Tag Archive | "uk motorists"

Watch Out, Les Flics Are About

Yes, it’s that time of year again when our minds turn to thoughts of a summer holiday. It may be that you decide to take a nice motoring trip across the channel on the mysterious continent. Be warned though; they do things differently there.

In Europe since 2013, national police forces and the relevant government departments regularly share the details of motorists who break the rules of the road in other countries. This means that the offended nation can chase offenders, metaphorically speaking, across borders. Thus the personal details of the offender can be requested by foreign agencies.

The UK government decided to opt out of this EU agreement which meant that British motorists who committed a traffic violation in a European country would not get their details passed on by the DVLA, should they be requested based on licence plate data.

All this is about to change. The European Court of Justice has ruled that the bill was incorrectly drafted and should have been included under the road safety directive and not the policing directive. You can see what’s coming can’t you? That’s right – Britain has no opt out of the road safety directive.

This means that British miscreants who offend local laws (no matter how innocently or inadvertently – it‘s the same the whole world over. Guilty regardless.) and are caught on camera can be pursued to their home addresses because the DVLA will slavishly hand over your personal stats. You see, in Europe the car owner is responsible even if they were a hundred miles away. In the UK, the driver at the time is responsible.

This no longer cuts any ice with the Euro-grandees. Offenders will receive a letter – in English – demanding that the penalty demand be answered and the fine paid. Our government will go along with this of course and at least it does have one positive side. Foreign drivers who commit offences here can also be pursued.

Of course, there is no legal UK obligation for drivers to pay. It can simply be ignored but be warned – if you turn up for your summer holiday in the same country where you may have committed an offence previously they will look for you, they will fine and they will impound your car until you cough up the readies. You have been duly warned. Drive safely and carefully in Europe.

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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 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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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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A Motoring App Too Far?

Fancy being a traffic warden, only without the abuse and the ill-fitting uniform? Well, if a company across the pond has its way you too can dish out parking tickets anonymously and get paid for it. This is a rather nasty form of what the originators are calling ‘crowd sourced parking control’.

It apparently stems from their own bitter experiences whereby the parking spots adjacent to their business were being ‘abused’ and their customers couldn’t park. As a consequence they have decided they will turn driver against driver based pretty much on that aggrieved person’s opinion.

Anyone can use this app. Rather disingenuously they say that their product is designed for use on private land and car parks and that they are not intended for, say, council run parking; but here in the real world this is not going to happen is it?

Once downloaded to the device the app allows anyone to take an image, along with the location and number plate of a vehicle whose time has expired or is badly parked and send it to the car park’s operator. If a ticket is successfully issued and a fine paid then the app user is supposed to get a cut of the dosh. Lovely.

This unpleasant advance follows on from the increasing use of dashboard cams to film the exploits of allegedly bad drivers and forward it to the authorities or upload it to websites. Dozens of penalties have been issued to people caught in this way. It is a sign of the times that over eighty thousand ‘likes’ have been given on a social network that encourages people to ‘shame’ badly parked car owners with a public image. Is this an adjunct of the troll society that has blighted so many lives?

The manufacturer of this app say they want to give power to the people and harness the ‘power of the crowd’, for which presumably read ‘mob’. Right now they are talking to parking companies around the world to whom this is likely to appeal as, at a stroke, they essentially recruit freelance staff. If anyone is naive enough to think that this won’t be abused is living in a different world to most of us.

Nobody likes bad or thoughtless parking any more than they do bad or thoughtless driving, but surely we already have a body of people dedicated to the law. They are called the police. Private companies have their wardens as do councils. Why should something like this even be considered necessary? It is a step too far and turns motorist against motorist, Sadly, it is very likely to be successful.

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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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Mobile Phone Confusion

In the UK we have a law dating from 2003 that states we must not use mobile phones whilst driving. Despite this legislation many people still do, thus earning the opprobrium of fellow motorists. This is probably made worse by the fact that the likelihood of being caught at it is slim at best. Nevertheless it is against the law and it is believed that doing otherwise increases the chance of having an accident fourfold.

Even hands-free phones are not immune. Although they are legal drivers can still face penalties starting with the usual three points / sixty quid opening offer. This is possible and we quote “if the police believe you are distracted”. This may be a valid argument but it is very subjective and will largely depend on what side of the bed the officer got out of. Now, however, comes some news that throws the mobile phone debate wide open again.

Let’s be clear from the outset. Motor Blogger is reporting the facts. We are not and will not offer a value judgement as to the rightness or wrongness of what you are about to read.

The news comes from America – where else? Some new research states quite clearly that using a mobile phone whilst driving is not linked to accidents. The research was carried out in the USA by a team from Carnegie Mellon University collaborating with, surprisingly, the London School of Economics. The team found no link between the number of US drivers making phone calls while on the road and the number of accidents recorded.

They analysed more than eight million incidents of car crashes and all fatalities on roads in eight US States. Additionally, they reviewed data before and after 9pm local time over a three-year period because after 9pm many American operators offer free mobile calls during week days. Despite the additional incidence of use, the data did not show any increase in attributable accidents. In other words, despite the huge and sudden increase in the use of mobile phones there was no impact on the crash rate. So there you are.

The research did not include even more stupid actions like texting or browsing at the wheel but the inference is clear. Are we in the UK getting overheated about nothing? It is however important to note that the USA has much more space, wider roads and, basically, more room for cars. British roads are generally tighter and more narrow and less well maintained.

Also, the research does not differentiate on demographic grounds. For example, older drivers are less likely to use devices than young drivers. Would the figures be any different is the groups were split? The basic premise needs to be that drivers who are rash have more accidents anyway. It is unlikely that the UK will amend its stance on the subject but being safe with mobiles is no hardship anyway. It’s against the law so don’t do it.

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Petrol Head Weddings

One of the dangers of planning a wedding to a petrol head is the worry that he or she won’t turn up on the day because of a double-booked diary date at a motor racing track, that had not previously been mentioned. You could of course get married in the week but usually work commitments prevent that. You could get married late in the day after the sport but who wants a new spouse sunburned or windblown and reeking of burgers? It’s a thorny issue.

Thankfully some well organised folk at a famous British motor racing circuit have come up with a genius solution. Get married at the track! Brilliant – all the boxes ticked in one. The bridal march up the aisle can be accompanied by the sound of trackday specials or BTCC cars at full chat. Who could ask for more on their wedding day? Mendelssohn’s Wedding March is so last year.

Many entrepreneurial owners have opened the doors of impressive halls or conference areas at the heart of their circuits. Now one at least has obtained the official approval to host civil partnerships and weddings. What a great idea for motor sport fans; fun and unique. No doubt the venues can be customised to taste and the guests will have scenic views of the track and the chequered line. After the ceremony, all the guests – instead of receiving a party bag – could be taken for a ride around the track at high speed. The prospects for a special day are endless.

Motor Blogger doesn’t know anyone who has yet experienced this but it seems like just the sort of thing for a modern exchanging of rings. Most brides would struggle to get into a Ferrari wearing a conventional dress but who said marriage was easy? Furthermore, it doesn’t have to stop there. Whole new vistas for honeymoons come to light.

Instead of hitting the beaches, Spain boasts several motor racing circuits where lovers can while away many happy hours or perhaps, for the more daring, how about hurtling your Fiesta over the jumps of the Ouninpohja rally stage in Finland after tucking in to a wedding breakfast of pickled herring? These are the memories you cherish forever.

More practical couples could perhaps go on car maintenance courses. Marriage is about doing things together – why should this not include vehicle maintenance or the detailing of paintwork or popping down to the shops to select a pressure washer? Such is the stuff happy marriages are made of.

As you travel the road of life together secure in the knowledge that the oil is freshly changed and there’s some hand cleanser in the boot, always remember this – the family that tinkers together stays together.

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MG Finally Offer A Supermini.

Despite their British Touring Car Championship success the revitalised MG brand has failed to set the UK alight with its latest offerings. Now though, they may finally have hit on the mother lode. Superminis. There’s a lot of them about, certainly, and most are very good indeed so, for MG to make their mark, they had to come up with something exciting.

That something is the MG3. This really is a very good looking car (image) and it has a selling point that most manufacturers can’t match. The most expensive top-of-the-list version costs just £9999. The small but well ordered range starts at a Sandero chasing £8399 but unlike the bargain basement Rumanian built car, the MG3 doesn’t skimp on the extras.

On the safety front this new vehicle boasts six airbags, stability, traction and corner brake control systems – not bad at this money – and the more you spend the more abundant the goodies. As is the trend these days it is easy to order a bit of personalised customisation with plenty of interior and exterior graphics and accessories. We especially like the example featured above. Certainly, the top of the range version comes fully loaded.

Perhaps the weakest point, but certainly not a deal-breaker, is the engine. Not powerful of course but the 1.5L motor with 106PS coupled to the five-speed ‘box should be lively enough to make the driving experience enjoyable, but it is let down by the slightly disappointing figures. 48.7mpg isn’t so bad but the emissions of 136g/km are a tad high and will certainly push the VED bracket up a couple of notches. The warranty is an average but unexciting ‘three year / 60k’ although it will be possible to extend this.

The MG3 is going to be available from September. With their present lacklustre sales the company really need to trumpet this car from the rooftops if it is make any inroads into DS3, Adam or Fiesta territory. The difference for cash-strapped motorist may well be price but then the Dacia comes into the frame. Thus the MG3 is kind of stuck in the middle and it is likely to need some promoting to get results.

Still, it’s good to know that manufacturers are taking note of buying trends. Certainly, there is and always will be a place for the expensive or dramatic vehicles, but these days a lot of folk seem to be settling for small, fuel efficient cars that still offer enjoyment and a bit of lifestyle choice. Good luck to MG with their offering.

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That Mystery Noise Has Come Back Again!

These days, once you’ve discovered a reliable and trustworthy garage it pays to stick with it. Some people even become reliant on them, phoning up or visiting for every little issue, like a lonely hypochondriac at the doctor’s.

Fine, if there’s some dire mechanical fault or you are worried about poor economy then by all means pop along and get some good advice but what if it is just an irritating vibration or squeak that’s driving you mad? Garage proprietors hate these occasions and with good cause. Whilst they may well know all the cacophony of sounds that a car can make it is shockingly hard to diagnose the sound of a child’s Wellington boot trapped in the corner of the boot well.

If you persist and demand they solve the problem then they will have a fall-back position. The Chief Mechanic will be called over. He will listen to the noise. He will scratch his head, kick a tyre or two, suck air in over his teeth, ask for a clipboard and begin writing down large financial calculations which he will show you. This is designed to make you back off.

Of course, this all presupposes that your vehicle will make the noise at the right time. Certainly, it will make it all the way to the garage but, as sure as shooting, it will stop as you drive onto the forecourt. The car will behave like a malingering dog taken to the vets. It will stubbornly refuse to show any sign of a problem until you get home. Then it all begins again.

There is a solution and it is an easy one that costs you nothing – do it yourself. Here’s a true story. A driver of a well-known Japanese car is being driven crazy by a prolonged squeak – a known issue on this particular car – when he operates the clutch pedal. He goes to the garage. They apply lubricating oil to the pedal without success. In some cases with this vehicle dealers have been known to change clutch parts to resolve the problem and all the time the bill gets bigger and bigger.

As it turns out, all it involved was the act of getting down on knees and delving into the foot well whilst injecting heavy duty grease up into the area where they pedal goes through the firewall. Job done and it lasted for months before a re-application was required.

In other words, what is needed is a bit of time and perseverance. Spend time with your noise; grow to appreciate it. Crawl around the vehicle and try to isolate it in its lair. Does one action cause it and another doesn’t? Are you doing a particular function each time? More often than not the cause will come to light with just the loss of some skin off your knuckles. After all, nobody wants to pay out a large sum to have an Action Man body part removed from behind the rear seat squab!

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