Tag Archive | "motorways"

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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New Government Plan For A Toll Road

Drivers crossing into Wales across the Severn Bridge have to pay a toll and it has always been so. Perhaps they would do better to charge a toll on people desperate to get out of Wales before they are driven mad by all the bi-lingual duplicated signage.

Not content with that, the government have announced a plan to toll a new 14-mile M4 relief road near Newport. This would be the UK’s second such road after the M6 toll around Birmingham. With wearying inevitability, ministers reckon this could “stimulate the faltering economy”. Why not be honest – it’s another tax, isn’t it? They need to raise money to help fill those empty, echoing coffers in the Treasury

Do they not realise that a majority of private drivers – already taxed to the hilt – will simply go another way? The AA and other motoring organisations advise against it yet still they persist. If they do collect the money what will it be for? Certainly, it is a fact that in a recent survey a huge 91% of drivers do not trust them to spend the extra revenue on repairing our roads.

Further, in our Democracy, 60% of motorists do not support new built toll roads and a further 19% can be added to that figure for the number of motorists who would not support the introduction of tolls on existing routes.

To carry on with the percentages theme, 40% would back more expensive tax discs than tolls (although if that’s the thinking, then increasing the tax on fuel would be probably be fairer – the old ‘the more you drive the more you pay’ argument). Even if the powers reduced taxes in other areas forty one percent still wouldn’t approve of toll roads.

Around half of those questioned (47%) stated that they would not go out of their way to avoid a toll but 44% said they would. The biggest no-no seems to be if a toll should appear near respondents local areas which would impact on their daily lives. More than half said they would avoid it and find their way across the rural and local routes.

The worry is that by effectively forcing cash-strapped drivers onto the minor roads of Britain it would seem inevitable that the accident and fatality rates would rise. It is clear that the anti-toll people are in a big majority. Governments and the other side of the House should be listening. This survey makes it clear to politicians of whatever persuasion that road tolling is a vote loser.

(Note: On April 4th, the Chancellor denied that the Government had any plans to toll this proposed road, which is great. Trouble is, do we believe him?)

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The Domino Effect

No, not a new thriller starring a handsome windblown driver but rather an everyday effect that we have all experienced from time to time – the motorway tailback. Traditionally these occur at the most inconvenient time, when haste is of the essence and the clock is ticking.

There is that sinking feeling as you look up ahead and see brake lights behind a massive queue of almost stationary cars. The really annoying thing is that it always happens just as you’ve passed a convenient exit, and the really, really annoying thing is that there is no obvious reason for it.

Of course, there is always a reason and it is called the Domino Effect. This is usually caused by a phenomenon known as brake tapping. It happens when motorists bunch up and drive too close together because, as often happens on motorways, attention has been lost and everyone is on autopilot.

One of the classic tips is to always watch the road ahead and not just the back end of the car in front. The driver in front taps his brakes so the driver behind has to and it has a knock-on effect to the cars behind. The result is that all the drivers are brake tapping and slowing down until it reaches the point when someone has to stop.

Although you might think you are above such things, you are probably wrong. It is quite conceivable that most of us have caused a domino effect at some point, even if only as a minor incident caused by slowing down to look at something in passing or, heaven forbid, gawping at an accident.

The key to good motorway driving is to stay alert and yes, it is easier to say than do. Lack of attention could mean a driver is in the wrong lane or has been inadvertently easing up on the throttle, resulting in variable speeds. Always allow a bit of space and indicate intentions to other road users so that they too keep their distance. As previously mentioned, keeping an eye on the road far ahead will help pre-empt problems.

The thing is that motorway users are all part of a team keeping the major arteries of our nation flowing. Be patient with each other even as the commercial vehicle in front of you pulls out to overtake an even slower vehicle (which is seriously irritating it must be said).

Slower drivers who feel they have to use the outside lane will slow down the fast boys coming up who will then tap their brakes, ultimately causing you know what. They may also give you a crash course in basic Anglo-Saxon expletives and gestures and just like the domino effect, nobody wants that.

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Why Motorway Driving Should Be Part of Learning to Drive

According to new guidelines from the Department for Transport, learner drivers will now be allowed on the UK’s motorways when accompanied by a qualified driving instructor.

However, with proposals for learners to now be allowed on the country’s motorway network to gain experience, are the plans a good idea or will it increase the problem of lacking confidence seen in new drivers when making their way on to a motorway for the first time as the speed differential widens?

In short, no. Leaners will be accompanied by their instructor in the normal manner, meaning their teacher is more than likely not going to throw them in at the deep end with a 70mph stretch of tarmac until they’re good and ready.

Garnering motorway experience so new drivers are au fait with how motorways work straight away is a superb idea as we all know how exploring a three-lane carriageway can be a daunting experience.

Many newly qualified drivers build the first motorway trip up unnecessarily, creating undue fear.

But motorways are well sighted, don’t have any corners to speak of and have traffic flowing in the same direction. In theory then, they should be the easiest type of roads to drive on in the UK.

Hopefully the new initiative will see learners realise that motorways aren’t something to be frightened of, simply that the trick to fruitful navigation of a motorway is getting on, changing lanes and leaving the carriageway safely – and its only experience that can teach this.

Motorways aren’t dangerous. In fact, according to the European Road Assessment Programme, they’re the nation’s safest type of roadway.

For a leaner to gain experience in a controlled (relatively) environment is an excellent idea. That a newly qualified driver could return home from a test centre by driving on a motorway at 70mph – sometimes faster – is nonsensical, but more importantly dangerous to both themselves and other drivers.

The plans for “motorway practicing” could prove the perfect way to eradicate the culture among learners that motorways are scary, highlighting to them that when broken down and learnt in chunks, driving on a three-lane highway is actually perfectly manageable.

We’re convinced by the proposal and believe it’ll help raise both awareness and driving standards amongst young motorists on the country’s motorways – it’s been a long time coming but will hopefully see accident rates also further reduced.

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