Goodbye Freelander, Hello Disco Sport

On the very day the Land Rover Freelander 2 featured here was delivered for review by Motor Blogger, the very first Discovery Sport – the replacement for the venerable compact all-rounder – rolled off the production line. This doesn’t mean that reviewing the out-going car is a waste of time though because it continues to have much to recommend it as a great used car buy.6 300x192 Goodbye Freelander, Hello Disco Sport

I wondered if the Evoque may have taken some of the sales share away from the older car – given that they share engines and some mechanicals – but this isn’t the case, according to Land Rover. Since the original Freelander first appeared in 1997, the company have sold almost a million worldwide as at the end of 2013.

Indeed, 13859 of them were purchased by UK customers during 2013 so clearly the demand for this practical and versatile car remains.

2 300x205 Goodbye Freelander, Hello Disco SportAs the Freelander exits through the gift shop over the next few months the range has been pared down accordingly. Our vehicle was in fully loaded Metropolis trim with Indus Silver paint, Windsor Leather Ebony Seats, Ebony interior with Grand Black Veneer all set off by some fetching 19” Alloy Diamond Turned wheels. Our car came with the optional full-sized spare wheel – a must have for peace of mind I think. At around £35,000, this is not a cheap car but it is a very complete and able one. Land Rover reckon 40mpg should be possible on the combined cycle and that seems reasonable after a week of mixed use.

The first thing you notice is how tall you sit in the saddle affording the driver with a clear all-round view. Certainly, there’s a degree of body roll and I felt the steering was over-light, but the car always feels safe and predictable, plus there’s plenty of grip from the permanent four-wheel drive. Power is derived from the torquey 188bhp 2.2L SD4 turbo diesel via an excellent auto gearbox that always seems to select the right gear. I didn’t feel the need to switch to the paddles.

The Freelander is about cruising comfort. It’s good to drive on road. The suspension easily smooths out our ruined roads, There’s a pared-down version of Land Rover’s Terrain Response system on board, which adjusts the traction control according to the conditions meaning that this car can handle all but the most difficult gnarly stuff with ease, which is why it scores well against the more road-oriented vehicles from other car makers.3 300x195 Goodbye Freelander, Hello Disco Sport

Inside, the Freelander has benefited from Land Rover’s overall upmarket trend. The dashboard is a high-quality affair, with soft-touch materials and metal trim. As mentioned there’s no Terrain Response dial like you’ll find in a Discovery; instead you get a pair of buttons which scroll through the various transmission settings, which is fine.

The interior benefits from deep door pockets, a decent-sized glove compartment and plenty of storage cubbies, so there’s no shortage of space. The boot is massive offering 755 litres of space, which expands to a cavernous 1,670 litres when the standard-fit split-fold seats are folded down flat. The lack of a seven-seat option does limit the Freelander 2′s flexibility and overall people-carrying ability compared to some but the brilliant existing Discovery fulfils that brief anyway.

Although in some ways it is starting to show its age I still think the Freelander laughs in the face of more trendy opposition secure in the knowledge that is part of a legendary heritage. Still a great choice.Land Rover Discovery Sport 2015 0051 300x184 Goodbye Freelander, Hello Disco Sport

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The Efficient Audi A6 Ultra

Our featured car is the imposing Audi A6 you can see in the image. It’s a 2.0L four-cylinder turbo-diesel, in this case in S-Line trim with the S-Tronic auto ’box. It is fast yet frugal. It’s also lighter thanks to a steel/aluminium construction.

This is thanks to the Company’s new ’Ultra’ technology which brings hundreds of innovations together to deliver better efficiency, delivering more for less. The result is greater agility with lower fuel consumption and CO² emissions, aided by unobtrusive Stop/Start.

A6b2 The Efficient Audi A6 Ultra The engine powering the Ultra is a completely new development engineered for lean burning with no impact on performance and meeting stringent new Euro 6 emission standards.

The key upgrades include the amazing new 187bhp motor and the adoption of a revised seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. A manual six-speed is also available. Our featured car had the added option of the MMI Navigation Plus Pack that includes a Driver Information System and a larger retractable screen than the 6.5” version offered as standard.

The car offers a quality feel that permeates the interior augmenting a classy executive exterior look. The A6 Ultra delivers a new dimension in fuel efficiency, low emissions and company driver appeal – that‘s the point. This is a car ideally suited to, and I suggest designed for, the business and fleet community with low VED and a 19% BIK rate.

The driving position is spot-on with plenty of head room and a wide range of adjustment. The dash is smart and feels robust. Rear legroom is generous even though there’s a large 530L boot. The A6 Ultra is easy to manoeuvre, despite its size, while good visibility and standard-fit parking sensors means slotting into a space is straightforward. The S-Tronic gearbox is pretty faultless but paddles are there for manual control and there’s a sport mode for extra performance – although there’ll be an economy penalty. You can’t have it both ways.A6a The Efficient Audi A6 Ultra

For a big car it handles well although I suspect though that most buyers will be looking at the car as an overall package rather than just for driving thrills. The Ultra range is a great addition to the Audi portfolio and any company car driver covering high annual mileage can only be impressed with its mix of efficiency, refinement and effortless performance.

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Five Secrets You Didn’t Know about the Audi A6 Saloon

For a car to reveal all it has to offer requires some long-term testing. But sometimes drivers never find out a car’s “little secrets” simply because the opportunity never comes up. Discovering a car’s hidden gems earlier on can lead to better vehicle performance and smarter ownership. So today, We’re going to dig deeper into the little tricks that the Audi A6 3-litre TDI S-Line S-tronic with Quattro four-wheel drive has to offer.

Some tricks make full use of the car’s in-built technology and others simply make your life easier.

Secret 1:  The Virtual Dipstick

Today’s modern engines have done away with some of the mundane weekly checks that our parents used to carry out. Checking the oil being one of them – essential to ensure the engine isn’t going to seize due to a lack of lubrication.

The A6 is quite capable of advising you that it needs a top-up and that you should get it sorted pronto. No sudden stops at the roadside in a panic, just a detour to the garage to get some of that black gold.

Once topped-up the central display will tell you all is well, so you can lose the oily rag and avoid dirty fingers that every dipstick check delivers.

More secrets are revealed when you gain access to the car’s computer such as service intervals information and what pressure the tyres are at and, if you really need to know, the car’s Vehicle Identification Number.virtual dipstick Five Secrets You Didn’t Know about the Audi A6 Saloon

Secret 2: The Self-Suspending Boot Floor

Everyone dreads a flat. Especially when it’s raining and especially when the entire family (including restless kids) are in the car. On this Quattro car, during the test, it was necessary to put the Audi toolkit into use and as usual it was under the boot floor.

Normally, holding the floor up while accessing the kit requires three hands, or at least a shoulder to prop it open. In this case however, the flush fitting handle that lifts the floor up has a little hook on the end of it, which once engaged secures the floor panel to the top boot seal. Simple yet ingenious.

More obvious but worth mentioning are the two gas-struts that keep the bonnet open – no other strut required. It’s the little things that please most owners, right?self suspending boot floor Five Secrets You Didn’t Know about the Audi A6 Saloon

Secret 3: Locking Rear Seats Deter Felons

One advantage of the saloon over the estate version is better security. Any miscreant breaking into your estate car can easily access the storage area simply by clambering over the back seat.

In some saloons, the thief can still get in the boot by dropping the seatbacks. Not so in the A6! That’s because the backrests are lockable so you can prevent access to the boot. That’s clever thinking to protect your valuables. If you want to find out more about this car’s performance check out this Audi A6 Saloon review.

locking rear seats deter felons Five Secrets You Didn’t Know about the Audi A6 Saloon

Secret 4: The Car That Parks Itself.

Self-parking cars are not uncommon. For an experienced driver though, the challenge is trusting the tech to achieve the delicate art of parallel parking. The idea of technology is to make life easier for the user. But to achieve car parking nirvana, you have to learn to trust the tech.

The thing is, this A6 can effectively park itself. It takes an act of will to relinquish the steering wheel but you still need to control the brake and throttle. On the road test, the A6 demonstrated that it was entirely capable of assessing the space available and manoeuvring itself into the gap accordingly.

Subsequent tests revealed so long as the space was of adequate size, the Audi parked itself successfully – no drama or fuss. Although, on one occasion, it wasn’t perfectly straight. Then again, how often do we get it exactly right?car parks itself Five Secrets You Didn’t Know about the Audi A6 Saloon

Secret 5: The Digital Handbook

In the glove box of any new car you’ll find the handbook, which these days are about the size of a hardback version of War and Peace. To get the best out of your car this needs to be read from cover to cover but, in all honesty, how many owners actually do that?

The A6 almost dispenses with this antiquated method of information and instead allows the driver to access a digital handbook on screen. To do this it is first necessary to get to grips with the Audi’s systems before you can get to the guide that takes you through the car’s main controls and systems.

It isn’t meant to replace the handbook (the A6 comes with a printed version), but when those occasions arise the handbook isn’t where it should be, i.e. in the car as opposed to a mouldering drawer in the garage, you can still find out what you need to know, especially in an emergency.

These days we are becoming much more accustomed to in-car technology and 21st Century automotive marvels. It has become much easier to connect your mobile device to stream music and access contacts, it’s just the Audi A6 still has some tricks up its very smart sleeve and it is willing to let you in on the secret.digital handbook Five Secrets You Didn’t Know about the Audi A6 Saloon

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Suzuki SX4 S-Cross – Quality And Value.

Earlier this year Motor Blogger found himself in the Suzuki display at a major trade event. MB came away impressed and, as a consequence, managed to arrange to have the featured car for a whole week – a Suzuki SX4 S-Cross in top-of-the-range SZ5 trim.

Interested parties can get this car in one of four grades and trim levels with a choice of two engines: a Fiat derived 1.6L turbo-diesel or an in-house 1.6L petrol unit. Buyers can choose between two-wheel drive or – a must, I reckon – the AllGrip four-wheel option. Suzuki have this 4×4 business sorted I believe and it turns what could be seen as just another regular family crossover in the ever- growing pack of similar offerings into something much more versatile.

MB1 Suzuki SX4 S Cross   Quality And Value.It’s no mud-plugger obviously, but for sure-footed peace of mind in our sometimes challenging winter driving conditions on our ‘craters of the moon’ roads, it is worth stumping up for the extra costs involved. There are four driver selected options available. The car will run normally as a two-wheel front driver in Auto, but this can be shifted on the fly into Sport mode which engages the rear wheels and slightly boosts engine performance (you can feel the extra 500rpm kick in). The AllGrip system diverts 20% more of the 320Nm of torque to rear wheels and when driving around the more difficult stretches of my test route at pace, I appreciated the extra power and grip.

When the going gets tougher or when the dreaded white stuff makes an unwelcome appearance then the beleaguered driver can switch to the Mud/Snow option which enhances traction and stability. Finally, the Lock mode distributes high torque to the rear wheels continually, ideal for extricating the car from deeper snow and the like. It’s a good system, it is easy to use and it works.

Our featured car was fitted with the diesel engine. Setting off, acceleration is a bit pedestrian as you’d expect and, if I’m honest, a tad grumbly in operation but once you get it rolling it’s fine and indeed feels very willing to crack on. When the car was delivered it had achieved 61.9mpg thanks obviously to some smooth driving in 2WD mode. That’s good. In my hands however no car is allowed any slackness or back-sliding – they have to work. The SX4 spent most of its time in the Sport option yet still managed to achieve a splendid 50mpg on average whilst still only coughing up a modest 114g/km of emissions.

mb2 Suzuki SX4 S Cross   Quality And Value.It is really good to drive. Many people have to buy the cars they need rather than the cars they want so isn’t it great when a car that is functional and versatile can also be entertaining to drive. The ride quality impressed as did the lack of roll in corners.

All SX4 S-Cross SZ3 models are equipped as standard with seven airbags, ESP and Tyre Pressure Monitoring as well as Daytime Running Lights (DRL), 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control with speed limiter, air conditioning, heated door mirrors, black protective skid plates and black wheel arch extensions. SZ4 adds 17-inch alloy wheels finished in dark grey, Dual Zone automatic air conditioning, front fog lamps, Bluetooth connectivity, rear privacy glass, silver roof rails and silver skid plates.

SZ-T (the one for business and fleet users with BIK of 18%) adds satellite navigation (a bit below par, it has to be said) with DAB radio, polished 17-inch alloy wheels, rear parking camera and rear parking proximity sensors and chrome styling package. Equipment for the top of the range SZ5 model we are featuring includes front parking sensors, leather seat upholstery, double sliding panoramic sunroof and HID projector headlamps with AUTO function. There’s a range of eight exterior colours. The aforementioned sunroof (it opens) is a highlight, making the interior bright and airy but if you want to shut out the weather there’s an electrically operated blind.

The boot is big and very adaptable. Inside, I found the seats comfortable, with tons of legroom front and back, and the driving position adaptable. Sure, on the cheaper models there are some plastics but that must be expected; in any case the Suzuki appeared well screwed together.

This car costs between around £14,000 and (for our car) £22,720 and there are deals. For what you get that’s great value. There is a car from another brand that is considered the benchmark in this sector – the small SUV by which all others are judged. In my opinion, the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross SZ5, as tested, is the equal of the other (better looking too) and, crucially, cheaper by almost £3k at the range-topper. Well worth considering.

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Driverless On The Hockenheim Racetrack

At Germany’s Touring Car race finale at Hockenheim Audi will stage one of the most extreme piloted driving demonstrations to date. They will underscore piloted driving potential as part of the programme for the final German Touring Car Championship race at Hockenheim.

There will be a live broadcast on Audi Media TV from 12:45pm on October 19, 2014 when an autonomous car will undertake a two-minute lap time and try and achieve a speed of 149mph.

driverless Driverless On The Hockenheim RacetrackA driverless Audi RS7 Sportback will tackle Germany’s famous circuit at race speed next week to underscore the potential of their piloted driving technology. With the latest Audi developments on board, the concept car will drive autonomously to its physical limits with millimetre precision as an exciting sideshow for the Touring Car Championship (DTM) finale on the 19th.

As its sophisticated sensors guide it around the challenging circuit, the RS7 Sportback piloted driving concept car will be approximately as fast as with a professional racing driver at the wheel. Tests conducted so far indicate that on the grand prix track a lap time of just over two minutes can be expected, and that the technology demonstrator should reach speeds, as mentioned, of up to 149mph.

The performance will be broadcast live and exclusively on the Internet starting at 12:45 pm on Audi Media TV.

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The Practical Volkswagen Touran

The Touran is a MPV (multi-purpose vehicle) and its purpose is not to excite but instead to do automotive lifestyle things in a practical manner. Our featured car was in seven-seat form but a five-seat version is available.

Driving, the 1.6L four cylinder turbo-diesel engine seemed very willing – quietly going about its business and demonstrating a willingness to crack on. In fact, the Touran surprised me by being an excellent driver. It’s never going to be a fast car but it maintained a lively pace and was light and easy to drive. There is even a ‘Sport’ version.

w1 The Practical Volkswagen TouranThe ride was a bit of a revelation. VW have done a great job with the suspension and seating and the Touran floated over our ruined roads with aplomb; the lumps and bumps scarcely registering on the Motor Blogger posterior. Lean into corners was similarly well controlled: it is there but not at all intrusive.

Inside, the car is well designed, very well made and roomy – with many practical attributes I’ll get on to but it is dull; surely there’s scope for a little colour? Perhaps some contrasting stitching or classy bright work? There are some ‘brushed aluminium’ effects but they just blend in. MB didn’t particularly care for the black plastic surround of the central fascia but most buyers probably wouldn’t be so picky. All the connectivity is there – Bluetooth and so on – it just isn’t a very interesting place to be.

w3 The Practical Volkswagen TouranThe list of features on this car is endless. Standout items on this SE model though include ‘Park Assist’ and ‘Park Pilot’ (the Touran can more or less park itself); storage drawers under the front seats, capacious ‘hidden’ under-floor storage on the second row and even cubbies and cupholders on the back row. There’s even storage in the roof! I also appreciated the privacy glass for all – sensibly – but the front seats. I do take issue with the satellite navigation. It works fine but I quickly became irritated by the rather strict ‘voice’.

Open the rear hatchback and you’ll find that the boot lip is commendably low. With the seven seat configuration the boot space in the back is limited – fine for shopping – but the third row of seats fold away flat quickly and easily to hugely increase luggage space. If you need all seven seats for the larger family then the fitted roof rails will support roof boxes and the like.

I am so impressed with how well thought out this car is. The second row of seats lift out and there is all manner of ways to configure the interior. The Volkswagen Touran is never going to inflame your automotive desires but it is going to satisfy your long term, all-purpose motoring needs.

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Fight Back Down Under

Down under, on the far side of the world, Australian motor enthusiasts have had enough of being the whipping boys for all the swivel-eyed, health and safety, car-hating monomaniacs who for too long have, just as it’s been for UK motorists, done their level best to brow-beat the drivers of Oz into meek submission.

Australians like their freedoms. They like to quaff a few cold beers, grill shrimps, watch a bizarre form of sleeveless rugby and drive proper V8-powered cars. They are done with being interfered with. In Britain it seems like we just roll over and accept our lot, but in Australia in 2013 they formed their own political party — the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party and they are determined to have their say.

aus2 Fight Back Down UnderSee if this sounds in any way familiar: According the Party’s website, “with the rights and civil liberties of everyday Australians being eroded at an alarming rate, the Party aims to bring focus back to the notion that the Government is there for the people; not, as it increasingly appears, the other way around.”

The Party launched in response to widespread anti-hooning (hooning is the Aussie term for anyone taking place in racing, burnouts, joyriding, etc.) legislation passed by the Australian government, as well as the closing of many areas that off-roaders used in the past. The regulations passed last year were especially concerning to Australian petrolheads because a first offence for “wilfully starting or driving a motor vehicle in a way that makes unnecessary noise or smoke” could lead to an immediate ninety day impound of the allegedly offending motor. The Party are not condoning reckless or illegal activities; they are concerned about the potential over-zealous interpretation of the law.

The AMEP was formed and instead of just making a lot of noise, ran a candidate for Senate, and to a whole lot of peoples’ surprise, won a seat in the Federal Senate. “The success of the AMEP at a Federal level will open doors to negotiation which have previously been unavailable to us as motoring enthusiasts,” reads the AMEP’s website. “The unity displayed by supporters of the AMEP at the election sends a clear message to those who would see our culture dismantled – we are not a minority, and we will not give up the fight for our rights and freedom.” Senator Elect Ricky Muir takes his seat on last Monday. We watch with interest. Not to say envy.

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A Practical Choice

There are some very strong contenders in both the SUV and ‘crossover’ sectors and the Honda CR-V (pictured) needs to come up with the goods. Amazingly, it has been around since 1995 and has apparently has sold around five million units in that time. More of a soft-roader than a hardcore mud-plugger, it is absolutely biased toward on-road use so the much lighter two-wheel-drive models make more sense. The featured car is just that, equipped with a frugal 1.6 i-DTEC diesel engine.

1mb2 A Practical ChoiceAlthough it’s a handsome enough car Honda haven’t done much to break new ground in design, taking as they have the tried and tested route. No manufacturer really seems to want to take any risks with this sector and all their SUV’s are starting to look similar.

As time went on though Motor Blogger quite warmed to the CR-V. The 1.6 diesel lacks punch but is extremely frugal (officially 62.8mpg). That seems to be the point of this car. Efficiency and practicality are the watch-words here and in that Honda have succeeded. Despite reservations about the conservative styling, the company has done a lot of work on the CR-V’s aerodynamics to further boost efficiency.

There’s a stop/start system to help keep CO² emissions down. To make sure drivers don’t forget this car’s green credentials the dashboard features a large ‘ECON’ button. When pressed, it adjusts the engine mapping for a yet more efficient drive. It also changes the sensitivity of the air conditioning so it doesn’t have to work as hard. The CR-V even goes so far as to confirm economic driving via a logo on the dash, which becomes greener the greener you’re driving.

Performance would be enhanced by selecting either of the larger petrol or diesel engine options but this really is not why most folk would buy this car. This big five-seater is ideal as a family choice.  There’s tons of head and leg room all round with plenty of cubby space. The split rear-seat fold-down system is extremely easy to use. With one pull, the seat-back folds down with the headrest stored away very nicely to leave a flat load area making an already huge boot even more capacious. It’s like Kent’s Cavern in there and beats most of the opposition. A sign of good design. There’s a stout rubber boot liner over the carpet which is easily removed for cleaning. The interior light cluster above the front passengers has a handy drop-down box to stow your shades but push it back partially and a small convex mirror is revealed which gives a perfect view of the kids in the back seat. A thoughtful touch.4mb A Practical Choice

No driving horrors but not much driving fun either, but this is not the purpose of the car. The ride is built for comfort not speed and the leather/Alcantara seats have plenty of adjustment, including lumbar. There’s a five-star NCAP rating. Connectivity is as usual but the absence of sat-nav in this day and age on what is a £28k car in this spec is a surprise.

For people in the market for a reliable, all purpose, practical family car it is certainly worthy of consideration. Personally, we would look at the less expensive end of the range.

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Driving Between The Lines

It seems hard to understand but new research seems to show that removing the white lines down the middle of the road actually reduces speeding.

These findings have come out of government work to reassess road markings and street furniture generally because, they believe, drivers are being confused by the plethora of signage out there. For now, this page will ignore the issue that they clearly think that most of us are as thick as two short planks and look at what they are up to.

Transport for London – for it is they who are doing this work – believe that by removing central white lines that separate two lanes of opposing traffic will result in a significant decrease in the speed of vehicles. They are suggesting that rubbing out lines will ‘introduce an element of uncertainty into the minds of motorists’, thus causing us to slow down. It’s like some sort of reverse Pavlovian exercise.

They’ve tried it on three roads in London. At all three test sites it was shown that traffic slowed down. The biggest decrease on the Seven sisters Road was by just over four miles per hour.

Their psychology appears to suggest that we motorists think that white lines, hatching and the like, provide some sort of magical barrier over which cars on the other side cannot cross. They take no account of the fact that most drivers don’t trust any other drivers on the road to do anything right and are, therefore, alert to dangers, but there you are. Such is their opinion of the great unwashed public.

This all stems from finding out in the bosky avenues of Wiltshire in 2003 which appear to show similar reductions in accidents. If it was so good then, how come it hasn’t been picked up earlier? This is another knee-jerk reaction to the perils of speed because, as we know, officials like to blame speed for all motoring ills, seemingly forgetting about the phone users, texters and all the myriad other reasons why people have accidents.

Most drivers have mostly become inured to the constant fiddling with the rules of the road but pretty soon now they are going to take umbrage for being treated like idiots. Mind you, they have got one thing right – there are indeed too many unnecessary signs.

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We Need More Police

In a surprising turn and clearly bought on by the invidious use of heartless speed cameras, law-abiding motorists have become frustrated by the lack of a police presence on Britain’s highways and byways and believe there is little chance of law-breakers being caught and prosecuted.

Motor Blogger spends a lot of time behind the wheel and can confirm that driving standards are dropping. The purpose of indicators is to let other roads users know your intentions, for example, yet increasingly bad drivers are manoeuvring without recourse to that troublesome indicator stalk.

We’ve all seen idiots using mobile phones, sending texts and so on and sadly it is clear that many lazy brainless motorists in modern Britain think there is little risk of being caught breaking the law for anything other than speeding or running a red light – offences typically enforced via cameras – so why, they think, bother with the rules at all?

For the best part of the 20th Century, motorists bemoaned what they saw then as the draconian enforcement of traffic rules by actual human policemen. At every turn there seemed to be cops lurking in lay-by’s ready to catch the unwary, but here’s the thing: although there’s a bad apple in every barrel, for the most part the cops were able to judge each infringement on merit and act accordingly. Oftentimes this resulted in a reprimand and a stern warning rather than an instant penalty. As a motoring nation we moaned about this but now, perhaps, we are beginning to see the light.

It seems that forty percent of law-abiding car users believe anyone committing common offences such as texting at the wheel of either a moving or stationary vehicle, aggressive driving, tailgating, middle lane hogging or undertaking on the motorway would more than likely get away with it. Sixty percent of motorists surveyed believe this is because there are insufficient numbers of police officers on the roads to enforce driving laws.

The only offences that motorists truly believe are dealt with effectively are the ones that are enforced via cameras such as speeding and traffic light violations which is why we‘ve long since arrived at the ‘cash-cow’ debate. It isn’t just the roads either, there are simply not enough cops, period.

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