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PostPosted: Sat Nov 20, 2004 02:14 
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alanw wrote:
I couched my proposal in the form that the authorities can make whatever traffic driving regulations they like, but if the defendent can show his/her actions were safe then he/she cannot be convicted.

In that form, the burden of proof does fall on the defendent. The advantage is that it disables all unreasonable application of regulations.

Yes, I believe that the alcohol laws are also applied totally unreasonably at times and defendents should be similarly protected by a sanity clause.

Again, if bureaucrats cannot prove something is unsafe, why should we let them assume it????

Yes, but if the burden of proof falls on the defendant such cases would be absolutely impossible to prove.

If society has decided that driving above 30 mph on a stretch of road is illegal, then how can you prove that 33 mph was safe?

If society has decided that driving with a blood-alcohol level above 80 mg is illegal, then how can you prove that 90 mg was safe?

We have to accept that, statistically, certain behaviours can be judged unsafe and illegal, even if a small proportion of such behaviours are not unsafe.

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 21, 2004 03:46 
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Actually, I am totally perplexed in trying to understand your logic, Peter.

You seem to be saying that the only possible (and rational) determination of what is safe is what is declared to be so by some bureaucratic process - eg in setting arbitrary speed limits.

Is that really what you mean? It seems quite bizarre to me, but then as a scientist I am used to using logic and evidence.

How would I prove anything was safe? By considering all reasonably possible events and showing that my actions were consistent with avoiding an accident if they occured. By measuring and calculating the physical properties involved in order to do that. By using normal engineering standards and processes as appropriate.

I presume you would have to prove that when your blood alcohol level was at 90 mg that all your physical and mental processes and faculties were operating within the normal range of other legal drivers under those conditions - for example those with 75 mg levels!

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 21, 2004 04:01 
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PeterE wrote:
We have to accept that, statistically, certain behaviours can be judged unsafe and illegal, even if a small proportion of such behaviours are not unsafe.


This is a very serious mistake and is the source of a very great deal of injustice. Typically it is used by bureaucrats and politicians to exploit the classical statistical "ecological fallacy" - where some average property of a population is assumed without further evidence to be informative of the whole population. But the average may conceal totally disparate sub-populations to many or all of which the average value is non-applicable.

(The simple example is the 50% female population - where actually none of the individuals are 50% female.)

It is only ever justifiable to use statistical generalisations about populations in the absence of better information about individuals or sub-categories. Unfortunately, bureaucrats and politicians revell in creating draconian laws applying to everyone on the basis of a few (preferably highly emotive) events instigated by a tiny minority.

In this way our freedoms and rights are continually eroded. You can look around the world and see this process in action in very many spheres - not just in transport management.

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 21, 2004 20:57 
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alanw wrote:
PeterE wrote:
We have to accept that, statistically, certain behaviours can be judged unsafe and illegal, even if a small proportion of such behaviours are not unsafe.



This is a very serious mistake and is the source of a very great deal of injustice. Typically it is used by bureaucrats and politicians to exploit the classical statistical "ecological fallacy" - where some average property of a population is assumed without further evidence to be informative of the whole population. But the average may conceal totally disparate sub-populations to many or all of which the average value is non-applicable.

(The simple example is the 50% female population - where actually none of the individuals are 50% female.)



This discussion looks similar to 'aggregated' justice, where the cost of individual investigations is too high for society to bear. Whenever politicians (who have budgets to consider) make decisions about society which affect the rights of individuals, they look for ways to aggregate different cases and treat them as a job lot. This runs counter to our ideas about justice (innocent until proven guilty etc), yet it is coherent in a society which considers it's subjects to be part of a system of control where an 'average' control action is expected to yield an 'average' corrective response. The sad thing is, although it reduces us into jostling atoms inside a system, there is enough similarity between cases to make it work in some cases.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 22, 2004 00:06 
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alanw wrote:
How would I prove anything was safe? By considering all reasonably possible events and showing that my actions were consistent with avoiding an accident if they occured. By measuring and calculating the physical properties involved in order to do that. By using normal engineering standards and processes as appropriate.

The problem with your proposal is that, by placing the burden of proof on the defendant, you are not asking the defendant to prove that something is safe -- you are asking the defendant to prove that it is not unsafe, which is something entirely different.

To obtain a conviction the prosecution would merely need to demonstrate one example that could follow from your driving and which could result in an accident. If you managed to rebuff that example, they could try another and another and so on until they found something that you could not rebuff beyond reasonable doubt. For example, are you sure there were no children hidden by the street furniture or parked cars; are you sure there wasn't a deer in the undergrowth; etc?

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 22, 2004 02:57 
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I disagree entirely. The defence could and would argue that the standard of safety required to be met is not absolute, but is compatible with generally accepted lawful standards. For example, see the suggestion I made above that a defendent could reasonably make regarding safety of driving at 90 mg/100ml blood alchohol level.

The prosecution could not logically argue that the defendent had to meet a higher threshold than the law required elsewhere.

It seems to me an entirely reasonable compromise that the authorities be allowed to set regulations and defendents be allowed to challenge them in particular circumstances where they can show under the burden of proof that lawful safety objectives were met.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 22, 2004 03:25 
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Alan and Peter,

I think I can explain the difference between your positions.

We all want everyone to use "safe speeds" ; to be able to stop safely within the distance that they know to be clear. It's a primary component of safe driving.

In the real world there's a certain probability and reasonableness associated with the "know" element of the Safe Speed rule. To take a trivial example we don't slow down to pass a tree becuase of the improbable chance that the tree might fall across the road.

Not many years ago I was a passenger in a car that almost struck a dog. This particular dog was running full pelt down the pavement of a side road and didn't slow at all when it entered the main road we were travelling on. It went from invisible to obstructing in considerably less than a second. I'm conscious that the dog could have been a child on a bike.

In urban situations - 30mph speed limit in the UK - there's some need to control speed on the basis of a preponderance of improbable risks. It's these sorts of probability that contribute to speed choice based on hazard density rather than any specific individual hazard.

I don't think accounting for improbable risks is fundamental to a safe approach to driving, but I do think it represents best practice.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 22, 2004 06:51 
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alanw wrote:
I disagree entirely. The defence could and would argue that the standard of safety required to be met is not absolute, but is compatible with generally accepted lawful standards. For example, see the suggestion I made above that a defendent could reasonably make regarding safety of driving at 90 mg/100ml blood alchohol level.

The prosecution could not logically argue that the defendent had to meet a higher threshold than the law required elsewhere.

It seems to me an entirely reasonable compromise that the authorities be allowed to set regulations and defendents be allowed to challenge them in particular circumstances where they can show under the burden of proof that lawful safety objectives were met.

The defendant is guilty of exceeding the speed limit. AIUI, you propose that showing his driving to be safe would be a valid defense. While very laudable in theory, the problem that I see with this is that you are starting out with the defendant being guilty (of exceeding the speed limit) and he must demonstrate extenuating circumstances as to why he should not be convicted. Because the offense of speeding implies "unsafe", he doesn't need to show that his driving was safe, he needs to show that his driving was not unsafe. IOW, he needs to prove that something is not, which is much harder than proving something is because it almost demands a reductio ad absurdum style proof.

IMO, the only logical way to go with your idea would be to scrap the offense of speeding altogether and just use speed limits as guides. The prosecution could then use exceeding the limit as a factor in painting an overall picture of unsafe driving. That puts the onus on the prosecution to demonstrate guilt rather than on the defendant to demonstrate innocence.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 22, 2004 07:16 
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Sounds like how it should be to me. In the dark past we had derestricted zones outside of the metropolitan area and the only thing you could be charged with was careless/dangerous driving and it was up to the police to prove guilt.

That system went a long time ago with the introduction of national speed limits (except the Northern Territory where that rule still applies). I'm sure this was for safety and had nothing to do with the costs associated with enforcement (big bulge in cheek).

I do not see any chance of it ever returning because of the cost that would have to be borne by the state. It's simpler and easier to have a camera and just accept the money rolling in.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 22, 2004 09:23 
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SafeSpeed wrote:
In urban situations - 30mph speed limit in the UK - there's some need to control speed on the basis of a preponderance of improbable risks. It's these sorts of probability that contribute to speed choice based on hazard density rather than any specific individual hazard.

I don't think accounting for improbable risks is fundamental to a safe approach to driving, but I do think it represents best practice.


The classic kind of situation is the speed trap set up on a clear, bright, Sunday morning in a two lane road segment with no pedestrians in sight, no crossroads, no other traffic and a 30 mph speed limit. There is zero probability you could hit anything if you travel at 40 mph with normal care and attention.

On the other hand I have no problem with people being prosecuted for travelling too fast where there are children and other pedestrians in close proximity to their lane of travel.

Simply put, circumstances alter cases and the law needs to reflect that. Mine would.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 22, 2004 14:01 
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alanw wrote:
SafeSpeed wrote:
In urban situations - 30mph speed limit in the UK - there's some need to control speed on the basis of a preponderance of improbable risks. It's these sorts of probability that contribute to speed choice based on hazard density rather than any specific individual hazard.

I don't think accounting for improbable risks is fundamental to a safe approach to driving, but I do think it represents best practice.


The classic kind of situation is the speed trap set up on a clear, bright, Sunday morning in a two lane road segment with no pedestrians in sight, no crossroads, no other traffic and a 30 mph speed limit. There is zero probability you could hit anything if you travel at 40 mph with normal care and attention.


I think we're all in agreement about the idiocy of such speed traps. We're only disagreeing about solutions.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 22, 2004 21:50 
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SafeSpeed wrote:

I think we're all in agreement about the idiocy of such speed traps. We're only disagreeing about solutions.


I chose that example for a particular reason. It was my first encounter with moronic road policing, aged about 18, 40 years ago.

Putting discretion back in the hands of police will not fix the problem. It didn't then, hasn't ever since and won't in the future.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 23, 2004 01:04 
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alanw wrote:
SafeSpeed wrote:

I think we're all in agreement about the idiocy of such speed traps. We're only disagreeing about solutions.


I chose that example for a particular reason. It was my first encounter with moronic road policing, aged about 18, 40 years ago.

Putting discretion back in the hands of police will not fix the problem. It didn't then, hasn't ever since and won't in the future.


I admit we also had needless policing of speed by traffic police in the past. There were times and places where the Police would mount speed traps without regard for the conditions. But most of the officers most of the time used well their intelligence, experience and discretion and although it was possible to get nicked for speeding while driving sensibly and safely it wasn't commonplace.

But look at what we've learned in the last decade. The camera experience has proved beyond doubt that there's no point in prosecuting technical speeding offences. We now have the opportunity to instruct the Police well on the basis these experiences. We can give them far better instructions than we ever did before.

I don't claim that the system proposed is perfect. I do claim that it's good enough. I do claim that it's the best option. I do claim that it's positive for road safety because it'll correctly identify real dangers most of the time.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 23, 2004 04:59 
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I don't claim that the system proposed is perfect. I do claim that it's good enough. I do claim that it's the best option. I do claim that it's positive for road safety because it'll correctly identify real dangers most of the time.


A slightly tongue-in-cheek response, but possibly identifying a little where the scameras are coming from:

Your system is best for those willing and capable of being educated. But what of the sheep? Is some form of speed enforcement better than nothing for the sheep?

What is the ratio of sheep to educatable?


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 23, 2004 05:06 
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Roger wrote:
Quote:
I don't claim that the system proposed is perfect. I do claim that it's good enough. I do claim that it's the best option. I do claim that it's positive for road safety because it'll correctly identify real dangers most of the time.


A slightly tongue-in-cheek response, but possibly identifying a little where the scameras are coming from:

Your system is best for those willing and capable of being educated. But what of the sheep? Is some form of speed enforcement better than nothing for the sheep?

What is the ratio of sheep to educatable?


I don't think I understand this Roger. There are two parts to this aren't there? Firstly we need to identify problems (drivers) then we need to apply solutions (punishment / education / etc).

We're only at the level of trying to identify problems here. I say that if we use intelligence then we'll identify real problems rather than the misguided current splatter-gun where everyone gets nicked. Of course the splatter gun wastes massive resources on a non-existent problem, thereby missing the opportunity to put those resources to good use.

(Apologies if I've missed the joke or the point).

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The Safe Speed campaign demands a return to intelligent road safety


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 23, 2004 05:12 
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I think you've re-emphasised the point, Paul, not missed it.

One of the problems is sheep - uneducateable drivers. They have to be governed somehow - to a safe speed, and the threat of persecution/prosecution may do this.

Not advocating this BTW, just adding it to the pot as a possible reason.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 23, 2004 05:32 
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Roger wrote:
I think you've re-emphasised the point, Paul, not missed it.

One of the problems is sheep - uneducateable drivers. They have to be governed somehow - to a safe speed, and the threat of persecution/prosecution may do this.

Not advocating this BTW, just adding it to the pot as a possible reason.


OK. I think I get it. This is one of the three purposes that I define and accept as good reasons for having speed limits:

"They firmly guide inexperienced road users away from exceeding safe speeds by wild amounts."

If these folk can't identify a safe and appropriate speed, then they will get nicked for speeding. Then we get a chance to educate them, assess them or ban them.

It's interesting to note that we derive considerable benefit affecting the behaviour of this group by setting speed limits on the low side - would you want someone who can't identify a safe speed exceeding 70mph on the motorway?

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 23, 2004 05:36 
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Yes... that's it. but I think "sheep" is more economical with the words :lol:


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