Smart Motorways, Dumb Drivers

I see today that the UK has decided to stop any new “Smart Motorway” projects, insisting that they need extra safety precautions.  This is primarily the aftermath of coroner’s reports into certain fatal accidents on these Smart Motorways.

From the article…

  • In 2019, 15 people were killed on “all lane running” and “dynamic hard shoulder” motorways. This is four more deaths than in 2018.
  • The number of people being killed on motorways without hard shoulders increased each year from 2015 to 2019, and totalled 39 deaths.
  • By contrast, on so-called “controlled motorways” – a type of smart motorway which have variable speed limits and a hard shoulder – there were 24 deaths in that period.
  • On conventional motorways, which cover more of the UK than smart motorways, there were 368 fatalities from 2015 to 2019.

The M1 around where I live was one of the first Smart Motorways, and I’ve written a lot about how stupid people can be on those motorways – particularly about the availability of lanes, and a lack of general driving standards (Middle-lane cunts and the like)

From my experience, a lot of drivers seem to be incapable of reading road signs saying whether a lane is open or closed (although also even whether the approaching junction is the one they want or not, until the absolute last minute)  This also seems to be borne out by the latest rash of road-safety adverts telling people that they should ‘go left’ in case of problems on motorways (and fucking hell, in my opinion anyone who needs to be told this shouldn’t be in possession of a driving licence!)

As an example of this, one of the cases the coroners were looking at was one local to me where the person’s vehicle had a problem, showed the ‘engine problem’ warning light, and they pulled in to one of the emergency refuge areas.  Now, when that happened to me, I got out of the car (in a snowy January) and called recovery to get me off the road safely.  But not this twerd, oh no.  They gave it a few minutes, started the car, no light came on, so they pulled out to continue their journey.  (The ‘engine problem’ light doesn’t necessarily immediately light up on starting – for example, if the issue is to do with the turbo, the EGR valve, air filter etc., it’ll only come on when you accelerate over a certain rpm limit, at which point you’re shafted)  And that’s what happened to Twonktacular – the light came back on, the engine performance disappeared, and they got hit by another vehicle.   Yet somehow that’s the fault of the smart motorway, not the dumbass driver.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a huge fan of motorways without hard-shoulders. And I’m sure there are considerations and gambles that have been taken about how people get to emergency refuge areas, how the road monitoring is managed/staffed and so on. But I also understand how impractical it is, with current traffic levels and so on, to have a quarter of each road surface only available to vehicles in emergencies.

All told, I don’t believe that Smart Motorways are inherently dangerous. I think drivers (and their decisions, or lack thereof) are far more dangerous than roads. You just can’t blame an inanimate road for human stupidity.


Burning Money

Over the last year, a number of businesses have (unsurprisingly) moved out of the building where I have my office. The move to primarily working from home and so on has made them more aware of the costs of the offices, and in general I can see that it makes sense for them to downsize and so on.

What’s been more of a surprise is that other ones have moved in.  Again, I get it for situations like mine, where it’s better to have the office, and where working from home isn’t practicable.

There are some of those new businesses though, that despite paying the office rental/lease for a year, haven’t actually been using the offices at all, and I really don’t understand that at all.

I suppose it’s a good write-off for tax purposes or whatever, but to me it’s still odd to be basically burning that cash for no benefit at all.

Obviously it’s not my problem, and nothing to do with me. It’s other people’s business decisions and so on. I just find it interesting, and slightly baffling.


Alone vs Lonely

With the current Covid stuff, I’ve found it interesting to see how it has affected a range of people.

One of the big complaints about it is how the lockdowns have made so many people realise how lonely they are, along with the damage it’s done to those social norms and events.

Truly, this isn’t something I can empathise with. I’ve never really lived close to any of my friends – they’re scattered all over the place – so I’m absolutely used to being on my own in any particular area. So I’m alone, but I’m never lonely.

Alongside that, I don’t know, I simply don’t feel those things. I’m happy on my own, and always have been.  Being sociable is my “not normal“, being on my own is the default position.

In all of that, I recognise that I’m “lucky“. I’ve come through this year OK, with far less damage than most people have suffered – whether that’s realising their lives are more lonely than they thought, being ill (or watching others being ill), or just seeing things change so much and feeling insecure because everything “normal” has suddenly tilted beyond recognition.

I sort-of understand that desire for everything to “go back to how it was“, but to me even that still carries a fair degree of self-delusion.  Things have changed, and it’s (to me) far easier and smarter to embrace those changes and make progress with them (I hate the expression “the new normal”, but that’s what this is – even with vaccines and so on, there’ll still be major changes for the forseeable future)

I don’t know what 2021’s going to bring – although I don’t think it’s going to be a positive year – but I’m pretty sure I’ll get through it, same as I have this year. And all I can do is hope that the same is true for those I give a sod about.


Obsessive Dedication to Perfection

Since re-starting the archery, I’ve been going pretty regularly, and it’s reminded me of one of those things I really don’t get, or don’t understand about other people.

I don’t get obsession. I never have – I don’t get it when it comes to collecting things, or dealing with people, or things like competitions.

In the case of the archery, to excel in it you need to be super-precise, to do everything exactly the same each time. And, frankly, I can’t be arsed. When I tried collecting things, it was the same – I did OK, but then when it gets to the obsession with completing things, with finding the rarities and the one-offs, I can’t be arsed.

I know I’m not perfect – but I’m good enough. I’m almost certainly not going to win against people who practice every day, or even multiple times a week.  (Although from what I’ve seen, some of those people still aren’t any bloody good at it. But there we go, that’s a different matter) I don’t insist on everything being identical with each shot, I don’t have any aiming rituals etc. Instead, my mantra tends to be “Yeah, that’ll do”

Honestly, I don’t quite see how being that obsessed with perfection makes the entire thing any fun. To be that focused on something, when it’s the minutiae that matters, it seems to (in my opinion/experience) just suck all the life and enjoyment out of things.

At the end of the day, I’m good enough. It’s rare I miss, but I simply don’t care enough to want every single shot to be in the inner gold. I do what I can, and I don’t get stressed out by something I enjoy.

All things considered, that’ll do me.


Memory Failings

Do you suffer from long-term memory loss?
I don’t remember, I don’t remember

(Chumbawumba’s “Amnesia”)

Within my office block, I’m regularly gobsmacked by how people seem incapable of seemingly simple tasks, like remembering to turn things off that they’ve just turned on.  For example, walking in to the toilets, turning on the lights, and failing to turn them off again when leaving. (And sometimes also somehow forgetting to turn off taps that they’ve just used)

I honestly don’t understand this – and I’m potentially being charitable by attributing it to forgetfulness, rather than just being unthinking asshats – but it does seem to be ever more prevalent. Maybe it’s related to the office rentals being all-inclusive, meaning people give less of a sod about utilities and so on.

But even then, I wonder, is that also how they are at home? Do they keep leaving things on there as well? Do their partners/parents just keep on tidying up after them, turning things off again?

(And just because I’m not perfect – I’ve been meaning to write this post for the last two weeks, and I’ve kept on forgetting to do so)


Lockdown – Changing Values

One thing I hope will be interesting – as and when the current lockdown is properly eased – is to see the things that people decide are important, the things they’ve actually missed, as opposed to the things they’ve just not been able to go to as part of a routine.

For example, I wonder if [big chain] coffee shops will suffer, as people have (hopefully) realised that they don’t need all that caffeine and sugar.
[Note : I amended this afterwards, following Gordon’s comment, because I’d particularly meant big-chain (Starbucks, Costa et al) places rather than independents/locals that definitely deserve the business and support]

On the evidence of the things that’ve currently re-started, I don’t think it’ll be the case – as soon as they’ve re-opened, there have been huge queues outside places like McDonalds, Burger King and KFC.

It’ll be more interesting to see what happens longer-term, once the “Oh good, they’re back!” novelty value fades.


Lockdown – Ongoing

Tonight, the PM has announced a “conditional plan” to help the country get through the next phase of Covid-19.

To be honest, it is (as expected) a bit of a car-crash, with mixed messages, bloody awful phrasing, and no real clarity on any of it.

So for me (and, I hope, for a lot of others) I’m sticking with my own Plan A, which is to carry on doing what I was doing before.

I’m still planning on mainly using my office – which is OK (so far as I can tell) because I go from a house on my own, to a car on my own, to an office on my own, with no real human contact at all, and thus an absolutely minimal chance of catching it, or passing it on.  If my office building gets too crowded then I’ll re-assess and figure out a different plan. Until then, we’ll see.

Other than that, all I’m doing is keeping myself as safe from everything as possible, and hoping that everyone else is doing the same. Really, I don’t see that there’s anything else that can be done.