Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Glad there was never a chance to challenge any speeding fines

While I’ve no argument with the operating principles behind the various speed detection systems and methods used by the authorities to enforce speed limits, I do take issue with the attitude of those various authorities in their near obsessive belief, or perhaps policy, that they are absolute, are completely accurate in all circumstances, and that challenging them is NOT ACCEPTABLE.

While most people with a suitable background will understand that such system are accurate, that accuracy relies on a perfect operating environment, and perfect operators.

Need I say that in the REAL world, NEITHER of those criteria are satisfied in EVERY case.

I used to travel to North Wales regularly. The return trip involved travelling a long downhill road with a 40 mph limit. Then, I had a high profile German sports car that would cruise the Autobahn at 150 mph, and a radar detector because I knew I would be ‘picked on’. Coming down that hill, it revealed that, despite travelling at 40 mph, I would be ‘painted’ by police with a radar gun, regardless of the fact that I was being passed by other cars speeding down the hill.

It’s a pity that devices such as radar guns and speed cameras are administered by people unqualified to understand them technically, as they are seriously misled by the advocates of such devices, and the manufacturers of course, who promote such devices as being completely accurate. Sadly, that’s not the case.

There’s a good example of this mindset revealed in this quote which including West Mercia Police Chief Constable Anthony Bangham’s call for inaccuracy to be ignored:

Most police forces have a tolerance of 10 per cent plus 2mph above the limit before a speed camera ‘flashes’. So on a 30 mph road, a camera wouldn’t normally activate unless a car drove past at 35mph or above. Auto Express warn motorists that car speedometer inaccuracies make it difficult to measure how close to the threshold they are travelling.

However, last year, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead on road policing, Anthony Bangham – who is also chief constable of West Mercia Police which prosecuted Richard – called for the 10 per cent buffer to be scrapped. He also said speed awareness courses were being overused, and believes offenders should get fines and points on their licence instead.

Richard and Tim believe any such move would be deeply unfair given the potential problems with speed camera inaccuracies.

Man, 71, loses £30,000 of his son’s inheritance fighting a £100 speeding fine – but can the camera lie?

As noted in the opening, I’ve never had the need to challenge a speeding charge/fine, and I’m beginning to be glad I’ve been priced off the road., given the apparently growing proliferation and automation of such devices, and the apparent selective myopia of those administering them – ‘They MUST be right, if you were caught, you WERE speeding‘, end of story, no argument, no appeal.

The article referred to in the link is shocking, and confirms the worry I always had about the courts, police, and legal system, brainwashed by the manufacturers and advocates of speed detection systems with their claims of ‘perfection’.

Regardless of presenting a reasonable defence, the courts/authorities simply ignored it (my view as an accredited calibration signatory – I used to approve and sign fiscal calibration certification which could be presented in court as evidence).

The article includes a few examples of how these systems can report erroneous speeds of the subject vehicles, and, worse, how the systems themselves are poorly installed, with, for example, the supposedly ‘calibrated’ lines painted on the road (supposedly as a double-check or verification) not even being spaced accurately.

It’s a shame that we don’t seem to have progressed much further in removing operator error or bias from these systems today, than we were in the days of VASCAR, when systems also depended wholly on correct operating procedure for their accuracy, and careless operation of the switches used to set that system up on a piece of road could lead to it being inaccurate.

VASCAR-plus

VASCAR-plus

This system eventually proved to be so problematic, it was discontinued.

Note also the manufacturer’s accuracy claim (and even lack of Home Office Approval or testing) I referred to above – NOBODY with an interest, especially financial, should be allowed to verify such criteria.

Scotland: Police Halt Use of VASCAR Over Accuracy Concern
Police chiefs in Scotland, UK told not to use VASCAR to issue speeding tickets due to interference and reliability issues.

VASCAR

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) in Scotland issued a memo Tuesday recommending that VASCAR not be used to issue speeding tickets to motorists. Although the “Vehicle Average Speed Computer and Recorder” is a thirty-five-year-old technology and has been replaced in some areas by radar and laser speed guns, it is still commonly used in the UK and the US.

“Until such time that the matter has been fully investigated, a memo has been sent to officers asking them to use alternative speed detection equipment,” Strathclyde Police Chief Inspector Andy Orr told the Aberdeen Press and Journal newspaper.

VASCAR estimates speed by calculating the amount of time it takes for a vehicle to pass a given distance. The police officer operating the machine flips a switch when a vehicle passes a given point and then flips it again when the vehicle passes a second point. The machine then displays a speed on a small readout. Because the device appeared to depend more upon the skill of the operator to produce a reliable estimate, UK police authorities never required Home Office Approval or accuracy testing for the device. Instead, the VASCAR manufacturer insisted that the “quartz crystal” performed a self-test allowing the device to establish itself as an accurate instrument for measuring speed.

That did not turn out to be the case for UK officials who recently uncovered reliability problems while working to integrate the speed detector with new digital radios and automated number plate recognition (ANPR) systems. The same officials had already known about the possibility for radio frequency interference. A 2002 ACPO test registered interference any time a radio or cell phone was used within six-and-a-half feet of the VASCAR machine.

“There is a potential risk of interference to Traffic Law Enforcement Devices (TLED) such as VASCAR from Airwave Radios and GSM phones,” a Devon and Cornwall Constabulary memo dated August 19, 2008 explained. “Officers should not operate a TLED from within a vehicle in the presence of a GSM phone or Airwave radio that is switched on, unless a ‘Transmit Inhibit’ system has been enabled. Failure to do so may compromise the integrity of any relevant prosecutions.”

Now Scottish officials fear the possibility that lawyers will seize upon the unreliability of the technology to undermine past prosecutions and force refunds.

Source: Speed-trap device may be faulty, say police (Aberdeen Press and Journal (Scotland), 2/4/2009)

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13/09/2019 Posted by | Civilian, photography, Surveillance, Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s called ‘Research’ Brenda

After the recent eBay howler in Glasgow, I thought the same was true for this story.

I wasn’t going to go with this one, but for some reason my news feed keeps shoving it in my face, as if it’s telling me “Do it, do it, do it…

I’m always amused by the way criminals just don’t get what they’re doing wrong, especially the ones like ‘Brenda’, who is apparently ‘Angry’ about being caught and fined.

The 63-year-old said she was angry that she had been prosecuted and she now wants to warn others not to get involved in offering teeth whitening products and services.

‘I didn’t know whitening teeth was illegal’

Part of my business once involved dealing with tests on people, and I can tell you that one of the first things we did, before even starting to set it up, was contact all the relevant authorities, and our lawyers, just to find out what sort of trouble we might get into as a result.

But I guess we had a head start on this, since a lot of our work was fiscal (could be used as evidence in court), even if that seldom happened.

“Brenda’s” response/atitude reminded of one of the few instances where I was present as a habitual shoplifter was themselves ‘lifted’.

As this individual was carted off, their haul was also taken as evidence.

At which point they launched into a stream of verbal abuse against the officers attending (shortened version follows)…

“Gie’s that f*****g back ya f*****g c****s, that’s f*****g mine”. That’s ma f*****g stuff!”

Before and After Teeth Whitening

Brenda’s Smile Before and After Teeth Whitening

06/12/2018 Posted by | Civilian | , , | Leave a comment

Fines and points waiting for sloppy drivers

I was slightly surprised to learn that encroaching on ASLs (advance stop lines provided for cyclists to stop ahead of vehicles) at traffic light controlled junctions was an offence that could attract both a fine (I think £100) and 3 penalty points. As per the pic below, I see these ignored so often (and no longer have to worry about such things) that it took a discussion with someone more knowledgeable to alert me to detail, and realise I had never looked at the rules.

I wonder if anyone’s ever been fined, or given those 3 points for doing this.

I see this all the time, but never see it any enforcement.

Advance stop line - how not to use

Advance stop line – how not to use

It’s interesting to read the detail in the Highway Code, and although highly unlikely, both the above COULD be ‘innocent’ (and pigs might fly one day), as there is a get-out clause, and just being stopped behind the ASL does not automatically mean the offence was committed.

Rule 178

Advanced stop lines. Some signal-controlled junctions have advanced stop lines to allow cycles to be positioned ahead of other traffic. Motorists, including motorcyclists, MUST stop at the first white line reached if the lights are amber or red and should avoid blocking the way or encroaching on the marked area at other times, e.g. if the junction ahead is blocked. If your vehicle has proceeded over the first white line at the time that the signal goes red, you MUST stop at the second white line, even if your vehicle is in the marked area. Allow cyclists time and space to move off when the green signal shows.

Laws RTA 1988 sect 36 & TSRGD regs 10, 36(1) & 43(2)

Rule 178 Advanced stop lines cycles

Rule 178 Advanced stop lines cycles

This explanation.

If the traffic lights are on red, drivers (including motorcyclists and scooter riders) must not cross the first stop line – if they do they could liable to a £100 fixed penalty and three penalty points on their driving license (sic).

If the lights change from green to amber as a driver (including motorcyclists and scooter riders) approaches but they cannot safely stop before the first stop line, they can cross the first line but must stop before the second stop line. In these circumstances it is not an offence to stop in the marked area.

Drivers (including motorcyclists and scooter riders) should avoid blocking/encroaching onto the marked area at other times e.g. when the junction is blocked.

Note that just because there’s a car in the ASL box does not mean to say the driver has committed an offence. The offence is only committed when the vehicle enters the ASL box when the light is red. If the vehicle enters the box and the light changes to red, no offence is committed.

Cyclists must not cross the second stop line while the traffic signal is red. Contravening a traffic signal is against the law, and could result in a £50 fine.

Sloppy writing too – the explanation is a quote from a UK source, but the writer has used an American English spellchecker, and used the American spelling of ‘license’ to remain in their work.

I almost missed this, but noticed my own system (which for blog posts, uses THREE dictionaries supposedly all set to be fluent in British English) failed to highlight this properly, and only an online grammar/spelling checker got upset by the error.

No wonder I think I’m getting worse at this over time, rather than better, with help like that.

The one that seems to work more often than most is LanguageTool proofreading software

There is a Firefox add-on that also seem to work just fine too, saves me a lot of embarrassment.

LanguageTool Grammar Checker

11/10/2018 Posted by | Civilian, photography, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Enthusiasm

Block police man white capPast experience means I get off the road if I see the “white bunnets” of the traffic police anywhere near me – they’re just far too keen.

Dumfries & Galloway is a nice quiet place to enjoy the scenery, but it looks as if the motorways are best avoided.

I also usually suggest that drivers who stare at their SatNav, disengage their brains, and follow instructions to drive off the edge of a cliff or similar, deserve whatever they get – I didn’t think cyclists deserved the same, since they’re much more vulnerable, and likely to be killed or injured by such silly behaviour. Guess I was wrong on that count, and they don’t look where they’re going either, and get into trouble as a result.

Cyclist fined and given penalty points

Jamie Barton, 34, from Essex, was pulled over by officers after straying onto the A74(M) motorway near Gretna. He was given a £60 fine and three penalty points even though he was not driving a car. On a charity ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats, he was given the penalty within minutes of crossing into Scotland.

He explained: “I had just crossed the border. I was following a sat nav and had my head down. I didn’t realise it was taking me onto the A74(M).”

He said he had been on the motorway for just a few minutes when he pulled over.

“They spent about 30 minutes with me in the car. They seemed intent on giving me the biggest penalty,” he said.

Cyclist not fined and not given penalty points

Mr Barton questioned why he had penalty points added to his licence when he had not been driving a motor vehicle.

A spokesman for Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary said on Tuesday: “In reviewing the case it now appears that incorrect procedures were taken in the issuing of this ticket and as such this has now been cancelled.

“The matter will not be taken any further by the force.”

The force explained that Mr Barton had been removed from the motorway by its officers because of the “clear dangers that were posed by someone cycling on a busy lane of a fast motorway”.

Ch Insp Phil Stewart, operational commander for the Dumfries division said: “The force received numerous calls from concerned motorists about the cyclist on the busy motorway and our traffic patrol officers attended and removed him from the danger that he had put himself in.

“The matter is now closed and the force wishes Mr Barton a safe and successful conclusion to the remainder of his charity cycle”.

Mr Barton had been on the road for four days when he had his brush with the law. He hopes to raise £2,600 for a disabled five-year-old and a hospice she attends.

He said he had only been cycling for a few minutes when he was stopped, and was following a sat nav when he accidentally strayed onto the motorway.

Questions

Someone must be wrong here – how did the force receive “numerous” calls if Mr Barton is correct in his assertion that he had been cycling on the motorway for a “few minutes”? It’s hard enough to get one person to pick up a phone and report a crime, or grass, let alone “numerous” people.

Did the A74(M) come to a halt as “numerous” concerned motorists pulled over to make their calls, or did the police turn a blind eye to the numerous offences being committed as the concerned motorists deemed the sight so worrying that they considered their own fine and penalty points (for using a mobile phone while driving) worth it? And please, don’t say “hands free” – I watch cars pass me all day containing drivers with a mobile phone clamped to their ear, and not giving a damn as the chances of getting caught are slim.

Were the traffic police officers involved – officers we are usually told are specially selected, trained, and qualified – disciplined for their error?

If the officers were themselves guilty of following “incorrect procedures”, have the procedures now been corrected, or have the officers been subject to a period of retraining to ensure they to not make the same mistake again?

If Mr Barton is correct in noting that it took the officers 30 minutes to process him, then what was the 30 minutes spent on? How long does it take to lecture a cyclist, and write out the penalty? As he wasn’t driving a car, there was no time needed to check his licence, insurance, or documents – since he didn’t have any need of them – and it seems unlikely that he would have given a false name, and wasted their time.

I shall continue my practice of getting off the road as quickly and inconspicuously as possible when I see “white bunnets”, especially if my natural paranoia suggests they appear to be following me.

19/07/2009 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

£50 litter fines for schoolchildren

In a move which many will hopefully applaude, Secondary school pupils in Glasgow run the risk of receiving a £50 fine if caught dropping litter, in the latest phase of of the city’s Clean Glasgow campaign. Enforcement officers will be on patrol, targeting 12 to 16 year old pupils, and will issue the fines retrospectively, by post to the offender’s home, with a letter to their parents.

In the event that the fine is not paid, the offender will be requested to undertake community work, with failure to comply resulting in their being reported to the Children’s Reporter, which hears child protection and youth justice cases.

A Glasgow Council spokesperson said their hope was that the number of fines actually issued would be very low.

You can read more details and comments regarding the Enforcement Phase on Glasgow Council’s web page.

Your scribe thinks this may be a forlorn hope, with the evidence of the children on the streets of the east end of the city indicating their contempt for both litter laws and the police.

At lunchtimes, the secondary school pupils flood out of the school and commandeer all the fast food outlets, bakers, sandwich and chip shops, together with all the small shops that have taken to selling soup, noodles, and any other fast food that can be boiled up quickly, or zapped in a microwave. Even though there are usually a few cops on foot patrol at the time, the kids simply pour out whatever liquid or slops they don’t want from their purchases on to the pavement. Anything delivered in a paper bag or plastic wrapper is usually out of its wrapping by the time they reach the shop door, and the wrapping dropped without a thought as soon as they reach the pavement. Plastic cups and the like are also just dropped as soon as they are finished with, all without a thought or even a glance to see if there is a rubbish container or bin nearby. Why the shopkeepers bother putting lids on the cups is just a mystery, they get tossed first. The police are too few to deal with such a relative triviality, and are usually needed to move the kids on from the shop doorways, and allow the adult and elderly shoppers access.

After the school lunch break is over, and the kids have gone back to school, the main street looks like a rubbish dump, with discarded food littering the pavement, and paper bags, plastic cups, and cup lids blowing along the length of the street.

The shopkeepers should be included too, as they are responsible for handing out the litter in the first place, so they can sell the it, and its contents, as fast as possible in the time available.

Maybe… one day…

15/02/2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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