Posts Tagged ‘Speeding’

Gumball: 3000 miles of unnecessary risk-taking

Posted on June 6th, 2011 by James Luckhurst

Gumball: 3000 miles of unnecessary risk-takingIF YOU have time on your hands, a very expensive car and a few thousand quid in your back pocket, then how about joining a line-up of like-minded folk for a high-speed romp along the motorways of Europe? That’s right, just pay your £28,000 entry fee, kit your car out with police radar detectors and make the front number plate unreadable, in case you come to the attention of the authorities as you reach speeds in excess of 200 km/h on the public road. And God help anyone who might dare get in your way.

Yes, it’s rally season again, when the well-heeled throw caution (and consideration for others) to the wind as they charge across national borders in pursuit of having an excellent time. This year’s Gumball 3000 was one of the first events in the summer calendar, and saw Aston Martins, Rolls Royces and even a pink Ferrari growl their way out of London for the south coast.

So, do we have any sympathy for the two British drivers and the Austrian who were arrested on the A16 autoroute in France a few days ago? I don’t think so. All were involved in the ‘Gumball 3000’ car rally that was in France at the time.

The first Briton, driving a Rolls Royce at 222 km/h, was arrested on Thursday near Oroër, in Oise, after testing positive for cocaine. This was established using field impairment tests and a saliva test. The Austrian also tested positive for drugs, and was still in custody Friday morning in the local platoon of the highway police in Beauvais. His vehicle was confiscated.

An hour later, on the same stretch of autoroute, a British driver of a Mercedes was clocked at a speed of 219 km/h. Another British motorist was also arrested, having been detected driving at a speed of more than 190 km/h. His vehicle, a Jaguar, was immediately confiscated and impounded.

It was in the Gumball 3000 in 2007 that two innocent people (who happened to be in the way of a Gumball participant) died after being involved in a crash. Yet the reckless behaviour continues and is still seen as a great way to celebrate motoring.

Gendarmerie spokesperson, Colonel Gérard Escolano, commented on the action: “These three racers were all participants in the Gumball 3000,” he said. “This rally was established by an Englishman in 1999 and reserved for wealthy drivers of sports cars. It is held once a year.

“We cannot ban this rally because it is not an official sporting event. For us, it is tourists who pass through France. But as soon as we were informed of their arrival on our territory, we implemented a monitoring device that staked all their possible routes to ensure that they could not make free on our roads, and to ensure maximum safety for other motorists.”

The French Gendarmerie have been proactive in sharing their intelligence with colleagues in other countries, and have also asked for any useful advance information to be passed back to them, as the Gumball participants continue on their planned route through Europe. Now you really would think the police have better things to do with their time, wouldn’t you. But while events such as this continue, law enforcers have no choice but to devote substantial resources to the task of minimising the completely unnecessary risks created by the Gumballers.

What is going wrong on the roads of France?

Posted on April 19th, 2011 by James Luckhurst

Since 2002, when President Chirac declared road safety a ‘national priority’, the annual death toll on France’s roads has dropped drastically. Effective enforcement and an increased acceptance of the rules have been the two key components to what has been hailed as a big success story.

But there are signs that the downward trend is over. In 2010, the French police forces managed to reduce the number of deaths on the roads, reaching for the very first time the symbolic figure of fewer than 4,000 deaths. These results followed a nine-year constant drop, thanks to a strong political will and the daily action of both police and non governmental organisations.

In the wake of this positive result, 2011 was expected to be another year of decrease. However, the situation after the first two months is a far cry from this expectation. The roads have claimed 48 lives more than in 2010, meaning an increase of 10%.

Facing this stark reality, the police are trying to prompt politicians to introduce much wider uses of the fledgling Automatic Number Plate Recognition system – they call it LAPI in France.  It’s currently on a nationwide trial for detecting and sanctioning traffic infringements.

Additionally, the Gendarmerie’s road policing units are tackling high-end speeders with the use of 65 Renault Megane 300 RS cars, replacing the former fleet of Subaru Imprezas. It is hoped the vehicles will provide extra assistance for the Gendarmerie in its fight against speeding, which in 2010 was once again the first cause of death on the French roads.

What is going wrong on the roads of France?

Before using the Renaults, officers will receive a  special four-day driving course at the ‘Circuit de Bresse’’, a racing track used by famous drivers including world rally champion Sébastien Loeb.

Other countries are watching the French efforts closely. Tough new casualty reduction targets are in place, and the aim is to reduce road deaths across Europe by 50% by the year 2020. Any signs of upward casualty trends are sure to be regarded with alarm, especially in countries most affected by public service budget cuts and dwindling road safety resources.

It is hoped that the French efforts with LAPI – and the fleet of new cars – will provide an effective deterrent to drivers who might otherwise flout traffic laws. The next few months will be crucial in determining whether France is experiencing an unfortunate blip in a longer-term downward trend, or whether the ‘honeymoon is over’ and a fundamental reappraisal of road safety policies is now required.

When the cameras went on again!

Posted on April 18th, 2011 by David Williams MBE

When the cameras went on again!

It has been interesting to read the many viewpoints relating to the story that Oxfordshire County Council has now decided to switch back on their safety cameras following an argument  regarding funding and after severe public protest.

Some might argue that the decision to switch them off a few months back was politically motivated to ensure funding issues were addressed.  However, what now seems very clear is that cameras have a role to play in reducing illegal speeding and in reducing death and injury on the road.

GEM Motoring Assist has always tried to avoid the opposite viewpoints about whether money should be spent on cameras or on more police officers enforcing traffic rules.  Our view has always been that we need both and indeed any other measure that will encourage safety without compromising personal and independent travel.

As a local parish councillor I have clearly seen at first hand that an on-going concern of most residents is speeding vehicles. Any method of enforcing the law of the land has to be welcomed and myths that safety cameras are only used as revenue machines have to be dismissed.