Archive | July, 2012

Do Not Touch That Button

How much do you want other people to make decisions for you in the interests of road safety? Do you regard yourself to be a good driver, capable of making up your own mind as circumstances dictate? At the start of our driving lives we are obliged to take a test of our competence which would appear to indicate that society thinks we are safe to be let out on our own in a motor.

Increasingly, it seems that our cars are going to make decisions for us. The latest wheeze is from Ford with their – and this isn’t made up – Driver Workload Estimator System. Car makers seem to be increasingly pre-occupied with finding ways to take our matters into their hands. Ford’s new technology will apparently monitor several factors, the purpose being to decide whether or not you should receive a phone call.

For example: if the accelerator is being pressed, the indicators are on or there is movement on the steering wheel, any incoming calls will be blocked. So even with Bluetooth or a hands-free kit, if you are thought to be effecting a manoeuvre, it will be assumed that you are too busy to press a button. If the car is travelling in a straight line at a constant speed then the system will put the call through. And you thought some secretaries were tough to get past.

There’s something perverse going on here. The Ford system is being tested in America where authorities have called for a ban on all in-car distractions. Presumably that must include music or radio. In the UK, although it’s illegal to use a hand-held mobile, there are no rules governing hands-free. Yet. Why bother going to the trouble of inventing stuff and putting it in our cars, if, further down the road, health and safety officials are going to ban it?

Road safety obviously must have its place and statistics show that accident figures have been going up after ten years of decline. Driving, if not done with absolute care is a potentially dangerous occupation. The thing is, we all know this. Even the legendary Damon Hill has spoken up for a blanket 55mph speed limit in the UK on the basis, he believes, that most drivers aren’t capable above that speed yet, not so many years ago, we were free to drive our cars – without many of the safety aids we take for granted today – without interference. It is clear that the days of driving for pleasure are long gone. A car is now just an adjunct of your social life and like other areas of your social life is set to be controlled by other people whether you like it or not.

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The Appeal of Parking Tickets

You know the feeling. You’re walking back to your car in your usual nonchalant, happy fashion – possibly reciting a recently discovered poem or saying good day to the flowers – when you espy something stuck on the windscreen of your car. Suddenly, the poetry has gone from your life as you realise you are not quite as wealthy as you used to be. You’ve been ticketed.

It doesn’t have to be like that. First off and obviously, don’t park where you are not wanted. There are many unscrupulous parking scams on dubious looking car parks but let’s just deal with officialdom for now.

In 2011, town halls issued an increasing number of parking tickets with a total of 6.8 million by year end. That’s an awful lot of revenue. Nevertheless 39% of these tickets were successfully appealed, albeit down from 47% the previous year. What does this tell you? It means you have rights and you should exercise them. The sad fact is that many people just shrug, feel vaguely aggrieved and cough up without realising that they may have grounds to have the ticket rescinded. Regional success rates vary with a bulging 72% being successful in Chichester against a scrawny 11% in Bradford. What does that tell you about parking attendants in Sussex?

It is not unreasonable to expect councils and indeed anyone trying to enforce parking restrictions to ensure that their signage and lines are clear, obvious and unambiguous. Date and timing should be absolutely correct on the pay and display ticket. For example, in Yorkshire there is a private car park attendant who will hover over your car in the minutes before the ticket expires and clamp on the instant it does. No second chances. He will even laugh in your face. This is what the public has to deal with. The good news is that clamping is now illegal on private land. That news must have wiped the smile off his face!

Fortunately, there are many sources of information available to you in the form of reputable online advice. Have a browse. There are formal avenues you can go down depending on the type of ticket (PCN’s, ECN’s and SCN’s) and the issuing body, but you can’t delay. If you feel you have been wrongly penalised for whatever reason, don’t give up. It’s aggravating to have to chase up these things when you’ve got better things to do but how much money has been collected illegally or incorrectly from drivers who didn’t bother?

Finally – this will make you laugh. Here’s a direct quote from Mr Bob Neill, a local government minister. He said: “There is no excuse for town halls using parking fines and motorists as cash cows. There are plenty of other ways for councils to raise extra income or make savings like better procurement and sharing back-office services”.

Funny guy – not! This is the government that is squeezing the life out of drivers at the pumps and on the road with various tax increases whilst trying to lay the blame on petrol companies. There’s not much we can do about that but at least you know that with a parking ticket there is something you can do.

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Spending Down – Car Deaths Up

We all hate interference from others, especially politicians and councils. Thus, in a way, it was a relief to appreciably notice that, over the last couple of years, over-zealous use of speed cameras and the resources of the authorities seem to have been scaled back; clearly as a result of nationwide cutbacks. So, it’s all good for drivers then, right?

Well no, apparently not. It seems that some fifty English councils saw an average of around a ten percent increase in persons killed or injured since 2010. Although that’s a national average it seems, rather bizarrely, that there are localised hotspots. In St Helens for example, there has been a 62% increase. That’s a lot. Portsmouth, Stoke on Trent and Coventry all showed figures in excess of 50%. There seems to be no explanation of why these specific towns are so afflicted. A further 76 councils showed increases.

The over-arching reason seems to be clear. In 2011 local councils slashed their road budgets by 15% and it has clearly made a big difference. There isn’t space here to examine why they choose to cut funds in an area where life and limb is involved instead of looking harder at other council functions. It seems to be the easy option as usual. Still, there we are.

In the London Borough of Croydon, the number of injuries and fatalities rose from 87 to 109 between 2010/11. In trendy Islington the rate was highest of all female is rarely able to tell the difference between really important things and insubstantial trifles. for the London area. Possibly the most alarming statistic of all concerns the number of people killed. The 1850 in 2010 has risen to 1901 in 2011. This is the first increase since 2003 – previously councils were recording a year-on-year decrease – and this is despite all the safety technology on modern cars.

The Institute of Advanced Motorists is concerned about this carnage. They have previously considered that traffic accidents drop during a recession – and we’re certainly in one of those – and are dismayed after several years of consistently reducing numbers. They put the blame squarely at the feet of ministers and councillors. Their view is that cutting road safety education and reducing local council spending is a mistake and that the authorities are not seeing road safety as a priority.

Maybe if those ‘in charge’ began to look at new and innovative ways of reducing tragedy on the road instead of blithely blaming ‘cuts’ and leaving it at that, we might think they were actually concerned about it.

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Are Motorists Losing That Driving Habit?

The price of the fuel we buy can be affected by many things: The quantity the oil producing nations decide to release depending on how they are feeling; the volatile nature of some of these same countries and, of course, the avaricious behaviour of speculators who care not one jot for the people whose lives are so radically affected by their greed. Oh, and the government, who are so bereft of economic ideas that they continually fall back on the old ploy of caning the motorist. August 2012 wolud have seen another 3p of tax added to our woes, but they’ve bottled out of that one.

At the time of writing this however, petrol prices have dropped a bit which is good news for drivers – on the face of it – but it’s not going to last. If someone coughs somewhere in the Middle East the cost of fuel will go up faster than a Saturn rocket as speculators panic and rush to pass on the costs to you and me, thus increasing the government’s revenue. Again.

Up until recently, people seem to have had a major cognitive disconnect between their personal consumption habits and the price of petrol. It’s something of an irony that those with the thirstiest cars may well contribute to the higher prices. It’s supply and demand. Simply put, higher demand for fuel leads to higher prices at the pump.

The choices that people make regarding the fuel efficiency of their motors have a direct impact on the total demand for juice. Now, there’s a growing realisation that if a person’s lifestyle is severely curtailed by rising fuel prices then they really shouldn’t be driving gas-guzzlers. There are enough fuel-efficient cars on the market to allow people to make better decisions about how they get around.

Although public transport would seem to be one answer, the reality is that it is just the domain of the commuter and the urban shuttle bus user and can prove to be very expensive. To go about our lives in the random way that we do means changing the very lifestyle structure we are used to.

In short, we’re cutting back on travel. For example, as little as one hundred years ago people moved about a lot less. The only journey of any distance was, perhaps, the annual holiday – if you could afford one. A bit like now, as it happens. In a recent survey by a well known retail company, some 41% of those polled stated that they are walking and cycling more. It also showed that many people in the UK are seeing their driving state-of-mind change and instead of visiting relatives or a stately home in their leisure time are staying at home and doing the chores and shopping online instead of driving to the soulless shopping malls.

By buying very efficient, smaller cars or EV’s and using them less – alternatively choosing to walk or cycle – the supply and demand chain is broken. If a seller can’t shift product he reduces the price. Could this really be the start of a less petrol dependent society? We’ll have to tell the Chancellor! He could raise the tax on bikes!

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Mini To The Maxi

In the 1970’s there was a terrible car from the British Leyland stable. It was called the Austin Maxi and was about as sleek and desirable as a Thames refuse barge and about as big. Fans of the Austin Maxi (both of them!) should not be upset about this historical reference. This is a news blog not a critique. BL released this car on the basis that, as they had the hugely successful Mini, they might as well make a big version.

BMW now own the Mini brand and seem to have gone barking mad. So far we’ve had the basic Mini hatch and its Cooper variants. This has been rapidly followed over the last few years by – are you ready? – the Coupé , the Roadster, the Convertible, the Clubman, the Clubvan, the four-door Countryman, the John Cooper Works (the best one) and sundry limited editions. Phew.

Even the very many fans of this car – and demand is huge – would think that these versions would be sufficient, but BMW are having none of it. This iconic British name isn’t done yet. They will, probably just because they can, be launching even more models onto an unsuspecting public until 2016, when presumably the madness will stop.

Prepare to be amazed. They clearly feel there is more mileage to be had from this brand. BMW already sell the Mini in over 100 countries and plan to attack the market with yet more models. First up for next year will be the Paceman (pictured). This is a coupé version of a Countryman powered by the 1.6 litre turbocharged power plant from the JCW. With over two hundred brake horse power this vehicle will be marketed as a Sports Activity Coupé . No, we don’t know what that is either.

Next for the list will be something secretly codenamed F54. Word has it that it will be a five-door on a longer wheelbase designed to compete with cars in the Merc A Class sector. For some reason there will also be a longer variation on the Clubman. This will be a four-door based on the same platform as the F54. The burning question is: why?

The F58, still some two or three years away will be even longer and called, so rumour has it, the Sportvan – some form of people carrier. Last but not least, a year later, a saloon version is mooted. Maybe they’ll call it the Maxi.

Where will it all end? What happens when all car makers get in on the act? How many versions of one car can there be? Thank goodness there isn’t a motor manufacturer called Heinz. Their namesake has already produced 57 varieties!

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As Green As Green Can Be

Life is unfair. Drivers, for example, are made to feel as if they must bear the brunt of responsibility for the social and ecological damage caused by cars. In fact, our contribution is pretty small. Energy is used and emissions created on an industrial scale throughout the process of making both fuel and cars before they even get to us, so don’t feel too bad about it.

Many people today consider the green credentials of cars when making a purchase. Unless the buyer is wealthy, the general expense of motoring means that economy, in its various forms, pretty much takes priority. Nevertheless, there are plenty of new cars out there that fit the bill. You really can have it both ways.

Some drivers have to travel tens of thousands of miles in a year and need some comfort and performance. They can’t possibly use a frugal city car. Fortunately, there is a wide range of executive motors that still offer very decent fuel economy and reasonably green stats. They’re all diesels of course but, if you’re doing more than 10k miles in a year then the fuel price premium will pay for itself. The car will also hold a better price on the used car market.

As an example of how motor manufacturers have upped their game, a long distance driver need look no further than the Volvo S60 DRIVe (the small ‘e’ is their choice). This comfortable, elegant car will do 66mpg (on the combined cycle), coughs up a tiny 114g/km of the bad stuff and, at the time of writing, only costs £30 in Vehicle Excise Duty. When we ‘re talking about quality cars that fit the green agenda we can’t leave out the ubiquitous BMW. The 3 Series F30 320d EfficientDynamics Saloon (pictured) running on standard wheels and tyres will achieve 69mpg, 109g/km and all on a £20 road tax rate. In a few short years the achievement is astonishing.

In the small car arena the competition is probably at its most fierce. Obviously the increasing amount of electric cars win the economy battle with offerings from Renault, Peugeot, Citroen and Mitsubishi all achieving the equivalent of over 200mpg with no emissions and no road tax costs – as yet. The argument that electric cars by nature of their production emissions – all those batteries – are not quite as green as they seem continues to rumble on. The only drawback is, as ever, range anxiety and cost, for now.

There are city cars and superminis, both petrol and diesel, that will now offer in excess of 70mpg with emissions below the magic 99g/km target. The VW Polo 1.2 diesel BlueMotion along with choices from Ford, Fiat and Skoda all fit the bill. In fact, across the ranges of family cars and estates, crossovers, SUV’s and even sporting models the canny eco-buyer can have his greens and eat them too!

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New Renault Clio Revealed

In your life you will meet old people who will point at an ancient car and say, “I used to have one of those”. One day in the future you will be one of those people. Sorry, that’s just the way it is. As you read this, someone somewhere will point at a Mark 1 Renault Clio and say, “I used to have one of those”, because the Clio has now been with us for a venerable twenty two years.

It may well be fair to say that the Clio single-handedly rescued Renault’s reputation after a series of duds in the 1970/80’s. Its success is due to the spectacularly successful ‘Papa and Nicole’ TV campaign. Not a lot of people know that the idea for this was taken from the 1966 film ‘How To Steal A Million’. Estelle Skornik, the gamine beauty who played Nicole, had not passed her driving test when she started filming the ads so her driving scenes were done by none other than Britain’s own Penny Mallory. Don’t say you never learn anything from Motor Blogger.

The new Renault Clio is set to continue the success story. In line with trends and despite being more efficient and economical, the Clio is getting bigger. The company thinks that this model will be a more ‘upmarket’ choice. This is slightly worrying because the Clio has always been seen as decent value. We’ll see.

The new car, pictured, is very stylish to look at and first reports say that it is even better to drive than its predecessor. It fits neatly into the supermini sector and is sure to give the competition a fright, especially the all conquering Fiesta and the mighty Mini.

This is the fourth generation and takes styling cues from Renault’s stunning DeZir concept. The front of the car is likely to be the new ‘face’ of Renault with the badge being the prominent feature. The body has a rakish, sporty look so it remains to be seen how rear seat passengers will fare. The interior will be all new in terms of style and packaging, so expect a featured infotainment centre with the now expected connectivity.

The Clio will be powered by the usual crop of small turbo petrol and diesel engines and it is expected that Renault’s advanced new 3 cylinder turbo will be offered. This 900cc unit delivers 108bhp and 160Nm of torque, and promises CO2 emissions of only 95g/km, as well as 76.3mpg combined economy.  A Renaultsport version is sure to follow. The car will be formally announced at the Paris Motor Show and will be available sometime after that. Prices to be are expected to start at around £11k for a basic model. Renault have done well in the small and medium car sectors and this one looks like another winner.

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Aston’s New Vanquish

When it comes to cars you’ll often read or hear hysterical car reviewers asking the question: “Is this the most beautiful car in the world?” All this hyperbole is a bit over the top, to be frank. They are, after all, just motoring tools; things to get us from A to B. Transport. The successor to the horse and cart.

But seriously, is the new Aston Martin Vanquish the most beautiful car in the world? There it is in the picture. Is it not all you have ever wanted? To blokes at least this has got to be the pinnacle of automotive beauty. Let’s say you are walking along when the devil pops up and says: “ Look pal, Angelina wants to be with you, right. She’s going to leave Brad and come over on the next flight. Or you can have this motor now. What’s it to be?” In case you’re still thinking, the answer is: “Where are the keys?”

AM have really done it this time. The Vanquish is the replacement for the almost as desirable DBS. It is the last word in automotive design and engineering. It retains Aston’s styling look but draws on the company’s One-77 supercar for inspiration. Power is provided by an upgrade of the 6.0L V12 engine which offers even more potent performance delivered through a six-speed ZF Touchtronic auto gearbox. 565bhp seems like enough.

It’s promoted as the ultimate grand tourer. As happy on city streets as it is on the motorway the Vanquish is a car that can be used every day and not just brought out for special occasions. In line with current sensibilities the company has made improvements to fuel economy and emission output. The carbon fibre body sits on an aluminium chassis and with a new exhaust system over 40kgs have been shaved from the overall weight.

Yet it’s not just performance that’s been improved over the DBS. The cabin is more spacious and the boot offers a capacious 368 litres of space – that’s a 60% improvement, making the car even more suitable for the long distance tourist. The slight, and it is only slight, drawback is that the car costs the thick end of £200k by the time you add on some goodies.

The Vanquish comes as a two-seater or 2 plus occasional 2 and sits at the top of the range above the DB9, the Vantage and the exquisite Rapide – surely the best family car in the world. Performance, presence, style and great British craftsmanship – the new Vanquish has all these traits in abundance. Order now for the new year.

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Involved in a car accident? Claim today

We all hope that we will never have a car accident and need to make a claim for things like whiplash compensation, but it happens more frequently than you may think. However, not many people have ever worried about this enough to research it. So, when it does happen you need to know that you can find expert advice in regards to making a claim.

There are many people out there who claim to offer “no win no fee” or say they have all the experience, but is this true? Working with expert solicitors from a legal firm means that you have the best chance of getting the compensation you deserve.


When researching for claims, you need to know where to look – who to search for. It is fairly simple really; you need an accessible and knowledgeable law firm to give you clear advice. Finding one of those isn’t always as easy as it sounds, but when you use a website like Road Traffic Accident Site you will be in safe hands.


You need to find out all about road traffic incidents and what this means to you. A guide to compensation and a rundown of common injuries is crucial. Know what your problem is and then find the way to solve it.


Most firms will set you up with a “no win no fee” deal that gives you all the compensation. This is ideal for these situations because it means you’re never making a loss. By getting the When it comes down to it, online are games of luck. right documentation going in – plus a top law firm – you will be putting your best foot forward for a top claim.


You’ve had an accident that wasn’t your fault. Many people may think that this is something that they should just get on with. What about my insurance? Or it will take too long they might say. But, it’s your right to claim.


Evidence should be collated as soon as an incident occurs. So, photographs, eye witness reports and documents regarding losses should be created. From here, you need to get in touch with the experts and file straight away.

And there’s more

It is impossible to get everything online and you have to speak to people in person before deciding anything, and this is why you need to get in touch. Every case will have its unique points, so find your base and then speak directly to an expert for more information.

A solicitor will need to know exactly what happened, what evidence there is and how this has changed your life. Interim payments from work are possible in some cases. So, now is the time to see if you could make a claim and using the internet and professionals to guide you through the process is the perfect strategy.

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Do you have an adventurous family? Are your lot a latter day Swiss Family Robinson? Well, now’s the time to prove it. Those nice people at Tom-Tom have come up with a terrific adventure wheeze on the tropical island paradise of Mauritius.
It’s simple really. TomTom need an intrepid family to map out this exquisite island, sparkling in the azure Indian Ocean. You’ll all need to know how to negotiate cultural differences, draw maps, triangulate for accuracy, discover local knowledge and .. only kidding! You might find yourself forced to swim in peaceful lagoons or do a little light surfing but hey, you’re working for TomTom, right? How bad can that be?

There’s no need to pack your walking boots – unless you really want to – as you’ll be supplied with your own family sized 4×4 mapping vehicle. If you’re worried about how you could possibly afford this holiday – sorry, working trip – then fear not. TomTom understand your plight and will pay you the magnificent sum of £10,000 for your efforts.

The company will fly all of you to Mauritius and, if that wasn’t enough, they’ll bring you back as well! Because this task is so demanding TomTom will put you up in a 4 Star all inclusive beach resort for 14 nights. So if you think your family has got what it takes then join your host Christopher Bradshaw at and fill out the simple form.
If Mauritius doesn’t float your boat, you can also find out about similar explorations of the Cape Verde Islands or the Seychelles. Let’s face it – would TomTom send you out of your way? Good Luck!
This post has been kindly sponsored by TomTom – The Satellite Navigation People. 

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