River Wissey Lovell Fuller


September 2007

Ron gets on his soapbox to berate the Government onseveral topics: Cars & Drivers,Floods. You may disagree, if so put in your two pennyworth!

Cars and Drivers

For a variety of reasons the authorities are aiming to get people out of their cars and into public transport. Unfortunately, in my view, there is a failure on their part to understand the relationship between individuals and their cars; their car is a part of their world, it is their own space that offers comfort, convenience and a degree of security. Of course, for long distances the comfort and speed of the train (or aeroplane) more than offsets the inconvenience of having to get to the station, so that people will forsake their car in this instance. And most drivers recognise that congestion in some towns is such that the car is not so convenient and they are willing to take advantage of park-and-ride or other forms of public transport. But there it ends. Very few people will happily leave their private comfortable heated/air conditioned space, complete with news or music in stereo sound, in order to stand in a queue in the wind and the rain waiting for a bus. Neither would they readily expose themselves to greater risk of mugging or assault late at night. For some it matters not that, due to congestion, their journey might take a little longer because the bus speeds past in a dedicated bus lane. For most, even if they were prepared in principle to take the bus, the bus does not come anywhere near to meeting their journey requirements.

Currently, in order to encourage more use of public transport, we are all paying large subsidies to bus and rail companies to run services which are poorly supported, especially at off peak times when a bus or even a train can be seen with just two or three people on board. It may be that we need to do this to meet a social need and, no doubt, free bus passes have improved utilisation by the elderly but the elderly are not the ones that they really want to get out of their cars. It will need a lot more than those subsidies and passes to coax most people out of their cars. We may be persuaded to buy more economical more eco-friendly cars in future but it will take much stronger action in the form of laws or extreme financial penalties to force us out of our cars, such actions would be politically suicidal and/or economically disastrous. For the time being therefore they should recognise that they cannot succeed in their aim, that the car is with us for the foreseeable future and they should continue to spend some of the vast sums they collect in road and fuel tax on improving the roads.

Another matter that appears to be concerning the powers that be - in the form of Ruth Kelly - is the competence of some drivers to drive safely. (A matter that should concern us all.) I understand that she is intending to target the young drivers, 17 to 23, and the elderly 70+. There is no doubt that young drivers are responsible for a disproportionate number of accidents and fatalities but I am not sure what measures would be effective in dealing with that problem. Tests seem to me to be of dubious value, an individual might well be able to demonstrate their ability to drive safely but that offers no guarantee that he/she is not capable of being quite stupid at other times. Restricting the hours that they can drive and the performance of their cars might help but is probably not very practical; although it does seem silly that, immediately after passing a simple test conducted at relatively low speeds driving a Nissan Micra, a young person can then legally drive a 200 horsepower sports car.

With the elderly it is a very different problem. Very few elderly drivers are likely to consciously do something stupid. However, for a variety of reasons they may not be as competent as they once were. Their eyesight may be impaired, they may suffer from health problems that could impair their driving ability, they may be more easily confused, their reactions may be slower and they may be more indecisive. In their case, therefore, it could justifiably be argued that some form of assessment could well be employed to determine their competence to drive safely. Nonetheless, whereas the young drivers are statistically responsible for many serious injuries and fatalities, as is reflected in their insurance premiums, the same is not true of the elderly and one might question the cost/benefit of assessing all elderly drivers.

If we were to introduce some means of assessing driver competence, which I would not object to, I do not see why it should not be extended to all age groups, like some form of driver MoT. Most of the driver-miles are driven by the 20 to 60 age group and we all see evidence of questionable competence and possibly questionable eyesight in that age group. Of course testing on such a grand scale would pose many practical difficulties such that it is unlikely to happen.


So we had the wettest May, June and July since records began. It must be due to global warming. And, of course, the recent hot dry summers were also due to global warming or so we are told. May be so.

I remember some very hot summers, 1976 and 1959 stand out in my memory, in 1976 the situation became so severe that the government appointed a Minister for Drought. I remember some serious floods; 1947 I remember well and that seemed worse than those recently, 1912 and 1917 were also bad, in 1912 Norwich was flooded when 7 inches of rain fell in one continuous downpour and four people died. Nevertheless this three month rainfall was a record at roughly 390mm - the previous highest for those three months was fairly close at 350mm but the surprising fact is that that was in 1789, long before global warming.

It is quite ridiculous to use exceptional weather as evidence of global warming. There have always been periods of exceptional weather. The level of the Ouse in York on November 4 2000 just managed to exceed the previous record set in 1625; in 1703 a major hurricane swept across southern England; in 1770 Sussex was flooded to a greater extent than recent floods.

It does seem that there is some global warming relative to the recent past but there is plenty of evidence to indicate that it was warmer prior to the fourteenth century than it is nowadays, which might suggest that we are now recovering from a few centuries of exceptionally cold weather. The actual measured rise in temperature over the last 100years is claimed to be of the order of 0.6 to 0.7C and that is practically within the limits of accuracy. Nevertheless the weight of scientific opinion is behind the theory that the warming is due to greenhouse gases and, although it is an unproven theory, it would seem prudent for the world to look to ways of restricting the production of these gases. The whole problem has been hyped up however to an extent verging on hysteria and Britain appears to be leading the way. It is reminiscent of the way in which Weapons of Mass Destruction were exaggerated.

Ron Watts

Copyright remains with independent content providers where specified, including but not limited to Village Pump contributors. All rights reserved.