Tag Archive | "driving"

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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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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The Point Of Motorways

Unless your editor has got things tragically wrong, the idea of motorways was to speed up traffic and journeys by virtue of wide roads and direct routes. Generally speaking, travel on these routes is pretty joyless but they do serve commerce and convenience.

On 5 December 1958, the eight mile Preston bypass (pictured – now part of the M6) opened. It was closely followed by the M1 which runs north–south and was the first inter-urban motorway to be completed in the UK. 1958 really was the start of the motorway age of motoring.

That Britain’s growing band of motorists increasingly found they were able to stretch the boundaries of work and leisure when unthinkable journeys of the past gradually became the norm. There was no speed limit either although, obviously, cars of the time could not routinely achieve the average performance of cars today.

At the time, nobody was truly aware of how fast – in a growth sense – motoring would move on and despite all our motorways and major trunk roads today our highways network simply hasn’t kept pace.

The other thing that’s happened is the European Union. We now have a body of people from all over Europe telling us what to do. One of the things they want us to do is to slow down and clean up the air. Despite the fact that car manufacturers continue to work tirelessly to produce ever cleaner engines we have now reached the stage where the Highways Agency has revealed that a thirty four mile section of the M1 – spanning Derbyshire and South Yorkshire – would have a maximum speed limit of 60mph between 7am and 7pm seven days a week from 2015 onwards as part of a drive to meet European Union clean air targets.

As a motorist I have my own views on this which have no place here but in a very recent poll over two thirds of motorists wanted the Government to apply the brakes to plans to lower speeds limits on motorways on the basis that it simply defeats the point of having them.

Motorists are already doing their bit for the environment by buying greener cars in record numbers and the Government needs to respond in kind by making our roads better rather than introducing measures that will only contribute to making our motorways even slower.

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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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More People Are Choosing Greener Journeys (allegedly)

Have you ever had your views consulted by any Government Department? The answer to that question from virtually everybody is ‘No’. Yet according to the Department for Transport (DfT) efforts to make it easier for people to choose greener ways of travelling to and from public transport hubs are working, at least according to a new report. Wonder who they are asking?

The so-called ’door to door action plan’ published today by the DfT identifies the good work being ‘taken forward’ that will help make door-to-door journeys by public transport, cycling or walking the norm. Real life journeys on public transport tend to be more complicated than just a single trip on a train or three stops on the local bus. The Government say they want to make it as easy as possible for people to choose greener ways of getting between each mode of transport.

Since they launched this ’door to door strategy’ eight months ago, there have apparently already been significant improvements to integrate public transport. This action plan highlights where progress has been made but there is still more to be done.

Quoted examples of successes include a £14 million investment in two new state-of-the-art bus interchanges at Rochdale and Mansfield improving integration with rail as well as making it easier and safer for people to use sustainable transport. Additionally, a £14.5 million investment in cycle facilities at railway stations has been the major enabler in doubling the amount of cycle parking spaces at stations in the lifetime of this Parliament. This has contributed to the number of cycle-rail journeys increasing from 14 million in 2009 to an all time high of 39 million a year.

Last summer the Prime Minister announced plans for ‘cycle-proofing’ roads so that all new trunk roads and improvement schemes will be designed with cyclists as well as motorists in mind. As part of that, the Highways Agency is also spending £20 million to improve existing infrastructure for cyclists on the strategic roads network.

All these plans are all well and good but how many non-car users are truly receiving any form of benefit out of these grandiose pronouncements. Certainly nobody in rural areas that’s for sure. Until this country has a root and branch look at its transport infrastructure there will always be winners and losers. Statistics can say anything.

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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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Is Your Journey Worth It?

The other day Motor Blogger had to drive to the coast. Fortunately it was in a Jaguar XF (pictured) because the weather was foul. At times the rain was torrential, necessitating a very careful approach to driving.

By the time you read this the UK will have experienced one of those storms we see only about once a decade. Nevertheless, people still have to go about their business but, in severe weather, it is essential to pose the question to yourself – is my journey worth the risk?

If you really have to go out on the roads then there are certain things that can be done to at least counter in a small way the effects of driving under the influences of rain and wind.

First off – it is crucial to plan the journey. Is there a route with less exposure to the weather and less risk of fallen trees? Choose a sheltered route if you have the option. Strong winds are not constant, they are usually gusty so ensure you keep a firmer grip than usual on the steering wheel.

As you may have found in the past when crossing high bridges and the like, there is often the risk of crosswinds. It’s possible to get the same effect from overtaking high-sided vehicles. There can sometimes be a strong gust as you clear the lee of the lorry.

Remember too that others are suffering the same issues. Give cyclists, motorcyclists, lorries and buses more room than usual. They get blown around by side winds easily. It’s not even unheard of for pedestrians to be blown about or even blown into the path of on-coming motors.

Watch trees and bushes on the roadside – their branches can show you how strong the wind is and what direction it is blowing. BY looking well ahead, you don’t need to take your eye off the road and you can see any windy patches before you get to them at which point speed can be lowered until the vehicle is slow enough to cope with the gusts and associated handling issues. Wind can get under a car and reduce its handling and braking significantly. Keep an eye on what is happening to other vehicles – seeing when they are affected will give you advanced warning.

Heavy rain obscures the view, often despite the best efforts of windscreen wipers. As MB found the other day, there comes a point when it becomes prudent to stop at the first safe opportunity.

With wind and rain comes debris. Leaves make a road slippery and branches or even fallen trees are an obvious hazard. The trouble is – a driver doesn’t know they are there. All that can be done is to be aware and anticipate the worst. Or not make the journey at all!

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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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