Tag Archive | "uk motorists"

Drink-Driving Deaths On The Rise

Figures released by the Department for Transport have shown a rather dramatic rise in the numbers of deaths resulting from accidents where a driver was found to be over the limit. It would not be too much of a stretch to suggest that this could have something to do with the lack of traffic police on our streets. The drink-drivers are once again showing their true colours.

The provisional stats show that around 290 souls lost their lives amongst the debris of 6,680 accidents where an over-the-limit driver was involved. Nearly ten thousand folk were injured in some way. This is a staggering twenty six percent up on last year. 26%!

Aside from the lack of bobbies in panda cars, it is also suggested that the increase is also partly due to the axing, in 2010, of DD television commercials, presumably as a cost-saving measure. Some cost saving when they are supposed to be for life saving. It is clear that relying on Facebook campaigns (Note to government – the whole country is not on social media as you seem to think). Thankfully, the ads have now been reinstated, although Motor Blogger is yet to see one.

The ministers concerned want to be seen to be doing something about it. This is why they are “taking forward a package of measures to streamline enforcement”. This apparently includes new “portable evidential breath-testing equipment which will allow for more effective enforcement”. Not without the cops to use it, it won’t.

It seems that some drivers – including the celebrities who can afford the lawyers – have been trying to evade prosecution by claiming that the breathalyser readouts are unreliable. The new equipment is presumably meant to counter this but it cannot operate itself. That is the basic problem.

Police forces up and down the country have had to cut back to save on costs. Fine, nobody wants waste but where’s the thin blue line? The world can offer up as much fancy gear as anyone could want but until it can be used by trained and trusted operatives then it is just so much extra junk. If accidents and deaths are rising then some fully manned pro-active policing is the answer; not words or gimmicks.

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Motoring Issues That Affect Us All

With the excellent news that car insurance premiums are starting to come down, the time has come to keep up the pressure of complaint. Naturally, we peace-loving folk at Motor Blogger do not advocate revolution but surely motorists must keep speaking up against those things which blight their lives. This is why (astonishing as it may seem) we have Members of Parliament – to speak on our behalf so maybe it is time to contact yours.

Drivers remain beset by unfair practices, sky-high costs and potentially dangerous roads. For years the average motorist has held his tongue but, and this is now apparent, increasingly we are beginning to speak up aided by sensible voices from the motoring organisations.

We already contribute a very large amount of money to the government’s coffers through taxation and duty. We contribute even more through over-zealously applied fines for very minor infractions. We have to fund repairs to our cars, often through expensive insurance companies, thanks to dangerous potholes and road surfaces that are increasingly becoming the norm.

Because of ‘cuts’ we now have so few traffic policemen that those who truly transgress on our roads often go unpunished yet unwary drivers are still – despite all the talk – subjected to unfair penalties and actions by unscrupulous parking companies or greedy councils.

What’s worse is the fact that the goalposts keep moving as if they’ve been erected on quicksand. A driver might buy a new car based on a zero road tax decision only to find the following year that his car has slipped into a tax paying status. Penalties are rising across the board. A motorist who fractionally over-steps the speed limit and is caught by a speed camera which has no decision making capabilities will pay the same fine as the speed merchant who drives badly at an accident black spot. Cameras should be about road safety.

Fuel costs too much and that is down to allegedly fiddled pricing and to successive governments increasing duty as an easy way to bolster their previously profligate spending. We didn‘t make the mess we‘re in. Car insurance remains too expensive, still partly due to fraudulent activities. Thankfully, we are now seeing some movement on this front.

Drivers are penalised for being drivers, it’s as simple as that. We are treated as a cash cow by authorities who seem to be bereft of fresh economic ideas. The groundswell is growing. Motoring organisations and magazines are lobbying the government about all these issues. Time to speak your mind – repeatedly if necessary.

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Summer Silly Season

We all like to assert our individuality. We like to have something about us that is unique, interesting or quirky. Some men will walk about nonchalantly sporting inadvisable summer shorts whilst wearing socks with their sandals. Other men would sooner bleed copiously from their sandal-chaffed feet than do such a thing.

This is why, when driving around, we see British cars festooned with wholly inappropriate trinkets and additions completely out of keeping with our traditional reserved values. This is the driver or owner asserting his or her right to be different or cutting edge.

It is said that you can tell a persons occupation by the colour of the car they drive. To a certain extent this could well be true as it is borne out by insurance company stats. Hairdressers favour purple cars – which seems obvious – whilst florists apparently select orange ones. This probably also applies to tanning salon owners. Accountants favour grey cars. Sadly there are no details on the preferences of politicians – as far as cars are concerned anyway.

So colour doesn’t make a motorist as individual as they may think but rather a member of the employment group they belong to. So they go further with the embellishments. Some manufacturers have even offered twinkly lights in the headlining of the car’s interior, presumably to emulate the night sky. It just looks over-the-top and distracting. The only really useful thing about it is that it could bring a whole new showbiz dimension to, erm, nocturnal activities.LIGHTS3 Summer Silly Season

Being a proud parent is one thing but publishing the fact all over your car is quite another. Americans are fond of this in the form of bumper stickers. “Proud Parents of a J. F. Long Honor Student” shrieks one. “Proud Parent of the Child Who Beat Up Your Honor Student,” announces another. Eventually, the poor mortified offspring become more notorious than Honey Boo Boo Child of trailer park and TV fame. Before you think otherwise – it is happening here. People, a ‘Baby On Board’ sticker is sufficient; she is not a little princess! There”s only one car that carry a “Little Prince On Board” and actually mean it.

Then of course there are the body parts. Eyelashes on headlights or Santa’s legs or a set of fingers poking out of the boot lid come to mind; but it’s not just car buyers – manufacturers are keen on pointless novelties too. On a couple of their convertible models one company offers a neck heater in the head restraint. It”s just a novelty and like all novelties interest palls after about five minutes. They might work but why would you pay for such a thing? Wear a scarf. These options don’t make the buyer individual they just make them slightly less wealthy than they were.

Why bother with it all? Punks wanted to be individuals but they became so numerous as to negate the very thing they were trying to achieve. The clothes became a uniform. That’s what happens. A hot hatch with a body kit is just a daft hot hatch. Don’t let any of it bother you. Just save your money. Don”t try and buy individuality – just be yourself. That’s all most of us can hope for.

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Highway To Hell

Jam today; more jam tomorrow. Not a statement that says everything is going to be OK but rather one that foretells forebodingly of our future as motorists. Unlike the Jetsons our future driving lives will not be spent whizzing about in space-age airborne vehicles but sweltering in our cars as we wait to move forwards by ten metres.

Those of you who are French and have long memories might remember a traffic jam outside of Paris in 1980. A combination of bad weather and thousands of drivers returning from holidays in the South resulted in a snarl-up around one hundred miles long. In the wait that followed many roadside snails died and a pall of garlic hung in the air.

Elsewhere, a scant three years ago on China’s Highway 110, a massive set of road works reduced the road capacity which eventually became overwhelmed by assorted vehicles until the queue stretched for over sixty miles (pictured). Some unlucky souls where blocked in for twelve days. Seems incredible but it is true.

Both of these countries are big and have huge road networks yet still these things happened. The British Isles are not big but they are crowded. They have a road network which, thanks to poor management and massive underinvestment by successive governments, is now not fit for purpose.

Things, to paraphrase D:ream, can only get worse. The Department for Transport have produced a report called ‘Roads of the 21st Century’. This apparently is meant to see into the future and what it sees is not good. For the next couple of years they reckon that traffic levels will remain fairly constant. However, with the predicted economic recovery after that they calculate that the number of cars on the road will steadily rise by nineteen percent by year 2025.

In a further fifteen years they have estimated that figure will rise to forty three percent. That is, give or take, around fifteen million more cars. That, incidentally, is just their middling estimate. Their worse case scenario is, erm, much worse. This inevitably will lead to greater congestion and more misery for motorists.

The Report believes that fuel-efficient cars will bring down the price of motoring (pause while we all stop laughing because here in the real world they will counter this with higher taxation) and the population will rise by an additional 10 million by 2040 – hence more cars on the road.

Of course, this is based on economic recovery and there are no guarantees of that despite the recent hopeful noises, but at least it has spurred the government into the investment of £28billion’s worth of road projects. We’ve mentioned this before on Motor Blogger. It is very laudable but is only a drop in the ocean if the report’s figures are to be believed. We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime keep emergency food, drink, blankets and a portaloo in the car just in case.

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Driving In France

Just across the Narrow Sea we call the English Channel (and rightly so) is a foreign land. It is called France and they do things differently there. Considering that they are so nearby it is amazing that there are so many cultural differences. Some are well known: they can’t play football, for example and they insist on eating the limbs of amphibians. The casual observer, standing aloft on the White Cliffs of Dover, will, if the wind is on-shore, catch a whiff of garlic.

So it is with some trepidation that the average motoring holiday maker drives onto the ferry or into the belly of the railroad beast. It is another country and when you arrive everything is different. The road signs, if you can believe this, are in a foreign language. What’s that all about?

The wary driver will also notice that the popular hearsay that they drive on the other side of the road is actually true. More worryingly, they have their own rules of the road and woe betide any UK resident who transgresses. Imagine being banged up over night! Who likes jail food that moves about the plate in a shell? For the benefit of newbies at this foreign travel lark here are some facts from the land that brought you Audrey Tautou and noxious cheese.

All drivers and motorcyclists must carry a breathalyser kit that contains not one but two disposable breathalysers that must conform to French NF Standards. They sell them cheap at the ferry terminals. In the manner of all governments around Europe, the French have decided that for now any penalty issued will be postponed. Why? If you’re going to have a rule, have a rule. What’s the French for ‘fudge the issue’? Drivers still have to carry the kit though. Also, the drink drive limit is lower than here so if in doubt, don’t.

In France the cops can issue on-the-spot fines or, as they are amusingly referred to, ‘deposits’. So non-returnable then? They should issue a receipt but you’ll probably find that it’s not tax deductible unless your accountant is really good in which case he lives in the Cayman Islands. Exceed the speed limit by 40kph and your licence is taken from you. Comedy French accents don’t help, incidentally, when dealing with les flics.

Children under ten can’t sit in the front passenger seat, or, indeed drive. Your headlights must be set up to point the other way. You must carry a warning triangle, reflective jackets and a picture of Jean Reno. Worst of all, speed camera detectors are illegal and you must turn off static speed camera information if your satellite navigation system shows it. Not very sporting is it? Not the British way at all.

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New Drivers Need To Be Better Trained

One day soon parents and relatives all around Britain may suddenly wake up to howls of anguish coming from their older children – at least, the ones that are learning to drive. This is because – as revealed by a very recent survey – experienced motorists are becoming increasingly concerned about the lack of learning requirements for new drivers – and not just the youngsters; learners of any age.

A very large majority of the UK’s motorists believe that there should be a minimum driver training period prior to any practical driving test being taken. Most seem to think that a six month period is appropriate. As things stand at the moment there is no minimum period. A precocious seventeen year old could learn and pass in a week which may be commendable but does nothing to add to the real life experience of driving on our busy roads.

Motorway driving and manners are of primary concern given the generally higher speeds and volume of traffic. Respondents to the survey reckon that motorway training should be part of the learning process and indeed part of the driving test. As far as new drivers are concerned it gets worse.

A majority believe the mandatory probation period should be followed by a further driving assessment. Vehicles, the respondents believe, should be fitted with speed limiter devices to slow the more gung-ho element of the newbies and instil a sense of security in the more nervous newcomer to the world of wheels. This is a bit of a contentious area given that most motorway drivers expect a higher level of speed to be maintained. There would need to be a happy medium.

Experienced drivers believe that the government should do more by adding more stringent requirements and regulation to ensure newcomers benefit from the process. Other road users would feel reassured by this, they say. Most seem happy with the age 17 rule, but they want the punishments to be more severe. For example, any miscreant with more than six points should be busted down to learner status again and forced to repeat the cycle.

Additionally it is felt that there should be passenger restrictions on the carrying of under twenty-fives by under twenty-fives, presumably to neuter youthful exuberance and that there should be an even lower limit for drink driving. Presumably the former wouldn’t apply to older newbies but it isn’t made clear.

All of this, of course, is easy to say for drivers with many years of experience behind them but it needs to be balanced with a sense of fair play. We were all learners once. Certainly the roads are busier today than they have ever been but as most young people will grow up to be sensible drivers they should at least be given a fair crack of the whip and we don’t mean that in the literal sense.

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Is It Time To Sort Out Speed Once And For All?

The Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk, one Stephen Bett, recently said in an interview that experienced drivers should be allowed to travel as fast as they want to. He went on to say he would, “abolish speed limits on motorways and other major roads” and, “take down all the signs and say all villages are 30mph and you drive on roads like they do in Germany and Italy, as road conditions say (sic). We ought to drive to road conditions rather than set limits.” Why, thanks, Stephen.

Later, when his world inevitably came crashing down around him, he back-peddled faster than Sir Bradley Wiggins on maximum re-wind and said his comments were ‘tongue-in-cheek’ and a tad flippant. Later he fully retracted – thus saving his career – and said, “I fully acknowledge that speed is regarded as a contributory factor in determining the outcome of collisions.”

Therein lies the whole problem. On the one hand we have the school of thought that we should increase the speed limits on motorways, and on the other we are told that speed is largely responsible for accidents. This is not always so: it is inappropriate speed that may cause accidents coupled with people’s inability to drive properly for the prevailing conditions.

The male 18 to 25 age group are, and always have been, on the receiving end of the big statistic numbers when it comes to accidents and fatalities. This is the gung-ho nature of youth. Clearly there is a need for greater driving education because the driving test is just that. Only experience improves driving standards.

In a sense, Mr Bett was not entirely wrong. He may have been trying to suggest an idea and it simply came out the wrong way. Most people, if left to their own devices, can drive perfectly safely and do not need to be perpetually nannied or bossed about. What complicates the issue is that young drivers lack experience and older drivers become lazy. The modern cars we all drive are safer than the automobile has ever been but they can’t protect us against our own complacency.

The faster a car is going the less time the driver has to react. The dangers of speed are directly related to the prevailing conditions. If it is raining then stopping distances increase, for example. Knowledge of how a vehicle works, coupled with an awareness of surroundings and an ability not to be distracted by all the features of the car are key. Speed cannot be blamed because some idiot is texting.

The solution can never be simple but it needs to be found. We must control speed in built up areas and villages – that’s a given – but there is nothing wrong with an 80mph speed on, say, a dry lightly used motorway but when conditions change so should the driver’s response.

This is probably what Mr Bett was getting at. Greater emphasis needs to be put on education. Young drivers should have a probationary period in low-powered cars and so on. Older drivers need to buck their ideas up and pay attention. What we don’t need is more signs and increased regulation. Views are conflicting and as confused as ever. Time to sort it out.

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MOT – No Nasty Surprises

Once a car passes the age of three years it moves into the realm of the dreaded MOT. With the complexity of modern cars this can be a worry but now, thanks to a new campaign, motorists can at least be forewarned by completing a simple series of checks on their own vehicles. Obviously, inspecting a car won’t effect a miracle cure but it does mean that used car owners won’t waste time and additional money on unexpected MOT failures.

The scheme called ‘Minute-or-Two’ is supported by over five thousand main dealers around the country. Their technicians will be happy to advise any customers who are unsure of how to make the checks themselves. The list of checks is straightforward and means that owners can talk to their dealers about individual problems that can be rectified in advance and help prevent that heart-sinking feeling when the fail certificate is handed over. These are the points to watch:

Roping in a friend or family member, make sure all headlights, sidelights, reversing and brake lights and the indicators are all functioning as they should. Don’t forget the number plate light. That’s a very simple home-fix which, if missed, could mean a failure. Plates, incidentally should be clean, legible and conform to the standard.

The importance of sound wheels and tyres shouldn’t be underestimated. Tyres should have at least 1.6mm of tread across their width (ideally, the sensible driver changes them at 3mm) and they should be undamaged in other ways – from kerbs for example. Your dealer will be happy to check these for you.

Seats should have all the forward and backward movement they came with and be firmly in position. Seat belts must be tip-top and functioning correctly. The way to check this is by giving them a hearty tug to ensure they will lock up in the event of a collision.

These days windscreens come under close scrutiny. Any damage (a stone chip for example) anywhere that is greater than 40mm will be a fail and in the ‘swept’ area that figure drops to 10mm. This is a tricky one to assess by eye. Again your dealer should be prepared to advise FOC. Ditto the wipers: they should be in good nick and clean the area fully. Remember, top up the washer bottle before the test.

Always ensure the car has enough fuel for road-testing and, of course, fluid and oil levels should be maintained at the correct level. A low brake fluid level for instance could signify a bigger problem. Finally, check the horn for correct function. To make the task a bit less onerous, try testing it when your ‘check-assistant’ is least expecting it. How they’ll laugh!

Follow theses checks and avoid nasty surprises come MOT time. It’s good that dealers are participating too. Clearly, it’s in their interests but at least they are helping with your safety and may well save you money in the long run.

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New Driving Rants

Picture this. You are driving down a typically British rutted two-lane road. You know that you are approaching a serious pothole and that you’ll need to move to the crown of the road to avoid it. In the distance you see a lone car approaching at about the same speed as you. You just know, don’t you, that the car will arrive at the pothole at exactly the same time, thus requiring you to hold your line and drop a wheel in. It’s no good slowing down because the other bloke will think there is something amiss and slow down too.

This is just one of things that make drivers steam with impotent rage and frustration. You know all the usual ones – middle-lane hoggers; people who don’t indicate and so on but there are others starting to appear in the great lexicon of motoring misery:

The Economist. This is the chap (it’s usually men – ladies tend not to notice lights until the last second because they are doing their hair) who begins to slow down to a crawl at least one hundred metres from a red traffic light. Why does he do this? Is he on an economy drive? Does he really think that manufacturers mpg figures are achievable? Or does he believe that by doing this he will arrive at the lights just as they change? It’s a mystery. Who are these anoraks?

The Plastic Glove. These are available on garage forecourts. Often, through sloppy handling, pump handles can pong a bit and it gets on your hands. For the rest of the day people around you will be saying in a vague sort of way, “Can anyone smell petrol?”. This is why plastic gloves are provided free in dispensers on the pumps. So why is it that when you want to buy petrol the dispensers are always empty? This happens all the time. If you are a passenger in someone else’s car the holders will be overflowing with the things but never when it is you who is filling up. Where do they go?

The Access Road. These ramps are supplied for cars leaving a side road to join a main road. The idea is for cars joining the major route to filter into the traffic. The average road speed on the main drag will always be considerably higher than that of the entering traffic so why do people persist in maintaining the side road speed as they drive down the ramp and enter the traffic stream? This causes all sorts of mayhem and may well occasion the ‘domino-effect’ on the through traffic. It can also cause the hapless followers to come almost to a halt and have to desperately accelerate at the last minute! Who taught these people to drive?

The Truck Trap. You’ll recognise this one. There you are, dutifully driving along on the inside lane, when you come up behind a lorry. You shift a gear, prepare to indicate and accelerate and….the guy behind you pulls out to pass and traps you behind the truck. All the other vehicles behind him have seen this and are making their move! Trapped! Doomed to travel miles behind a lumbering lorry which, almost inevitably, is carrying smelly farm slurry. Whatever happened to good road manners?

There we have it. All these things are as inevitable as the changing of the seasons and the tides of the sea. If you have any new bad motoring experiences, why not share them with us?

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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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