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My father always taught me that ignorance was no excuse. Just because I wasn’t familiar with the law was no reason to complain after I had been caught breaking it, knowingly or unknowingly.

So it seems a little ironic that we fail to read many of the rules and regulations issued by CAMS (and by hundreds of other bodies) except in extreme circumstances, and often after it is too late or we need reassurance that our actions or compliance were correct. Take CAMS disclaimer which appears on the reverse of every rally entry form that we all sign – how many people bother to read it before they acknowledge by signing it that they agree to be bound by the clauses in the document? Have you ever read a CAMS disclaimer? Really read it? Probably not.

Most of us are willing to sign away our rights without knowing what we are signing. It just takes too long to read and absorb the legal jargon that these disclaimers contain, even if we do claim to understand it. Much like an insurance policy contract which we enter into, we’re simply too lazy to read the fine print in many CAMS documents so that we understand our rights and obligations. While a CAMS disclaimer is one example that we promise to get around to reading in full ‘one day’, there is another, possibly more important, one that we now need to be familiar with in anything to do with motorsport – the good old OH & S policy.

Just recently, through my involvement in motorsport as a director, competitor and spectator, I have come across the CAMS OH & S document that, by law, every official, competitor and spectator must be made aware of. This document, as supplied by CAMS, stretches to six A4 pages of closely-typed information, and which must be displayed for all the above-mentioned people to see while motorsport is being conducted. As a rough estimate (and after observing competitors’ reactions to seeing the document on display), I would suggest that less than five percent of those required to read and digest it, have bothered to.

It’s mandatory to display CAMS’ OH & S document for all to see. I have seen it nailed to a gum tree at the start of a rally, taped to a post at a motorkhana and, just the other day, observed it attached to the wall above the urinal in the toilets at a V8 Supercar race meeting! Now, I realize that consuming copious quantities of fluid at a V8 Supercar meeting is going to result in frequent visits to the ‘gents’ where the stay might be longer than normal, but is anyone really going to stand at the stalls and read six pages of fine type from start to finish?

Again, my father’s advice about ignorance being no excuse comes to mind, however it seems unfair that we must read and absorb such long-winded documents every time we enter a motorsport venue or enter a motorsport event. Imagine the turmoil we’d cause if we all stuck to the letter of the law and read the OH & S requirements while trying to pass through the entry gates to a race meeting or a rally! It simply would not work. But in reality that is what is required. Even assuming that we did just that, how are we to know that the regulations may have changed since the last time we read them? Must we read them in entirety each and every time? Not likely to happen? Don’t you believe it.

Again citing CAMS’ disclaimer that appears on the back of an entry form, just compare the wording today with that of a disclaimer of several years ago – there are many changes. Have you read them recently and agreed to be bound by them? I’d suggest not, just like the fine print in your motorcar insurance policy that you didn’t read when your car insurance was renewed. Most of us are either too lazy or in too much of a hurry to bother to read the conditions we sign off on, and that’s a normal practice for human beings. Next time you sign an entry form, just remember that you are acknowledging that you have read and understood the Supplementary Regulations for the event – yes, another legally-binding document that you are agreeing to.

So now we have three long, wordy documents that you must read and comply with before you get into your car to compete – the OH & S regulations, the Supp. Regs. and the Disclaimer – at least half an hour’s solid reading at the least! And you legally can’t choose not to read them for, in the event of an accident, you will find that you have signed some of your rights away by agreeing to be bound by these documents. Plead ignorance to their existence and – well, you know where I’m coming from.

There is no simple answer to this paperwork/regulation overkill. We have no choice but comply if we want to spectate, compete or officiate. But the point I want to make is that there must be a simpler way of making the rules more readable and less ‘wordy’ than they currently are. Couldn’t the rules be spelt out in bold, bullet-point form that lists the main thrust of the clause so that the public will be encouraged to read it? eg: “The route instructions should not be relied upon exclusively….” There has to be a better way, but then our legal eagles in all walks of life seem to thrive on making legally-binding documents unreadable by the average person.

The world is full of vagaries that we have already agreed to accept or genuinely have no knowledge of. For instance, have you ever bothered to read the Road Traffic code since you got your licence? Do you know how and where your particular state’s traffic code varies from other states? Are you aware of when and where you may drive your permit-plated car outside of calendared motorsport events? Again it’s all in the fine print we have agreed to comply with. without bothering to read it.

It’s very dangerous ground that we’re treading on and we might all have been very lucky to have participated in so much motorsport so far, given the restrictions and regulations that we’ve never bothered to read. Rather frightening, isn’t it? Think twice about what you might be committing yourself to next time you sign the rally entry form and the disclaimer and agree to be bound by it.
It’s a legally binding contract which you and CAMS have just entered in to, and it might turn around to bite you.

 


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