea that it is safer to drive using handsfree, even though it isn’t.

In fact, it turns out that it is the act of holding a conversation, which takes some of your attention away from the road, that reduces the safety. So it is irrelevant whether you’re holding the handset or not.

Worth thinking about, next time you take a call on your handsfree set.

Car insurance for young drivers

Saturday, May 26th, 2012 | Religion & Politics, Thoughts

Recently, there has been news coverage regarding the cost of car insurance for young drivers.

Everyone is asking how we can bring down the price for young drivers. Nobody seems to be asking whether the price is legitimately high because that is just how much it costs, but lets ignore that obvious question and assume that the prohibitive costs for young drivers are an issue that needs to be addressed.

If so, one easy way to bring down the cost for young drivers would be to ban insurance companies from discriminating based on age.

What way, everyone would pay the same regardless of how old they were. Of course, insurance companies would still be free to charge people higher premiums based on their driving history – if you’ve had an accident you pay more, if you have no claims you pay less. But it stops the companies charging people more just because of their age alone.

You can argue that it makes sense to make young drivers pay more because they are more likely to have an accident, but this is not a fair system. Why? Because it is entirely unfair to the young drivers who do drive safely. Why should they pay more for other people’s reckless behaviour?

This is almost the same situation as it was with insurance companies discriminating based on gender, and this has now been recognised by the EU and will be illegal from the end of this year. You can’t charge someone more for car insurance because of an arbitrary characteristic, such as gender or race.

People get angry when they think about young drivers costing them more money on their insurance premiums. But this isn’t the case! Young drivers don’t cost you any more money. Only reckless drivers do. A young driver who never crashes and doesn’t claim on their insurance doesn’t cause your premiums to go up. Whereas a 50 year old who does crash, does cause your premium to go up. To blanket blame an entire demographic because of the actions of a minority is both ludicrous and morally wrong.

The one argument I think might carry some weight is the argument that it is fair to charge young drivers more because we’re all young at one point and then we all get old, so everyone gets the same fair deal in the end. However, I’m not sold on this being a better solution than banning age discrimination altogether, in which everyone gets the same fair deal, all the time.