Treating the symptoms – and not the cause

Or stupid legislation. Or nanny state personified. Call it what you will.

Busily browsing the internet about Land Rovers, as you do when you have things you need to do, and don’t want to do, I chanced upon an interesting article about the Land Rover Defender in Australia.

But the Defender can’t stay the way it is now. Well, it can, but only until 2015 when pedestrian safety legislation will kill off the current-design off-roader.
Although the LWB Defender may continue until at least 2017 as it’s considered a commercial vehicle and they’re exempt from the tight legislation due to be introduced in 2015.

What’s my gripe? Well, that I don’t see why vehicles should be changed to ensure that people aren’t killed or injured by stupid drivers.

And what happens about all the Defenders (not to mention Series vehicles) that are currently on the road? This is exactly like the stupid roo bar/bull bar discussion. The old vehicles will still be there and * posing * a huge danger to people, just like the older vehicles with their bars that were fitted before legislation.

The cause of vehicle accidents is poor driving. Either speeding, talking on mobile ‘phones (I mean just why?), not driving appropriately for the weather conditions, not concentrating, etc etc. It is not down to vehicle design. Or roo bars.

As a total aside, many years ago, I read a fascinating skit in Viz (satirical British rag based in Newcastle) referring to a woman sitting at the traffic lights putting on her lipstick and playing with her nipples. Clearly there were more interesting things to do before everyone played with their mobiles while driving. And at least her vehicle was stationary.

In Australia, my partner was driving a Toyota Land Cruiser (old style) and hit a roo one night. It frightened the life out of him. There was no roo bar on the vehicle and the radiator was smashed in. When the vehicle was repaired, he added a roo bar.

We’ve always had a bull bar on our Series, and later transferred it to the Santana. We actually don’t have anything on the Defender.

So far, in however many years of driving, touch wood, we haven’t managed to mow down too many pedestrians. He did have one accident at a roundabout when someone else reversed into him. Mistook reverse for first. I think she was sorry. She got out, no damage to the Land Rover, car not looking pretty. Her fault anyway, so they parted on good terms and that was that.

The whole point of the bar is for personal protection. It’s not about macho 4×4 driving, but it does make idiots think twice before they pull into you. And if you have driven on the N340 in Spain you will understand that.

It’s like airbags. They are for personal protection too. Trouble is, they tend to make people think they are safe in their little bubble while they are driving along listening to their favourite CD, the radio, and texting on their mobile. Talk about multi-tasking.

And although the big bull bars are now banned on new vehicles in the UK, we have a rest of the world specification (being in Gibraltar) so could legally fit one. Just need to find somewhere to sell us one.

What is the symptom here though? Four by fours hit pedestrians. Or could hit them. Possibly. So could every other vehicle under the sun.

What is the cause? Bad driving. It is not the design of the vehicle or the bull/roo bar that is at fault. It is the person behind the wheel.

How about treatment? Well, far better enforcement of speeding limits to start with. Perhaps placing more emphasis on accidents caused by bad driving. When I used to go to court, the biggest fine was always for not having insurance. Not for lacking an MOT/roadworthy (ie a risky vehicle) and not for speeding. Just make sure you are covered to pay out. Monetary society or what? Doesn’t matter if you cause an accident so long as you have insurance. What sort of message does that send?

Here in Gib, at zebra crossings, drivers invariably stop to let people across. A nice courteous gesture. We also have some streets without pavements. The courtesy goes out of the window and our nice driver suddenly becomes Toad (of Toad Hall from Wind in the Willows), expecting total right of way and making pedestrians squash themselves against a nearby wall to avoid getting their feet run over and worse. I joke not. I’ve had one verbal confrontation with a rude speeding oik on a pavement-less street and it was not pleasant.

Why do drivers think they have right of way over other road users? Total lack of respect and and obsessive driving culture.

Enough about driving. How about folic acid?

This is fortification of flour and bread without actually labelling any products that they contain synthetic folic acid because women who don’t eat properly and get pregnant are at higher risk of babies with birth defects.

Apparently half of all pregnancies in America are unplanned. No idea what the figures are elsewhere.

So, because some couples have sex without contraception (because, you know, there are two people involved in sexual intercourse that results in conception, so it is NOT just the woman’s responsibility), we all need to have our food loaded with folic acid?

Straightaway, it is not relevant to half the population (approx) ie men. Secondly, it isn’t relevant to a) women who are too young to get pregnant b) women who are too old to get pregnant and c) women who seriously can’t think of anything worse in life than getting pregnant (me, in case anyone hasn’t worked that one out).

And because some women can’t eat properly, and some couples can’t work out how to go about contraception, the rest of us have to be forcibly fed folic acid in fortified products?

What’s the problem? Well, too much is bad for you. And as a vegetarian, my diet is pretty high in folic acid coming from natural folate. My diet and my health is put at risk because of someone else’s issues. Unfair. And statistically not a good public health move as it is not in the interests of the majority of the population.

Appropriate Response to Homocysteine in Your Blood
The main motivation behind fortification of flours and taking supplemental vitamins has been to reduce the occurrence of serious birth defects, especially the occurrence of neural tube defects (NTDs). The effort seems to be working a little—since the onset of fortification there has been a 19% decrease in the incidence of NTDs. Unfortunately, these same widespread recommendations to take folic acid may be causing more heart disease and cancer. So, what to do?

All that money and effort now spent on supplementation with the hope of reducing birth defects, heart disease, and cancer should be directed towards educational programs to teach people to eat more legumes, vegetables, and fruits—the plentiful and safe sources of folic acid. (The name folic comes from the word foliage, which refers to plants.) When packaged in the plant, folic acid is never harmful and always beneficial. Further efforts should be made towards making sure all people have ready access to plant-foods.


Symptom – babies born with birth defects.

Cause – poor diet.

Treatment – chuck folic acid all over the place at the whole population. I mean why? Why not just give pregant women folic acid supplements for goodness sake?

Or tell them to eat greens, citrus fruits, (you’d probably need to spell out they are lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits because if they don’t know the c word for contraception they probably won’t know what citrus fruits are either), legumes, liver and kidney. No, on second thoughts, they wouldn’t know how to cook either of those last two at a guess. They certainly wouldn’t be capable of peeling the fat off a kidney, taking off the thin skin, slicing it down the middle and pulling out the white bits (whatever they are called). No, I can’t see Ms and Mr Lets Have Sex and Who Cares About Pregnancy cooking kidney and liver.

Folic acid is somewhat like the fluoridation debate. Needless to say I don’t agree with compulsory fluoridation of the water supply either. You can tell I worked with public health specialists. We had a meeting back in my health service days at one point, and a couple of colleagues made a presentation about ‘What has public health ever done for us?’

I thought it was wicked. Their basic premise was that after the introduction of public drainage in the UK, public health had done nothing ever since (one was a nurse and the other was a builder). Got to justify your job though – so we have lots of unnecessary public health/medical proposals – because as we all know, doctors know best.

When I was in the UK NHS I learned about ‘ash money.’ During work time, public health consultants would clear off to the local council offices to sign a few cremation certificates for which they would then get paid privately. Very nice. Earn money from one source and double up from another. All at the cost of the UK taxpayer/ratespayer. You UK residents do all know this don’t you?

I digress.

How about the economy? Well, at the ripe old age of 50 something, seems to me it goes up and down or round and round. Swings and roundabouts.

But the latest scenario is not good. Spain now has the highest unemployment rate in Europe (more on that on roughseas in the next day or so).

I’ll cut to the chase:

Symptom – government, firms and banks struggling for money, all over-extended.

Cause – greed, lack of financial safeguards, inability to read and forecast the market correctly, reliance on a previous boom, not looking at the American problems that caused/contributed to the catalyst for the world recession.

Treatment – impose austerity measures on a population that is already suffering hugely through unemployment, by cutting public services, cutting state funding to industries such as the mining ones in the north of Spain, and reducing dole payments (actually they are unbelievable but that’s a different story). However, while I am not an economist, putting a blatant freeze on the country’s economy is hardly likely to invigorate it. About the only thing it does do is send yet more people out to work illegally on the black market.

Quick fix solutions are everywhere. They don’t work though. More investment in education, and a society that becomes responsible rather than one that waits for the state to fix everything might be a good start. And a state that stops inflicting ridiculous legislation that affects ME because it’s an easy fix to placate the whimpering masses and get more votes next time around, or dig yourself out of the morass, or whatever.

About roughseasinthemed

I write about my life as an English person living in Spain and Gibraltar, on Roughseas, subjects range from politics and current developments in Gib to book reviews, cooking and getting on with life. My views and thoughts on a variety of topics - depending on my mood of the day - can be found over on Clouds. A few pix are over on Everypic - although it is not a photoblog. And of course my dog had his own blog, but most of you knew that anyway. Pippadogblog etc
This entry was posted in blogging, environmentalism, health, life, politics, spain, UK, vegan and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Treating the symptoms – and not the cause

  1. So aptly written with lots of great info that is well researched. I learned quite a few things from this article. Re: Land Rovers and bull bars, etc.

    I have what we call a cattle guard here in Texas on my GMC truck that also has 4×4 drive. I don’t have to drive anyplace that requires 4 wheel drive but my husband did at times. As An aside, may people have cattle guards merely for added decoration on their trucks and 4×4 vehicles. It must be a macho thing. Adding all of that adds a bit to gas usage and merely dresses up a truck.

    I did not know that Spain was in such an unemployment pickle as may other counties are as well. The bank that I use is owned by a group from Spain and some South American countries. I almost fell over when I learned of that. The US is coming apart and foreign country investors come here to fatten their own pockets.


    • I just chose a few issues that fitted my theme. The * obvious * isn’t always the best solution. And people need to see past that.

      We have done/do off roading. It’s extremely common in Spain, people are always driving up river beds or on non-asphalt roads. Wicked in winter when the amount of rain turns previously dry roads into a slurry of mud.

      I don’t agree with macho decoration or macho styles of driving, but I don’t see why people should be banned from responsible driving.

      Is your bank Santander? The one that took over one of the biggest UK building socs? Actually I thought the US was mostly owned by China. A bit like the Japanese bought up Australia at one point (not sure of the current position there).


  2. Vicky says:

    Excellent read 🙂
    The bull bar issue hit me a few years ago. I used to off road with my previous Disco, and for protection from trees etc fitted a wrap around bull bar (protecting the front and wings as you probably know).
    On insurance renewal I found a cheaper company, so moved over to them, for some reason and unbeknown to me, they didn’t insure vehicles fitted with bull bars (nice of them to tell me).
    I only found out (after driving on cover notes for two months) when my new policy documents arrived and I phoned them to query it that I’d been uninsured for two months.
    Ultimatum…remove bull bar if you want to stay with us, no refund if you don’t.
    Since then I’ve stayed with a specialist Land Rover insurance company.
    Sorry it’s a bit of a long story, but my gripe being the bull bar didn’t change my driving style, so why should one company insure me and another not.

    That folic acid info is a bit worrying, I know I was given it during pregnancy, but never realised we are being force fed it!!


    • I did a ring round for insurance at one point. What a nightmare. It was for the series which is a hard top, so therefore van body, complete with bull bar of course. How complicated was it? 😦

      Your point is perfectly well made. Why is a bull bar suddenly going to turn someone into a maniacal driver? A bit like fitting brush/bush wires (whatever they are called).

      Folic acid might not affect you as much as it can me, because of my different diet. Everything it occurs in naturally is the mainstay of my diet. I DON’T need any extra and I’m not planning on getting pregnant. Why the hell should I have to eat it?


  3. I am going to take a risk here and disagree with you. I’m not against bull bars in an appropriate environment but urban Europe isn’t it and I fail to understand what possible use they serve in cities, towns and villages. You make the point that any vehicle can hit a pedestrian and run them down but the the real issue is about how much damage that can do. A vehicle with bull bars would potentially do a lot more damage than my plastic golf for example! New cars are designed to protect people in an accident – bull bars are designed to protect the vehicle.
    I’m not an economist so not sure where I stand on austerity – it doesn’t seem to be working so far though! I imagine things will get tougher in the UK soon with the benefit cuts about to hit so we will have to see how the British respond!


    • Ah. Thanks for that. Your comment totally exemplifies what I am talking about. You are just one of many people who buy into crass political and media hype about 4x4s. A double decker bus and an artic can cause a lot more damage than your golf. Ban those?

      My point is about a knee-jerk reaction. And banning certain vehicles or optional equipment doesn’t transform a bad driver into a good one. Now, if you read the post again, I am saying the cause of accidents is bad driving, not due to the vehicle. A plastic golf badly driven at speed will kill someone just as much as a 4×4 will (or any other vehicle).

      As for their purpose, in cities, towns and villages, yes, agree they are designed to protect a vehicle. Saves on insurance claims and keeps premiums low for everyone. Deters other people from pulling into you on motorways. That’s why I mentioned the N340. Give way is an option apparently in Spain. Usually to be applied to the driver on the dual carriageway/motorway who should give way to the person pulling on !

      Urban Europe? So we can use a bull bar in the countryside and on approaching a town, we all pull off the road and take off the bull bar and plonk it in the back or on the roof rack (no doubt another hazardous add-on)?

      Change the legislation to protect pedestrians from new vehicles? Great. What about all the old ones on the road? Do they suddenly become dangerous? When they weren’t before?

      The bottom line is bad driving causes accidents and that is the root of the problem. Not vehicle design or optional equipment. The guy I had a run-in with was driving a small van (no bull bar) too fast, on a one-way street, where there were no pavements. When A was ORDERED to get out of the way cycling through a one way estate, the driver was in a small four door saloon.

      And, they won’t be the ones pulling you out of the snow or the mud either. Which many 4x4s drivers do for free in bad weather.

      No idea what is happening in the UK. The few times I read about it I find it grossly depressing.


  4. EllaDee says:

    I love it when you are on a roll and my reading and enjoyment of your article rolls right along with you…
    The G.O. & I were just discussing bull/roo bars as he currently has a nudge bar on his 4×4, as there are lots of wallabies on the road to TA early mornings & at dusk and although he drives accordingly allowing for the little buggers to appear suddenly, a wallaby jumped out in front of the car when we were away & despite the G.O.’s best efforts the end wasn’t a happy one. The G.O.’s eyes were big & sad as he moved it off the road but at least its death was quick & clean. Luckily the wallaby hit the nudge bar but a smaller wallaby would have gone under it into the intercooler, and a larger onto the bonnet & windscreen. The plan always was to fit a bigger bar before we set off travelling. My point is, in his case the bull/roo bar has a purpose. Not so the many that are fitted gratuitously to the gratuitous city only 4×4’s (and here I agree with Andrew Petcher). Vehicular accidents are the responsibility of the person behind the wheel but pedestrians can be careless and a bar can make a big difference in the outcome. If a driver doesn’t have a purpose for a bullbar, other than decorative or to compensate for being a bad driver then it’s worth a think about that outcome…
    And food additives… a good reason to read food labels, consume accordingly and preferably fresh food items which don’t require labels and those with least add ins. I agree, an effort that shouldn’t need to be made and isn’t necessarily successful as it shoud be with hidden, pesticide etc additives, but with the propensity for big business and government to think for the masses (not of the masses, of their profit & loss), necessary.
    Australia ‘benefited’ from a variety of government financial stimulus packages during the GFCs. I’m not sure the budget will accommodate any more and should there be further economic downturn, austerity measures similar to those imposed in Spain & Greece may be the alternative… a heads up for anyone who bought the government spin and hasn’t taken their own financial precautions… Your last paragraph sums up my feelings – so little governing, so much interfering on so many levels… Existence justification? I think so.


    • Feel for the GO. The roo (also didn’t survive) totally put A off night driving after that and it was before I even met him so 30 + years ago.

      The roo smashed the rad in A’s case and the Toyota was off the road for repairs for some time.

      Maybe that influences our views of personal protection? Who knows?

      You’ll know from all my blogs that we rarely drive, preferring to walk, cycle or bus.

      I actually don’t care what people drive. I would prefer them to drive less. As we do. I think buying a 4×4 for a school run is totally status-based and ridiculous. (Get the bus to school, or walk, as we both did).

      But I also think people should have the right to buy the vehicle of their choice and drive responsibly. In our case, we have a van body four by because we either a) transport the dog in a dog carrier thing b) we transport a lot of equipment for work, c) we load up with camping equipment.

      I did an advanced driving course at one point. One of the main learning points was about pedestrians being likely to shoot across the road from behind parked cars. Here in Spain it is legal to park right up to any sort of pedestrian crossing whereas in the UK – or at least used to be – it was illegal to park at least one car before and after.

      Pedestrians may well be careless, but they don’t kill car drivers. The reverse happens. Car drivers also kill cyclists, dogs and horses. And other car drivers/passengers. That happens because of poor driving, not because of the shape of a vehicle or any add-ons. Removing a bar, changing the shape of a vehicle is just treating the symptom not the cause.

      I really don’t care whether some rich city person has a 4×4 with a bull bar (snorkel, off road winch blah blah). I think they should have the choice to do that. What interests me is that they don’t drive unnecessarily eg kids to school, supermarket, corner shop and they drive responsibly. And those of us who also do that, shouldn’t be penalised for our choices.

      The point about folic acid is that it isn’t publicised. There is no requirement for it to be added to the list of ingredients.

      Austerity measures don’t work. But as you suggest, time to batten down the hatches when they kick in.


  5. Your story is sounding eerily familiar way over here on the other side of the ocean. Simplified austerity measures will not revive a complex economy. The treatment will need to be equally complex–and, yes, risky. You nailed it also when you pointed out that we cannot expect our politicians to understand, yet alone implement an effective slate of countermeasures when the loudest segments of the population are all crying out for their piece or maybe their solution. So where does that leave us? Powerless? I hope not. As for me, all I can say that I was never under any silly impression that the road ahead would be easy. Your land rover perhaps best represents my favored course of action: complex, far from perfect but doggedly trying to move ahead. Some of the wheels may be just spinning but if just one takes hold maybe we can inch forward. In the end, that’s all we can hope for. Oh–and we can expect to see a lot of mud flying throughout :>)


    • I think part of the problem is that people don’t understand the global impact. I am so not a fan of world trade and globalisation but if you sit back and look, it’s pretty easy to see all the knock-on effects of banking, trade, recession (aka all money really) and it just spirals around.

      I really, really feel for the people in Spain without work. In fact I can’t get a job in Gib. Two degrees? So what? It’s a bad scenario everywhere right now. But for young people without hope of work – what prospect of life is that? And for older people, wondering how they will eke out their days before death? Not good.

      My favourite Land Rover is our oldest Series III. Not complex, and that’s one reason I love it. Goes through the mud nicely, cheap and easy to repair. What more can you ask for in life?


  6. bluonthemove says:

    Sorry but I have to disagree with Roughseas.
    “When I was in the UK NHS I learned about ‘ash money.”

    Never, it was always known as the ASH CASH !!


    • Ash money where I was. Simple as that. You can argue about money or cash, but we can agree on the ashes. It wasn’t cash either. It was a cheque from the council.


      • bluonthemove says:

        My father signed a whole load of these as you might imagine, given there were a few geriatric wards in the hospital, and living in the grounds it was easier to call him out.

        All the “ash cash” was given to support the hospital social club, no one made any money out of them. Then HMRC came calling ……..


        • I had a schoolfriend whose dad lived in hospital grounds too (well the whole family did), and he was a psychiatric consultant as I remember. Family were viewed as weird by most of us because they had NO TV!

          It would be good if it still went to something like that. But those days are well gone.


  7. angryricky says:

    Yeah. I recently had someone recommend a three-day-weekend in Dubai because I wanted to die quickly. We put bandaids on metaphoric heart attacks all the time.

    Only giving folic acid to pregnant women doesn’t work because the folic acid needs to be in her system in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy to do any good, and the unplanners won’t know they’re pregnant that early. Then, at around twenty weeks, they’ll find out that their baby has a neural tube defect and they’ll be given the option to abort, or give birth to a child who will probably not live a month.

    In the United States, pressure for safe driving comes from the insurance companies rather than the government. My tickets for going twenty-nine miles over the limit and fourteen over the limit were the same price, but my insurance rates went up higher with the more dangerous offense. Allstate is now offering a Safe Driver reward, so your premium will lower automatically if you don’t get into a wreck or get a ticket.

    I wonder if there’s a way to make safe driving more interesting? I’ve done some pretty dangerous things, just to keep myself from falling asleep at the wheel.


    • This is going to sound flippant, re your first comment. On my first newspaper someone from our local town died in Dubai. The editor couldn’t resist headlining it ‘Goodbye in Dubai’ (because it rhymed). We all thought it was tasteless in the extreme – he didn’t get one complaint! Or if he did he never told us.

      I did read something vaguely about how long it needs to be in there to start with. Later supplements are such a stop gap effort aren’t they? And everyone else has to be force fed it too? Really gets up my nose.

      It’s the usual statistical syndrome, you are trying, through a public health initiative to target the last 10 or 20% that you will never make any difference to. Like non-smokers, or women who don’t take up cervical screening. There comes a point of no-return and force feeding everyone folic acid is just crass.

      Wow! to the driving. We would be paying zilch insurance at that rate. Uk financial measures were a) via the courts and b) then insurance premiums went up as well. No discounts for being good though.

      I did an advanced driving course at one point and found it not remotely interesting. What used to keep me interested was actually being extremely precise, sticking absolutely to the speed limit, and learning how to do that without looking at the speedo. Anyway, why rush? break the law? and jeopardise someone else’s safety? And if you are going to fall asleep – pull off and do just that.


I appreciate any comments you leave, so long as they are relatively polite. And thanks for reading.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s