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Situational awareness, it is one the most important skills in a motorcyclists repertoire. It can make the difference between life and death or at the very least, save you a pair of undies after a large scare. But what is situational awareness? How do you get it and why exactly is it so important?

What is situational awareness? 

It can be defined by acknowledging and assessing the information that is all around you at any given time. The more information that you can gather from your surroundings, the more aware you are and the safer that you are.

The term Situational Awareness or SA was first coined back in WW1 by the Air Force pilots who were often  in Dog-fights. It was first known as the “Ace factor“.  Survival in a dogfight was typically a matter of observing the opponent’s current move and anticipating his next move a fraction of a second before he could observe and anticipate his own. These days, we are assessing a lot more than just one or two pilots actions, we are assessing a whole road space and the surrounding area and judging how it all relates to our safety.

An example of some things that you would be assessing :

  • Weather conditions – Wet, dry, cloudy, sunny, cold or hot?
  • Road condition – Slippery, mossy, pot-holed, debris etc…
  • Surrounding factors – Animals, gravel, over-hanging trees, drive-ways etc…
  • Other road users – Their driving style, distance between them and yourself, who is behind you?
  • Bike condition – Tyres, engine sounds, brake feel, mirror positioning.

Those are just a few of the things around us that provide information but each of those can also be broken down into a much more detailed list. The more you learn and the longer you ride, the more information you absorb and you therefore become more aware of your surroundings. Information from things such as vanishing points and driver behaviour only start to come to fruition after you have mastered the basics when you are much more comfortable riding and have more time to think about what is going on around you.

The amount of information you absorb is also largely dependent on speed, the faster that you go, the longer it takes for you to process an event and in some cases that can be critical. Which is why it is essential to only ride as fast as your brain can keep up.

“Travelling at 100Kph the objects that are immediately travelling past us, what you would see if you looked sideways, are moving at 27.8 (rounded up) Metres per second.  They will have travelled past you from front to back in less than a 1/15thof a second.  Would you have time to identify what the “image” was let alone decide a course of action based on that?   However a distant object, although still travelling toward us at the same 27.8ms is within our view for a much longer time, in fact you should be able to work out that if it is 300Mtrs in front of us it will be slightly longer than 10secs before we are on top of it,  Plenty of time to react.”

*Taken from Abbiss.co.nz , Written by Greg Abbiss.

How do I get situational awareness? 

When you first start riding a motorbike, your senses are overwhelmed by the amount of changing factors around you. It is nothing like sitting in a car and you feel much more vulnerable sitting out in the open, which unfortunately also throws off your ability to read the road.

I had many near misses when I started riding, purely because I hadn’t yet learnt how to read the road and most importantly, read the drivers.

Treat other cars like they are out to kill you and observe every movement that they make. Are their tyres moving to the side at all? Are they checking their mirrors or doing head checks? What side of their lane are they on? If they are moving to either the left or right side, are they pulling into the next lane?

But whilst also doing that, you must do it to all of the other cars around you, including behind you. If you had to put on your brakes, would they be able to stop in time before hitting you?

If it helps, try speaking to yourself as you notice each new piece of information that becomes available. You should be able to keep a non-stop running tab on the changing environment around you which shows you just how much info there is out there.

If you are riding through a rural area, try noticing small things that will potentially affect your safety. If there is cattle nearby, could they run out onto the road or be around that blind bend? There is also a good chance that there is animal waste on the road, and often conveniently on the apex of corners so you can watch out for that.

Remember that the further you look ahead, the more information your brain can receive and process. Scan from far to near and continually repeat that process.

Research has shown that when you keep your eyes moving, you see a lot more and can take more information in whereas, if you keep your eyes fixed on one spot, the surrounding items or information seem to disappear. So always keep you eyes moving.

Why is it so important?

Situational Awareness is important for the fact that it is the basis for avoiding every possible accident that you could have. The ability to not only read your surroundings but to also anticipate and act before something happens is essential if you want to be a safe rider. It doesn’t matter whether you are lane splitting down the motorway, riding around busy urban streets or carving up the twisty rural roads, SA can benefit every single situation that you come upon.

The Police have the acronym IPSGA, it translates into Information, position, speed, gear and acceleration. Notice how the first word is information? Using your situational awareness, you will be collating an ever growing bank of information that is relevant to the immediate space around you.

Using that information you then position yourself on the road so that you give yourself the best line through the corner. What is the best line? You can find out in Greg’s article about which line to take through a corner.

You then adjust your speed so that you can safely make it through the corner without having to change up or down gears. Meanwhile you are still taking in new information which will determine which speed to use through the corner, perhaps something has changed and as a precaution you drop down 10km/h to give yourself more time to react.

Then we are finally at the acceleration stage which is pretty self explanatory.

                                                          The 10 to 1 rule.

Using the IPSGA method, with every “potential” threat that you notice as you are collating information, you drop your speed by 10km/h. So every time something potentially harmful is noticed, you slow down 10km/h each time. Hence the 10 to 1 reference.  The 10 to 1 rule in full.

To conclude, in order to both improve our riding and stay alive long enough to improve it, SA is key. It is the best way to look out for yourself on the road and even out here on the track.

But the best way to improve is to practice, practice and practice.  By the time you have reached the stage where you can anticipate every threat on the road, you will then nearly be at the stage of having an absolutely clean accident record, which is a rather good thing.

Matt Wishart

 

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It seems that when people want to sell something, they don’t usually put much effort into their ad. The prospective buyer is often presented with a “good car, runs well, as is, where is.” line of text on the page with only one photo which looks like it was taken with a toaster.

With the large amount of competition on-line and the mere fact that you have to pay a small amount to list it in the first place, you would think that sellers would try to make their item look as appealing as possible? You would think that… But unfortunately that is not the case.

I have gotten to the point now, where as soon as I see TXT speak, a poor description, badly taken photos, atrocious grammar and/or a complete lack of knowledge or disregard of the vehicle, I simply move on to the next one. How many potential buyers could you be losing out on, simply by putting together a shoddy ad? I bet that they would lose quite a lot!

So here is a list of “How” you should put together an Online ad for when you sell either your vehicle or anything else for that matter.

Grammar, spelling and layout:

First of all we will start with grammar. It can be very hard to read an online ad if you use incorrect grammar, some people choose to put a wall of text that seems like a maze of words and you keep on finding yourself at the beginning trying to make some sense of it and keep track of where you are at.

It also makes a big difference as to how you read the ad, it can change the context of the sentence and either confuse people or piss them off which leads to them giving up and going else where.

Spelling. This is crucial, if you don’t know the difference between “Break” and “Brake” how do I know that you even put the right part in your car when they needed to be replaced? When you can’t even spell the make and model of your car, then I begin to really start worrying.

Layout. Readers want clear and concise points so that they can see all of the information quickly and not have to search high and low for some small titbit that lies tucked away in amongst the jibber jabber contained in your ad.

Bullet points can help for the essential information which is easily referable and easy to read.

Description:

When you are looking at buying something, you want as much information as possible so that you can ascertain whether or not the vehicle is worth it. “Good car, runs well.”  simply doesn’t cut it. Put some effort into it, sit down for 10 – 20 minutes and write down what you would like to see in an ad.

A full description will include detailed paragraphs about the interior and exterior, mechanical condition and what you have done in regards to maintenance and repairs, how it drives (Does it pull to the left or right if it’s left to it’s own devices?), tyre wear, feel of the transmission (If it’s manual is it clunky or does it slip out of gear? If auto, does it lag when you change through the box?).

Just give me some kind of information about the car so that I can make an informed decision about it.

Pictures:

You should take photos of every side of the car, paying attention to any scrapes or dings. Take pictures of the interior (Please vacuum and tidy up first.) Do not take 10 pictures of the same thing from different zoom percentages, take pictures of the whole car and anything that you would like to see if you were looking at buying a car.

It also helps if you wash and polish your car first, if you show people that you take care of your car, then they will be more at ease with the thought if buying it. If I see a dirty and messy car, the first thing that I think is that it will be the same in the motor.

 

And most of all, be friendly, helpful and quick to answer questions.

That is but a very basic list on how to write an ad but if you want people to take your ad seriously, then this will at least help and will probably keep people looking through the ad instead of hitting the close button.

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Anti-speeding propaganda is everywhere, we are lead to believe that as soon as we travel 4km/h over the limit, we are more likely to be involved in an accident with the possibility of death. But this is not really the case and neither is it the largest cause of death on our roads. But of course you believe otherwise right? The Government has told you so and they must be right.

:The boy in the bubble:

If you are someone from the ‘older’ generation, you will notice this effect taking place. The large differences from when you were growing up and today, the Government has slowly but surely placed a blanket over our heads and tucked us into our beds so that we are not hurt by the big, bad world outside. It is now on the plan to make it onto our roads, the reach of full control for “our safety” is clasping it’s hands onto the way we drive and the text below will show this to you.

It is evident in everything from the “Anti-smacking bill” to the Life jackets, alcohol purchases, cycle helmets etc… where we are being rather mothered but here is something taken from the NZTA website, which purely scares me.

What would a Safe System free of death and serious injury look like?

We would enjoy a transport system where everyone expects a zero road toll. Roads and roadsides would encourage safe behaviour and be forgiving of human error by providing safety cues to users and protecting them from hazards.

Vehicle technology would communicate with the road environment and automatically adjust to appropriate speeds that respond to real-time road conditions.

Road users would understand and play their part in the system, with licensing dependent on a high level of skill. Alertness and compliance would, if necessary, be reinforced by in-vehicle technology(including alcohol and safety belt interlocks, and fatigue and speed monitoring).

Automated enforcement, including point-to-point (average speed) cameras and remote vehicle power down, could be used for high-risk road users.

Crash risk would be further reduced by advanced vehicle-to-vehicle warning systems (such as vehicle/pedestrian proximity warnings) and automatic collision avoidance technologies (including lane containment and emergency override features in the event a driver fails or is unable to respond to warnings).

If a crash is unavoidable, advanced airbags, crumple zones and head restraints would manage crash forces to levels the human body can tolerate.”

Now the text that I have made into bold is what sticks out to me.

1) Providing safety cues to users and protecting them from hazards.

While this is a good thing, especially for the unsuspecting motorist coming around a bend to find that it is also a sheep crossing, who can now slow down to a reasonable speed as well as trying to keep as much risk out of driving as possible. But what I take from this is the fact that road users will become too dependent on these cues and safety measures and they will soon come to rely on them to alert them to a potentially dangerous situation, and when the time comes and there is no sign there, the driver will be in a slight state of shock  and won’t know what to do in such a situation.

2) Automatically adjust to appropriate speeds.

So, the Government wants us to keep lower speeds so that there is a decrease in the severity of crashes on our roads. What does that mean when you are going around a corner at XXX speed and then your car/bike decides to slow down, immediately increasing the risk of crashing significantly. Or when you need to speed up to pass a car or get out of a sticky situation? Will there be a limit that needs to be reached till it comes on or does it play by ear?

Personally I don’t like the thought of having a computer do my thinking for me or having any control over me whatsoever.

3) (including alcohol and safety belt interlocks, and fatigue and speed monitoring).

Ok, I do agree with an alcohol monitoring system to gain access to your vehicle as well a some sort of fatigue test so that we don’t have idiots falling asleep at the wheel, but in saying that we should have the choice not to wear a seat-belt or leave them unclipped if we want to go for a drive. But what really gets me is the speed monitoring system,which is what is already taking place in some other countries. It is going to remove any freedom at all that we previously had and when the Police stop you for no reason in particular and then ask to search the pre-installed GPS tracker that is in your car and find that within the space of a week, you have gone over the limit X amount of times and proceed to write out fines left right and center.

4)  Emergency override features in the event a driver fails or is unable to respond to warnings.

This can be a good thing, there are two sides to the coin and while there is a positive side to this which is potentially saving the drivers life and also people around them which could also be harmed. There is also the fact that a computer is now going to be allowed full access to your car, ranging from steering, braking, acceleration and every other aspect that could be controlled and if there is a malfunction, you could be at serious risk if the car decides to do something stupid.

Another possibility of malfunction could be that the computer picks up false signals and therefore decides to react where in fact there is no danger what so ever or the driver has decided that what ever incident that is happening around them can be better avoided with another maneuver but the computer decides otherwise and then leads itself into a dangerous position.

We are now taking what control we had an putting it into a pre-determined computer system that falls in to place with what the Government thinks is best for us. Your whole life is soon going to be determined by what the Government thinks is best for you and the only way to escape it is to go and live out in a secluded mountain range and live off plants, though you will probably still have to pay a mountain tax anyway.

Instead of learning to think for ourselves and getting taught appropriate ways of dealing with situations, we are being put into diapers and placed into a harm-free environment where we are likely to turn into brain dead zombies, which is their goal I guess but nevertheless.

Speed, is it the real problem?

If you read the article I linked in the title, you will see what my view of speed is and what I think needs changing, but I will go a little more in-depth to it here as well as add some more points and information.

Some interesting statistics (Go to page 30) from the Government show that the majority of crashes and deaths are actually in the 50km/h speed limit areas. Wait a second, isn’t it at high speeds where we are likely to die? Or are they all speeding in the 50km/h zone and got injured or killed as a result? It seems unlikely to me, which brings me to the conclusion that it isn’t the really high speeds that are going to kill you, in fact they hold the lowest crash rates, but at speeds that are slow which can lead your mind to wander and then lead you on to not see that car turning or small child running out from behind that car and then it’s all over red rover.

Now, talking with people and also my flatmates I have also come up with some other thoughts about speed and it’s effect on us.

My flat mate had the idea that it’s not actually bad drivers that are causing the crashes on the road but simply for the fact that they are good drivers and have the knowledge but simply don’t bother absorbing all of the information around them and don’t drive to the conditions.

Now that is not only bad driving, but a phenomenally stupid idea.

Another one is that if you speed, you are most likely to lose control and kill yourself.

It is not really speed in itself that will cause the problem, but more so the lack of driver skill than anything. If speed was really the cause, there wouldn’t be any kind of motor sport because, hey, they are all going to die anyway.

It comes down to how well the driver can manipulate his/her vehicle and if they can use all of the information that the road provides us to keep to a safe speed.

Now when I talk about safe speeds, I am not referring to the speed limit set in place by the Government, but more so about the speeds that are safe to maintain traction, stability, line and an adequate stopping distance.

It is quite easy to safely speed throughout many roads and not cause any harm to anyone or kill yourself, but it all comes down to driver ability.

Have you tested the brakes on your car from both 50 and 100km/h to see how fast you can stop, or will you just learn it at the time? Have you tested the handling of the car, what will it take under duress in corners or a quick turn to get away from a dangerous situation?

I believe the biggest problem with the death toll in New Zealand is the ability to follow simple road rules. A Scandanavian report states that if every single road user were to follow the road rules, there would be a 50% drop in deaths. That is a large amount, but it can still be improved on. What if apart from just following the road rules, road users were seeking higher training to better their skills and were then better equipped to take on New Zealands roads when things got dicey.

Scandinavian research quote.

Advanced driver training:

Advanced driver training is a series of tests, lessons and classroom theory activities that provide the road user with a fresh look on their abilities, a wide range of new skills and the ability to drive or ride safely on every road that they come upon. We have a few training options in New Zealand, one of which is an international driver/rider training programme which follows more or less the Police Motorcycle handbook which the police use for their rider training programmes. It is called I.A.M (Institute of Advanced Motorists) and you can read more about the I.A.M here.

Riderskills Owner and Operater Phillip McDaid is the Chief Examiner for the IAM NZ and also runs courses for advanced rider skills among many other courses through his company. I have taken one of his courses for Confident Riding which is detailied in that link.

My belief is that every single road user should take at least one advanced course throughout each stage of the licensing process so as to give them the knowledge and skills to be able to use the road safely and therefore lower the road toll at the same time.

Now the courses would have to be heavily subsidised by the Government because many New Zealanders simply don’t have enough money to take such a course regularly but I think that any money spent on advanced training is well spent.

It would also deal with the speed issue at the same time, it teaches drivers/riders to adjust their speed accordingly to the road conditions and to be driving safely at every stage of their journey, to take in all of the knowledge of the surrounding environment and to be able to process that information in real time which is what a lot of drivers are hardly doing as it is.

So in addition to most people following the road rules which could drop the road toll by around 50%, with the addition of continuous advanced training, we could lower the road toll to near non-existent. It sounds a little far fetched when you think about it doesn’t it? I could imagine that it would be near impossible to drop it down that far because there are so many other factors in crashes as well but it would be a good sight closer to zero than what it is now and that is what we are aiming for isn’t it?

So in conclusion, it is not speeding that is the issue it has been made out to be. The government have been pushing the wrong message this whole time, and whether or not it has been to increase the number of speeding tickets they can issue or if it is really what they believe, we will never know for sure. But what we can know for sure is that speeding is hardly a cause for a crash, merely a factor that can play a big part. What we should be focussing on instead are the following issues:

  1. Drink driving
  2. Driver awareness and training
  3. Harder testing for licenses
  4. Harsher penalties for drunk drivers and drivers who have been in a crash of their own fault
  5. Distractions in the car (Music, cell phones, children etc…)
  6. Vehicle maintenance
  7. Complete knowledge of the road rules/standards

What would my plan be to achieve these ideas?

I think that the way to move forward would be to first take a look at our 3 stage system and it’s tests. Subjecting them to discussion from advanced riders/drivers and the NZTA and re-writing them so that they will show an actual skill level that is applicable for on the road.

Once the new tests have been introduced, bring in subsidised training from the government that is a compulsory requirement to achieve the next level of their license.

As well as having that applicable for the learning stages, it would be forced upon drivers who were at the cause of a crash (Possibly instead of a fine or with a reduced fine as well?) So that they learn why they crashed, what they could have done to prevent it and will therefore be safer drivers on the road.

Teach road users to be aware on the roads, they should be absorbing information about their surroundings, not about who had the seared Tuna salad for lunch.

Also as part of the licensing process would be basic maintenance knowledge, road users should be aware of how their car works and how to make sure all of the essential bits are functioning correctly, we as motorcyclists do it daily, from checking the Oil and water levels to checking chain tension, tyre wear, brake pad wear and anything else that we can remember to check before each ride.

Having a safe car is as important step to being a safe driver on the roads, as well as knowing the limits of your vehicle, from braking to swift direction changes which are often needed in heavy traffic.

And last but not least, a full knowledge of the road rules and how they work, possibly a re-test every now and then just to re-inforce the thought of the road rules. It could also be a part of each graduated license stage where the questions get harder and harder so as to re-enforce the idea in their heads.

Matt Wishart

Other blogs about speeding:

http://geoffjames.blogspot.co.nz/2011/01/speed-doesnt-kill-stupidity-kills.html

http://theage.drive.com.au/motor-news/speed-doesnt-kill-says-benz-20100304-pjin.html

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Recently I had my license returned to me, the excitement was brewing deep inside of me till it had started to foam out from my mouth and people started to look at me as if I was some rabid, disabled person with spastic hand syndrome. It wasn’t a pretty sight.

For 3 months prior, I had been walking, refer to The Bus Post. It was a horrible, horrible time and my calf muscles are now bulging out from all the exercise that I have been participating in, such as cycling, walking, running and all those other stupid, healthy things.

Though, in this time I have been driving myself stir-crazy! Now before I carry on, I will also reference to the fact that the expression “Driven stir crazy” is because “Driving” is a dirty word and people that drive cars are often stuck in their boring lives and also go crazy. Anyhow, everyday I had been day-dreaming about once again sitting on a motorcycle and riding to where ever my heart takes me, across the plains and hills, twisty roads and the straight roads…or to where ever I could be bothered going. These dreams are all that kept this broken, unlicensed man alive for those 3 months, but now it has been four months with no end in sight.

The sale of my race bike has proved difficult, with only one guy interested (Trading for the bike I want as well) I had all of my eggs in one basket, after lots of screwing around with him being sick (Every damn weekend!) and then busy all other times, he had started to severely piss me off, if he wasn’t the only person interested I would have told him to shove his head up his ass and to piss off.

But I held my tongue, and then today after a few messages from me asking if he is still coming, he replies saying he is now a motorcycle courier and can’t sell his bike any more. Some one give me a gun.

So now my weekends are reduced to sitting in front of this laptop, constantly refreshing pages and looking outside at the sunshine and wishing I was out on the roads in my leathers, happily riding out into the great unknown.

I have found that in general though, I have gone a little bit depressed. I start focussing on all of the crappy parts of my life, which pretty much starts off with not being able to ride and going down from there. In fact, I was sitting on a bus full of school kids just the other day. They were being loud, running around and just being a general pain in the ass. Seemingly out of no where I start planning different ways I could kill each and every one of them and how I would get away with it. This includes holding a gun to the drivers head and forcing him to drive around whilst I played life and death games with the little bastards, or creating a real, live hunger games event on the bus. Anyway you think about it though, I have gone crazy.

Which leads me to say that riding a motorcycle is not just an amazing skill and activity to do, but it is also becomes your entire life. When you have had a bad day at work and need to de-stress…riding is the cure. When you have done something amazing and need to celebrate…riding is the cure. Your whole life is dictated by how long you sit on that narrow uncomfortable seat and out in the great roads that make up New Zealand.

So this is why I can’t wait to get back on a bike, not just for the ease of getting around (God I can not wait to stop using buses!)but to be able to go out, ride and lose myself in a world of corner after corner. The whole atmosphere that comes from it and the feeling after a good day out as you sit with a cold beer in your hand and a cigarette in your other.

That is what I miss, hopefully it isn’t too soon till I can ride again.

Matt

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From a young age we are told that speeding is a big no-no, there are signs that hang high above the road telling us that speeding kills and the penalties for speeding can be generally quite ruthless. But is speeding the real problem or are we barking up the wrong tree? 

With the introduction of a 4km/h tolerance for speeding brought in for all public holidays throughout New Zealand, it has now sparked me to write a small piece on if we are focussing our efforts on the wrong campaign.

Now, in general, speeding can be dangerous and it can very quickly go wrong considering the speed difference of everyone around you. But, when we start to focus on fines for a mere 4km/h over the limit, are we getting a little pedantic or do you think it would actually make a difference in the road toll?

New Zealand Police have been praised with the lowest death tolls’ for the current year in history, funnily enough it is also when they rolled out the new tolerance and have now been laying praise on the tolerance instead of other factors such as higher driver awareness (from having police out left, right and center.) A lower rate of road users travelling on the road and also weather conditions for the recent public holidays which has been shocking for the whole summer, so drivers would be driving to the conditions instead of being in La-La land for most of the journey. 

One point I must make is that all drivers should be concentrating on the road and the changing conditions first and foremost, cars around them and other possibility’s such as small children, pets or objects.

But every public holiday it seems that all we are doing is spending more time looking at our speedometers than concentrating on anything else around us, simply because those who the government send out to gather revenue will gladly pull us over and fine us with a large smile on their faces and a pat on the back congratulating themselves for one less person who was going to die a horrible fiery death from being a few Km/s over the limit. Yes, the impending death that we are all going to face because we were focussing on our riding/driving more has now passed and we are $80 out of pocket.

In a country like Germany where you have the Autobahn and an unlimited speed limit there are a surprising lack of crashes. But hang on a second, increased speed means we are going to die? Why isn’t everyone there dead or severely injured?

It is because the one thing that speeding does do is bring upon a large increase in self awareness and an awareness of what is going on around you. At those speeds, you cannot just drive on auto-pilot like the majority of drivers do in our country. When you are tootling along at 50 – 100km/h many drivers simply decide to turn off and go with the flow, it isn’t a speed that really makes you sit up and take notice of your surroundings.

But when you are travelling at 120,130,140 or 240km/h your life depends on you making the right decisions at every moment. Hence why people travelling along at 100km/h down a one way motorway can then go on to have a 6 car pile up. (Honestly, how on Earth does that happen?) Apart from not following road rules where it states that you must keep enough space between you so as to safely stop with out hitting anybody, they are just not paying any attention to what is around them. Speeding, 167

Now in response to the high death toll, the powers that be decide to keep on lowering the speed limit on each road as they see fit, and I can imagine it will continually decrease until we are moving at walking pace and still getting fined.

So is speeding really the problem? I believe that it is but not at the approach that we tend to look at it. When you have drivers going 160km/h and the rest are going 100km/h there is a large room for error there and that is where the crashes are happening, but when you start to pull drivers over for 4km/h over the limit and then pat yourself on the back saying you did a good job, it just comes off as pathetic and a huge waste of taxpayer money on funding the time and media for such a pathetic and worthless cause.

We do need to focus on speeding, put at the people who are doing it dangerously, such as through public areas populated by children and other road users. Through back roads where there is not another soul around for miles (Apart from police) it shouldn’t be as policed and maybe a larger tolerance applied?

 

 

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