Tag Archive | "road safety"

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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The Selfish Selfie

The mobile telephonic device has developed until it has become virtually an extension of many peoples’ bodies, like some robot appendage. The trouble is that it has the potential to lead to road deaths. Research has revealed that young Brit drivers are the most likely to take a ‘selfie’ while at the wheel.

According to the survey, a third of British drivers were the most likely to photograph themselves while on the move, ahead of their counterparts in Germany (28%), France (28%), Romania (27%), Italy (26%), Spain (18%), and our more sensible neighbours in Belgium (17%).

This new survey of some seven thousand smartphone users aged between 18-24 – from across Europe – also showed one in four people had used social media sites behind the wheel; and that young male drivers were the most likely to ignore the risks. So no change there then. Amazingly, nearly all the drivers surveyed agreed the activities were dangerous yet still did it. The old adage that youth believes it is immortal still holds good it seems.

It has been shown that snapping a ‘selfie’ at the wheel could distract a driver for 14sec, whilst checking social media distracts for as much as 20sec – long enough, at 60mph, to travel the length of five football pitches. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for young drivers  and training programmes have been introduced that will highlight the dangers of taking a ‘selfie’ and other smartphone and social media activities behind the wheel.

Taking a ‘selfie’ has for many young people quickly become an integral part of everyday life – but it’s the last thing you should be doing behind the wheel of a car. It is deeply worrying that so many young drivers admit to taking a photo while driving and there is an urgent need to highlight the potential dangers through driver education.

As a nation we have known for years about the dangerous situations that young, inexperienced drivers tend to get themselves into. Despite corrective action – speed limits and the like – gung-ho youth continues to find new ways of digging themselves a hole only to realise – too late – that they should maybe stop digging. There is one hole you can never get out of.

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The Streets Of San Francisco

With the news that our government is considering making some of our streets 15mph, no-overtaking zones where the car will play second fiddle to the bicycle it would not be unreasonable for British drivers to cry, ‘Why is it always us?’

Well, if it makes you feel any better, it isn’t. The motorists of San Francisco, in the USA, are also under the sanctimonious cosh of the car-hating fraternity. Unlike British motorists however who protest meekly and then shrug, our American friends are not going down without a fight.

In this Californian city drivers have become, in their view, totally marginalised by their authorities in favour of the bicycle and there is now a burgeoning backlash from motorists. In fact, there is now in fact a growing political movement being mobilised to fight for drivers’ rights. Why, they even have a manifesto.

Basically they are sick of having roads narrowed to allow for cycle lanes and the loss of parking spaces to make cycle routes and pavements wider. They have also complained vociferously that while drivers are being penalised for breaking the rules of the road, bike riders are getting away with it without penalty. One rule for them and one for us, would seem to be the motto.

This organised protest has produced a list of demands under the less than catchy title of ‘Restoring Transportation Balance in San Francisco’. These demands have been presented to the City Attorney and have caused a community-splitting stir in the city that bought us the greatest car chase ever in the movie Bullit.

One embittered driver even went on to say, “The sleeping giant has awakened. Making the roads more congested for cars… by taking out parking spaces and removing lanes increases greenhouse gas emissions and pollution… If biking is such a great alternative, why are so many of them so surly?”

It is not the place of Motor Blogger to take sides. Our view is that it should be ‘fair play for all’. Nevertheless it has become a very contentious issue in the USA – more so even than here. With our typical British reserve we may not go to these lengths but it may well be time for drivers to speak up before the car is totally marginalised.

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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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Hands-Free Car Calls On The Rise

Just over ten years after hand-held mobiles were banned at the wheel, there are now demands to ban hands-free kits as well. This stems from a survey finding that reveals that almost half (45%) of drivers admit to chatting when driving.

While the use of hand-held phones by drivers has thankfully dropped (although there are still fools doing it), hands-free use has risen, likely to be linked to the mistaken belief (according to some) that it is a safe alternative. This is one point of view. Another is that it is no different to chatting with the person next to you.

The thinking is that for the past ten years, the lack of a total ban has left many drivers unaware that using a hands-free mobile at the wheel is just as risky as using a hand-held – at least according to those who want to ban it.

It is argued that it is the distraction of the conversation that causes the danger. Studies have apparently shown the risk of being in a crash that causes injury is increased four times for drivers on both hand-held and hands-free phones because reactions are fifty percent slower than under normal conditions.

More obviously, the survey also found that texting at the wheel is a widespread menace, with three in 10 of all drivers admitting sending or reading messages while driving, and an even higher proportion of young drivers (age 18-24) – more than four in 10 – doing so. Smartphone apps are said to be an additional threat, with one in eight drivers using them at the wheel, up from less than one in 10 in 2006.

It is always a worry when this sort of debate goes on. Many will argue the civil liberties case. Others will say that talking hands-free is no different to holding a conversation with other people in the car. Of course, using a handheld phone is stupid – no one can honestly say they can perform two dexterous functions at once. So the question drivers have to ask themselves is how far can they let what they can or can’t do in a car be called into question.

After all – car makers have been fitting highly sophisticated Bluetooth gadgetry into cars for ages now. It is technology that works. How can this now be banned when connectivity plays such a big part in our motoring lives. It’s over to you.

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Your Easter Tyre Check

As thousands of UK residents start the traditional Easter holiday getaway – one of the busiest times of the year on the roads – it seems like a good time to remind them about the need to check their tyres before setting off.

Those black circles are all that connect the car to the road and failure to make sure they are in tip-top condition could result in a number of tyre related problems which could leave the family stranded by the roadside or even involved in an otherwise completely avoidable accident.

No doubt after the soaking wet winter we’ve just had many families will be looking forward to some time away over the Easter break. But the weather doesn’t turn benign overnight and we can traditionally expect some of those April showers which could leave road surfaces greasy and treacherous.

20p Your Easter Tyre CheckThere will be more cars on the road and more heavily laden commercial vehicles so it really is important to give your tyres a thorough inspection before setting off. The checks are quick and easy to perform but essential as they could make the difference between an enjoyable Easter break or not.

Figures from the AA showed that in 2013, their patrols attended 350,000 tyre-related call-outs, their second most common breakdown cause after batteries. That’s a bit of an amazing figure which clearly demonstrates just how complacent we can get.

These are the things to remember: Pressures should be checked to ensure they are in line with the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations for the load being carried – remember, this can vary and the correct details will be found in the vehicle handbook, inside the fuel filler cap or on a plate on the driver’s door sill.

Correct pressure is important as it helps to reduce the amount of fuel being used, ensures even wear across the tread leading to longer tyre life, and reduces tyre overheating which can cause rapid failures.

It is also worth reminding everybody – and yes we do it every year but with good reason – to ensure their tread depth is above the legal minimum of 1.6mm which can be checked by simply using the knurled edge of a 20p coin. Drivers with insufficient tread depth not only risk fines of up to £2,500 and three penalty points for each illegal tyre, but safety will be reduced on wet roads as the tyre will lose grip with the road surface more easily.

When checking pressures and tread depth, drivers are also being advised to give the rest of the tyre a thorough visual inspection for other signs of damage such as cuts, lumps or bulges in the tyre. If any of these are present then off you go to see the professionals.
You know that tyre safety makes sense so why risk it?

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Where Have The Boys In Blue Gone?

Once upon a time you could always rely on a British Bobby. The firm but fair constables, reliably pounding their neighbourhood beats day and night in all weathers; the wily detectives feeling the collars of miscreants everywhere and the senior officers, steadfast in their duty and steeped in years of practised thief taking. Whatever happened to them?

The nature of society has dictated that everything in the world should be run by accountants. Like some sort of secret alien invasion the bean counters and log stackers are taking over the world. They already control the police force. This is why the sight of foot patrols have vanished from our streets and traffic police seem to be disappearing. It is even becoming increasingly difficult to get stopped for speeding.

Under the banner of ‘Safety Camera Partnerships’ the speed camera and other devices once ruled and many motorists suffered the consequences. When the funding ended many cameras were switched off and, although some are still functioning, the impetus to catch unwary drivers seems to have been lost.

Even those anonymous white camera vans have all but disappeared. Although it is a contentious point, it does seem that all the talk about road safety was disingenuous. If it was public safety and not lucrative income that was the driving force, why should it stop because a funding channel has dried up? I wonder.

Whatever, the heat is off but the problem now is that driving standards appear to be dropping and speeding is on the increase as certain drivers ignore the rules. Whether we like them or not traffic police are crucial to ensuring that road traffic law is enforced and that bad or illegal driving is targeted. So where have they all gone?

We know that police forces are having to review their budgets and that balancing the books is seen as more important than the actual function of the thin blue line. Traffic cops are a rare sight these days; in fact, their numbers have dropped by a staggering twenty nine percent in the last ten years. Certainly, right now, what Police that are left out there are targeting bad drivers under the new rules for tailgating and lane-hogging but it is a drop in the ocean.

In the olden days drivers would see police on the streets. Proper coppers would sit in their motors at the roadside and deal with bad or illegal driving as it happened. They did not rely on cameras which cannot differentiate between poor driving or a simple error. A real live policeman could make that judgement. Motorists had respect for officers who dealt with the situation on its merits and didn’t tar all with the same brush. As a result, a firm warning was often all that was necessary and the errant driver appreciated that. You can’t stop progress but sometimes the old ways are still the best.

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Transport Department’s New Cycling Safety Campaign

As someone who, in a former life, wrote about and participated in the world of mountain bikes and cycling in general, I like to think I am qualified to pontificate on the subject of cycling road safety. As, today, a driver and enthusiastic petrol head of many years standing I also like to think I am qualified to pontificate on the subject of cycling road safety.

I love cycling. The fresh air, the smell of the flowers in the countryside, the burning legs and the rasping lungs all aid and abet a healthy lifestyle. That is until a car slices across your bows as if you aren’t there, or worse, actually has you off. It has happened to me more than once.

Conversely, I like to make sure that I go for a long walk every day to clear the mind and the tubes. In the last week I have had three near misses from cyclists riding on nbso the pavement or the forest path who have approached from behind with no advance warning. I walk in a straight line, small children do not.

The whole point is that both groups, the two wheeled and the four, are both sinners and sinned against. The positions are polarised. Red-faced drivers rant against cyclists and Lycra-clad monomaniacs hate all things motorised. So, once again, the Department for Transport at the time of writing is having a crack at a new ‘Think’ campaign designed to improve safety for cyclists. Some city dwellers will see signs and posters in the near future.

Certainly we could all do better. The fact is that these things are always slanted towards the two-wheeled community because, quite rightly, they are far more vulnerable but the bad road behaviour of some cyclists is overlooked because of that vulnerability. There is no need to cycle on pavements on quiet roads. There is no need to buzz past pensioners who are not too quick on their feet. There is no need to ignore the rules of the road.

The Highway Code is there for all. We don’t want to see a rise in cycling fatalities but equally we don’t want the motorist shouldering all the blame.

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Staying Safe At Night

As usual, the pointless exercise when we put the clocks back means that the colder months are officially rolling in. And while this may have given us all an extra hour in bed – for one night only – it also means the evenings are becoming much darker, much earlier. So what does this mean for drivers? For most, the five o’clock commute home will be reminiscent of night time with very low visibility, automatically putting us in a much more dangerous environment than during the peak of summer.

To ensure the safety of all drivers and cyclists (given the recent news from London) during this time, we’ve compiled some useful tips for drivers this winter. For example, plan your journey. In Gloucestershire there is a notorious roundabout where accidents often occur. Regular drivers using this route have developed a way to avoid it by planning ahead.

If you have a long night time drive build in extra breaks into your journey and check all car lights before setting off. Check that the indicators, rear lights, brake lights, sidelights, headlights and main beams are all working properly. Regularly clean your lights and windows. You don’t need any other restraints on your visibility! Get in the habit of giving your lights a regular wipe.

Operate your own dazzle policy. If you find you’re being blinded by someone else’s full beam, slow down (if it’s safe to do so) or even stop until they’ve gone. Don’t match it with your own full beam – that‘s heading for road-rage territory. Increase gaps between yourself and the vehicle in front. Make sure you build in extra time and space between yourself and the car in front as you won’t be able to see hazards as easily as you can in daylight. In other words, keep alert.

Make an extra effort to look out for other road users. Pedestrians on country lanes without pavements; cyclists, tottering revellers, they’re all much harder to see at night, even if they’re wearing fluorescent jackets or luminous bunny ears.

Many motorists find night driving a challenge at the best of times but in winter weather even the most competent drivers will encounter additional hazards. Making simple changes to your driving techniques could make all the difference to both your own and other road-users safety during the dark winter months. We might be preaching to the choir but it never hurts to be reminded about road safety.

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Let There Be Light

An estimated 2.6 million cars are being driven illegally on the roads with defective lights, a survey has found. Over one in ten vehicles checked by the authorities across ten major UK cities was found to have a failed headlight, sidelight, rear or brake-light which would significantly increase the risk of an accident.

The scale of the problem is also reflected in MOT failure rates with 1.16 million cars tested in 2012 falling short of required standards because of the condition of their lights.

The survey coincides with trade reminders for drivers to prepare their cars for winter weather and darker driving conditions. It’s a simple enough job – and inexpensive – to fix these things and if you really can’t do it yourself well, there are plenty of professionals to do it for you.

Glasgow fared worst in the study, with just under one in eight of vehicles having defective lights. Newcastle was a close second with more than thirteen percent of cars observed with blown bulbs.

London proved to have the best maintained vehicles with just under seven percent revealed with faulty lights, but even this would mean thousands of drivers in the capital were breaking the law and potentially causing a danger on the road.

Latest figures from the Department of Transport, compiled from police records, show that in 2010, 357 accidents were blamed on vehicles not displaying lights at night or in poor visibility. Over 25,000 accidents were the result of drivers misjudging other vehicles’ speed, often as a result of failing to slow down.

During the survey, researchers monitored cars over a set period of time at busy junctions in the early evening rush hour and recorded the number of cars with faulty lights. The penalty for the offence is £60 and three points.

Missing or non-working brake lights, which can leave drivers unable to judge when the car in front is slowing, showed up as the biggest problem followed by non-functioning headlights.

Owners don’t know when a light has gone out so regular checking is essential, especially in these increased hours of darkness and often more difficult and hazardous autumn and winter conditions. It is an easy job to wander around the car checking these thing out. If in doubt get a family member or friend to help.

In these difficult financial days motorists are delaying essential repairs and waiting for the dreaded MOT but this is a false economy and, frankly, a danger to all. Get them fixed before it’s your life lights that go out or you see the image above in your rear view mirror!

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