Tag Archive | "road safety"

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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The Dangers Of Fog

The recent horrific pile-up involving around 130 cars on the A249 Sheppey crossing in Kent is a shocking reminder of the dangers of driving in fog. Some experts have mooted that the design of the bridge may have contributed to the numbers involved in the crash, but the police and eyewitnesses believe that fog was to blame.

We are all given a wake up call by events such as these and should, you would think, learn lessons from it and yet the sight of a car following way too close behind the car in front is an all to frequent occurrence. At this time of year fog could make this sort of stupidity even more unbelievable.

The fact is – we never learn. Hundreds die on our roads each year yet some drivers continue to believe that they are inviolate. Tailgating, the lack of fog lamp use, not slowing down in the rain or leaving much larger gaps in icy conditions – the very basics of safe driving – still occur with alarming frequency.

In their defence for once, successive governments continue to try to educate but it seems to have only a minor effect that soon wears off. A couple of years ago after a particularly nasty crash in the West Country it was suggested that there should be a mandatory reduction in speed limits in adverse conditions. This is law in France and it works.

On our motorways and main arterials digital signage is used to control speeds and this is monitored by cameras but elsewhere no such scheme exists. Governments are wary, quite rightly, of interfering too much but our roads are becoming increasingly crowded. Certainly our cars are much safer than even a few years ago, but who wants to crash regardless?

The solution seems to be in education from the outset. Learners of all ages should really have to go through thorough training on all roads, including motorways. It is at this point the tenets of safe driving should be instilled and become second nature. If drivers were taught correctly in the first place, we would need fewer nannying laws to prevent dangerous driving. At the time of posting this the government is talking about making changes for new drivers. The suggestions include raising the drive age, an extended period of learning that includes day and night driving and a ‘probationary’ period after the test has been passed.

It just makes sense. Making the learning more comprehensive and teaching beginners about the dangers of tailgating and making allowances for the prevailing conditions is the only way forward or we will continue this desperate annual round of road tragedy.

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Highway To High-Tech

Unbeknownst to most of us, our poor benighted road system is soon to become home to Britain’s first high-tech highway. In just a few short weeks we will see our automotive future. What you may think about it is a different matter.

Essentially the deal is this: A fifty mile stretch of the A14 between Birmingham and Suffolk will be fitted with electronic gadgetry which will communicate with modern cars. The system has the potential to monitor traffic, warn of obstructions and perform many other tasks but, and this is more concerning, it could also have the ability to artificially limit a car’s speed. Clearly this won’t happen now as it would result in drivers believing there was something wrong with the motor – but it is possible.

The cars will communicate with the gizmos which will allow them to build up a picture, by way of a central computer, of congestion and the like. Much in the same way that satellite navigation works, the technology could establish the build-up of a traffic jam and calculate alternative routes.

There’s a theme building here. Manufacturers, as we all know very well, are building autonomous cars that can drive themselves. They will leave the driver free to do – what – whilst the car takes care of itself. The thinking is that accidents could become a thing of the past thanks to the science of automotive engineering. We are already seeing crash avoidance technology on cars today. Clearly the intention is for this auto technology to merge with roadside systems with the intention of controlling traffic entirely.

Rather disingenuously, the various bodies involved in this are talking up the benefits of, say, having the machine find a parking space for you whilst remaining rather more tight-lipped about control.

This is the usual route of persuasion. The carrot on the end of a stick. They will say – ‘Look how we can help you’. In fact, for anyone who likes cars and driving it is a clear and present signal that the days of carefree motoring will be over in a matter of decades. Nobody has any objection to making cars safer but it the loss of individuality and the freedom of the road that will suffer. Cars will just be transport; shuttles to get people from A to B. What a dull world that will be.

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Buying Tyres Online

One thing, as a motorist, you will have noticed by now is the cost of those four circles of rubber on your car that will insist on wearing out from time to time. Here’s a couple of examples: Bridgestone Potenza 205/50R17 89W Run-flat tyre for a BMW – best price found in an admittedly quick search was £375! That’s for one tyre! Or, at the other end of the scale, for the tiny wheels of a Citroen C1 expect to pay around £50 for a brand you’ve actually heard of. That’s two hundred pounds to shoe a city car.

In olden times motorists would have gone to their local tyre fitter – either an independent or a chain – and get the job done. Now the prices are such that some significant searching is required because deals on any vehicle vary enormously, and when you combine that with the sheer number of options and brands available, its easy to see why so many people are choosing to at least start their tyre search on the Internet.

In an ideal world drivers would have an ample budget for this onerous but most essential expense and be able to afford the big name brands with a guarantee of service and quality, but in the real world it doesn’t work like that and many people have to choose at a price and the best thing about the online companies is that they often provide in-depth reports on the many products available.

Online tyre companies can deliver your black hoops to you or arrange to have them fitted at one of their concessions local to you. This means that with one online transaction and without getting of your chair you can check prices, order products and arrange fitting, valves and balancing at a stroke. Additionally, all properly-licensed tyre retailers will also participate in a scheme under which the waste tyres are promptly and safely disposed of.

But as with many other products which are critical to your safety, you should take extra care to ensure that the tyres you buy are genuine, fit for purpose and are as they are described in the sales information.

An honest vendor – and you will have checked out the history of the company – should be confident in his products and offer some form of warranty on the tyres to cover worst-case scenarios.

So shopping online for tyres is safe and can often save money. The only caveat, as with any online purchase, is to ensure that your internet connection is secure and that all the usual safeguards are in place.

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Autonomous Cars On The Road By 2020

There exists a document that most people have not heard of. It is called the Vienna Convention of Road Traffic. This is the Euro-bible that basically governs what goes into Highways Codes around the Community. You would have to be really desperate for literature to read it. Somewhere around the time that you read this, new legislation will be tabled to make amendments to this earnest document.

It will allow self-driving systems to take control of a vehicle. Obviously a human has to be present to take charge if necessary but the amendment will effectively give the green light to self-driving cars.

A future world of autonomous cars has been on the cards for some years now. Various companies have been working with vehicles laden with the latest technical wizardry to bring them to us – whether we want them or not. The same manufacturers who bring us high powered sports cars are also getting in on the act but it is hard to see that a mix of self-driving and human driven cars will be compatible.

To some extent this technology is with us now. Our cars have cruise control and lane management and the like, all designed to relieve the driver of at least some of the onerous tasks of driving. These advances have certainly made cars safer and that is the view behind driverless cars. If machines can keep vehicles apart then accidents should be a thing of the past. That would be great in an ideal world.

Sadly though, we don’t live in such a Utopia. In the same way that people make mistakes then so can technology. What happens when an electrical component fails in a driverless car? It is all very well to say that the human will instantly take over but can we rely on that when push comes to shove? Eventually, people will get used to not touching the controls with the inevitable lack of concentration.

This is what presents the problem. If self-driving cars do collide or knock someone down to whom is fault assigned? If one vehicle is deemed to be responsible how can the owner be found guilty if he, like everyone else, is reliant on the car’s technology? This should cause some insurance headaches.

Nevertheless the quest for the driverless car continues apace. A couple of car makers have said that they will be bringing autonomous cars to market by 2020. Google have said that they are developing their driverless cars to become robo-taxis. All very ’Blade Runner’. The pleasures of motoring are being eroded. Soon they will be no more.

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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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Goodbye Sealant Hello Spare Wheel

In an enterprising development a well known organisation has come up with a novel idea for dealing with punctured or damaged wheels and tyres caused by potholes and other road menaces. They are calling it a spare wheel.

Yet it is not a humorous matter. For quite a while now manufacturers have taken to leaving the spare out and replacing it with a can of sealant. This is to enable them to either (or a combination of) save on manufacturing costs, make more room in the car and sell it as a space improvement or reduce the overall size of the vehicle; for example, city cars.

A tin of sealant is fine as a ‘get-you-home’ for, say a slow puncture but – as is more likely – it cannot fix a blow-out or sidewall damage. If this happens the driver is stuck and so, inevitably, is his family of young children. Not good. Certainly, cars are much more reliable these days and wheels and tyres are stronger and better made but it still happens and usually at the worst time.

The organisation – and they will no doubt soon be promoting the service – plan to offer an almost universal spare wheel (similar to the one pictured) when their service is called out. This takes the form of a seventeen inch wheel with adjustable mountings which should allow it to be fitted to any car that uses five studs on the hub. Effectively it is like the more standard space-saver wheel fitted to some cars already and will work with all but the largest and smallest cars.

The wheel is strictly a temporary measure and a speed limit applies but for the stranded motorist it will be heaven-sent as it avoids the need for a tow and additional time lost on a long wait. Sufferers will need to cough up a two hundred pound deposit on their plastic but this will be refunded once the stricken driver goes to a tyre depot to effective the repair on the original wheel. That’s a fair deal for the organisations’ members.

This is an issue that has been angering motorists for some time. Amazingly, up until recently, it was not incumbent on dealers to even tell customers there was no spare wheel. They got to find out the hard way. Clearly it behoves the new car buyer to establish this small but important fact before signing on the line that a vehicle is so equipped or at least is fitted with a space-saver, which are fine. Buying a car is supposed to be a pleasure and it is little things like this that spoil the party.

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A Bright Day On Dark Roads.

At the time of writing this it is warm, sunny, a pleasant breeze is blowing and your Editor is wearing shorts. You probably didn‘t want to know that. The reason it is mentioned at all is that it seems a bit callous to start making reference to the forthcoming misery and dark roads of Winter, but, hey! don’t shoot the messenger, right?

As the clocks go back onto Winter time the road safety charity Brake is calling on all employers to support their ‘Bright Day’ initiative to promote safer roads for cyclists and pedestrians. It seems that two pedestrians and cyclists are killed and 25 are seriously injured every day in the UK.

The ‘Bright Day’ campaign is to raise awareness of this and thus, hopefully, help to reduce these tragic events and raise funds for use with road safety and to support the injured or bereaved.

The idea is – and some of you low-profile types are not going to like this – that ‘Bright Days’ are dress-down days with a difference. Employees are to be encouraged to wear their absolutely very brightest clothes – whatever they like – in return for stumping up a small donation. The thinking is that this will raise awareness amongst drivers to be keeping a look-out of the more vulnerable road users, especially as the nights draw in.

The clocks go back on Sunday 27 October, and employers are urged to plan their Bright Day to coincide with this time of year when it gets darker earlier and there’s a heightened risk to people on foot and bike. This is a fun and simple way for businesses and organisations to get behind the message. Employees (and the boss) get to dress in high-viz gear and walkers and cyclists are encouraged to do the same but with the real thing and not the comedy outifts. It could also help promote the business by alerting the community and local media to the event day.

Last year over eighteen thousand pounds was raised as companies around the country got involved with the scheme. So dig out your neon tutu and flourescent leg-warmers (the ladies might like to do this as well) or your high-viz dayglo pyjamas and run a fun dress-down day in support of the ‘Bright Day’ campaign. Raising awareness might help to save lives in future and that life could be yours. Check out the Brake website for details.

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Keep Your Eyes On The Road

Eyesight deteriorates; that’s one of the facts of life that we all have to bear to a greater or lesser extent. Loss of sight can be a tragic thing yet it is something we take for granted. Few people realise – even those who wear glasses or lenses – that even though they have some eyesight correction, this goes awry over time and we just don’t notice the gradual decline.

The road safety charity BRAKE, with partners, has just launched a campaign calling on motorists to act by getting an eye test every two years. This is the normal recommended period yet most of us – be honest now – let this slide. The problem is, as far as driving is concerned, we may be putting others in jeopardy without realising it.

BRAKE says that over a quarter of us have not had a vision test in the last two years. Obviously, it may well be that there is nothing wrong with your eyes, good; but what if they are deteriorating and your brain is just compensating for it? Nine percent of folk questioned hadn’t had a check-up for over five years! For a small percentage it is even longer.eye2 Keep Your Eyes On The Road

Meanwhile, some drivers who use glasses don’t always wear them, which, if you think about it, is asking for trouble. Then there are the people who state determinedly that ‘they don’t need glasses’. This is, ahem, a short-sighted view. How do they know if they haven’t been to an optician?

Now, statistics can often be distorted or made to say something other than their meaning so Motor Blogger is always a little careful to fully endorse them, especially when they come from a vested interest, but the Charity reckon that the estimated number of road casualties caused by poor eyesight is 2,900. That’s a lot and it certainly signifies that a problem exists.

Remember that the Highway Code specifically points this out and that the dreaded DVLA will take a dim view of drivers who flaunt the requirements. They even regularly remind us that eyesight that fails the standard is an offence; the trouble is that we hear so much of this stuff from officialdom that it tends to go in one ear and out the other.

Nevertheless, the DVLA and BRAKE are not wrong. Failing eyesight can contribute to accidents, injuries and deaths. The facts speak for themselves. Right now there is no test that the police can do at the scene of an accident but, unless people start taking note, how long will it be before they devise one? Do yourself a favour. Remember the number plate reading exercise you took on your test day? Try it the next time you’re on foot. Watch for a number plate 20 metres distant and read it out loud. Don’t cheat. Then check it. You may be unpleasantly surprised. In the meantime ‘keep ‘em peeled’!

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