Friday, 30 November 2012

Duties in the eyes of the beholder

Road safety charity the IAM is offering weekly motoring tips from Britain's top advanced driver, Peter Rodger. This week he is advising motorists on keeping your eyesight in check when behind the wheel.

IAM chief examiner Peter Rodger said: "Your eyes will inevitably change over time, and usually not for the better. Since the majority of information gathered in order to make decisions while driving is through your eyes, good vision is a real necessity."

Rodger offers tips on eyesight and driving:

  • Get your eyes checked regularly by a qualified professional (Some people are entitled to free NHS eyesight checks).
  • The law requires drivers to be able to read a car number plate from a distance of 20 metres – If you need glasses or contact lenses to do this, they must be worn at all times when driving.
  • If you are diagnosed with a condition which causes vision impairment, the law says you must inform the DVLA. Failure to do so is a criminal offence.
  • If you have trouble with night vision or headlight glare, avoid driving in the dark. Older eyes take longer to react to changes in light, lengthening the recovery period after facing dazzling headlights.
  • Do not look directly at oncoming lights – look past them on your side of the road, so they are in your peripheral vision, not in the centre of your eyes.
  • Peripheral vision is diminished as eyes age - Turn your head rather than glancing sideways to compensate for this.
  • Maximise your view by keeping headlights, mirrors, and windshields (inside and out) clean.
  • Remember that your vision will feel more affected when you are tired – so if you have the option, make allowances, and try to avoid driving then.

Rodger said: "The deterioration of our eyesight can go unnoticed, and is especially problematic after the age of about 40.  Poorer vision can pose an even greater risk during the winter months, with fewer hours of daylight and more challenging weather conditions. Now is the time to book yourself in for an eye test to ensure you're as safe as you can be when driving."

Experience counts in the drive for safer roads

Older drivers are as safe as drivers from all other age groups, according to research published today by the IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists). Contrary to widespread belief, the study shows they have better attitudes to safety, deal with hazards better than young drivers and use experience to increase their safety margins on the road.

The report reveals that drivers over 75 react just as quickly as other age groups when a vehicle emerges from a side road or if the car in front brakes suddenly on a rural road.

Official statistics show that people over 70 make up nine per cent of drivers but six per of driver casualties.  This practical study found that where older drivers had slower reaction times, they used their experience on the road to compensate:

  • They drive at slower speeds on all occasions
  • They keep a bigger following distance than drivers from other age groups.

Whilst the study found little difference in driving performance across the ages it did highlight two surprising areas of concern:

  • Compared with other age groups, the eldest group appeared to stop short of the stop line at junctions and not look as often as others before pulling out.
  • Older drivers failed to look in their rear view mirror as much as other age groups on the motorway.

The report found that older drivers were likely to have less flexibility in neck movement and poorer vision standards but this did not translate into differences in driving performance.  Neck flexibility varied widely, with some older drivers as flexible as some in the youngest group

The IAM believes it is important these findings are used in on-road and online assessments to ensure that older drivers understand the risks they face and what they can do to improve their driving in key areas.

In the light of this new report the IAM is calling for:

  • A government action plan for older drivers
  • More car manufacturers considering older drivers in vehicle design
  • Greater publicity to encourage health professionals to discuss driving
  • Better information for older drivers and their families
  • Online self-assessment tools for older drivers
  • Wider availability of voluntary on-road driving assessments
  • Better partnership working at a local level

IAM chief executive Simon Best said: "The government needs to create a strategy now to deal with the ageing driving population."

"Older drivers, their families and friends deserve access to assessment and information to help them stay safe on the road. As well as this, car makers need to look at innovative ways to use technology to help this growing sector and the medical profession has to improve the way it delivers support and advise to keep drivers fit for the roads."

TRL principal human factors researcher Nick Reed said: "This study for IAM using TRL's DigiCar simulator revealed that in many of the driving scenarios tested, older drivers were typically as safe as their younger counterparts. It was notable that performance was more varied across the older participants; seemingly reflecting differences in the ageing process and highlighting how difficult it is to make judgements about driving ability based solely on age. It was pleasing to identify specific areas of concern for older drivers and perhaps to correct some common misconceptions about their driving ability."

Thursday, 29 November 2012

All ice on the road

Road safety charity the IAM is offering weekly motoring tips from Britain's top advanced driver, Peter Rodger. This week, with the Met Office having issued warnings of icy conditions across the country, he is advising on driving on frost and ice. 

IAM chief examiner Peter Rodger said: "Now is the time to start thinking about how to adapt your driving to the wintry weather, so that when conditions become dangerously slippery you are ready to react safely."

Rodger offers some tips to drive confidently in icy surroundings:

  1. Check the weather in advance – don't ignore police warnings about closed roads.
  2. Ensure you have de-icer and a scraper.  Before setting off, make sure you clean any ice or condensation from all the windows to optimise visibility. 
  3. A squirt of WD40 will prevent your door locks from freezing up.
  4. When you set off, do so in second gear, releasing the clutch and accelerating gently, avoiding high revs – this will prevent wheel spin. 
  5. Use the 'ice' setting if your car has one
  6. As you drive, stay in higher gears and don't drive too fast to avoid losing control.
  7. Stopping distances are increased by up to 10 times in icy conditions, so leave plenty of distance between your car and the car in front - plan so that you're not relying on your brakes to stop - on ice they may not do that for you. On bends, approaching junctions, and going downhill, reduce your speed early so you have control and are in a suitable gear before driving through them.
  8. Skidding on ice is the main concern for those driving in freezing conditions. If your car loses grip, take your foot off the accelerator, and point the front wheels where you want to go. If you find yourself in a skid, steer into it.
  9. Keep to the main roads as they're more likely to be gritted. Also bear in mind that after the frost has gone, ice can remain in areas which are shaded by trees and buildings.
  10. Where you park can help reduce your risk of being involved in someone else's accident. So look for off road parking where possible or gritted roads if not.
  11. Make sure your wipers are in the off position when you stop – they can freeze to the window. 

Rodger said: "When the roads are icy the best advice is to drive as if you're walking on eggshells. Be prepared for the worst – icy conditions can affect accelerating, steering and braking.  Being mentally prepared as well as having the right equipment is vital, so think about any problems you encountered last winter, and what you need to do to overcome them if they recur this year."

To keep drivers safe this winter, the IAM has launched a website, drivingadvice.org.uk, with traffic updates, weather forecasts and tips on how to drive safely in winter.

Tips cover rain, snow, ice, fog and wind – everything you can expect in a typically unpredictable British winter. Check it out before you travel.

Monday, 26 November 2012

AA records record number of call outs

car flooding
Thanks to floods causing havoc across the UK, the AA has reported it has experienced its busiest ever day for flood-related call-outs.

By midnight last night, the AA had attended 804 cars driven through or stuck in flood water and its specialist water rescue Land Rover crews worked late into the night in the affected areas.

The organisation was called out to more than 13,000 breakdowns; around 900 every hour.

Darron Burness, the AA's head of special operation, said: With the ground so saturated, flash flooding was a real issue yesterday with many people getting stuck.

"We alone attended 804 cars stuck in flood water, making it our busiest day ever for flooding call-outs but, unfortunately, today could be just as bad with more heavy rain forecast, particularly in western areas."

The AA has issued advice on how best to deal with flooded roads.

A press release said: "Drivers really need to be careful and be prepared for sudden road closures. We also see some drivers plough into flood water, somewhat oblivious to the risks.

"Unfortunately, the air intake on modern cars is often quite low and it takes just a tiny amount of water entering it to wreck the engine. Stay out of flood water where possible, certainly if it's moving or more than four inches deep.

"Yesterday our patrols reported seeing many people driving far too fast in the conditions. Stopping distances can increase significantly in the wet, so keep your speed down and maintain a larger gap between you and the vehicle in front.

"Bear in mind that surface water can mask dips in the road and potholes, which can catch you out.

"Surface spray is an issue too, so you must use your headlights if visibility is seriously reduced."

AA head of roads policy Paul Watters added: "Autumn leaves and exceptional rainfall unsurprisingly lead to flooding but local road maintenance is often the poor relation when it comes to local spending and more should be invested in tracking, clearing and improving drainage systems.

"We also urge landowners to co-operate with highway authorities when flooding problems occur."

Highways Agency switch off motorway lights to "save the planet"

Motorway lights switched offPA

It's been revealed the Government has turned off the lights on 121 miles of motorway in the last three years to help "save the planet".

The startling revelation has been discovered after the motoring organisation the AA placed a freedom of information request with the Highways Agency.

Drivers have had to rely on their headlamps and cats eyes due to motorway lights being turned off between midnight and 5am as part of the Government's attempts to reduce carbon emissions.

The motorways which have been plunged into the dark over the past three years have been the M4 near junctions 21 and 22, March 2009; the M5 between junctions 2 and 4, February 2011; the M1 between junction 16 and Watford Gap services, February 2011; the M4 between junctions 11 and 12, June 2009; and the M54 from its junction with the M6 to junction 2 near Wolverhampton, March 2011.

But there's also a number of motorways where the lights have been turned off for good; these include parts of the M58; M65; M1 and M6.

The AA has issued its concerns about the black-outs, but the Highways Agency has said road safety has not been compromised.

The lights have been turned off in areas affected by fog, says the AA – the Highways Agency believes it has undertaken safety assessments and is happy.

AA spokesman Paul Watters said: "What's wrong with dimming the lights or using more energy efficient lighting?

"It smacks of penny pinching more than saving the planet. Given the amount of tax motorists are paying they deserve a better deal.

"They shouldn't have to squint in the dark. We're going to end up with a motorway network that's only partially lit."

But the Highways Agency said the 121 miles of motorway (242 miles in both directions) was part of a network made up of 1,070 miles.

The Institute of Advanced Motorists is not impressed at the news. A spokesperson told AOL Cars: "The risk of fatal accidents increases in the dark simply because of reduced visibility.

"Modern headlamps are very good, but they do not light enough of the road ahead to help drivers avoid hazards at motorway speeds. At 70 mph the stopping distance is just 315ft."

Crash, bang, wallet - motorists charged for motorway crashes

Motorists pay for motoway crashes
A crash is unpleasant at the best of times but now motorists are saying they're being charged for them!

The BBC has discovered drivers are being issued with hefty bills from Highways Agency contractors when they have an accident on a motorway.

And in some cases, motorists are questioning pricey bills for damage they didn't even cause.

Shelia Kaur-Patel told the BBC she was invoiced £3,000 for alleged damage to the M6 motorway. Kaur-Patel's car skidded across the carriageway and spun around leading to the police closing the road for a matter of minutes.

But now she's being billed by Amey LG Limited – which works on behalf of the Highways Agency – for the hire of a 7.5-tonne tipper truck, repairs to rails and nearly £1,900 for closing the hard shoulder.

Kaur-Patel said she had "no idea" where the charges came from.

The BBC has found the practice to be wide-spread, and when drivers challenge the bills, they are normally reduced or not pursued.

The Highways Agency has said it is necessary to charge motorists for cleaning up roads after an accident, but admitted there is a lack of transparency about who is liable to pay and for how much.

The news has outraged the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM). Their director of policy and research, Neil Greig, told Autoblog: "The charges for clean ups is a real mess – this could have been a positive story aimed at informing drivers that their bad driving has consequences.

"The majority of delays on our motorway network are caused by crashes and breakdowns, and knowing you will be charged might have helped drivers to concentrate on safer driving.

"Instead we now have a situation where drivers are being charged exorbitant fees for incidents which may not have been totally their fault.

"If these charges are going to be pursued they must be fair and transparent and drivers must have a right of appeal."

The IAM is concerned drivers will be now tempted not to call for help should they have an accident leading to further incidents.

Greig added: "The Highways Agency should work urgently to clarify its policy and make sure drivers can summon assistance without fear of a hidden bill days later."

MOT Mayhem !!

Lambo crash

When Stephen Leahy booked his Lamborghini supercar in for an MOT, he was expecting to receive a certificate with "pass" stamped on it.

However, the Lambo owner received something quite different... a bill amounting to £20k's worth of damage.

The Lamborghini Murcielago LP640, worth a cool £220k, is now rather worse for wear after the MOT tester crashed it.

After completing the mandatory test for road worthiness, tester Andrew Mitchinson took the exotic supercar out for a test run. But he became a cropper of distinctly autumnal conditions, crashing the £220k car into a parked Ford Focus.

Mitchinson blamed the wet road and slippery leaves for his incident. He clipped a kerb, spun and knocked into the Ford hatchback, resulting in a bill of £20k of damage.

Lambo crash


He said "I was in second gear just going up the road to try the brakes. I don't honestly know what happened. I wouldn't have been doing more than 25-30mph - if that.

"It was unreal. I was gutted because I knew it was an expensive car."

Expensive – it was. Owner, the millionaire Lakeland hotelier Stephen Leahy, believes the 640bhp car is now worth around £95k.

Mitchinson's father added: "It's the first time he's had an accident in a customer's car and he's been here 20 years. He has driven thousands, from Ferraris to Aston Martins.

"With the Lamborghini being a four-wheel drive, it has to be road tested to test the efficiency of the brakes. You can't put it through the rolling road brake-tester here because it would damage it."

Friday, 23 November 2012

Chinese build motorway around stubborn homeowners

Motorway built around house

You thought the British were defiant in the face of motorway building.

But campaigners who stand up against Tarmacing over great swathes of British countryside should take note of an elderly couple in in the city of Wenling, China.

Luo Baogen and his wife refused point blank to leave their home when developers knocked on the door asking to demolish their abode to build a new road.

The couple were distinctly unimpressed at the compensation pay-out offered by the Chinese Government and decided to stay put.

Now the Baogens live in their partly-demolished five-storey house smack bang in the middle of a large motorway which has yet to be officially opened, after the road developers refused to let the small problem of a house get in the way of their contractual duties.

And to ensure they remain "safe" in their home, adjacent rooms have been left intact.

The Baogens' behaviour is not surprising, however. During a large part of China's Communist era, moving people on from their homes was easy.

But now thanks to tightened rules and new laws, compulsory purchase orders are illegal. To demolish a property, an agreement has to take place prior to the bulldozers moving in

Thursday, 22 November 2012

How many girls can you fit into a Mini? New World Record is set

How many girls can you fit into a Mini

How many girls can you squeeze into a Mini hatchback? Five? 10 at the most, right?

You're wrong – a group of 28 gymnasts from Sussex have managed to fit inside one of the British-built cars, setting a new world record in the process.

The daring female volunteers scrambled their way into the Mini at Potters Fields Park, London, today as part of the eighth annual Guinness World Record day. The girls beat their own previous record of 27 people, which was set in Eastbourne last year.

The ladies made full use of every inch of space available in the Mini, including the dashboard, the footwells and they even managed to squeeze four people in the boot.

But that wasn't the only record they smashed - the girls now also hold the record for squeezing into a classic Mini.

As soon as they celebrated their first record the ladies dashed off to the ITV studios to attempt the second record live on This Morning, where by squeezing a staggering 23 ladies into a classic Mini, they managed to beat the previous record by two people.

Speaking yesterday, organiser and swimming teacher Dani Maynard said: "While we have not quite been able to fit any of the girls into the Mini's glove box, there is a surprising amount of space to utilise and we are really confident that we will break the record again this year.

"After our achievement last year, we know exactly what it takes to squeeze 28 people into a Mini and we stepped up our training regime to include extra stretching and fun activities like hula-hoop relay racing.

"With the help of our local Mini dealer, Chandlers Mini, we have also had the opportunity to practise positioning everyone in the car ahead of the big day."

Monday, 19 November 2012

No cold stalling

Road safety charity the IAM is offering weekly motoring tips from Britain's top advanced driver, Peter Rodger. This week he is advising motorists on how to get a cold car going in the bleak mid-winter.

IAM chief examiner Peter Rodger said: "If the weather is really bad, think about whether you really need to make the journey before travelling. If so, ensure you take out the time to prepare your car for the elements you may face."

Rodger offers six tips to avoid seasonal car problems:

  • Don't switch on the engine until you are ready to go; a modern car does not need to warm the engine up. But do put the engine on if you need to run the heater/demister before you move off.
  • Clean any snow off the car's roof and bonnet as well as windows.
  • When you get in the car, make sure all extras such as lights, heaters and the radio are turned off before you try starting it.
  • Clean your windows inside and out – a dirty screen will cause the windows to mist up much quicker. 
  • When you're ready to go, switch the engine and heater on (air con if you have fitted; it keeps the screen dry) so that the windows don't steam up.
  • Use the 'ice' setting if your car has one and it's cold enough.

Rodger said: "Spending time preparing your car for the weather conditions is important so that it copes well throughout your journey. Now is the time to check the battery is in good condition and that your screen wash has a freeze-resistant additive."

To help drivers stay safe this winter, the IAM has launched its winter driving campaign which includes a dedicated website, drivingadvice.org.uk, with traffic updates, weather forecasts and tips on how to drive safely in winter.

Tips there cover rain, snow, ice, fog and wind – everything you can expect in a typically unpredictable British winter. Check it out before you travel

Motorists dubious about driverless cars

Forty per cent of motorists would never consider using a driverless car, according to the IAM's latest poll. Furthermore, 65 per cent of people are sceptical as to whether or not driverless technology is actually a good idea.

Driverless cars rely on radars, GPS and satellites to drive and navigate without the need for a driver to take control. Google's driverless vehicle has so far driven a total of 300,000 miles without an accident. However, only one third of respondents agreed that this provides a strong argument that the removal of the human element from driving would benefit road safety.

The majority of motorists (815 of 1,088 respondents) believe that focus should be redirected from making cars better to making drivers themselves safer. Although, around half of respondents (500 of 1,088) feel that driverless cars are a good initiative for the future.

One aspect of advanced car technology is that vehicles would be unable to exceed the speed limit. Half of respondents think this is an attractive quality in the driverless car, while the remaining 50 per cent consider it strictly a disadvantage.

Other results show:

  • Half of motorists don't think that driverless cars will become popular.
  • 56 per cent do not think there is a possibility that driverless cars will be the norm within the next ten years.
  • 98 of 1,088 people think that driverless car technology is irresponsible.
  • 22 per cent of respondents would use a driverless car.
  • Over half of motorists think that automated systems should take control to prevent a crash.
  • 92 per cent of people like the fact that with driverless car technology, the car behind would not be allowed to drive too close to you. 

IAM chief executive Simon Best said: "The presence of driverless technology in every car is still many years away. In the meantime, more should be done immediately to improve driver standards and deal with the most common human errors through better training, as well as incentives by the government and insurance companies.

"Of course technology has a huge role to play in road safety, but as long as there are cars on the road people will want to drive them. What we need to aim for is first class drivers operating first class vehicles."

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Drive confidently in icy conditions

Road safety charity the IAM is offering weekly motoring tips from Britain's top advanced driver, Peter Rodger. This week, with temperatures nearing freezing, he is advising on driving on frost and ice. 

IAM chief examiner Peter Rodger said: "Now is the time to start thinking about how to adapt your driving to the wintry weather, so that when conditions become dangerously slippery you are ready to react safely."

Rodger offers six tips to drive confidently in icy conditions:

  1. Before setting off, make sure you clean any ice or condensation from all the windows to optimise visibility, not just the windscreen, but your side and rear windows as well. 
  2. When you set off, if you are on ice do so in second gear, releasing the clutch and accelerating gently, avoiding high revs – this will prevent wheel spin.  In an automatic be very gentle, and if it has a "winter mode" use it.
  3. As you drive, stay in higher gears and don't drive too fast to keep in control.
  4. Stopping distances are increased by up to 10 times in icy conditions, so leave plenty of distance between your car and the car in front, and slow down much earlier than you would normally.
  5. If your car loses grip, take your foot off the accelerator, and point the front wheels where you want to go.
  6. Keep to the main roads as they're more likely to be gritted. Also bear in mind that after the frost has gone, ice can remain in areas which are shaded by trees and buildings, and in dips especially. 

Rodger said: "When the roads are icy the best advice is to drive as if you're walking on eggshells. Be prepared for the worst – icy conditions can affect accelerating, steering and braking dramatically.  Being mentally prepared as well as having the right equipment is vital, so think about any problems you encountered last winter, and what you need to do to overcome them if they recur this year."