Monday, 31 December 2012

Serious warnings issued to drink drivers

New year revellers have been given a strong warning: "Don't let the morning after be a mourning disaster".

The message comes from the AA which pointed out that during this festive period police were targeting motorists still over the limit the day after binge drinking.

The AA said as many as 400 morning-after drivers were caught during 2011.

A previous AA/Populus survey of more than 11,000 drivers found that 34 per cent felt they could often be over the legal limit the morning after and 46 per cent reckoned they might occasionally be over the limit.

AA president Edmund King said: "Too many drivers are caught out by being over the limit the morning after the night before.

"One unit of alcohol takes about one hour to get out of the system. However this is not a precise science as it depends on size, gender, whether you have eaten, state of your liver, metabolism and even mood.

"There is also confusion over units of alcohol due to varying strengths of beers and wines and different sizes of glasses. Our advice remains - if in doubt, don't drive."

Road safety campaigners Don't Be That Someone has also issued a strong message during this festive season. They have called on the government to enhance its efforts to change people's views on drink driving.

The road safety campaigners believe that the problem must be tackled by teaching under-18s about the dangers and effects driving while over the legal limit can have.

Michael McAdam, founder of Don't Be That Someone, said: "We welcome a yearly Christmas drink drive campaign. But it doesn't go far enough to tackle the serious problem of drink-driving.

"You need to educate young people to change their fundamental attitudes to stop them drink-driving in the first place, or you're not fixing the problem. We need specific educational and awareness campaigns aimed at pre-drivers."

Government spends £2.3m to deter motorists 'rubbernecking'

 

"Rubbernecking" could be a thing of the past thanks to new technology purchased by the Department of Transport (DfT).

More than 3,000 sets of screens to "hide" accidents from passing motorists will be made available to the Highways Agency from 2013.

The 105 sets have a total cost of £2.3m – each set costs £22,000 and are made up of 30 screens – but it is hoped they will help deter motorists from "rubbernecking" – the bad habit of slowing down and looking at accidents.

It's thought detering "rubbernecking" will help to not only prevent further accidents, but improve clear-up times by "up to several hundred thousand pounds per incident", says the DfT.

The screens are just one new measure introduced by the DfT as part of its CLEAR – Collision, Lead, Evaluate, Act and Reopen – programme introduced last year.

Along with 38 DfT/police-funded 3D laser scanners which allow police officers to quickly capture evidence at the scene of an accident, and a new hands-free smart phone app which notifies drivers of incidents, the government is confident these measures will help reduce the estimated £750m cost to the economy that incidents cause on the strategic road network in England annually.

Road minister Stephen Hammond said: "There is nothing more frustrating than being stuck in a traffic jam for hours on end. There is also the shocking cost of those lost hours for our economy.

"That is why we are improving the clear-up of incidents so we can get our motorways and major roads re-opened as quickly as possible.

"We are now witnessing even greater than expected time savings as a result of the roll out of laser scanning programme. This and other elements of the initiative, such as the use of incident screens, will help to keep traffic moving and save the economy tens of millions of pounds a year."

Assistant chief constable Sean White, lead on collision investigations for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), added: "The time saved by using this technology is more economically friendly and reduces disruption on the roads, while allowing for thorough investigations to take place

Au revoir, mon ami - Citroen axes C6 after seven years

  

A  very special car ended production for good.

To most people, the Citroen C6 was an oddball car which was just too eccentric to earn their attentions. But to petrolheads and car fans, the Citroen C6 was perhaps the most charismatic and beautiful saloon car made in decades.

In its seven-year life, Peugeot-Citroen built 20,000 of the swoopy four-doors. Some say that's the number Citroen wanted to sell each year, while in the UK dealers sold hundreds, not thousands.

Citroen finally pulled the plug on the UK market in May 2012, finally coming to the conclusion that adapting the car to right hand drive was just too expensive.

In its homeland, the C6 was well respected even if it didn't sell terribly well. But in the UK, the allure of supposedly more premium German brands was just too great, and the buying public spent their cash on 5 Series BMWs, Audi A6s and Mercedes E-Classes instead.

Consequently depreciation on C6s was horrendous (its three year residual value was a shocking 30 per cent at one time); today you can pick up one on the used market from around £8k for a 2006 example with 70k miles on the clock.

The reason why the C6 didn't appeal to UK buyers was not for its equipment levels. Top-drawer C6s came with every conceivable luxury as standard, but a near-£40k price tag did its best to persuade snobby customers to spend their money with the Germans.

The C6 wasn't alone in this respect. Citroen has been trying to tempt the UK motorist into French luxury cars for decades. But it seems like Peugeot and Renault before them, Citroen has finally thrown in the towel. Citroen points to the even more oddball DS5 as a replacement, but we could hardly agree. Styling – yes; confusing powertrains – no.

Don't think the C6 will be the last big Citroen, however. Peugeot-Citroen is considering putting a flagship DS9 into production, but its a virtually full-gone conclusion the UK won't be getting it. China is the market where Peugeot-Citroen is targeting growth, not here  Au revoir, mon ami - Citroen axes C6 after seven years

M25 cameras failing to catch speeders

 

M25

An investigation has found the overhead speed cameras on the M25 have not caught ANY drivers in the last 12 months.

A three-month probe, which involved no less than 20 Freedom of Information requests, has resulted in four police forces to admit their cameras either don't work or have failed to catch any drivers in the last year.

The Met Police, which is in charge of policing the London Orbital motorway in Surrey and the Thames Valley took more than 40 days to respond to requests – and originally refused to respond for fear of the repercussions.

However, after arguing with the Met that these cameras are paid for by motorists, are supposed to be located at "accident black spots" and that other forces had already revealed the information, the force finally admitted that NO drivers have been caught be overhead gantry cameras on the M25 in the last 12 months in its area.

Hertfordshire police said it was the same for the stretch it polices, while the Essex force were even more forthcoming – they admitted that there are NO live cameras on its stretch of the M25 at all.

gantry

Kent police also told us that despite the Highways Agency installing overhead speed cameras between junctions one and three, they had yet to be commissioned and as such had not caught any drivers. "There are no other gantry cameras within the Kent boundary," added the response to our FoI request.

The original aim was to uncover which overhead speed camera on the M25 had caught the most motorists. We asked each authority this question as well as which was the worst performing in terms of generating revenue for the Treasury. We also asked what the highest speed recorded by one of these cameras was.

However, it soon became clear from the responses that followed – and the evasive actions some forces took to our requests – that very few of the cameras were actually active.  Edmund King, president of The AA (pictured below), was shocked when presented with the report.

He said: "Generally, apart from controlled motorway schemes or average distance cameras through road works, cameras are not targeted on motorways as they are our safest roads.

"Speeding on the M25 does not tend to be as prevalent as on other motorways mainly due to heavy usage and congestion.

"If drivers believe that there is no chance of being caught speeding on the M25 then there will be a temptation for some to speed up when conditions allow it. We know that some of the cameras have worked in the past so we will be keen to hear why they are not currently working.

"Perhaps the police should investigate which are the most dangerous sections of the motorway and target their enforcement resources on those areas?"

Edmund King


The question as to why, despite numerous speed camera warning signs and lines painted on the motorway to gauge speeds, the traps remain unused.

Police forces already struggle to process the offences recorded by cameras in built-up areas and that the deluge of paperwork the M25 cameras would generate would simply swamp the system.

Some may also question the ethics of revealing that few – if any – of the cameras on the M25 are live and say it may result in more motorists breaking the law. However, it's worth noting that there are many thousands of miles of motorway in Britain where there are no cameras at all and there's always the chance of mobile camera vans operating on the M25, not to mention police patrols.

While the overhead gantries on some sections of the M25 may not be active now, there's nothing to stop police forces changing their minds either...

Try a mocktail this New Year's Eve

 

The Department for Transport has produced a number of alcohol-free "mocktail" recipes to appeal to those who are designated drivers on nights out.

It's all part of efforts to cut down on drink driving this New Year's Eve.

It has produced a number of recipes - from a Berry Breezer to a Piña- Banana - and says they are "easy to make at home and provide a festive alternative".

The department is also warning party-goers to plan their way home in advance so they can celebrate the New Year in style, not in the cells.

A hard-hitting television advert highlighting the consequences of drink driving has been shown throughout December as part of the Department for Transport's THINK! drink drive campaign.

Road safety minister Stephen Hammond said: "Our message is clear: have a great New Year's Eve, don't risk the consequences of drink driving.

"If you get behind the wheel after drinking you risk losing your licence as well as facing a fine and even a prison sentence."

Last year, drivers aged between 20 and 24 failed more breath tests than any other age group.

The Department for Transport is currently consulting on a package of tough measures to crack down on drink drivers. This includes removing drink drivers' rights to demand a blood or urine test. This is because evidence shows it is used as a delaying tactic by drivers caught over the limit.

The department has also supported Coke's Designated Driver Scheme, which offered buy one get one free soft drinks in pubs around the country throughout December.

Here are the mocktail recipes...

Berry Breezer
  • Half a fresh lime
  • Two teaspoons of brown sugar
  • 100 ml of cranberry juice
  • 50 ml of pineapple juice
  • Tonic water
Crush the lime and sugar together, add the juices, shake and strain over ice.
Top with tonic and garnish with a lime wedge.

Elderflower Spritzer
  • 50 ml of elderflower cordial
  • Three lemon wedges
  • Half a teaspoon of brown sugar
  • Soda water
  • Mint to garnish
Crush the sugar and lemon wedges together, add the elderflower cordial, shake, top with soda, stir and add more ice as required. Garnish with a lemon wedge and a sprig of mint.

Winter Warmer
  • 75 ml of apple juice
  • 75 ml of cranberry juice
  • 2.5 teaspoons of honey
  • Lemon and cloves for garnish
Heat the apple and cranberry juice together for one minute in the microwave, stir in the honey and serve immediately in a heated mug or handled glass. Garnish with a clove-studded lemon wheel.

Citrus Mock-tini
  • Three fresh kumquats
  • Three teaspoons of lime
  • Marmalade
  • 25 ml of clementine juice
  • Tonic water
Crush the kumquats with the marmalade, add the clementine juice, shake, pour over ice and top with tonic. Garnish with spent kumquat shells.

Piña- Banana
  • One banana
  • One teaspoon of almond syrup
  • Two teaspoons of honey
  • 50 ml single cream
Dash of pineapple juice
Blend all the ingredients together with some ice until frozen.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Winter Tyres?

winter tyres

Winter tyres have become a popular buy among motorists over the last couple of years, but are you wondering what all the fuss is about?

This guide should help you decide whether to make the switch to winter rubber.

Why fit them?
We'll keep this simple: When the mercury drops below seven degrees celsius, you're much more likely to have an accident.

In fact, according to the British Tyre Manufacturers' Association, a car fitted with winter tyres, braking from 62mph on a cold, wet road, will outbrake a summer tyre by around five metres.

On snow at 30mph the difference is 11 metres, while the same vehicle braking on an icy road at just 20mph would pull-up eight metres shorter – a crucial two car lengths less than a vehicle using summer tyres.

What are they?
They are made of specially formulated compounds that harden less as temperatures fall, and covered in hundreds of grip-inducing "sipes", winter tyres give better performance in cold, wet weather, as well as in snowy and icy conditions.

Where can I buy them?
Well, you can buy winter tyres at your local tyre supplier. If you decide to go this route, expect to pay in the region of £350 plus approximately £50 for fitting. Michelin Alpin A4 and Primacy Alpin PA3 tyres have been named as "Best Buys" by Which? You may need a set of steel or alloys wheels but you can pick up some second-hand ones from a scrap yard cheaply.

Most drivers will want to purchase their tyres from a franchised dealer. Most manufacturers have a winter tyres offer so visit their website or your local dealer for a quote. We've found four offers just by searching the web...

Mini winter tyres

Mini - The British brand will sell you a set of winter tyres and steel wheels for £560. That's a full set but doesn't include centre caps though. And if you want alloys, you'll have to stump up upwards of £1,000. A Mini dealer will also store your summer tyres for just £30.

Cayenne

Porsche - Concerned your two-wheel-drive Porsche will get a little hairy when the temperatures fall? Don't worry – Porsche will charge you from £1,800 for a set of 'winters' and wheels for a Boxster. Want to make your 4x4 Cayenne invincible in the ice? The German firm will charge £1,600.

Suzuki

Suzuki - A Suzuki dealer will charge £99 for a set of winter tyres and steel wheels for a Suzuki Alto. Fancy some extra grip in a Grand Vitara? That'll be £199. They'll also sell you some wheel trims from £33 if you want, and store your summer tyres for £49.99.

Audi A4

Audi - Audi has a vast range of models and they've got a winter tyre to suit every car. They are offering winter wheel and tyre sets from £799 to £3,659. Tyre-only sets are priced from £540 to £1,300. Got an older Audi? A dealer can sell you a set of winter tyres from £325.

Did you know?

Don't buy cheap winter tyres – Like summer tyres, you can buy budget ones – but why risk it? Goodyear Dunlop found that a budget winter tyre will only perform as well as a premium summer tyre. So it's worth investing properly in a decent set.

Winter tyres are not snow tyres – Winter tyres aren't the solution to every type of winter driving. If the weather gets really snowy, snow chains or snow socks are a better bet.

Check your winter tyres – Investing in a good set of winter tyres one year may mean you'll be able to use them in twelve months' time. But check they're safe. The AA says winter tyre tread depth should be 3mm, and no less than 2mm.

Tell your insurance company? The Association of British Insurers published an agreement in 2011 saying car insurance firms would not increase premiums if drivers fitted winter tyres. Therefore, if an insurer says they'll charge you for being safe – they can't. But some firms require you to tell them before you fit your winter tyres.

Resolutionary road

Road safety charity the IAM is offering weekly motoring tips from Britain's top advanced driver, Peter Rodger. This week, he is advising on ways to improve your driving for the New Year:

  • Night driving: You must be able to stop in the distance you see to be clear. Use your lights on full beam where possible and keep windows and mirrors clean to maximise your view.
  • Eyesight: The NHS suggests having an eye test every two years. It is your responsibility to ensure you're fit to drive. Many eyesight problems are worsened when driving in the dark.
  • Weather: Heed weather warnings all year round. If the weather is really bad, consider whether you need to travel at all. If so, there are alternatives to driving.
  • Year-round maintenance: Clean your windows, lights, mirrors and number plates regularly. You should spend around 10 minutes every week checking your vehicle's fluid levels, tyre pressure, lights, tread depth and windscreen wipers.
  • Eco-driving: A planned drive is an economical drive – having a good sense of your vehicle's power and gears will save fuel.
  • Anticipate: Consider what the traffic around you may do, especially at traffic lights, roundabouts and junctions.
  • Refuel: Be sure to top up your tank, especially when embarking upon long journeys. Running out of fuel causes hundreds of motorway breakdowns every year. 

IAM chief examiner Peter Rodger said: "The New Year is a common time for people to sit back, reflect and evaluate their goals for the upcoming year. Why not begin by incorporating your driving behaviour into your list of resolutions for 2013?"

To help drivers stay safe this winter, the IAM has launched a new 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.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Asda Parking: Christmas Shopper Leaves Peugeot In Trolley Bay Of Nuneaton Store

Its shopping chaos out there, two-mile queue at the tills and one frazzled shopper has caused something of a ruckus at a Nuneaton branch of Asda.

a3z1azcaaeznsr

A snap of a Peugeot parked inside a trolley bay is causing great mirth, well, at least among those who aren't bayoneting their way through the hordes in a last-ditch attempt to source free-range tinned peaches.

Don't be getting any ideas now...or if you do, perhaps limit yourself to leaving snide notes on windscreens like this lot did...

Unlucky for some: 13-reg plates go on sale



The DVLA has released the first 13-prefix number plates for sale today.
From March 1, 2013 through until August 31, 2013, all new cars registered will wear the number "13", signifying the year of registration.
There had been early hopes the DVLA would take the abnormal step of offering buyers the opportunity of avoiding so-called "unlucky" number plates, but these have been dashed with the DVLA confirming they are sticking with convention.

There is speculation the DVLA chose to stick with the conventional release format for other reasons than consistency, and cynics have noted the DVLA's recent price reductions as a possible bid to drum up extra sales from motorists desperate to banish the number "13" from their cars.

But some motorists aren't quite so superstitious, seeing the "unlucky" number as the ideal opportunity to get their dream plate. Taking "13" as the letter "B", endless possibilities become available, with plates such as AL13 ERT (Albert), RO13 ERT (Robert) and SU13 ARU (Subaru) amongst the many thousands of '13' plates made available for purchase through the DVLA website today.

It's no secret that the number 13 is shrouded in a reputation of bad luck; but as car number plates bearing the inauspicious number are released on pre-order, prior to the official launch in March, car dealers are questioning the potential effects that these plates could have on car sales.

Time will tell, but dealers across the UK will be hoping for sales to beat superstition when the new 13-plates become available in March 2013.

Would having 13 put you off buying a car?

Monday, 24 December 2012

App helps traffic wardens catch you out

 

traffic warden

A smartphone app being touted as helping you find an available space could be used by traffic wardens to catch you out.

So is this a handy parking solution, or a fine-in-waiting?

The system
The app makes use of a sensor placed on the floor of a parking space, which recognises when someone is parked there. The Metereye system works by sending out a signal from the sensor, which records when the vehicle arrives and when it leaves. It then sends this to a handheld device -which parking companies can use to monitor how people are using the spaces.

It means, for example, that councils can have fewer parking attendants, because they only have to visit spaces when they are occupied. It has so far been taken up by Westminster and Edinburgh Councils.

Concerns

Some councils have been bragging about how this could solve parking problems. Westminster Council released a smartphone app, which uses the technology to help you find a free space. This is doubtless a good idea - as long as you can get to the space before it is filled.

However, The RAC told the Daily Telegraph that this same information could be used by traffic wardens to help them quickly spot people who have overstayed their welcome. Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, told the newspaper: "This gives wardens the equivalent of eyes in the backs of their heads." "Motorists will hope it won't encourage attendants to lie in wait for people who have only slightly overstayed their welcome."

Should you worry?

Of course the usual defence applies: only those who are breaking the rules run the risk of being caught out. If you always park legally, then you don't have anything to fear from traffic wardens. You could argue that traffic wardens ought to have the best technology to help them enforce the rules, so we shouldn't complain.

However, we tend to think more flexibly than that when it comes to parking. Life doesn't always allow us the luxury of time and space to park as responsibly as we ought to. And councils don't always have the foresight to provide enough parking in areas of high demand.

In the past there has always been the chance that you could get away with it. Now, with the use of CCTV cameras and this smarter technology, there's a higher chance than ever that a spur-of-the-moment decision to pop to the shops could end up being outlandishly expensive.

We already face more than 8 million parking fines every year - last year there was one handed out every five seconds. Better technology is going to mean you stand an even higher chance of joining the millions paying for their parking mistakes.

Goodwood changes dates of 2013 Festival of Speed

Goodwood

Due to Bernie Ecclestone and his gang changing the dates for the German Grand Prix, Goodwood has been forced to reschedule the 2013 Festival of Speed.

The new date for your diaries is July 12-14 with the Moving Motor Show being held on Thursday, July 11 – however, Goodwood has admitted it will have to move the event again if Formula One reschedules any more dates.

Goodwood says the change has been made "to ensure that the Festival can continue to host current F1 teams and drivers in 2013," and that "current Formula 1 content has played an integral part in the Festival over the last twenty years, and will continue to do so in 2013 as part of Goodwood's 20th anniversary Festival celebrations".

This year's special event will see the biggest, best, fastest, loudest and most outrageous vehicles of all time will be invited back to West Sussex for a weekend not to be missed.

Goodwood plans to recapture many of the outstanding Festival of Speed moments from the 1993-2012 era.

All 2013 Festival of Speed tickets already purchased will remain valid for the new dates. However, any queries can be dealt with by contacting the Goodwood Ticket Office on +44(0)1243 755055, or email ticket.office@goodwood.com

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Drinking and Driving

I would like to share an experience with you about drinking and driving as it is approaching the festive season. As you well know, some of us have been lucky not to have had brushes with the authorities on our way home from the various social sessions over the years.
 
A couple of nights ago, I was out for a few drinks with some friends and had a few too many beers and then topped it off with one or two single malts. It was beautiful. 
 
Knowing full well I was at least slightly over the limit, I did something I've never done before: I took a taxi home.
 
Sure enough I passed a police road block but because it was a taxi, they waved it past and I arrived home safely without incident, which was a real surprise as I have never driven a taxi before and am not sure where I got it.
 
Ho! Ho! Ho!   Merry Christmas
 

Friday, 21 December 2012

Driving home for Christmas

Road safety charity the IAM is offering weekly motoring tips from Britain's top advanced driver, Peter Rodger. This week, he is advising you on safely making your journey home at Christmas:

  • Prepare your vehicle beforehand: check tyre pressure, top up your washer fluid and make sure all your lights are working.
  • Plan your journey by checking the weather conditions both the start and end locations of your journey. Check updates on the radio during your journey, and take a map so you can re-route if necessary.
  • Share the driving on long journeys, as fatigue is likely to set in.
  • Take regular breaks, ideally every two hours or less.
  • Pack enough food, books and games to keep the kids occupied.
  • Let someone at home know what time you expect to arrive.
  • Watch out for other road users - give them plenty of room and consideration.
  • In case the worst happens, ensure that you have plenty of fuel. Pack an emergency kit of spare clothes, a shovel, water, food, an ice scraper, a reflective jacket and a fully charged mobile phone with your breakdown provider's details programmed in. It is also a good idea to carry with you any regular medication you take as your journey may take longer than planned.

Rodger said: "The last thing you need at Christmas is to be caught out and held up on your way to see the loved ones. Take the time to prepare and plan your journey from start to finish to drive your way to festive harmony."

To help drivers stay safe this winter, the IAM has launched a new 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.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Quiz Night.



Last Tuesday evening the Mid-Kent Group hosted it's annual Christmas Quiz night. Observers, members and associates from the Mid-Kent and East Kent groups packed the Grove Green community centre ready to test their general knowledge.


Our quiz masters were Val and Max Power who done a stirling job keeping both groups under control, despite the odd balloon flying around the room! Val certainly stamp her authority on those who didn't follow the rules…. lol.

Last year the winning team came from the East Kent group. This year however, they were unable to follow suit. The Winning team, 'Rubbish' (from the Mid-Kent group) certainly enjoyed the success. With a score of 83, Ten points clear of second place 'Grahams Gang' We can all say that they were far from Rubbish!


Food was provided by Christine,(top left) Helen, (top right) Brenda (bottom left) and Sharon (bottom right). The Christmas Cake and Mince Pies proved very popular, with the ladies barely keeping up with the demands for the hungry contestants  The ladies picture here shortly after our Chairman, Linda Davies presented them with flowers to show our appreciation for the evening and throughout the year.



A great night was had by all and we're all looking forward too next years quiz. It just leaves us to say, from all at the Mid-Kent of Advanced Motorist,

'Take care on the roads, Merry Christmas and a very Happy, and safe New Year'

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Looks like it’s going to rain-dear

Road safety charity the IAM is offering weekly motoring tips from Britain's top advanced driver, Peter Rodger. In response to the current severe weather warnings, he gives advice on driving in heavy rain:

  • Before you set off, set your heater controls – rain makes the windows mist up in seconds. You don't want to be fiddling with controls when you should be concentrating on the road.
  • Watch your speed – In the rain your stopping distance should be at least doubled. Giving yourself more space will help to avoid spray; especially important when following a large vehicle.
  • Keep your eyes on the road ahead and plan your driving so that you can brake, accelerate and steer smoothly. Be aware that harsh manoeuvres can unbalance the car.
  • If you have cruise control, avoid using it on wet roads – it may create problems if you start to aquaplane.
  • See and be seen. Put your lights on – as a rule of thumb, whenever you need to use your wipers you should also turn your headlights on, and before overtaking put your wipers on their fastest setting to allow for spray.
  • Making sure your car is properly maintained will make a difference too. Check your windscreen wipers, tyre pressure and tread depth, and that all of your lights work and are clean. Make sure that as well as keeping your washer fluid topped up, you also clean the inside of your windscreen as not to hinder your view. 

Rodger said: "There's nothing quite like getting to your car in the rain. It's a haven from the elements. But be cautious, especially after prolonged dry spells – rain on a dry road is dangerously slippery.

"The prospect of waiting for a bus in the pouring rain after your work Christmas party is a daunting one, but don't fall into the temptation of driving home after drinking – a drink-driving conviction is not worth the avoidance of soggy trousers."

Cash boost for local roads

Roads in disarray across the country are a common sight these days with potholes and uneven surfaces creating endless problems for motorists.

But improvements look set to be on the way, as funding allocations for councils have been announced, giving local authorities the opportunity to plan how they spend their share of a £215m pot for local road maintenance, announced in the Chancellor's Autumn statement.

As a condition of the extra funding, councils must publish a short statement in their websites at the end of each financial year setting out what and where the funding has been spent to ensure transparency with local residents.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: "This extra money will support economic growth and development by helping local authorities to get the best out of their local road networks.

"This funding can be spent on measures to bring smoother, safer and more reliable journeys to the travelling public whether they are commuting to work or taking the children to school."

This maintenance funding could be used for improvements such as road resurfacing, maintenance to bridges or repairing damage to highway infrastructure caused by severe weather events, such as the recent flooding.

The £215m is part of a £333m fund announced in the Chancellor's Autumn Statement for essential maintenance to renew, repair and extend the life of roads in England. This funding is in addition to the £3bn the Government already provides for councils in England between 2011 and 2015 for highways maintenance

Monday, 17 December 2012

Motorway driving at night

Road safety charity the IAM is offering weekly motoring tips from Britain's top advanced driver, Peter Rodger. This week, with the shortest day of the year, he is advising on driving on the motorway at night.

Rodger offers tips on driving on the motorway in the dark:

  • Driving in the dark can cause fatigue - plan your journey, scheduling at least one stop every two hours.
  • Don't ignore warning signs of fatigue. In extreme cases, have a caffeine drink and sleep for 20 minutes while it takes effect. You can only do this once per journey; it won't have the same effect if you do it more than once.
  • Share the driving if possible.
  • Many stretches of motorway are not lit during hours of darkness - To improve your view as far as possible, keep your lights, mirrors and windscreen clean.
  • Watch for tell-tale brake lights up ahead to foresee any changes in traffic speed or queues which you may be joining.
  • Make sure you can stop safely within the distance you can see to be clear.
  • If you break down, pull over on to the hard shoulder and stop as far to the left as you can, pointing your wheels in towards the kerb.
  • When stopped on the hard shoulder, leave your vehicle and get as far away from the road as possible, behind the crash barrier, and up the bank if there is one. 

Rodger said: "Although motorways are our safest roads, darkness brings with it additional challenges which increase the risk of fatal accidents. Plan your journey from beginning to end and take necessary precautions to keep yourself and your family safe this Christmas."

To help drivers stay safe this winter, the IAM has launched a new 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.

December 17 is crash, bang, wallop day

Focus crash

Heading out onto the roads today? You better buckle up and take care.

Why? Because today is the most dangerous day to drive this year!

Dubbed "Danger Day", the news comes from The Co-operative Insurance who says crashes and smashes are twice as likely to occur on December 17 than any other day of the year.

Drive a Ford Focus? You're the most likely to crash today, followed by Vauxhall Astra and Corsa drivers.

In fact, today is just the start of a long period of likely prangs and incidents. Between now and Christmas Eve, the likelihood of an accident rises by 53 per cent, judging by previous years.

The Co-operative's head of insurance, Grant Mitchell, said: "Our data shows that people are more likely to be involved in a car accident in the run up to Christmas than any other time of the year.

"We believe this is down to a combination of the "pre-Christmas rush" when everyone is going to the supermarket or to buy last minute gifts along with the fact that people also feel tired and sluggish from the Christmas party season, which makes it harder to concentrate on the road.

"Of course, when these factors are combined with busy roads, bad weather and the fact that the days are at their shortest, accidents can and do happen."

Crash central today will be Glasgow, followed by Birmingham.

Eddie Stobart drivers record Christmas charity single

Famous British trucking brand, Eddie Stobart, is to release its first Christmas music single, with a special rendition of 12 Days of Christmas recorded in aid of Help for Heroes.

Performed by Eddie Stobart truckers, 10 stars of the Channel 5 series Eddie Stobart: Trucks & Trailers, the single is released on December 17, available as both a music and video download, priced at 79p and £1.29.

The truckers' special parody 12 Days of Christmas features revised lyrics making fun references to the work Eddie Stobart does in delivering Christmas goods to the nation. Lines from the song include: "Four Frozen Turkeys", "Ten Mince Pies" and "Seven Spotters Spotting".

The Christmas single will help raise some important funds for Help for Heroes and support the beneficial work it carries out across the UK.

Help for Heroes co-founder and CEO, Bryn Parry, said: "We are delighted that Eddie Stobart is releasing a Christmas single to fundraise for Help for Heroes. Eddie Stobart is an iconic British company and the money it raises will help our iconic British charity, Help for Heroes, provide lifelong support for those who have suffered life changing injuries or illnesses while serving our country."

Stobart Group's William Stobart, added: "The drivers have worked hard recording the song and it's for a very worthwhile cause that is close to the hearts of many of us at Eddie Stobart. Help for Heroes does a fantastic job in providing direct support to individuals and their families and we really want the British public to get behind this single and raise as much money as possible to ensure this important work continues

Friday, 14 December 2012

Traditional paper tax disc may be scrapped

The traditional tax disc may be killed off in favour of an online system, it has been revealed.

The Government is considering scrapping the vehicle excise duty car tax disc in the light of the growth of computer records on motoring.

The end of the road for the tax disc is one of the options being considered as part of proposed reforms to motor service agency operations put forward by roads minister Stephen Hammond.

In a consultation document, the Government talked of removing "the need for unnecessary paper including abolishing the driving licence paper counterpart and considering the continuing need for the tax disc".

Hammond said: "If you drive, run a business or pay taxes you will be a customer of ours and I hope you will have your say about how we can improve the services we offer you.

"Much progress has already been achieved and it is now much easier to use digital services to get driving licences and sort out vehicle tax.

"But there is more that can be done and this consultation is about the Government listening to its customers before agreeing the way forward."

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Back into the Fold – My First Experiences as a Trainee Observer.


I always thought that I wanted to be an observer however, after passing my advanced driving test in April 2007 and starting a new job shortly afterwards, I discovered that I did not have the time to give.  During the subsequent years, the idea stayed at the back of my mind and I promised myself that, once I'd divested some of my other voluntary roles, I would revisit it.  That time came a few months ago.

After meeting my Training Officer and sitting in the back during one of the Sunday morning runs to see how the experts do it, my first training session quickly arrived; I was a trainee with the Mid-Kent IAM Group once more.  This time however, I was destined to sit in the passenger seat.

The first thing I noticed was that it's not as easy as you may think.  Being an Observer means not only do you have to give the directions to the Associate in a timely manner (therefore watching the road to spot your waypoints) but you also have to try and watch the Associate at those critical times in order to guide and advise them on how to improve their car control and driving.  It is totally different to being a normal passenger where, as drivers, we watch the road and see where we're going.  Now, on approaching a hazard, I need to remember to look at the floor to check if the Associate is using the System correctly or overlapping.    This is not a natural instinct.

The Observer also needs to give feedback, both positive and negative, and gently probe so as to find out what the Associate understands and where gaps may exist.  This is not always easy and certainly during my first session there were a number of pregnant pauses which I struggled to fill.  Thankfully the other person I am training with also experienced similar difficulties!  It was emphasised that on a typical drive opportunities will present themselves, either through road conditions or the actions of other road users, and these can be used to illustrate how the System - which as we know underpins everything - can be correctly applied.  Doing this is much harder than it sounds since to be a good observer you have to be constantly checking, assessing and analysing each action and comparing it to how you, as an Advanced Driver, would've dealt with the same situation.

So, what else did I learn?  I found out during my run (where I acted as the 'Associate' and my training partner the 'Observer') that a few bad habits had slipped in to my driving that need to be rectified.  I discovered that there are a couple of gaps in my knowledge regarding the finer points of the Highway Code (such as the speed lorries are limited to on a motorway) and, most importantly, I realised I needed to refresh my memory of the book since this is the Bible and the foundations upon which everything the Associate does can be built.

Our next training run involves devising a route and completing that all important run sheet.  The next blog post will let you know how I get on!

Neil Lakeland - Trainee Observer.


 If your a member of the Mid-Kent Group of Advanced Motorist and wish to follow in the footsteps of Neil, please contact John Bowman.  If your not a member, why not join us? Contact us by email or apply now on the web


Monday, 10 December 2012

Brace yourself its going to get cold

As advanced motorists we are always trying to keep one step ahead of the game.

All websites are forecasting a bitterly cold night this Tuesday 11th and Wednesday 12th of December.

Although the gritters will no doubt be whizzing round frantically over the next couple of days some of the minor roads may well remain untreated.

Its time to get prepared!

Some motoring websites suggest a huge list of suggested items to carry in your boot. Some of these lists are so extensive we would all need estate cars to carry all the stuff around. However just use your common sense.

Undertaking the simplest of winter checks like anti freeze can ensure your car is ready for the winter. Although the legal minimum tyre depth is 1.6mm is that really safe for winter driving? If you have poor tread you are asking for trouble.

Maybe keep the tank topped up in case you get stuck and need to keep the car running to stay warm.

Over winter I keep a pair of sturdy boots, an extra thick fleece and a small bottle of water in the car. I already have a blanket in the boot to protect it so I can use that as well if needed.

When snow is forecast, then maybe its worthwhile keeping a small bag of rock salt in the boot - particularly useful for those of us with real wheel drive cars.

These are fairly sensible things to carry and shouldn't take up too much space in your boot.

Don't assume that getting stuck will only happen to someone else. Many of you may remember (or indeed been stuck in) the chaos on the A2 last year where hundreds of motorists caught up in the mess.

15 minutes preparing tonight may prove to be time well spent over the next few weeks.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

December passes

In the picture are Gary Taylor, Robert Wilson, examiner Terry Friday, David Hickey, Lesley Blunden and Michael Ward. Congratulations to them all.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Dying for a drink?

Road safety charity the IAM is offering weekly motoring tips from Britain's top advanced driver, Peter Rodger. This week, he is giving advice on avoiding the consequences of intoxication behind the wheel this Christmas time. 

IAM chief examiner Peter Rodger said: "This time of year brings with it brandy pudding, mulled wine and Christmas parties. If you're heading out for a few drinks, make sure you have planned your journey home before you set off."

Rodger offers tips on driving over the Christmas period:

  • Don't try and calculate whether or not you have consumed enough to tip you over the drink-drive limit.
  • Drinks poured at home are usually larger than pub measures – don't underestimate how much you've had.
  • If you drive to a party and drink more than you expected to, don't risk it. Book yourself a taxi or arrange for a friend or family member to collect you.
  • If you are involved in a road accident you will be breathalysed – don't risk it, or somebody else's mistake could become your problem.
  • A drinking session the night before can easily put you over the legal limit the following morning. Organise alternative travel plans for the next day.
  • If you know someone has been drinking, don't let them give you a lift or drive home.

Rodger said: "A swift couple after work or a glass of wine with the staff lunch may seem harmless, but could have serious consequences if you get behind the wheel. It is not only about your safety, but the safety of other road users too.  It's not worth the risk, so choose one or the other – to drink or to drive."

Mike McAdam, founder of drink drive campaign 'Don't be that someone' said: "It's important that people of all ages, including 14-18 year olds, are fully aware about the dangers and serious consequences drink driving can have on individuals, families and whole communities."

To help drivers stay safe this winter, the IAM has launched a new 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.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

IAM comments on the Chancellor's autumn statement

IAM chief executive Simon Best said: "Cancelling the rise in fuel duty will help to keep Britain's economy moving. It's not just good news for motorists - from supermarket food deliveries to life-saving emergency services, the nation depends on its roads.  This is a saving for everyone.

"Cyclists, motorcyclists, car drivers, lorry drivers and bus and coach passengers should all welcome the £1 billion investment to our roads.  Newer roads are safer and should cut journey times."



Snowy Kent update

Ok so I spoke too soon!

Once again both the UK plc infrastructure and drivers struggle with the tiniest covering of snow.

Ten vehicles involved in a crash on A299. Accusations of roads not being gritted. M2 and A2 at a standstill.

Although the same advice is issued time and time again quite simply - Slow down and leave a bigger gap between you and the car in front.

Drivers we must play our part and drive to the conditions.

Snowy Kent

First snowy weather hits Kent. Roads were well gritted any everything seemed to be moving well, albeit a little bit slowly.

My car was in the garage so fortunately no scraping required. Saw the weather report last night so I got up 10 minutes early and left 10 minutes early which meant I got the same train as usual - no dramas. All in all everybody seemed to be driving quite sensibly.

A couple of months ago I booked a session for myself and family on the skid pan through the Mid Kent IAM . Only 4 weeks to go and we can all have a go at "dancing on ice" in early January.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Ready, steady, snow

The IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists) has today issued advice on driving in snow and ice, with freezing conditions across the country set to continue for days to come.

IAM Chief Examiner Peter Rodger said: "Avoid travelling unless completely necessary, and don't ignore police warnings or advice to avoid specific routes. Can you work remotely, or change your schedule?"

If staying at home in the warm is not an option, the IAM offers the following advice on driving safely through snow:

  • Ensure your windows are clean and clear, and that you have all-round visibility before you set off. Also take the time to clear snow off the roof of your car.
  • When driving in snow, get your speed right - not too fast that you risk losing control, but not so slow that you risk losing momentum when it is needed.
  • From stationary, start gently and avoid high revs. Stay in a higher gear to avoid skidding and maximise control. If it is very slippery, in a manual car move off in a higher gear, rather than just using first.
  • If you get yourself into a skid, the main thing to remember is to take your foot off the pedals and steer. Only use the brake if you cannot steer out of trouble.
  • Double or even triple your normal stopping distance from the vehicle in front so you are not relying on your brakes to be able to stop; it simply may not happen!
  • It's better to think ahead as you drive to keep moving, even if it is at walking pace.
  • Plan your journey around busier roads as they are more likely to have been gritted. Avoid using short cuts on minor roads – they are less likely to be cleared or treated with salt, especially country lanes and housing estates.
  • Bends are a particular problem in icy conditions – slow down before you get to the bend, so that by the time you turn the steering wheel you have already lost enough speed.
  • On a downhill slope get your speed low before you start the descent, and do not let it build up – it is much easier to keep it low than to try and slow down once things get slippery. 

And if the worst does happen:

  • Keep track of where you are. If you do have to call for assistance, you need to be able to tell the breakdown or emergency services your location.
  • If you must leave your vehicle to telephone for assistance, find a safe place to stand away from the traffic flow. If you have just lost control, the next driver could well do the same in the same place.
  • If you break down or have to pull over on a motorway or dual carriageway, it is always better to leave your vehicle and stand a short distance behind and to the safe side of it. Don't stand in front of it if at all possible.  Balancing the risks of a collision and hypothermia is something that depends entirely on your situation. 

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.

Have you lost your sense of direction thanks to Sat Nav?

Have you lost your sense of direction thanks to Sat Nav?


A new survey from Halfords suggests that British drivers are losing their sense of direction - and Sat Navs are to blame.

Researchers found that two out of three motorists (68 per cent) admit to using Sat Navs for journeys they do every day, such as driving to work or two the shops. As a result, over half (52 per cent) can not recall any prominent landmarks on a journey and almost a third (31 per cent) can't remember the name of the road they have just travelled on.

We're having trouble judging distances, too.

Seven out of ten motorists said that they would use their Sat Nav to predict their arrival time rather than checking milage. And our geography is getting worse as a result. More than six out of ten (61 per cent) of drivers didn't know that Leeds was to the north of Sheffield and 56 per cent couldn't say that Edinburgh was east of Glasgow.

All of this makes matters worse when we do get lost - three in ten motorists said that they would wait at least half an hour before stopping to ask for directions, while 18 per cent said they would rather just carry on driving.

And pedestrians are no different, with 22 per cent of those surveyed admitting to using their GPS-enabled phones to find an address when they are travelling on foot.

Jon Oliver, Halfords In Car Technology expert, said: "The survey demonstrates how much we rely on Sat Navs; they have literally changed our lives and drivers now need this technology to navigate effectively. Drivers like Sat Navs because they are so helpful - they take a lot of the anxiety out of driving because you always know where you are, how far you have to go and how long it will take. This leaves motorists free to concentrate on the road and have a less stressful and safer journey."

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Sunglasses in December!

Driving east towards Maidstone this morning. Really odd being -3c but needing sun glasses on.

So here's a quick tip, Sun glasses on top of the head for a couple of minutes stops them from steaming up.

Daren.