Tag Archive | "driving standards"

Say Goodbye To Driving For Fun

Jeremy Clarkson – love him or loathe him – says what he thinks regardless of the opinion of others. This is one of the reasons why he has risen to the pinnacle of automotive journalism. He also seems to have his finger on the pulse of what many of us think. Referring to ‘safety’ in a recent car review – which I quote here verbatim – he says, “I hate safety. It makes me nervous because when I feel safe I have a nagging doubt in the back of my mind that I can’t really be having much fun. As a general rule, the two things are mutually exclusive”.

Before anyone reaches for a handy and fully loaded blunderbuss, he is – as has to be the case – generalising. He is not saying that safety in cars is bad, only that by saving us from ourselves the people who make the rules are spoiling the very thing we like doing most. OK, the second thing. Car manufacturers cannot be blamed. They are simply providing that which is being called for, but where does it end?

Older drivers who, in their earlier lives, experienced motoring without the benefits of ABS, ESP and a host of other things known only by their initials, will tell you that driving was, quite simply, more fun. Obviously, they were not constrained by anywhere near so many rules and regulations. These were the days when it was assumed that folk had a modicum of common sense and motorists were pretty much left to get on with it. Also, there were fewer cars on the road.

So, whether we like it or not, time, stupendously crass official decisions and crowded highways have eroded the spirit of motoring to a nubbin. Now we have cars that can look after themselves without any input from us. We are swaddled in safety blankets like newborns and not allowed to think for ourselves. Nanny State has long since passed away; your Big Brother is in charge now and he will tell you it is all for your own good.

Modern cars are gradually eroding our decision making. Even the driver is becoming a passenger. The pleasures of driving are consequently disappearing. Not everyone can afford the luxury of track days. A great many cars are becoming boring and as a result driving standards are dropping – as we have pointed out elsewhere on this website – because we come to rely on the auto-gadgets.

Now, if you’ll pardon the cliché, accidents are by their very nature just that. Nobody wants to accidentally hit a child that has run into the road which is why we welcome devices that help prevent such an horrendous occurrence but the fact remains they are acting for us and thus our in-built driving skills begin to atrophy. It’s the end of the road.

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Driving Through Floods.

Britain has experienced, if that’s the right word, the most rain in 248 years and it’s not showing any sign of stopping. This presents more and, for many, new challenges when driving on our soaked highways. Here’s some advice for dealing with any flooded roads drivers might find themselves encountering.

For starters and rather obviously, it is best to avoid flooded roads altogether. Basically, if a driver knows a road is at risk he shouldn’t go down it at all. Nevertheless, we must all prepare for the unexpected. Essentially, for most cars except massive 4×4’s, fifteen centimetres is about as much as the average car can manage.

The answer is to get out and check. The water will usually be most shallow on the crown of the road. If it is deep there then it will be deeper along the sides. Try to establish visual markers; the height of the water against traffic signs for example, or indeed, stranded vehicles. If in doubt, don’t.

When it comes to road speed through water then less is definitely more in safety terms. Enter the water at no more than four or five miles per hour. Tick-over in first gear may be faster than this so there’s a need to slip the clutch in order not to go too quickly. Keeping the engine revving prevents water sneakily entering via the exhaust pipe.

It is necessary to go this slowly because the car needs to push the water aside, creating a depression in front to prevent the engine sucking in water through its air intake. The faster you go the more the water is disturbed then a bow wave is created and there is more likelihood that the engine will flood. If there are other cars coming in the opposite direction then wait for a turn. Their actions could result in your engine becoming flooded.

Once through, gently apply the brakes to remove excess water from the pads. If the engine sounds odd then it might have swallowed some water. Driving a misfiring car could cause more damage. Stop immediately and seek help. Ideally of course, avoid driving altogether if your district is afflicted with floods; but if you must go out then try to remember these wise words.

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It’s Official – Where You Live Matters

When it comes to driving standards that is. The sober and august body of public guardians known to us as the DVLA have said so, so it must be true. Their figures derive from 2012 results.

Yes, that’s right, people of Smethwick in the West Midlands, we are talking to you, or about you, depending. It seems that this rascally section of the populace had more drivers banned than any other part of mainland Britain. 0.77% of them to be precise.

And it’s no good you lot in West Bromwich, just up the road, looking all superior either – you are nearly as bad with 0.73% getting your licences revoked.  In in terms of actual population number that’s 191 people in West Brom against 160 in Smethwick who have taken reluctantly to public transport.

It seems like the DVLA has it in for the Midlands but, in fact, there are pockets of miscreants scattered about the country. The Welsh, for example, need not be all superior because in Merthyr Tydfil 163 drivers had their licences suspended. So it goes on around the country. How, for example, can 131 souls in Peterhead lose their right to drive? They will be presumably be let off come independence because the DVLA will be south of the border.

Overall, in 2012, 113,646 people were banned from driving on the mainland. Obviously that’s only a tiny fraction of the population but you get bet that many, many more fell foul of the many, many rules and regulations we are subjected to. Speed camera penalties run into the millions.

Recent experience has shown that driving standards are dropping and that the guilty parties come from all the age groups and both experienced and new drivers. The reason is clear. The lack of a police presence on our roads. The sight of a police motor is all that is needed for drivers to moderate their attitude.

Unfortunately there is too much reliance on machines to do the job, but machines can’t see the mobile phone (and tablet!) users, the eaters and drinkers and all the other daft things that some drivers get up to. These as much as speed are the cause of accidents but machines cannot make value judgements. The sad truth is that if we went back to the old ways of doing things, there would be even more disgruntled, banned drivers at the bus stops of Britain.

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The Fleeting Pleasure Of Driving

A third of drivers simply don’t enjoy driving anymore, according to the latest survey. It seems that the main reason given – according to fifty-one percent of those surveyed – for not enjoying driving on our roads was the cost of fuel.

This was closely followed by congestion which blighted the lives of forty-one percent. Others felt that they were no longer excited by driving (which could be as a result of all the technology added to cars making them safer but, for the most part, dull)or simply did not have enough leisure time, (25.9%).

Still, there is a brighter side. Overall thirty-nine percent of those who responded still consider driving and riding for fun as their hobby and one third of respondents still like to go out for a spin.

Fifty-three per cent of respondents think that, compared with other road users, they are good drivers, with just over forty-five per cent responding that they are very good. How very honest. We always though that everybody believed it was other people who always drove badly.

Yet more facts were revealed. Seventy-eight percent would usually drive when out with their partner yet half of respondents don’t always feel relaxed when their partner is in the passenger seat. There are several comments that could be made here but in the interests of fairness, Motor Blogger will keep quiet.

It seems that other road users are the problem with over sixty per cent of respondents stating that it’s the behaviour of other drivers on the road that makes them feel the most nervous. This was followed by bad weather conditions and driving near to heavy goods vehicles.

It’s all very gloomy but remember this. Sometimes, once in a while, we all find a piece of open road and can for a while at least recover some of the joys of motoring. The best of our countryside is still the best in the world so the next time someone says ‘let’s go for a drive’, just do it. You’ll feel better.

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Break It To Them Gently

The sad fact is that we all get old. There are many plus points to getting older in terms of knowledge and wisdom but the fact is that old age brings with it a certain frailty to a greater or lesser degree. As a matter of course older people deal with these things stoically and continue to enjoy life and this, of course, includes driving.

Nevertheless, for many older people there comes a time when it is no longer appropriate to be in charge of a tonne of hot rushing metal. The trouble is, some elderly drivers can feel quite defensive about their driving and any criticism of it. Either the change is so gradual they don’t notice or they know very well but see the alternative as a lost freedom.

To counter this some drivers change their style to demonstrate to the world that they have still got what it takes. It has been shown that they tend to drive much faster, more aggressively and assertively than they had done before. When challenged, these people become even more defensive and the whole thing spirals out of control.

Talking to an elderly relative about driving – especially if the goal is to get that person to hang up the car keys – needs to be part of a properly planned approach that’s sensitive and constructive. It is best not to say anything off the cuff but rather line up some sensible ideas and suggestions to help my them, rather than simply expressing panic and concern at his driving style. By showing care and compassion, we can help an elderly person make a smoother transition to a less mobile lifestyle.

Put yourself in their shoes. The best way to do this is by experiencing life without the car yourself. This will help you appreciate both the drawbacks and the advantages. Raising the matter of safety and retiring from driving a year or more in advance might mean you’re spared the need to spring it on them at the last minute. You can work together over a period of time to make a few small adjustments in driving style, vehicle and journey type. Explore the practical options your relative will have to remain as mobile as possible. If you’re going to talk about using the bus, then research the timetable, for example. Don’t focus solely on the necessary journeys. Shopping and the like is something we all do regularly but remember folk also like to go on outings or, indeed, just for a drive. What are the alternatives for them?

The matter of ageing and lose of mobility comes to us all. Perhaps by helping an elderly relative come to terms with it will help you when it’s your turn. And it will be your turn.

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Could Ultimate Car Control Be Taken From You?

A few days ago Motor Blogger queried the intentions behind technology whereby your car could be controlled by others. You can refresh your knowledge here. Now there’s a new, or additional, threat – depending on your point of view. It is called Intelligent Speed Adaptation.

It seems that seventy five percent of European drivers are concerned that the use of Intelligent Speed Adaptations (ISAs) will compromise safety, according to new research. Last month, the European Union announced that they were considering rules for new cars to be fitted with ISA technology. This would be capable of detecting speed limits through cameras or satellites and automatically applying the brakes of your car without so much as a by-your-leave. Even existing vehicles could be forced to have the technology fitted, no doubt at the owners expense.

Seventy-eight per cent of motorists don’t want to see the retro fitting of ISA technology onto older vehicles. The research also shows that fifty-seven per cent of drivers feel that ISAs would not have a positive impact on road safety – avoiding crashes, deaths and injuries and so on.

However, there is overwhelming support for the science when car control remains with the driver. Sixty-seven per cent of respondents would prefer ISAs to operate with warning messages with no control of the vehicle. That does make sense.

Respondents do feel that there are some benefits to ISAs. Fifty-two per cent see a reduced likelihood of speeding convictions and less money spent on traffic calming measures such as road humps. Thirty-one per cent of respondents – presumably older, more experienced ones – feel that, if enforced, ISAs should be restricted to younger drivers, newly qualified drivers and drivers with previous road-related convictions.

Certainly this high-tech stuff could help to save lives but it’s clear that drivers remain dubious about the benefits of the technology. More research into the benefits would help to reassure the public that this will improve road safety.

In short – we don’t trust it. We suspect – with good reason – it is yet another way to control drivers. The real answer is of course to ensure that drivers are trained properly in the first place.

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Your Driving Week

Cars are great but what is not so great is, that to be able to afford them, we have to go to work. Going to work means getting up early whatever the weather and heading off into the rush hour traffic.

Rush hour is when the most vulnerable road users are about. Children are walking or cycling to school – sometimes in poor light and adults are doing the same thing on their way to the workplace. They need to be seen and the careful driver needs to be aware of sudden changes in their behaviour. Crossing the road suddenly is a prime example.

During your evening commute, there will be children on their way home or out playing after school. It’s interesting that when people say – and they do – that they ‘know this road like the back of my hand’, it is also probably true that they have become complacent about it. Familiar routes are the ones we get most careless about so it makes sense to keep your attention on the road no matter how well you know it.

At work people are expected to conform to the rules and regulations as they go about their job. It’s about standards. Well, it pays to be as professional about the journey as you are about your work. Commuting is a problem because everyone travels at the same time. People get tired and frustrated and can behave impulsively so it is doubly vital to be ready for and mindful of the actions of road users around you.

If a regular drive is a regularly frustrating experience then how about learning an alternative route or two. This is also helpful in the case of an accident or road closure, for example. Listening to the traffic updates on the radio can help keep you in control of your journey and your patience.

Check the weather before you travel; heavy rain usually slows traffic up, so leave a few minutes earlier, or allow for being a little later getting home. Remember too that using your car to commute to work means you are especially reliant on it being reliable. Regularly check your tyre pressures and condition, washer fluid, lights, oil and so on.

Always leave enough time to get to work so you’re not rushing unnecessarily. Traffic is bad every day – being late on those grounds isn’t an excuse. If you do get held up in traffic on the way to work, don’t rush. Pull over if you need to let anybody know. Remember – better late than never!

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Keep Your Virtual Eye On The Road

Most drivers by now will be well aware of the ‘crash for cash’ scams that are rife in some parts of the country. To combat this, thanks to modern technology, motorists are installing video cameras in their cars to combat these fraudulent and dangerous claims. The cameras, popularly known as ‘dash-cams‘, record the view through the windscreen and capture events before, during and after a collision.

The recorded footage can also be used by defendants against accusations of lane-hogging or tailgating on motorways following new fixed penalty legislation which came into force a couple of months ago.‎

Increasingly, retail outlets are beginning to stock these devices as demand increases. This sort of technology has been found for years in police cars and other emergency vehicles. Thanks to the crooks it now seems almost essential that drivers record their journeys for their own protection.

The Insurance Fraud Bureau reckons that some 30,000 ‘crash for cash’ incidents take place every year. That’s an incredible number. The scam costs insurers around £350 million and inflates premiums for honest, innocent drivers by around £44 each.

To counter this, the bandits have a new and even more dangerous tactic that all drivers need to be aware of. They flash their headlights to give victims the impression they are being allowed to join a main road but then accelerate in order to hit the unsuspecting driver side-on. They then claim that the poor victim had pulled out in front of them and it is almost impossible to prove otherwise.

Thanks to the range of devices now on offer, motorists have the means to produce hard, irrefutable evidence as to how an incident occurred and who in truth was to blame.

There is a very wide range of cameras on offer ranging in price from around fifty pounds up to a couple of hundred. Buyers need to inspect the merits of each and decide what is best. A wide angle view would seem best, for example. Also, these days apps are available for smartphones which can be rigged in cradles and can do a similar job for very little money. They won’t be quite as good as a device made for the job but it is better than being held responsible for something that isn’t your fault.

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The Dangers Of Two Wheels

More Britons are turning to two motorised wheels as it becomes more and more expensive to drive a car. Motor cycles are exciting to ride – the open road and all that – economical and, unfortunately, vulnerable. This increase of bikers on the road also increases the number of motorcycle accidents that happen every year, and because of the inherent design of motorcycles, this can obviously be very dangerous for the riders.

One big issue that many people come across is assigning fault in a motorcycle crash. Due to sometimes varying factors, the opinion of the responding officer or a court’s preconceived notions coupled with the conflicting views of each involved party – especially when one of them is a car driver – it can be very difficult to figure out who is at fault after a motorcycle accident.

The simple fact is that motorcycle accidents have been consistently rising with the increase in motorcycle sales over the past few decades added to the increased volume of cars on the road. These accidents further increase during the warmest months of the year. Sadly, motorcycles intrinsically do not have as much protection as typical motor vehicles and although some of the latest helmets and protective clothing have improved immensely in recent years it is usually the biker who comes off worse.

Unfortunately, when it comes to motorcycle accidents, it can sometimes be difficult to assign blame. This is especially true when the accident involves a driver in a car or truck. A big issue arises when deciding whether or not a biker had anything to do with their own accident. Many motorists state that an injured motorcyclist came out of nowhere or was going to fast. While these sometimes are not good excuses, they can go towards assigning some form of negligence to the rider, thus casting doubt.

Due to the inherent nature of motorbikes often being less noticeable, there is a chance that a court might well believe a driver who says that they had no way to avoid crashing with the biker. This could well be and sometimes is true, especially if the bike was going above the speed limit or committing some other form of misdemeanour.

Another confusing issue, especially when it comes to bikes, is whether or not parties or circumstances besides those involved in an accident could be held liable for the crash. Mechanical issues, for example, could account for it. These mechanical concerns are often overlooked due to the usually minor injuries that those in cars sustain. When it comes to bikers, however, even a minor mechanical glitch can lead to tragedy.

In addition, poorly maintained roads – a real issue in the UK – a lack of warning signs and many other road hazards could be accountable. Anyone involved in an accident between car and bike must absolutely make sure that they cover all the bases and get their facts straight. Photographic evidence can help. Both sides need to know their rights and get it right.

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Low Sun, Low Visibility

One of the great truths is that we cannot turn back time. If we could it would always be summer and the sun would be high in the sky to cheer our spirits. Unfortunately, such metaphysical things are beyond us and we will inevitably sink slowly into the forthcoming winter as sure as the sun will sink low in the sky. Indeed if you live near the top of the world, the sun will disappear altogether. In which case you will be the lucky ones because, in Britain at least, the low sun of winter brings new hazards to motorists.

We are always grateful to see the sun at all as autumn morphs into the gloomiest months. The trouble is, when it does make an appearance it doesn’t rise very high into the sky and can easily dazzle drivers. We’ve all experienced this phenomenon; at junctions and on winding roads when the sun comes and goes into our vision and it is easy to miss possible hazards and dangers.

It is also possible to miss other road users and cyclists are especially vulnerable to this. If a driver passes a cyclist but then gets the full force of the low sun in the wing mirror he could lose sight of the pedaller as he pulls back in front. The danger here is that the biker will be cut across. The consequences of this could be disastrous.

It pays to take steps to mitigate the effects of this and other sighting difficulties when the sun is low. Obviously, it makes sense to have a good quality pair of sunglasses to hand – polarised ones if possible – as they will help to give a clearer view. It also makes absolute sense to slow down. It seems like stating the obvious but the number of people who carry on regardless is higher than you might think.

If the sun is behind you then it is approaching drivers who are affected. Can they see the road markings in front of them and can they indeed see you? It’s a thought. As mentioned above, a low sun can dazzle in the car’s mirrors. Be ready to dip the central mirror and check manually in the blind spot for cyclists and the like as mentioned above.

A dirty windscreen – inside and out – can easily cause glare or make it worse as the light refracts on the grime and smears. A good product in the windscreen washer bottle and a glass cleaning wipe for the inside should always be used.

Finally, as dawn comes up or as the sun sets, always put the headlights on. See and be seen. That’s the motto. As winter accidents statistics demonstrate – we forget this at our peril.

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