Driving with all the I’s but no A’s

crash bash smash bump

No accident

Every time I hear a traffic announcement my blood starts to boil. I keep having to repeat the same mantra so often that I don’t actually hear where the latest catastrophe has occurred.

What sets off that feeling of helpless frustration? Accident.

No accident

Apart from the fact that all traffic announcers from the BBC (who should know better) to the local part time volunteers have little time to get the information into some semblance of order, use the same word, which isn’t a euphemism but a misnomer, they all miss the point that should be staring them in the face. They are describing a crash, smash, bash, bump or any number of single syllable words using a misnomer that has three syllables therefore taking longer to report the traffic than necessary.

I listened to a recent announcement and counted twenty two times when this three syllable word could have been replaced with a single syllable and the announcer, Lynn Bowles, would have had time to add another incident to her limited list. As Lynn reports for the whole of the UK I don’t expect her to have the time to get in every incident across the country but being able to add one more would help her to create a fuller and more concise report.

As well as the waste of time it only takes a little thought to see how wrong the word accident is when used for traffic reports. The police used to call smashes RTA’s, shorthand for road traffic accident, but they no longer use the term preferring to use a more correct term – incident –  and still a better shorthand would be crash.

sorry didn't see you

The real problem with using accident is that is doesn’t begin to tell the story, merely hiding it in plain view and it has the added effect of training our brains into thinking that what occurred was accidental. What really happened was caused by words that begin with an i. Inexperience, ineptitude, idiocy and any number of words which tell a better story than accidental occurrence.

Incompetence, inability, incapability, inexpert, inadequate training, insane, imbecilic, and this is not an exhaustive list but the reasons why one driver, note here; not the car, crashes into another have nothing whatsoever to do with accident, or accidental which all suggest the  driver was not at fault. If a crash is not down to driver error why do the police have to close major roads to investigate for days at a time to determine who they take to court?

Words have an enormous power to influence the way we view things and using the word accident affects how we see a crash in a very bad way, it makes it all seem fluffy and non-serious rather than an indication of the real problem behind collisions. Even formula one commentators use the word accident when they already know which driver is at fault for a crash.

bump smash

Here is a small exercise: Try using the word(s) accident or accidental in a sentence to describe what happened.

Example: I accidentally believed I was a reincarnation of Ayrton Senna and tried to manoeuvre the hairpin bend at 95mph in my Peugeot 106.

Example: I accidentally ignored the bus stopping to pick up passengers and ploughed into the back of it.

Example: I had an accident when my inept right foot pressed the throttle rather than the brake.

Take it from here and invent your own excuses for lack of ability or experience or just plain idiocy.

Using totally the incorrect word for bad or poor driving hides the fact that people make mistakes for any number of reasons from a momentary lack of attention to outright insanity and that driver training should be an ongoing and constantly updated priority if we are ever going to have a day when traffic announcers can just put their feet up.

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Why did we ever think the EU was a good idea?

Brexit 1

Time to leave

I suppose the attraction of a single market without tariff barriers and unified export documentation did make sense from a business perspective but then we allowed a good business idea to be run by politicians. A sure fire, bona fide, tried and tested, dyed in the wool recipe for almost instant disaster.

Every time politicians, who absolutely must appoint bureaucratic experts to run the ship, do not appoint the best business brains to have hands on the helm, you know we are headed for the rocks, with or without a lighthouse to guide the way.

The surprise is that it took a while before the light shone on the blindingly obvious inevitability that a bureaucracy laden behemoth couldn’t ever run a tight enough ship to keep it afloat. But enough about our civil service, let’s get back to Brexit. A very smart cookie by the name of Theresa May saw that the only way out of Europe was by taking the bull by the horns before it ran round behind us and thoroughly shafted us. To this end she had talks with everyone in the UK and then, to forestall an endless round of “we should have another referendum“ cries she called for a general election to get a firm mandate for the only exit strategy that makes sense for Britain.

Brexit 2

Run away

Well they didn’t see that coming did they?

Panic set in amongst the high tables of Europe and the wheels started to grind but running scared isn’t a good way to plan or execute and winning strategy so they came up with “The British don’t understand the fundamentals of Brexit negotiation” What????

Hey buddies wise up – there aren’t any fundamentals. This has never happened before. You can’t say there are any fundamentals until this brand sparkling new event has run its course and then you may be able to write something down as a guide for the next country which wants to leave. This was a blatant attempt to frighten British voters away from returning a government who they are thoroughly scared of.

Then there is the French minister who thinks there are more French speakers in the EU than speak English and the latest ramping up of the proposed cost of us leaving the EU.

Now correct me if I am wrong, but when a top company director leaves his post the only thing that makes a difference to his severance package is did he retire, resign or leave by ‘mutual agreement’.  I believe that what we are doing comes under the classification of resignation so I would naturally expect to get less of a golden handshake and other emoluments than if we quietly retired (that never being an option under the Treaty of Rome apparently) and by the behavior of the EU since triggering article 50 they don’t believe that we are owed any leaving benefits.

What no end of term bash? No quick passing around of the hat? No specially designed executive order allowing the pay out to be tax free? Nothing you say but we owe you!!

Well the covers are off and it is plain that leaving the EU could be the best result in line with the will of the people that has happened in recent history. After all, why on earth would anyone want to be run by this bunch of idiots who cannot even understand the fundamentals of negotiation.

Brexit 3


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Let’s do cheap

Let’s do cheap

Dumbing down the price

I’m not sure if it is only the blinds industry that seems to want to innovate and then kill the opportunity by competing to sell for the lowest possible price, but recent chances to make anything other than a quick buck would suggest that is the case.

Nigh & Day

Cream Duo roller

Duo blinds have been around for a long while but only in the last couple of years have they become mainstream. So why are there so many people trying to sell for the lowest possible price? I looked at the pricing last year and as a manufacturer, I decided that I would rather have a small share of the market than try to push this time consuming and expensive to make product for as little profit as possible. Consequently, I don’t lose money on a single blind I sell to the trade and the retail sales show a healthy margin. An added bonus is that I do not have to keep carefully wrapped offcuts in the hope that the next customer will want the same fabric and colour.

This year has seen all the main manufacturers doing the same and increasing the number of different products to the levels far in excess of what the market can bear. The years end for a lot of the big players will see them writing off a lot of overstock. Must be nice to have the option to show that loss against the profits.

If you have the buying power of the larger M2M guys and the space to store the offcuts properly then you can make a decent margin selling to traders who don’t make their own blinds but only if you don’t have to keep so many less popular fabrics in stock and there is still the possibility that this particular bubble could burst sooner rather than later. As I stated at the start, these have been around for a long time and weren’t always so sought after for a reason which seems to have got lost. They’re not anything other than a gimmick and all the traditional types of blinds still retain a healthy share which currently keeps on growing.

Night & day

Caramel duo night and day blind

I’m not going to give up manufacturing these and other high end blinds but I am going to maintain the prices I believe they are worth making them for and I’ll settle for less to make and a greater profit level per blind and at the year-end I can chuck out any over-stock and not worry about how much money I’m losing to do it.

Rick Grain Monday, March 13, 2017




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Motorway driving part two

Motorway driving

Motorway driving Part two

Back in the 70’s and early 80’s the government Department of Transport used TV advertising space to give useful information in the form of guidance for various new (ish) road systems and things like Panda crossings. Quite why these have disappeared I don’t know but it is probably to do with money or the lack thereof.

One thing which would be useful and always will be as long as new drivers keep coming into being is motorway driving and especially joining and leaving motorways. As there is no requirement for any formal training for motorway driving, experienced drivers often find that the joining and leaving lanes are not used properly due to that signal lack in any education.

Motorway driving

Part two. Lane discipline

I know a lot of people have difficulty in maintaining lane discipline because they haven’t been taught to use their mirrors as part of their initial training. Quite why this is the case is easy to understand when you think that teaching people to drive begins on the road and not where it should happen

Looking backwards should be second nature to a driver and on a motorway, and is essential for safe driving. The correct lane for driving is the leftmost lane and any other lanes are only for overtaking which is why the large majority of drivers are in the wrong lane almost all the time. A recent addition to the laws available to traffic cops is the ability to pull over and ticket someone who doesn’t believe they should stay on the left. It isn’t much used for a couple of reasons in part because police are also badly trained as far as to how far in front of a vehicle you should be to pull back in after overtaking, and also because to stop someone on a motorway to ticket them for this offence is a particularly unsafe procedure. Any traffic policeman will tell you that stopping on a motorway is a risky and potentially life threatening thing to do which is why if you break down and have to stop on the hard shoulder you are advised to get out of the vehicle and retreat past a safety barrier until help arrives.

Driving lanes, motorway driving, lane discipline

Treat a motorway as a single lane piece of road and pull out to overtake and then pull back in when you’ve passed. Of course, it isn’t as clear cut as that but this is the basics of the procedure and for this to be safely completed use of your mirrors is the key. Look twice at the minimum before signalling and pulling out to gauge the speed of the traffic in the lane outside you so you can adjust your speed to join the faster moving traffic or, if you have a large enough gap or there is nothing coming, pull out. It is this part of the manoeuvre which traffic cops don’t like to see occurring if you get too close the vehicle in front because they are told that it takes half a mile to complete this safely at 70mph and if you start moving out when you are a hundred metres behind the vehicle in front and then pull back in when you are a hundred metres in front of it that is probably about right but that isn’t necessary nor particularly any safer than pulling out from seven car lengths behind and pulling back in when three or four lengths in front. Another piece of advice which is frowned on by the ever vigilant traffic guys is to speed up to overtake as the shortest time spent in the wrong lane is the safest time to be there. Of course slowing down back to the speed limit after the manoeuvre is safer for your licence and for you and every other road user but this isn’t either taught nor looked at from the right angle.

Motorway driving, lane discipline

Keeping in the leftmost lane will also help you to practice the overtaking manoeuvre more often as there will always be lorries going at a governed 58mph so constant use of your mirrors is necessary to allow you to change lanes to complete the manoeuvre. The more you use them the easier it gets to gauge the speed of vehicles coming up from behind you.

I will add here that the term undertaking is misnamed because if you are maintaining a constant speed while the outer lanes are full of vehicles going faster, and then for reasons outside of your control and over which you have no part, they suddenly slow down to below your speed why is it your problem? It is almost inevitable this will have been caused by someone going slower than you are far in front and who has lane hopped without giving any thought to those going faster and who will then probably have hopped back but only into the middle lane and not into the nearside lane where they should be.


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Motorway driving part one

As I have already blogged bout the madness of allowing fresh new drivers access to high speed roads when they have no training or experience, I thought I should share a bit of my knowledge and experience to help anyone with the basics.

better driving, motorway driving

Back in the 70’s and early 80’s the government Department of Transport used TV advertising space to give useful information in the form of guidance for various new (ish) road systems and things like Panda crossings. Quite why these have disappeared I don’t know but it is probably to do with money or the lack thereof.

One thing which would be useful and always will be as long as new drivers keep coming into being is motorway driving hints and tips, especially joining and leaving motorways. As there is no requirement for any formal training for motorway driving, experienced drivers often find that the joining and leaving lanes are not used properly due to that signal lack in any education.

Motorway driving, driving, light traffic, better driving

Part one. Joining.

So, to begin this section I will start at the beginning with joining a motorway. From a roundabout, usually there is a section several hundred metres long before the adjoining lane, with short dashed lines, next to the motorway proper which is often two or three hundred metres long. The idea of these two sections is simple. The first allows nearly every vehicle on the road, apart from heavy lorries, to accelerate to the speed limit for their vehicle. This is important – note that you should use this to do that and not drive along with nary a care in the world and gazing at the scenery. The second section is where you assess the speed of the traffic on the motorway and adjust your speed to safely slot into a gap in the traffic at the same speed. Note that you will find it difficult to achieve this if you arrive at the end of the first section doing only 35 or 40mph if the motorway is full of drivers on the speed limit because you will likely run out of space to increase your speed before the joining lane runs out.

At this point if you haven’t got the speed to join safely do not, under any circumstances stop. I have seen this on a number of occasions because people don’t use their brains and translate what they are doing as an emergency. If, for whatever reason, you have run out of proper joining lane then carry onto the hard shoulder section and accelerate until you can join the traffic safely. If you stop you are more likely to cause others to crash trying to avoid your parked car.


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Know your road signs

Know your road signs

Today’s idiot prize goes to the monkey who doesn’t know how to interpret the give way signage at a traffic calming slalom.

Slalom sign

I’m not a fan of these as they don’t do anything other than create a temporary disturbance in the force and only encourage drivers to slow down and speed up whilst negotiating them causing more pollution than going at a constant speed.

The car in front was approaching the sign with a large white arrow pointing upwards and a smaller red arrow pointing downwards. This sign means you have the right of way and traffic from the opposite direction must give way to you. A van the other side of the slalom had pulled into a gap between two parked cars but chummy in front either didn’t know what the sign meant or mistakenly thought he didn’t have enough room to pass between the van and the pavement so pulled into the entrance of the street on his left. I took this to be his intended destination and pulled around him only for him to turn back thereby halfway blocking the road at the same time as the van driver set off towards the obstruction which was now going to be me. I had to mount the kerb to give him room and clearly, due his flashing me up, the less educated driver was flashing me as a protest against, presumably, me knowing more about road signs than he did.

Puzzled monkey

I carried on regardless as this ignorance doesn’t warrant my time stopping to instruct people who should not have been awarded the privilege of driving without an instructor beside them. My instruction to him would have been to send his licence back to the DVLA and book a course of driving lessons with a competent instructor who would know when he was sufficiently trained to re-take a test.

© Rick Grain 20th December 2016

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Motorway madness

Motorway madness, driving, busy roads

Not sane

Motorway madness?

I know that this term has been used to describe multi vehicle smashes, most often when drivers get lost in the fog. Well they’re not really lost just unwilling to slow down when everyone around them isn’t but it really is too thick to keep going at motorway speeds.

What are motorway speeds? Why is there a 70mph limit? Why do so many people drive at more than the limit? And so many well below the limit?

Let me begin with the 70mph limit introduced in the 70’s. At a time when oil production was falling and a recession led to the three-day week to save jobs and energy introducing a motorway speed limit seemed a good idea in principal. No mention was made of safety issues except for a minority and the major marketing by the government was based on reducing fuel usage. In fact, due to the three-day week there were a lot less vehicles using the motorways so the net reduction was probably more due to that rather than the new speed limit. Strangely, it was originally only proposed as a short term measure but the safer roads lobby managed to produce figures backing up their claims of less crashes or at least less deaths from crashes at the lower speeds and the limit has remained. While this is true it doesn’t mean that the limit of 70mph had any basis or substantive evidence from any research that it was safer than allowing cars to go as fast as their drivers dared to go. And in fact, it was a figure plucked from thin air. Who by seems to have been lost in the mists of time.

Motorway driving, driving, light traffic

So from the technological point of view the cars of that era were probably less than half as safe as today’s vehicles and many of them would have struggled to maintain a constant speed of much more than 70mph anyway. Up to date cars with all the latest features like proximity warnings, lane keeping assistance systems, collision warning and auto braking systems, vehicles in blind spots warnings and the ability to maintain a cruising speed above 100mph are so far different from those old Ford Cortinas, Escorts Vauxhall Vivas Hillman Avengers and of course the original Mini that there is no real comparison.

Fuel economy in a modern vehicle also means that even at higher speeds and with larger engines they will use less fuel than their 70’s counterparts. The fly in the ointment or the elephant in the room as far as todays cars being safer and faster is concerned is that the drivers are no better trained today than they were back then. In fact they are not trained at all and have never been and there are no plans to introduce anything other than voluntary training courses and even those you have to find for yourself.

Truly mdaly deeply, higway madness, driving me insane

Why on earth do successive governments, having been warned consistently by the major and minor motoring organisations that this is a critical piece of legislation waiting to be introduced only listen to people who propose stupid measures like an overall 50mph limit? While this measure, if it gains any traction, will no doubt be introduced it will only have the effect of more low speed crashes bunging up the motorways and more banned drivers who cannot keep their foot off the gas pedal. The only safety result will be less fatalities but this can be better achieved along with almost zero incapacitating injuries by introducing a countrywide 10mph limit. Yes I did say that to get your attention because only at those speeds can you be certain that a fatal or life threatening injury would be due to a monumental combined set of unusual circumstances.

complicated signs, road madness, difficult driving

Consider this scenario for a moment:

  • Driving standards are dropping due to the complexity of modern roads and driving conditions
  • The driving test does not test even half as much as a competent driver would need in terms of skills to remain safe on the road
  • There is no testing for skid control, no useful testing for emergency braking and no high-speed testing

And yet once gifted the magical full driving licence a person who was a learner two or three minutes ago, and who might have never driven above 40pmh all the while they were learning can join a motorway and accelerate to 70mph and over. That is the true madness of the motorways.

© Rick Grain 5 December 2016

Images courtesy of Pixabay

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