Holistic bike prang crackdown

June 19, 2011

Road Safety Minister Mike Pennis has outed himself as a biker. “I know how much fun motorcycling can be, and what a practical way it is to get around,” he admitted this week.

That is all very well, he conceded, but the number of motorcyclists dying on Britain’s roads is unacceptable. Barely had the words “I want to tackle this” emerged from his lips, when Pennis revealed a radical new safety awareness campaign urging drivers to look out for bikers at traffic junctions.

Advertisements on the radio, on facebook, online and on petrol station forecourts will urge drivers to “THINK!” about whether there might be someone on a motorcycle nearby as they approach traffic junctions.

DfT statistics suggest that 78% of serious bike accidents involve colliding with another vehicle, and that 67% of these collisions happen at a junction “often with the driver of the other vehicle failing to see the motorcycle”.

Our THINK! campaign aims to remind drivers to think about the biker, not just the bike,” explained Pennis cryptically, “so that we see fewer of these needless accidents.”

A spokesperson for the DfT clarified that “this campaign will put motorcyclists centre stage” and “place the focus on the person behind the helmet.”

There are people behind those helmets?

June 10, 2011

Direct Line Car Insurance has been delving into the murky world of recreational drugs. The experience has left motor underwriting director Andy Goldbug seriously shaken up. Drugs can leave people “extremely relaxed” he warns which can lead to “dangerous driving behaviours.”

More than 2.8 million people have apparently admitted to Direct Lion that they have driven under the influence of illegal drugs, almost half of them within the past 12 months. Thousands confessed to having being involved in accidents whilst ‘high’ or ‘stoned.’

A third of those who regularly drive on drugs rated their drug-driving ability as good, with just 10% accepting that they might represent a danger to themselves and other road users. A significant proportion (one in ten) told Direct Lime they thought they would get away with drug driving.

What are the top drugs for driving?

1. Cannabis
2. Cocaine
3. Ecstasy
5. Temazepam/valium/diazepam
6. Ketamine (Special K Red Berries)
7. Magic mushrooms
8. Legal highs (e.g saliva) [check this, ed.]
9. Speed
10. MCAT/Meow Meow (mephedrone)
11. Cake

Direct Line note that one in twenty drug drivers has been involved in a car accident, without, sadly, specifying what proportion of non-drug drivers have been involved in a car accident as a point of comparison.

Goldbug reveals: “Driving under the influence of narcotics can severely impair the ability of a driver to physically operate a vehicle as well as their perception of the environment beyond the windscreen.” Marijuana, he says “can negatively impair drivers’ attentiveness, perception of time and speed.”

Is negative impairment the same as enhancement? That can’t be right, surely.

Disappointingly, whilst supporting the Department for Transport’s decision to crack down on drug driving, Direct Line do not have any catchy new phrases to offer to the anti-drug cause.

It is a well known fact that society’s best defence against the menace of narcotics is a snappy slogan. Not since the days of Zammo and Just Say No, has this nation had a potent verbal comeback to the pusher’s evil incitations.

So desperate, indeed, had Britain become for verbal ammunition in the war against drugs by the late 1990s that admonitory headline writers seized in droves (and tragically still do) upon the limp lament “the drugs don’t work” from The Verve’s chart hit of that name, which, aside from being the very mildest of indictments, appears to refer in its original lyrical context to the failure of legal medications to effect an improvement in the condition of the singer’s father who is in the process of dying from cancer.

If the problem with illegal drugs was that they didn’t work, it would hardly constitute a problem – just a puzzling waste of time and money. What makes drugs a driving hazard is surely that they do exactly what they say on the tin by altering users‘ perceptions.

Realistically, the failure of recreational drugs to “work” is only likely to present a serious danger where the user has misunderstood their intended effects, e.g. expecting LSD to confer the ability to fly.

June 10, 2011

Painful as it is to admit it, we feel bound to draw your attention to the fact that Bankstone is not quite the only motorcycle insurance related entity associated with a rather splendid charity fundraising bike ride this summer.

Bikesure stepped in at the last minute to save the Great Escape 2 rally, an event two years in the planning that sees seven Triumph Bonnevilles depart Biggin Hill on Saturday 4 June en route for the Stalag Luft III camp in Poland. As Bankstone News went to press on 10 June, the group had just reached their destination.

Following a last minute pull-out by the previous insurers, Bikesore stepped in offering to cover the bikes free of charge. After days of hearing “computer says no,” grown man, Peter Spewage, the rally’s main organiser, admitted crying like a girl on hearing from underwriter Robert Balls that two years’ preparations would not after all go down the tubes.

“Bikesure literally saved the day,” he exaggerated only slightly.

The journey will be especially poignant for one of Peter’s fellow riders Colin Kirby-Green, whose father was shot on recapture following a successful escape from the camp in March 1944. Mr Kirby-Green will, for the first time, visit his father’s grave in the Czech town of Hrabuvka on the return leg.

For full details of the trip, its progress and the charities supported, click here.

June 10, 2011

In a daring act of delegation, the The FSA has asked comparison site operators this week to check up on themselves and make sure they are treating customers fairly and not inadvertently straying into activities for which they are not authorised.

Following persistent complaints  from more traditional purveyors of insurance products, the FSA has apparently somehow got the idea that there might be possible grounds for concern over exactly how fairly aggregators fair treat their customers and whether they are might be exercising inappropriate influence over site-users’ purchasing decisions.

The regulator has written to comparisonistas up and down the land asking if they could “think carefully” about whether they might effectively be “advising” people on purchasing a contract of insurance without having the proper permissions to engage in such activities.

Newly armed with a list of helpful hints and tips from the FSA, the comparisoneers have until 8 August to complete their introspective reviews and satisfy themselves they are acting properly and responsibly in line with their current permissions and authorisations.

In a pronouncement surely destined to garner the Plain English sentence of the year award, BIBA chief exec Eric Gallbreath helpfully explained to Insurance Times this week the true import of the FSA’s letter: “We are pleased that the FSA recognise the price comparison website activities to be more than simply introducing and we trust that the steps that they are taking will close them down this gap.”

BIBA has expressed particular concern over comparison sites pre-populating questions with default answers, thereby potentially nudging customers in a particular direction and/or denying them the opportunity to disclose all material facts and thusly imperiling their ability to make a successful claim.

Come on, Guys – they’re just trying to be helpful!

June 9, 2011

The team from The Bike Insurer have thrown down one hell of a gauntlet in the best dressed team for Bankstone’s charity fundraising event Medieval Monkeys, which takes place over the weekend of 2 and 3 July this year.

The entire Bike Insurer crew are also looking to be fully CBT’ed up in time for the event. Those not riding at the time will be vigorously waving YAA collecting tins at unsuspecting passersby along the MM2011 route – mostly castles, in case you hadn’t heard.

June 7, 2011

Bankstone News is indebted to the Insurance Times website for its timely and sensible suggestion of a mid-year soak among the suds.

Keenly aware as we are that cleanliness is next to godliness, we’re already looking forward to a good session in the tub next month.

June 3, 2011

Patricia Walker, 57, unemployed, of Rodney Place, London E17 has been found guilty of insurance fraud after claiming for whiplash caused when a bus drove into the back of her Ford Fiesta in Higham Hill, Walthamstow.

Doubts first arose over her claim when CCTV aboard a single-decker Arriba-operated vehicle on the W15 route revealed that she was not in her car when the accident took place.

The footage in question shows her crossing the road behind the bus and then approaching the front entry doors. The medical community is still attempting to gain a better understanding of so-called “whiplash” injuries (see previous story), but being elsewhere at the time of a collision is generally thought to reduce the likelihood of sustaining physical injury.

Ms Walker was handed a 12-month community service order and “placed on curfew for three months at Snaresbrook Crown Court,” though what she’s going to do there for three months is anyone’s guess.

June 3, 2011

Strange things, tractors. They cost as much as a super car, but one key fits any model from the same manufacturer, making them a cinch to pinch. Their suitability as getaway vehicles post-theft, whilst seriously compromised by their lack of anonymity and limited performance speed-wise, is marginally enhanced by their ability to drive through things and scare the bejeezus out of other road users in a head-on situation – specially at night with those floodlight headlights on.

There is growing alarm, however, over the presence of tractors and other agricultural vehicles (stolen or otherwise) on the roads, both in the UK and in Ireland, where farmers are a growing hazard following the collapse of all other sectors of the economy. “These can often be very large and noisy vehicles,” warns Doreen Nicholas of the UK’s National Road User Forum. “Some are painted in bright colours, such as red, yellow or green, with multiple appendages, and can emerge from obscure lanes or gateways without warning. Many are dirty, and their drivers are sometimes uncouth.”

Ireland’s Road Safety Authority and the Irish Farmers’ Association have teamed up to run 30-second tractor awareness radio ads explaining what a tractor is, why there may be a lot of them about at this time of year, and the important distinction between a small tractor and one that is merely far away. “This is a very busy time of year for farmers,” warned RSA chief exec,” Noel Bratz. “It’s the start of the silage cutting season and I am asking all drivers to be on the look out for tractors, trailers and other farm machinery.” “Be patient,” adds a farmer. “Don’t think about overtaking us – it is not worth the risk.”

But new research from moslem-friendly roadside recovery outfit Green Flag and University College London suggests agricultural vehicles may actually be less of a problem than many suppose. “Drive on minor rural roads for just 80 minutes between March and September and you will end up stuck behind a tractor,” their findings suggest. But… the chances are you’ll only be stuck behind them for between 1.2 and 1.3 miles, adding just 1.2% to your total journey time.

Green Flag’s Henry Tophat agrees with a farmer: “Whilst [being stuck behind a tractor] can be frustrating, getting impatient and undertaking risky manoeuvres to overtake the vehicle on a narrow, rural road is not worth it. With blind bends, narrow roads and overgrown foliage obscuring visibility, overtaking in rural areas can be fraught with danger.”

So there you have it. There may be a quarter of a million of them in the UK alone, their drivers may not always wear a tie, but ultimately tractors are a minor nuisance and barely worth bothering with as a seasonal motoring story.

June 3, 2011

Road traffic accidents (RTAs) represent the most common cause of death for young women in Britain today.

The main threat to young women, in an RTA context, was recently identified by Chief Superintendent Geraint Anwyl as… young men – and, more specifically, the adrenalin that courses through their veins whilst at the wheel (compared with whose pernicious effects mere alcohol and drugs are but trivial concerns).

According to road safety charity Brake, RTAs – as opposed to ORTAs (off road traffic accidents) and RATNPs (road accidents, traffic not present) of which there are thankfully few these days – account for 74% of deaths among those aged 16–19, with more passengers killed than drivers.

Brake also claim you have a 1 in 5 chance of crashing within six months of passing your driving test.

No big surprise, then, that new figures from Monkeysupermeerkat revealed this week that newly qualified drivers now face annual premiums of around £5,957 – two-thirds the maximum tuition fees chargable by UK universities. So will the government shortly be launching a premium loans scheme?

One solution to such prohibitive costs, assuming your parents have qualms about frontin’ for ya (though Cooperative Insurance reckons 41% are prepared to break the law to save their kids a few quid), is not to bother with insurance. The Men in Black (MIB) estimate that 20% of those aged between 17 and 22 drive without insurance.

They should think carefully before driving uninsured though. In saving themselves a paltry £5,957 they risk picking up a fixed penalty fine of £200 and three points on their licence.

So just remember, Kids, crime doesn’t pay!

June 2, 2011

What is mounting? Excitement, that’s what – as MM Day nears. Yes, it’s just one month now until Bankstone and friends get their monkeybike motors running and head out on the highways and byways of Yorkshire, looking for adventure, and whatever comes their way, as they attempt to raise over £7000 for lifesaving charity Yorkshire Air Ambulance (YAA), dressed all the while like rejected extras from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (see below).

Bankstone’s very own medieval monkey in chief Dixon Tyson (see above) was over at Leeds-Bradford-Harrogate airport this week firming up arrangements with the YAA, watching one of YAYA’s yellow hellcopters scramble into action, and looking on approvingly as Medieval Monkey first-time participants Premex Group – by no means sluggish donors – handed over a handsome cheque to YAAA’s Nicky de Whytell before the event has even begun.

The photograph above shows Premex Business Development Manager Doug Sloan presenting the aforementioned Ms de Whytell (whose name sounds plenty medieval to Bankstone News) with something that looks quite convincingly like a cheque for £750, with the YAA’s flight operations room air desk in the background. To see where this generous donation leaves Bankstone’s fundraising efforts, click here to see it on the MM 2001 just giving page. And while you’re there, why not make a donation of your own?

With so little time left, Mr Tyson has also been urging those already committed to the charity ride to: a) ride their monkey bikes around a bit to make sure they go alright and won’t break down 30 miles into Day 1 (though mechanical support will be on hand courtesy of the BLD van), b) make sure they have their knightish garb at the ready and that it actually fits over their leathers, c) abandon any thought of staying at the Grand Hotel in Scarborough for the overnight stop twixt days 1 and 2 – or, for that matter, the equally dire, though more intimate (not always a good thing where direness is concerned) Belmont Hotel, d) tell everyone they know to sponsor them, f) some other stuff we’ve already forgotten.

For anyone who hasn’t yet committed themselves to playing some part in what is officially one of the 20 things to do in Yorkshire before you die, there’s still time (not much, admittedly). Simply email Mr Monkey Himself and you too could be doing something as absurd as riding a risibly small motorcycle up hill and down dale dressed as a medieval warrior come July 2/3 this year.

You know you want to really.

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