Tuesday, January 24, 2012

1,562 whiplash claims per day–make neck braces compulsory in cars!

I can’t actually track down the source of  the widely reported1,562 whiplash claims per day in the UK, but have found an Association of British Insurers (ABI) Press release indicating it is nearly 1,200 per day (news release on the ABI website). Given this horrific news then surely we must demand that neck braces are compulsory for all car occupants. After all that implies that there are over 400,000 whiplash claims per year.

Apparently we are in the middle of a “whiplash epidemic”. In this video Malcolm Tarling from the Association of British Insurers suggests that “every minute of every day someone in this country claims for whiplash”. Which implies 525,600 claims per year (and 1,440 claims per day).

Despite the wind on Sunday, here in the flatlands, with gusts up to 40 Knots (46mph). I had a very pleasant ride – but as my browser fills up with interesting cycling-related bits and pieces it seems to slow down. So the time has come to either comment on them or close the window – so I’ll post about my Sunday ride later.

I am a Chrome user (currently Beta – 17.0.963.38), mainly because it is fast, I still have Internet Explorer (IE 9.9.4) on my machine but almost never use it, except when I come across some minor problem with compatibility – which are quite rare nowadays. Having said that I also use Flashblock to stop unnecessary displays appearing on webpages, all in order to cut down on the parasitic load on my computer.

The trouble is that Flash does crash from time to time although Chrome is quite resilient and quite a lot of the blocked bits around a page adverts.  You can create whitelists, but in the main I don’t as blocked bits can easily be clicked to allow the Flash content to be displayed.

Mind you McAfee will also occasionally flag an advert as coming from a questionable source – the adverts don’t come from the same place as most of a page’s content. So I do wonder if there are too many programs getting in the way before finally showing me what is going on.  I know that adverts probably pay for a lot of what I see – however whilst I accept that they might take up a bit if display space on a webpage I don’t really want them using up loads of CPU cycles and I really am not happy about them taking up loads of physical memory.

Currently with 30 web pages in two groups and Windows Live writer and Task Manager as my only programs it is using 94% of physical memory. When I close all the web pages it falls to 24% of physical memory. Re-loading most of the web pages again only takes it up to  76% – which implies a memory leak?

So where to start. Some of the webpages have been around for a while and I have forgotten where they came from – Twitter and the Blogs I read tend to be the main sources. Also my guilty secret is that despite the politics of the Daily Mail not being aligned with my own – they do have a free website with lots of pictures and some extravagant headlines.

Having said that the first link is a very measured response to a bunch of letters criticising a Cycling Initiative – “Pedal Power” for showing helmetless cycling. As you might imagine there an almost hysteric criticism – yet the letter in a well-measured way reminds us that “A bike is an ordinary and totally accessible means of getting about and needs to remain as such.” (My emphasis.)

What no helmets – cycling through Wicken Fen

Given the cost of other forms of private and public transport not to mention the health benefits you would think that society might want to encourage cycling and a belief in its safety.  Talking about costs here is a Daily Mail piece on “Car insurance doubled?” Apparently the average cost of car insurance was £333 eighteen years ago, it is now £1,510. It highlights the issues of ambulance-chasers and the increase in whiplash claims. The article suggests that an Association of British Insurers estimates is that there are 1,562 whiplash claims per day in the UK. If that is really the case then there is a strong argument to say we should all wear neck braces when in cars. Cycling neck braces are not cheap though.

I have tried to track down the actual number of whiplash injuries made by the ABI – here is a news release on the ABI website, dated 19th May 2011, that suggests that nearly 1200 whiplash claims are made per day. They estimate the costs as £8 million` to the NHS in treatment and nearly £2 billion in insurance payouts.

I also wonder if the drive to make modern cars much safer has also led to an increase in the costs of repair. For instance when I started driving we did not have air-bags, now we do – they definitely make a car safer for the occupants certain types of crashes.  However they will then require replacement, not to mention the need for renewal after 10 years! According to this link, just the driver’s side replacement and fit will cost $700 (£450) for a Honda Accord.

Of course for many cyclists why does this all matter – well because it makes car drivers feel even more hard done by. When they feel hard done by then it makes them feel that cyclists deserve all they get.

You often see cars parked on pavements and cycleways, lots of cyclists complain, rarely do things get done. Although I have seen a ticket on a car parked on a pavement once. Here is the cyclist blog in the Cambridge News – justifiably complaining – “Blog 29: Is it a car park or a cycleway”.

Cars on the Shared-use Pavement – Fordham – room to squeeze a wheelchair?

Of course in that age-old territorial battle for the road between cyclists and cars, well that’s the way the motorists see it I think we have a celebrity entry. In an altercation between machine and bike we have Shane Warne as the driver. Here a small selection of links; “Shane Warne vs. cyclists: registration and number plates”, “Warnie puts bad spin on cycling” and “Warniegate! The Cyclist’s Side”.

I don’t know the truth about what happened but to paraphrase the way in which Judge’s sometimes seem to explain their decisions – I find the cyclist’s version of events far more credible than the cricketer’s. The trouble is such ignorance of the issues is the real problem.

Part of the problem is that Shane Warne turned to Twitter as if to get his retaliation first – perhaps not really the best way to resolve the issue. In another Aussie media-personality road rage case the motorist was found guilty of intentionally causing injury. Although that news report only really quotes the car driver.  An earlier report of the court case tells the cyclist’s story – his finger was broken and there were six fragments.

The trouble is car drivers are not vulnerable road users and cyclists are – as a cyclist I do know how having a near miss with a car is a shocking experience.

We know that cars cause pollution and lower polluting cars pay less vehicle excise duty or car tax as an incentive to us all to drive lower polluting cars. Well we have a CO2 measuring sculpture in Cambridge to show the levels – it is positioned at the Hills Road entrance to the Botanic Gardens, I must look out for it. Although I better make sure I don’t leave it until we get some snow at a “Shortage of grit could leave Cambridge City Centre cut off”. Apparently they will grit the town centres of Wisbech and Whittlesey – mind you this only applies as an emergency measure if there is a shortage of grit.

Deck the halls and grit the roads, but not the shared-use pavements
Lode – Swaffham Bulbeck)

Just to rub salt into the problem – apparently the man-made carbon emissions means that the “oceans have acidified more in the last 200 years ‘than they did in the previous 21,000 years’” – rather a sobering thought.

I believe that those in power should lead by example – so was horrified to see that one “seaside town bans wardens from issuing councillors with parking fines”. It is Southend and they have programmed their new ticketing system to block the issuance of tickets. The good news is that nine councillors from the Independent Group have refused to take part. Then in Wandsworth a “driver was given a £110 parking fine as he helped give first aid to a motorbike crash victim”. So good Samaritans are  not to be trusted, whilst Councillors are considered too upright to possibly flout the rules. That’s cockeye if you ask me.

In what appears to be a none story “is this the worst road in Britain? Residents count 134 potholes in just 350yards”. The Daily Mail actually shows a road with patched potholes, not that well I agree, but I wouldn’t report them as being hazards to a cyclist – yet. I do wonder why they don’t measure the distance in metre – perhaps because we still use miles to measure distance on the roads.

Almost finally – some cyclists items. Regent Street in Cambridge was closed after a crash involving a female cyclist and a car. I am not sure quite where it happened and she suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries. I hope she makes a full recovery. This bit of Regent Street can be tricky with the Bollards to block non-bus traffic and a right turn to avoid the bollards.

View Larger Map

A rather unpleasant cycling incident was also reported – “Cyclist snatches wallet from ride in Cambridge”. Although apparently crime is down 10% in the county (Cambs). It does highlight that cycling is the norm in Cambridge with perpetrators and victims on their bikes.

My son is interested in taking pictures of plant diseases (for his job) and has been asking me about Macro photography. I hadn’t realised just how complex a subject it is. You can get special lenses (macro lens), or lens that go on the front of an existing lens (close-up lens), or tubes that go in between the existing lens and the camera (extension tubes) or even attach you lens the other way around.

For his purposes I think he can get away with a close-up lens since he only needs a small increase in magnification and can’t afford an expensive purpose built lens. He has an Olympus Pen camera and by luck rather than judgement can use my Panasonic lenses as well. (As you might expect different manufacturers have different ways of fitting their lens onto the camera bodies). But I don’t have a Macro lens. This is about what my 14-140mm lens can achieve.

As I was sitting I though I’d take a quick test picture. This is Custard, my cycling mascot. He has been around the world and cycled in Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and India as well as in the UK and was a gift from my daughter. He is about 9cm in height, although a little fore-shortened. So you can see that if the leaf had splotches around the size of the button – 10mm then doesn’t occupy a lot of the frame. Mind you even with 12mega pixies you could blow up the image

Which is what I have done here – the brown dots are 10mm apart in real life and yet appear on my screen as 40mm apart – and are at an acceptable resolution (IMHO).

Here are some proper macro pictures – some quite stunning insect close-ups. And I must check out the sky at night – with the solar activity we are getting Northern lights down above Yorkshire apparently.

And finally – “Denise van Outen’s bum is killing her” – she is doing a 289 mile charity ride across India for Great Ormond Street Hospital.  Mind you technically the temperatures aren’t above boiling in India – it is hot and you do need to drink lots. In the last picture she seems to be practising cycling with her eyes shut!.

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