POSTED ON 11/02/2018

A case for re-thinking speeding fines

In the light of a recent court case where a well-known, highly-paid sports star was fined just €400 for driving at 158km/h in a 100km/h zone, I have figured that there is a compelling case for re-thinking the approach to dealing with speeding cases in Ireland.

In Ireland, the offence of speeding is dealt with by means of a Fixed Charge system, which works as follows:

  • The driver can, during the period of 28 days from the date of issue of the notice, make a payment of €80, or
  • He/she can, during the next 28 days, make a payment of €120.
The driver will not be prosecuted during the period of 56 days from the date of issue of the notice and, if the correct payment is made during those 56 days, at all.

There are two flaws that I have identified with this penalty system

  1. The amount payable remains the same, regardless of how much over the speed limit the driver was going. In other words, the driver who was just over the limit gets the same treatment as the driver who was going well over it.
  2. The amount payable remains the same, regardless of the driver's income. The fine is €80, which can be a considerable amount of money for someone earning the bare minimum to get by, but it is peanuts for someone earning upwards of six-figure sums.
Here is my suggestion to address these flaws.

First, let's consider kinetic energy. The kinetic energy of a moving body is proportional, not to its velocity, but to the square of its velocity. In other words:

where E = kinetic energy, in joules, m = mass, in kilograms, and v = velocity in metres per second.

Clearly, travelling at double the speed increases the kinetic energy not twofold but fourfold. It stands to reason that the fines should vary uniformly not with speed, but with the square of the speed, for example:

where f = fine payable, s = speed in kilometres per hour, and A, B and C are coefficients which would be determined not only by the speed limit but by other relevant factors, like proximity to a school, the condition of the road, or whether or not it was during a bank holiday weekend.

In order to determine a set of coefficients, for a certain situation, say, a speed limit of 60km/h, for cars, coming from a 100km/h zone into a 50km/h zone, we would need to set a fine for two speeds, say, €40 for 65km/h and €120 for 80km/h. We would also need a third parameter, which I call the slope. This is calculated by getting the derivative of the second equation above, as follows

where m = slope. We would typically set the slope at a certain value at the lower speed. With these parameters, we could put all these values into one equation, as follows:

where s1 and s2 are the lower and higher speeds respectively, f1 and f2 are the fines at s1 and s2 respectively, and m is the slope. To get the coefficients A, B and C, we would need to get the inverse of the 3x3 matrix, and re-arrange the above equation as follows:

And that's it. Now to do an example. Let's say we could set a fine of €40 for 65km/h, €120 for 80km/h, and a slope of zero for the lower speed. Plug these values into the equation as follows:

Let's invert the 3x3 matrix and re-arrange the equation:

We can now multiply the matrices on the left-hand side of the equals sign, to get the coefficients, and here are the values we get:

  • A = 0.356
  • B = -46.222
  • C = 1542.222
We now plug these coefficients into the second equation, to get the values in the following table and graph:


These fines as calculated above would typically apply to someone with an annual gross income of €25,000. To get the final fine payable, we would simply multiply the initial fine by the driver's actual income, divided by 25000.

Let's say that a motorist who is earning €40,000 gross annually was caught doing 85km/h. From the table above, we can see that an 8km/h speed would result in a fine of €182.22. We would then make the income-based adjustment by multiplying 40,000/25,000, and the final amount payable would be €291.55. Rounding it to the nearest whole euro, we get €292.00.

POSTED ON 27/05/2013

Do team sports and Aspies agree?

It is widely accepted that those with AS are characterised by abnormalities in social interaction and communication, so from this it stands to reason that those with Aspergers' don't do well participating in team sports, like soccer, rugby or basketball.

But is this true?

Clearly what isn't true is the idea that someone with AS can't grasp in any way the concept of team sports. By this I mean that the condition does not stop someone with it from getting a reasonable understanding of the rules of the game. For the purpose of this discussion I will focus on soccer, but I could just have easily concentrated on other team sports. Anyone, whether they have AS or not, can get their hands on a book or an article on the internet, or any other publication that describes the rules of the game.

Clearly there is no need to learn the rules of the game so that you will be able to recite them, word for word, from cover to cover. All you need is to be able to summarise the rules including:
  • The layout of the field of play
  • The objective of the game
  • The team and the various positions thereon
  • The officials (referee, assistant referees and fourth official) and their functions
  • The various place kicks (kick-off, throw-in, direct and indirect free kicks, penalty, goal and corner kicks)
  • How discipline is enforced (yellow and red cards)
  • Procedures when the match ends in a draw, when there must be a winner, for example in a knockout format (extra time, penalty shoot-out)
  • The offside rule
Now that we have a grasp on the rules, let's move on!

People with AS may have problems with motor skills (muscular co-ordination), with the result that they can be slower than normal in developing skills that require motor dexterity, for example, riding a bicycle or opening a jam jar. But does that extend to playing soccer?

It depends.

Surely it doesn't take much skill to kick a ball. I agree, it doesn't. But there is more to soccer than just kicking a ball:
  • Kicking a ball into a goal from 20, 30 or 40 yards out
  • Doing so, even though there are several opposing players between you and the goal, trying to stop you
  • Passing the ball to a teammate 15 or 20 yards away
  • Doing so, rather than by rolling the ball along the ground, but by chipping the ball off the ground, and having it land at the teammate's feet
  • Trying to pass the ball, despite opposing players trying to harass you into making a mistake
  • Winning the ball, that is, by correctly reading the trajectory of the ball from goal kicks, corner kicks, and other long balls, and getting any part of the body (other than the arms or hands of course) to the ball, and controlling it and passing to a teammate
  • Kicking the ball first-time, that is, by correctly reading the trajectory of the ball, and precisely timing the kick, to pass or shoot (attempt to score), while the ball is still airborne, without first letting it hit the ground, or stopping the ball before kicking it
  • Playing "keepie-up", that is, kicking or heading the ball continuously, to keep it in the air
Many people with AS also lack social and communication skills, and the ability to empathise and relate to others. From this, it stands to reason that simply having the "physical skills" that I described in the previous paragraph, is not enough to play the game well.

To be successful in a game of soccer requires all players to play as a team; if the team is going to play one of its players out of the game, that is, not passing to that player when he is in a good position to win the ball, the team can forget about winning the game. A good team utilises all the players on the pitch, using the whole field of play, each player attempting to put himself in a good position to receive the ball, and the player that has the ball attempting to pick out a player that is in the best position to receive the ball, and pass it to him. And of course, what is also required is that each player knows what to do instinctively: when to pass, when to attempt to get past an opposing player with the ball, when to attempt to dispossess an opposing player, when to harass him into making a poor pass or shot, when and where to run for a ball and of course, when to shoot.

It was not until 1990 (I was 15 then), when the Republic of Ireland soccer team qualified for the finals of the World Cup, for the first time, that I took an interest in soccer, and started playing soccer with my classmates. In reality, it was only in an informal way - by this I mean it wasn't structured - there were no training sessions, no coaching in soccer provided by the school at the time - only in hurling and Gaelic football. Looking back on it now, the only thing I really got out of it was in burning a few hundred calories from running around - very rarely did I get possession of the ball, and when I did, it wasn't long before I was dispossessed; it was probably a combination of the players playing me out of the game, not being consistently in the right position to win the ball, and not being able to make good passes. From time to time I wonder if a structured training regime in soccer would have made any difference, had it existed in school at the time.

POSTED ON 19/05/2013

Isolation - not good for the mind!

One of the reasons I am putting up this post is because, over the past two years or so now, I have been working only three days a week, reduced from five days. From time to time, I find that there is no need for me to leave home, for example, unless I have to do some shopping, or I find other reason for making the 8km cycle into Galway city.

What springs to mind is solitary confinement - a special form of imprisonment where the prisoner is isolated from all human contact, with the exception of prison staff. The term is also referred to as "the hole", "lockdown" or "AdSeg" (Administrative Segregation) in the US, and many prisons where it is used defend its use when there is need to control an exceptionally violent and dangerous prisoner.

Many groups advocating against solitary confinement claim that it causes sometimes untold negative psychological effects, causing mental health problems in a prisoner who came into prison in reasonably good mental health, and exacerbating illness in those who are already mentally infirm.

I realise you may consider it rather extreme to compare staying at home alone all day (seclusion) to solitary confinement. I know that a few days, 2-3 few consecutive days being home alone may not do a lot of damage, but if it goes on any longer, there is the possibility of becoming a recluse, of "social withdrawal" taking its toll.

What do I say?

Switch off the TV. Switch off the Playstation. Switch off the Internet. Find a reason to get out there, then get out there and mix with your fellow human beings!

POSTED ON 14/05/2013


Welcome to my new blog. From time to time, I will post, from time to time, news posts, generally what is on my mind. Usually, the articles are too large to put up on my Facebook page, or because I intend the post to be viewed by an audience beyond my Facebook friends.

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