Monday, 22 April 2013

Could you just spare a minute... sign this petition?

Honest John in The Telegraph is imploring us to sign one.  This is one of many on the Government's e-petition site,

This particular one asks the question, "Are some car insurers killing off Speed Awareness Courses?" and claims that, "Some car insurers are now increasing premiums for drivers who complete Speed Awareness Courses, despite them not being convicted of any offence. Perversely they are penalising drivers for choosing an option that is proven to improve driving standards. This is illogical and unfair, it deters others from taking the course and could affect its future availability. Insurers should promote Speed Awareness Courses, instead some penalise drivers who complete them."

I have signed it.

And so has my wife.

Basically, I think these courses are a very good idea and am annoyed at the motor insurance industry picking on them as an excuse to up premiums.

I am no stranger to the e-petition site and was one of 43057 signatories on the sadly unsuccessful petition to keep Formula 1 Free to Air in the UK.

After signing the Speed Awareness petition, I decided to see what other car-related petitions were on the Government site.

One of the first to catch my eye was another irritating insurance industry one: "Non-fault accident impact on Car Insurance"

This one reads,
"Please consider following changes for car insurance:

1. You need to declare last 3 years fault/non-fault accident claims while buying car insurance. Insurance companies say that as per some stats, a person is more likely to be involved in an accident if they have had any accidents in the past and in many accidents, there is a fault ratio involved.

We believe that such stats cannot be applied to every accident. Ex: If someone has been hit on the back of their car while they were stationary/moving in traffic or parked in parking bay, how they could become more prone to accidents in future?

Currently, they are still penalized by increased premium for next 3 years due to non-fault accident claim.

To avoid such situations, either non-fault claim declaration should not be mandatory while buying car insurance or a process should be defined to calculate fault ratio.

2. Insurance companies should be required to provide a breakdown of premium calculation in insurance quote."

Last year I was hit on the back of my car while I was stationary.  Now, how could I become more prone to accidents in future?  I didn't even make a claim - it was all done through the other person's insurance but I still have to declare it.

Next, I found "Car Lamps should be easy to replace" which tells us,

"All too frequently cars are seen with lights that are not working. Whilst some people will habitually ignore a defective lamp, the increasing tendency for manufacturers to make lamp replacement impossible for the average motorist to undertake, means that a garage appointment is required to fix the lamp.

The Government should therefore legislate to force manufacturers to make bulb replacement easy and well within the capabilities of most motorists without having either to damage your hands or remove large parts of the car to access the lamps.

This would increase road safety and therefore make driving safer!"

Even with my small, girly hands I struggle to change modern car bulbs - they tend to be positioned with the battery or fusebox or some pipework making them virtually impossible to get at.  So, yet another petition I agree with.  I think it's a bit fanciful though, to assume that the Government would legislate on it.

And, while we're on the subject, will Halfords please stop advertising the service of bulb-replacement when you purchase a bulb off them - if you actually look into it, they'll only do it if it is easy to fit anyway.

So, how about "Cars to give cyclists space"?

Apparently, "Cycling is the transport of the future being healthy, cheap and non polluting however many would be cyclists are deterred from taking up cycling on British roads due to the dangerous disregard by some motorists for cyclists.

Cyclists need a cars width between them and overtaking motorists to feel and be safe on the roads. Motorists passing cyclists with just inches to spare between them and the cyclist are putting cyclists at risk and causing distress and fear of harm which is a crime in itself. Cyclists have every right to use the public roads and should not feel threatened in doing so.
We are calling for the Government to make Police take much more robust action on motorists putting cyclists at risk prosecuting dangerous motorists in the same way as those threatening physical violence."

As a cyclist and a car-driver I appreciate the argument from both sides although haven't particularly noticed it as a problem when on two-wheels.  Any police officer witnessing a driver intimidating a cyclist would, I am sure, take some action, especially if a perceived danger was involved.

So how about a petition to make the Police take more robust action against cyclists contravening the road laws - like riding two-abreast on a main road when there is a perfectly good cycle-lane marked out on the adjacent pavement - OK, so it's not illegal, but it is bloody annoying - and a safety issue.

Now for one getting into the realms of fantasy - or is it?

How to stop car chases involving police.

"To stop car chases involving police all new cars should have wireless networking built into engine management systems. Each car could have a code stored in DVLA that the police could use to disable that engine.

If a car fails to stop, all the police need to do is send the code to the engine. That will effectively stop the car. This would save many lives and could be used against stolen vehicles.

Encryption would be used to stop any random signal affecting any engines.

The govenment need to make this law for all new cars/bikes."

Maybe it is possible nowadays.  It would put Tracker out of business but in any case, would be a manufacturer added option if anything.

However, the petition that most amused me - and mostly entered the realms of fantasy was the one entitled "water powered hybrid cars"

This one, funnily enough, only has one signatory - presumably the person who created it.  It informs us thusly,

"The government are wasting away our life's and others by causing us to waste away our money,lives and our future generations causing our own deaths when we can do something about it

all the government is doing is stopping us from buying water powered cars so they can take more money off us.

we can save money and save the planet in 100 years our human race could end up dead or back up in the dark ages so please sign and save us all and our future generations "

When I'd stopped laughing, I did a Google Images search for water-powered cars and found this:
It's a G-Wiz!  Now the G-Wiz is famously electric and I thought electricity and water were supposed to be a bad mix.

And is that Hannibal Lecter sitting in it? 

I wondered if any other countries allow the general populace to come up with sensible and daft petition subjects like this.

Canada, Australia, South Africa and Russia all seem like a big no.

But in America, they have -

Unfortunately, the only car-related petition in there was the extremely boring "overturn franchise laws that limit auto manufacturers from selling their vehicles directly to consumers."

Then I remembered that Americans like to call cars "automobiles" so I did a search on that but there was nothing there.

OK, I think that's enough petitioning for one post - I'll sign off now.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Good Evans!

Looks like the Mail now has a new motoring correspondent - Chris Evans.  Don't worry if that video doesn't play - it'll be browser settings or something technical but you're not missing much.

I don't know if James "Formlia 1" Martin has got the push or not but, reading Chris Evans' first piece - a review of the Subaru BRZ - I don't think it will make much difference to me.

I like reading about cars and if The Mail want celebrities to write about cars, then it is best if they are petrol-heads but, unless there is an element of humour (like Alexei Sayle in the Telegraph - although I'll stop reading him after they disappear behind a paywall) then I prefer my articles to be written by motoring journos or racers.

Now, that's not to say he doesn't do a bad job, I'll certainly continue to read his pieces where I rarely read Martin's.  It is self-deprecating and there are a few interesting facts in there about Subaru - like Subaru is the Japanese name for the constellation Pleiades (or Seven Sisters) but only has six of them on its badge.

So far, the Mail readers seem quite indifferent to Chris.

Two days later, there have only been 11 comments added to the article - they seem fairly evenly mixed about as to whether or not he is better than Martin and I'm ashamed to say that I have to agree with some Daily Mail readers - specifically the two who picked up on his use of the word "she" to describe the car.

"It" - the word is "It", not "she!"

That story has still achieved 11 more comments than this one that has been up for four days but that may be because

"We are no longer accepting comments on this article."  I suspect that they never started accepting comments on the article - that way, some of the more homophobic Mail readers would not get a chance to air their prejudices.
This is the story of Karis Smith, pictured right, who bears a striking facial resemblance to Michael McIntyre and happens to be a lesbian.
Why is that relevant?
The Michael McIntyre bit isn't but the lesbian bit is.
Karis has started up a driving school in Manchester that is gay-friendly after hearing various tales of unfriendly and downright discriminatory treatment meted out by certain driving instructors.  It seems that transgender learners had particular problems feeling they were expected to explain their gender and sexuality.
The article continues "Some of the complaints made to Karis were issues such as constantly having to use ‘non-gender’ pronouns when chatting with their instructor, mentioning their 'partner' rather than girlfriend or boyfriend."
This is when you can use words like "she".

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Race Relations

Pistonheads today have a story headlined "Kia Want to Race" about how Kia want to get a bit of racing pedigree added to their image.  This is in the wake of their sister-brand, Hyundai announcing entry to the WRC.

Hence, "Race Relations" - geddit?

Anyhoo, Kia are looking into Touring Cars in Europe but haven't said exactly where.

The Pistonheads story quotes the MD of Kia UK as saying, "Motorsport is an interesting proposition for us and Touring Cars is an interesting area that we are looking at.  It will help set the two brands apart and would help increase awareness of Kia. I would like to see something a little more sporty about the brand."

Now, since the MD of Kia UK is talking about this, then surely the way forward is the BTCC.

The BTCC started for 2013 at Brands Hatch on March 31st.  And very enjoyable it was too.

ITV4, as usual, covered the full day.  For some unknown reason, they've swapped their co-commentator though.  Now, instead of Toby Moody joining Tim Harvey in the commentary box, we have Tim with David Addison.
 No, not THAT David Addison, THIS David Addison...

I have to admit that I wasn't familiar with this particular David Addison - but his background experience seems fine and he did a good job at Brands.  His preview of the Season can be found here on the ITV Website.

Would have still liked Murray Walker there though.

During a break in the BTCC coverage, ITV took the opportunity to promote some more of the Motorsport they will be covering this year - and that now includes the WRC.  Only highlights of some races but it is a start - might help to reverse the need for "Rallying Support" - note my last paragraph in that article - someone is listening after all!

And, apparently, Kia's sister-brand Hyundai is joining the WRC - I remember reading that recently.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Making a Mokka-Ree

When Vauxhall let the British press loose on their new compact SUV thingy, the Mokka, it got absolutely slated for its ride and handling and consequently scored very badly in their reviews.  The name didn't help either, with lots of coffee jokes to go with the coffee-coloured car in the picture.
The mistake they had made was to give the journalists some early, European-specced cars designed for European roads - and with bits of sound-proofing missing.
Anyway, they seem to have sorted things out by letting the British press loose on much-improved versions specifically aimed at British roads.  The press were impressed enough - for example Top Gear reported thus.
A report in AutoGuide today, could reverse things, though.  It refers to a recall on the American-badged version of this car, the Buick Encore - the one in their picture is also coffee-coloured but that's probably coincidence.  The problem with the Encore is that the steering wheel might come off!
 This could be amusing if you are Lauel & Hardy or useful if you are a racing driver and have a wheel like the one here on the right.  But, if you are taking the kids to school, it may be a tiny bit dangerous.  (Incidentally, if you take a closer look at this particular racing wheel, it isn't quite what it seems)
There is no mention of whether or not the Mokka has the same issue as its American cousin but if it does, it'll be wheely bad.  No coffee jokes here.