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Thread: how does a radar detector work?
picon face BY : Russell McMahon email (remove spam text)

In a more serious vein -

> Russell McMahon wrote:

> > Speed kills.
> > Absolute speed kills absolutely.

That was a joke (as in "Power corrupts, absolute power ..." ) , but ...

I'll move this up to the top -

Roman said -
> I respect you greatly for your intellect and
> sensible attitude in your other posts, please
> don't blow it here, on a scientific or social
> level. :o)

The feelings are mutual. But respect needs to be earned or lost on each
independent "battlefield". Not all respect is transferable :-)
Hopefully you will not find me lacking in scientific approach. Whether in
social approach is for each to decide.
I'm sure you also are prepared to demonstrate scientific and social
"sensibleness" in this discussion.

> Speed DOES NOT kill. Ever.

Similar but not identical to the US "guns don't kill people, people kill
people" line.

> You can get in a
> 737 plane and do 800 kph, in perfect safety.
> You can do 20,000 kph on the space shuttle.

> You can do 315 kph on a French train every day
> to work, in perfect safety.

Most days anyway - I saw a picture of one lying on its side smoking gently
to itself a few days ago after a high speed derailment, but it was well
enough designed that nobody died. (I have managed a mere 230 kph in a
Japanese "Shinkansen".)

> You can get in a
> Ferrari, (or my motorbike) and do 200kph
> on any reasonable road in perfect safety.
> Crashing kills. Accidents kill. Bad driving
> kills. Speed does not.

No. None of these kill any more, or less, than speed does. Killing is a
function of all its components. I can bad-drive all day long in my garage
with the brakes on and I'm most unlikely to die (except, maybe, from CO
poisoning). I can bad-drive on the roads at 10 kph and I'm less likely to
kill than an averagely competent driver on a "reasonable" road at 200 kph.
But if I bad-drive at 100 kph I MAY be more liable to kill than an averagely
competent driver at 200 kph. And maybe not. Speed is undeniably a function
in the equation along with all the rest. (Even though people deny it :-) )
If you had to produce a formula which predicted probably outcomes of given
road events then if your formula demanded that speed be left out for PC
reasons the formula would be an inadequate one unless you then included
speed in some other indirect manner. Sure, speed alone doesn't kill - but
ultimately it's the collision energy that kills, and speed is a physical
factor in this. Only if your driving can ensure no collisions ever (and it
can't) can you remove speed from consideration.

As you well know, one reason that YOU cannot remove collisions from
consideration is that "I" am also driving / playing / running on the road.
No matter how competent YOU are I can combat your competence with my
incompetence, or my inexperience or my youthfulness or my inability to fully
predict how you in your great and (literally) death defying competence are
going to appear into my world. If I as a child run into your path because
your 200 kph motorcycle seemed so small and distant that it did not seem a
threat then all bets may be off. And so on through a few zillion other
potential examples ....

> I have paid good money and invested a huge
> amount of hours to become a skilled driver on
> the street or the racetrack, and I am the person
> who decides the SAFE speed that I need to
> travel at.

On the race track - certainly.
On the street - no.
Why? - see below.

> Stupidity kills. Lack of skill kills.
> Speed? It's like electricity, it should be
> handled by trained, mature, competent people,
> not traffic cops or media marketers.

I'll agree with this analogy as far as it goes.
Public road driving is governed by social contract. As has been well argued
over centuries (indeed, millenia) your freedoms at least begin to be limited
when they impact and affect other people's freedoms. A majority of your
countymen (and mine) have chosen to live in a Democracy and not in an
Anarchy. You could all, should you wish, choose at the very next election to
live in an Anarchy. "We of the Decomcratic Anarchists, when we win the next
election, promise to dismantle ALL state intervention in your lives, all
taxes, all speed limits (and any other limits) all .... . If we fail to
deliver on our promise, feel free to kill us, who's going to stop you ?) ).

In a more realistic context, there are many people present in our society of
varying competencies and expectations. They (almost) all have SOME DEGREE of
right to use the roads for transport and leisure. The rights of ALL must be
balanced in setting "limits on reasonable freedoms" to meet the desires of
the majority in a way which is acceptable to the majority. Anyone who
chooses may travel below the speed limits if they choose to do so. By so
doing they MAY improve their safety levels. They also MAY decrease their
safety levels due to interactions with other drivers. On our country roads
(nice and winding in many places) I often travel at times BELOW the posted
speed limits on some corners if my wife is in the car. If I am driving by
myself I almost always drive AT the speed limit - to the maximum extent
reasonably possible in my judgement given conditions and vehicle and my
capabilities. I enjoy driving fast. So what?

There are speeds which are NEVER safe to drive at because the uncertainties
introduced by people other than the super competent driver introduce risks
which are unacceptable to people other than the super-competent driver.
NOBODY (not even Roman) could safely drive down my residential street at 200
kph. In fact, nobody (not even Roman) could safely drive down my residential
street at 100 kph. (It has one 30 degree dog-leg bend and is otherwise
straight). In both cases the risks to others exceeds the social contract
risks agreed to by all who accept a motor drivers licence. It WOULD, I
think, be possible for someone like Roman to "safely" drive down my street
at 70 to 80 kph as long as they actively and intentionally applied their
immense and impressive reaction times and experience of high speed driving
to decrease their level of danger down to that imposed by Joe average driver
at 50 kph, which is where the social-contract risk is set. Above that speed
the ball, the child, the dog, the man backing out, the teenage learner
driver and more impose a level of risk wich is above that which we all have
mutually agreed to accept.

IF we decided to test each person individually we could assign the Roman's
special "can do 70 kph in residential streets and 235 kph on the open road"
status. And some "can do 40 kph max anyuwhere" status.  This however poses
extreme problems. If SOME can legally traverse my street at 70 kph be
utterly assured than many who are neither entitled to or copetently able to
will also choose to do so. The social contract will be violently abrogated
by those who are incompetent. We could then choose to require bright
identification of vehicle and/or driver or electronic tagging or electronic
vehicle enablement to match allowable speeds to drivers' entitlements and
capabilities or ... . This all gets pretty unmanageable & unacceptable
politically pretty quickly. Even if we did get a workable acceptable system
we would then have the situation where nominally equivalent vehicles were
allowed (indedd compelled) to travel ay widely disparate speeds in the same
circumstance. Some would be allowed to overtake and not others. Mayhem would
ensue. Certyainly in urban areas, in any given situation, a constant speed
limit for all is highly desirable. In "open road" situations more
flexibility may be possible without total chaos ensuing. But only "may".
Adherence to "social contract" by "1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade drivers"  is sure
to test male testosterone driven behaviour and relate to all and sundry
seeking to behave as if they were all Roman class drivers.

An interesting "experiment" is to ask a group of youing males how they rate
their driving abilities compared to the norm. Just about all, I'm told, will
rate themselves 'above average". As indeed do I :-). And those most liable
to do this (males aged 16 to 24 years old) are those most disproportionately
represented in the died while * driving statistics.
* - (or actually, as speed is not what kills, "died instantaneously after
having been driving" :-) )

Now, Roman claims to be in an elite group of drivers who can safely drive at
high speed and who is mature enough top determine their own limits. I
suspect, based on the little that I know of him, that  he probably is in
most circumstances (but certainly not in all circumstances). Should I be
happy to let everyone else who claims similar capability make their own
decisions? Should I be happy with any number of people whjo think, like
Roman that

   > trained, mature, competent people,
   > not traffic cops or media marketers.

when they themselves decide the level of training, maturity and competence
is required?
If Roman's children were the one's at risk I'm sure that he would not agree
with this (and I'm sure that he doesn't) but in the absence of a system
which allows this to happen with a formal methodology what the argument
really turns into is 'I can drive at whatever sped I like because I know my
capabilities". The two ideas are, of course, worlds apart but most would say
the former and mean the latter.

In an imperfect world the freedoms of the more capable are limited to some
extent by the extent to which they may encroach on the freedoms of the less
capable. In most places the excessively competent are still free to
demonstrate their safe superiority and risk the consequences. The truly more
competent (like Roman) are less liable to be "caught" than the least
deserving and to that extent they somewhat make their point. They make it
best by living to a ripe old age (and Roman is no "Spring Chicken" :-) )
without having killed or damaged either themselves or any children or others
along the way.

If you (whoever you are) manages to transit my highways at an occasional 200
kph without coming to anyone's notice, and without causing anyone to have
had to take defensive action or to have been in any risk of their life or
safety, then you have done moderately well. This judgement can only be made
retrospectively and after the termination of all such activities. If however
you are involved in a fatal collision with ANY other road user under such
conditions then I would hope you would be happy to defend vigorous charges
of manslaughter and perhaps of murder. In the event of your not surviving
the event yourself (which is entirely likely) I would hope your estate would
need to be prepared and able to remit the appropriate penalty for an
innocent life taken should the courts so decide. (And what is the
appropriate penalty for the death of a child?) Similar provisions would need
to apply to non-fatal accidents with other road users. If any of these
expectations are felt to be unreasonable then the right to exercise such
excessive speeds is equally non-existent.


               Russell McMahon

PS1    For an impressive but also poignant record of one who didn't fully
manage to manage the challenge see



PS 2

A brief comment on Roman's electricity analogy: We expect our mains voltages
to be within a certain range. We don't expect 11 kV to appear at a wall
outlet most days. Very occasionally it does ! There are regulations as to
who can connect what and how installations are certified. There are
standards to be met for equipment and work practices. There are examinations
and tests for competency. There are graded areas for involvement - these are
similar to classes of licence for car/motorcycle.bus/taxi/heavy vehicle. The
amateur may very largely transgress these boundaries as long as they don't
place the lives of others at risk. They may built devices laser power
supplies and Tesla coils without formal licences. In most countries at
least, once they wished to pursue such activities commercially they would be
required to meet regulations I think the road-user/electricity analog is a
reasonable if imperfect one.

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