Sign Language, Stopping Distances and the Laws of Physics

Last month, one quiet Sunday evening, I was driving into Tunbridge Wells.  My normal route had roadworks, so I had to carry a bit further on – and passed one of those small yellow boxes in a 30mph speed limit zone.  I was doing 38 mph.  I got flashed by the camera and a week later, got a notice from the Police to say I had been done for speeding.

30mphcamera

I was given two options by the Kent Police.  Pay a fine of £60 and get three points on my licence.  Or pay £85 and go on a speed awareness course.  I had heard positive things about the latter – and so decided to go for the course as it would keep my licence clean.

And so it was, last Friday afternoon, I sat for four and a half hours in a small hotel conference room listening to two lecturers about the highway code, reaction times and the laws of physics.

Having filled-out a brief questionnaire at the start on what I thought the meaning of various road-signs were, it became apparent that I probably thought I knew a lot more than I actually did!  I worked out that I hadn’t actually been tested on the highway code since taking my driving test in 1978!  A sobering thought.

The turning point came for me when I was told that 38mph is the speed at which, if you are a pedestrian and you are hit by an oncoming car, you will almost certainly die.  Until then, I though it was a bit daft being done for speeding for so little over the speed limit.  After that point, it made me sober-up.  Added to that, it became clear that the speed limit is just that – a speed limit – not a “got away with it again” sign.  Just because half the population or more see it is the latter, the course was designed to get you into thinking sensibly.

We saw several very effective videos and learnt about reaction times and stopping distances.  Reaction times are when, as a driver, you are in control and have choices.  Stopping distance is the bit where you have decided to stop your pile of metal careering into something – and, here, the laws of physics and the speed you are traveling is the main defining factor as to whether or not you will succeed in stopping in your desired distance.

The stopping distances are in the highway code (a copy of which we were given for our £85) – see diagram below:

Stopping-Distances-723x230

These are distances a car travels, over the time it takes for you to bring the vehicle to a full stop.  These distances are for a well maintained car, with good brakes and tyres, an alert driver, and a dry road, in daylight.  We were told that if you are going at 70 mph down a motorway in good conditions the combined thinking distance plus stopping distance is about 96 metres or 24 car lengths.

What was not on the diagram was the fact that if you are going 80 mph down a motorway in similar conditions, you will still be going 38mph after 24 car lengths.  Spooky how that 38mph keeps coming up!  Oh, and if you are going 100mph down the motorway (who hasn’t, at some stage, gone for a “burn”even if just to see what it feels like?) – then you will still be going at 70mph after 24 car lengths!

So, at the end of this speed awareness course, I came away quite humbled.  On my way home from the course, I felt like a learner driver again.  A lot more aware of traffic signs – and – oh, yes – those lamp-posts which  mean that you are in a 30mph zone – even if there are no signs.  I never knew that – or if I did learn it once, I had forgotten the fact.

So, if you get the chance to pay a fine and get 3 points on your licence – or go for a slightly more expensive Speed Awareness Course, then I’d definitely go for the latter.  You will learn a lot – and hopefully become a safer driver.   Most importantly, I really did learn that you’re never too old to learn!

 

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Goons, Flying Circuses and UK Comms

At the end of a very busy few weeks, I managed to miss the announcement that OfCom, the UK Communications Regulator had published its annual review of the UK Communications Market.  Just under £30 in paper format, it is free to download online <HERE>.

The summary on page 11 (which I have copied below) for me, says it all:

It is fascinating how many of the things that OfCom measures are moving so slowly: take-up and satisfaction of Digital TV; listening to the radio; Internet penetration and usage and satisfaction; mobile take-up and satisfaction etc. etc.  This smacks of a mature market and a set of industry measures that somehow miss the next wave of development needed to make (some in BT would sake keep) the UK truly competitive.

If the truth that “What gets measured gets done”, I fear that Ofcom sits in a world of complacent self-satisfaction – not challenging itself to measure the key drivers behind the next wave of technology upgrade, not worrying about how to reposition the UK’s digital infrastructure to create jobs and make the UK more competitive, not concerning itself about how to use its extensive skills in economic analysis and drivers to cover the final 25% of the UK population that is not online.  The only new measure is satisfaction on the speed of postal delivery.  Hardly a measure that is ground-breaking!  What about a “new” measure for the speed of traffic in Central London?

With the current very strange (nearing on ridiculous) process that is being run out of DCMS to gather suitable (politically-guided, politcally-correct) evidence for the up-coming Comms Act, neither the Government nor OfCom are creating the right environment to tackle many of the REAL challenges that face the UK comms industry in the next eight years.  Nor are we getting enough debate on the REAL issues so that the government gets the necessary buy-in for the changes.

It was therefore refreshing to attend a seminar run by the Public Services Network Governing Body (PSNGB) on Thursday.  Finally, I can see a new model emerging where the industry (as represented by the PSNGB Trade Association) combined with a part of government (run out of the Cabinet Office) create a new way of working and a new way of thinking about Government ICT procurement.  Excellent organisation, excellent objectives, excellent vision to transform public services so they look like the commercial internet.  The trouble is that we can’t use this network for commercial gain – as Europe has a set of crazy procurement rules – some of which are tying the well-intentioned  DCMS/BDUK programmes up in knots!

Another organisation that I have found that is trying to get some momentum behind the final 25% is the phoenix that has risen out of the ashes of the”Race Online 21012″ campaign.  They have chosen the interesting campaign title of “GoOn” – which many will read as GOON.  I many ways, Monty Python and his Flying Circus would do a better job at getting the UK’s Communications Industry better organised for the challenges that lie ahead in the run-up to 2020.

The current circus is no longer amusing.  The self-satisfaction on measuring things past, the arrogance to think that what is being done now will suffice and the closed-shop thinking being conducted on the Comms Act needs to be challenged loudly.  I wonder if the House of Lord’s review will carry the weight that is needed to rattle the cage?  Or maybe that is simply another act in the Circus?  I hope not.  In any case, it is definitely time for a reshuffle after the Olympics.  The Future of the Telecoms industry needs to be debated and taken more seriously than it has in the past year – over-shadowed by the Olympics, Digital Rights and the Future of Museums.  The only way to do that is to get it out of under DCMS’ brief and move it to a more enlightened part of government – perhaps back to BIS, or, more radically under DCLG, a Ministry for Infrastructure or the Cabinet Office.

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Inward Investment, Magic and Love

As the world becomes more and more global and the European national political and economic frameworks remain stressed, each city is left to its own devices to attract inward investment and keep and grow talent.

In researching this area for a number of UK cities, a friend in the US sent me the link to this video.  It is so clever on so many levels you have to watch it more than once:

Enjoy!

Oh, and anyone thinking of moving into a new career of iPad magic shows, please let me know!  I would love to learn how to do this kind of magic!  Brilliant!

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