I’m amazed at the decision of the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) not to prosecute Harry Clarke, the bin lorry driver whose vehicle ploughed into a group of pedestrians in Glasgow last year. He suffered a blackout at the wheel of his lorry which went out of control leading to the deaths of six innocent people. Scottish prosecutors ruled out action as heard during the crash inquiry that Mr.Clarke lied about a previous blackout in 2010, while employed as a bus driver, in health assessment forms when he applied for a LGV licence from the Swansea-based DVLA. The inquiry heard that he also lied about his medical history when applying for a job as a driver with Glasgow City Council. Lawyers for the families of the six victims said on Monday that they are now going ahead with a private prosecution against Clarke. This is an absolute disgrace in itself that the families have had to resort to this as it should be for the relevant authorities to act, not grieving relatives! What is wrong with Britain?
The inquiry heard that the DVLA system, relating to the self-declaration and discovery of relevant health issues among drivers, had a “weakness” and “exposed applicants to a huge level of temptation”. The inquiry has previously heard that applicants for a LGV licence can choose to go to their own GP or to an occupational health doctor appointed by the company they work for. During this process, an applicant’s medical records are not usually available to an occupational health doctor. One solution would be for applicants to be required to give permission for their medical records to be made available to examining doctors. Alternatively the occupational health doctor doing the medical check should be able to consult with the applicant’s GP. What it basically comes back to is that there must be far more transparency over medical conditions to the DVLA, and patient confidentiality should not take precedence. It’s my guess that there are thousands upon thousands of people driving in the UK, Spain and the rest of Europe who should not be behind a wheel because of a raft of medical conditions. The case of Mr Clarke is a sad prime example, and it puts their lives and those of countless other people at grave risk. It often goes through my mind when I am driving what level of fitness the driver of a vehicle approaching me has. A momentary blackout could send that on-coming vehicle straight into our car at combined speed of over 100mph.
OK, if you thought that way you would never travel in a car again, but we can’t go on allowing people who are not fit to do so, to remain behind a wheel by virtue of just ticking a box on a form saying they are medically fit. Applications for licences and renewals should be accompanied by a full medical assessment and a green light to drive. Failing to prosecute Mr Clarke in these circumstances gives out all the wrong messages.
Have you sat outside a cafe to enjoy a snack and drink in the fresh air, only to have smoke wafting over you from smokers on the next table? We have, often, and it’s not pleasant. It’s like deciding to relax next to a bonfire. You wouldn’t do it – you would go somewhere else. It’s the same when you’re in the street and someone lights up near to you. It’s not pleasant – and the smoker couldn’t care less about your feelings or discomfort…because, basically, some smokers are selfish individuals.
So I welcome a move in the UK by the Royal Society for Public Health which is calling for smoking to be banned outside bars and restaurants creating “exclusion zones” around pubs, in parks and at the entrances to schools. The society says reducing the ‘convenience’ of smoking will prompt more people to give up. Instead, they should be encouraged to switch to safer sources of nicotine such as e-cigarettes. They add stopping smokers from lighting up in prominent public places will prevent them setting a bad example for children. And the Society is calling for e-cigarettes to be renamed ‘nicotine sticks’ or ‘vaporisers’ to distance the technology from tobacco. The RSPH says nicotine by itself is no more harmful than caffeine – a fact its research suggests is misunderstood by 90 per cent of the population. But smoking tobacco, which contains tar and other chemicals, kills 100,000 people a year in the UK. Simon Clark, director of smokers’ lobby group Forest, said: “Banning smoking outside pubs and bars would discriminate against adults who enjoy smoking”. Tough – let’s get on with it and ban it in as many places as possible. Perhaps then we will have fewer people who stink of the smell of cigarettes on their clothes and breath. YUK!
You know what I think about social media like Facebook and Twitter, and the trivia which people put on there and expect others to be remotely interested in. Well, I’m now trying to make friends outside of Facebook while applying the same principles. Therefore, every day I walk down the street and tell passers- by what I have eaten, how I feel at that moment, what I have done the night before and what I will do later and with whom. I give them a picture of my family; of my dog; of me gardening; taking things apart in the garage; watering the lawn; standing in front of landmarks; driving around town having lunch; and doing what everyone else does every day. I also listen to their conversations, give them the thumbs up and tell them I like them. And it works just like Facebook. I already have four people following me who namely are two police officers, a private investigator and a psychiatrist. Brilliant!!
I’ve got a step grandson who is a brainbox. Recently he managed to find his way into his school’s private computer, which gave him access to all the private stuff about teachers, exams, etc. It sent the staff into a complete spin. He visited us last week and he tuned our mobiles so that they could speak through our car speakers, and then decided he wanted to visit Manchester Airport so en route he used his phone to take over our in-built satnav and redirect it. Luckily he didn´t manage to divert any planes on this occasion. He is a computer whiz-kid…and he’s just 12!!
And finally, I want you to know that health and safety nonsense is very much alive and well in Britain. I heard from my step grand-daughter that her school has banned children doing cart wheels in the playground because it’s unsafe. Apparently they are likely to do it without first considering whether they might come into contact and injure another child! At the same time, this “wrap them up in cotton wool” school has banned running and hand-stands in the playground too! It joins the long list of things already banned from schools, like playing conkers and throwing snowballs. Heaven help us – we really will have a namby pamby next generation.