Thursday, 31 January 2013

Government cuts £15 million from road safety campaigns

The government has cut spending on road safety campaigns from £19 million in 2008/09 to just £4 million in 2011/12 – a cut of nearly 80 per cent.  The figure was revealed after a freedom of information enquiry by road safety charity the Institute of Advanced Motorists.

The DfT is planning on spending £3.7 million on road safety in the 2012/13 financial year which will see:

*  £53,000 spent on cyclist safety
*  £78,000 on child and teenager road safety
*  £50,000 on research into young drivers
*  £1.275 million on motorcycle campaigns; and
*  £1.685 million on drink-drive campaigns.

Every fatal road accident costs the UK £1.7 million.  In 2011 the total cost of fatal road accidents was £3.2 billion, with immeasurable emotional and social costs.

IAM director of policy Neil Greig said: "Right across the public sector road safety is being cut too hard and too quickly, despite the huge returns on investment.  One life saved, saves the economy £1.7 million.  £53,000 is a derisory amount to spend on national cycle safety campaigns. Until we have the right roads infrastructure in place, publicity and education campaigns are one of the few tools we have to help us save cyclists lives.  £78,000 for children's safety campaigns is virtually insignificant.  If the government is serious about safety for these groups, these amounts must be increased. "

"The successful drink driving and biker campaigns have raised awareness of these issues and they both appear to be working. The government needs to match that kind of expenditure and take the safety of children and cyclists seriously,"

30th anniversary for seatbelts

Seatbelt laws were first put into place thirty years ago but we still face issues with their use. One in five (19%) motorists claim to know someone who doesn't use a seatbelt in the front of their car.

Today (31 January 2013) will see the anniversary of the introduction of compulsory wearing which came to effect in 1983. Latest figures show 95 per cent of drivers and 96 per cent of front seat passengers wear a seat belt; 89 per cent of rear seat passengers use one.1  Yet every year, not wearing a seatbelt is still a contributory factor in more than 220 deaths and serious injuries.2

A higher number of younger motorists know someone who does not wear a seatbelt compared to the older age group.

  • In the back of the car, 41% of 18-29 year olds know someone who doesn't wear a seatbelt compared to 25% of 45+ year olds whilst for in the front of the car, 36% of 16-29 year olds know someone compared to 11% of 55+ year olds.
  • Drivers and passengers aged 17-34 have the lowest seat belt wearing rates combined with the highest accident rates.
  • Yet 14 per cent of adults still admit to being inconsistent seat-belt wearers.

IAM chief executive Simon Best said: "In the past three decades seatbelts have made a fantastic contribution to road safety success in Britain helping to save thousands of lives. But the ongoing message needs to be reinforced to all age groups."

"All the modern technology in a new car assumes the occupant is wearing a seatbelt.  Younger drivers know that not wearing a seatbelt is dangerous, but they must still be reminded that no matter where you are sitting in a car, a seatbelt will save your life." 

Monday, 28 January 2013

5 learner drivers a day get friends to take test for them

5 learner drivers a day get friends to take test for them

New figures show that 455 practical tests and 1,469 theory tests in 2011/12 involved a suspected impersonator as cheats had friends take tests for them.

Police have arrested 273 scammers in that time - leading to 73 convictions, 119 police cautions and 837 licences being revoked.

The figures have been revealed by the Driving Standards Agency after a Freedom of Information request was filed by The Sun newspaper.

The findings also revealed that desperate wannabe drivers have tried to bribe or even threaten their way to a pass.

Five learners tried to offer a cash bribe to an examiner in return for a pass last year, while 12 were reported for a physical attack - and 175 for verbal abuse - on an examiner.

A Driving Standards Agency spokesman told The Sun: "At the end of the 2011/12 financial year, there were 189 individuals in the criminal justice system and 891 suspect tests being investigated."

The driving theory test underwent a major overhaul last year after it was revealed learner drivers were able to memorise answers rather than actually learning the correct rules of the road.

In January 2012 new rules came into force that saw the multiple choice questions refreshed and banned from being published in their exact form in books and other electronic learning materials.

The changes came after an AA poll revealed one in four drivers didn't know who has priority when traffic lights are out.

Saturday, 26 January 2013


As the winter snow thaws, and the ice recedes, a new hazard reveals itself… Potholes.

It seems that around the country, more and more pot holes appear each year. And potholes are becoming a major problem. Its a major factor of axle and suspension failure which costs the British motorist and estimated £2.8 billion every year. It's also costing authorities around £50 million in compensation claims.

How do potholes 'appear'?  Most are formed due to fatigue of the road surface or even poor re-surfacing prior to the winter months. The surface may fracture and crack over the extreme cold temperatures and chucks of road surface are worked loose and even picked out by continued wheel loads. Its worsen when water gets between the cracks, freezes and loosens the surface further, and thus forming a pothole.

How can motorist avoid potholes?  Look ahead and assess the road, slow down in particular, poor areas where multiple potholes appear. Steer around them if at all possible, if safe to do so. Of course it's not always possible to avoid them. So what happens if you hit a deep or large pothole? First off, think about how your vehicle responds after the impact. Has something happened to the suspension? is the vehicle steering correctly? If in doubt, have it checked as soon as possible. If damaged has occurred that makes the vehicle behave badly. Stop and contact your garage or breakdown service. If tyres or rims have been damaged, fit the spare - and have the damaged repaired as soon as possible. Do not drive further if safety is compromised. On busy dual carriageways or motorways, if safety is a concern, contact the highways agency. Not only for your safety, but for others too.

What can you do if you know about potholes in your area? The council has a contact numbers and email addresses,  will put you in touch with your local council. And if you are an unfortunate victim of pothole damage to your vehicle, compensation claims could be possible. Again may be able to help.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Towing me, towing you

Road safety charity the IAM is offering weekly motoring tips from Britain's top advanced driver, Peter Rodger. This week, he is advising on towing techniques.

Rodger said: "Whether you're towing a speedboat, a horsebox, a caravan or another car, there are certain rules which must be applied. It is important to recognise the challenges which come with having to control not just one vehicle, but two."

Rodger offers tips for successfully towing another vehicle:

  • Watch the weight of the towed vehicle – this should not exceed 85 per cent of the car's kerb weight. Excess weight will cause instability.
  • Check the unit you are towing is secure before pulling away, and check again after a short distance.  Look for anything loose, disconnected, missing or broken.
  • Check that your extra rear lights are all connected and fully functional. Get somebody to help while you test the brakes and indicators. As well as additional lights, you will also need an illuminated number plate at the rear of the unit.
  • Check the pressure of all tyres before you set off, bearing in mind those of the towed unit as well as your own vehicle.
  • Stopping distances and the space between you and other vehicles should be increased appropriately, allowing for the extra weight you are carrying. You should also allocate more time to overtaking, positioning yourself for turns, parking, pulling into traffic streams, changing lanes and joining and leaving motorways.
  • Use your mirrors frequently - the fact you have lost the use of your rear view mirror makes extended door mirrors very useful. Extended towing mirrors are not a legal requirement, but you will have a better feel for overtaking and reversing.
  • Be aware that reduced speed limits usually apply when towing vehicles, and remember to extend courtesy to vehicles following you by allowing them to pass. 

If you would like any further help and advice on towing, you may want to consider signing up for a manoeuvring course with the Camping and Caravanning Club, which now has a tie up with the IAM's own towing test.

To help drivers stay safe this winter, the IAM has launched its winter driving campaign which includes a dedicated website,, with traffic updates, weather forecasts and tips on how to drive safely in winter. Check it out before you travel.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

There may be tunnels ahead

Road safety charity the IAM is offering weekly motoring tips from Britain's top advanced driver, Peter Rodger. This week, he advises on driving through tunnels.

Tunnels can present serious problems for drivers. For example, vehicle fires in Europe's Mont Blanc and Gotthard tunnels have claimed 50 lives between them. Many died because they wrongly believed they should wait in their vehicles for help, rather than getting out of the tunnel as soon as possible.

Regardless of the length of the tunnel, an accident in one will present unique problems and knowing what to do is essential.

Before entering a tunnel:

  • Check your fuel gauge in plenty of time, don't risk running out in a tunnel.
  • Turn on the traffic information station. Some larger European road tunnels have their own radio as well as electronic signs.
  • Take off your sunglasses as they will hinder your eyesight in the dim light of a tunnel.

In the tunnel:

  • Turn on dipped headlights. Do not use full beam as this will dazzle other motorists.
  • Don't exceed the speed limit.
  • Leave plenty of room between yourself and the car in front and watch out for brake lights.
  • Keep an eye out for the location of emergency pedestrian exits just in case you may need one.
  • In two-way tunnels, keep well to the nearside kerb.
  • Do not change lanes unless instructed to.

If you break down:

  • Switch on your hazard lights immediately.
  • Try to coast to a breakdown lay-by. If none are available, stop as close to the nearside kerb as possible.
  • Turn off the engine but leave the key in the ignition so the vehicle can be moved.
  • Evacuate the vehicle, making sure everyone is in a safe place – well away from the car and on the pedestrian walkway if there is one.
  • Put on a reflective jacket if you have one, and walk carefully to the nearest emergency phone to inform the operator.

In the event of a fire:

  • Only try and extinguish the fire is if someone is in danger.
  • In all other cases leave as quickly as you can – do not wait to be told what to do. 

Rodger said: "Though you may see a tunnel as just another stretch of road, there are specific precautions that you must be aware of and implement when using one.

Remember, if there is a fire or an accident, don't wait to act -- fire and smoke can be fatal. Leave the vehicle and walk to a safe place.  Save your life and not your car."

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

How many men does it take to rescue a 40ft lorry from a country lane?

Tight spot! How Many Men Does It Take To Rescue A 40ft Lorry From A Country Lane?

Some lorry drivers a real stick in the mud... One hapless Polish man found himself at the mercy of the residents of a Cheshire village, who joined together in a 24-hour battle to free his 40ft articulated lorry after he followed his Sat Nav into a dead end.

The truck ended up on a dirt track in the village of Higher Sutton, Cheshire, after the driver ignored warning signs the road was not suitable for HGVs, and blindly followed the instructions of his Sat Nav.

A team of 10 workers from a specialist recovery team spent more than 15 hours digging out earth from the road to break the lorry free.

One local farmer even offered the use of his digger, while other locals kept up the workers' spirits with sandwiches and coffee.

Police were called to the scene at about 9am last Tuesday, and called out recovery firm The Mansfield Group.

The truck, which was registered in Warsaw, Poland, had been on its way to deliver industrial yarn to the textiles firm Hardings.

The lorry was finally released in the early hours of Wednesday morning, and carried on its way with undamaged goods inside.

Local councillor Hilda Gaddum said this was a common occurrence, telling the Daily Mail: "It's an ongoing problem and I'm very worried about it. These lorries are blindly following Sat Navs and are ignoring signs and weight restrictions.

"It's not fair on residents who end up with their roads blocked. And I am concerned about pedestrians and cyclists potentially being hit, as well as the damage being done to walls.

"The police do what they can, but I think tough action such as impounding some of the lorries, if there is the power to do it, would really send a message out. And firms should have to pay for any damage caused."

Police said a wall had been damaged in the rescue, and both The Mansfield Group and Hardings declined to comment

Revealed: The £2.7 million a year box junction

Revealed: The £2.7 million/year box junction - and we get stuck in it

As anyone driving through the capital will know, yellow box junctions – areas of the road marked off with do-not-enter-me yellow lines – are a deadly sight.

Yes we're not supposed to stop in them, and yes we should be prepared to receive a fine if we stray into one for more than a few seconds, but what if councils are playing it cheeky: Constructing situations where motorists have no choice but to be fined?

That's the view of the Daily Mail with regards to one particular camera-covered junction, which they – and some motorists – claim has been set up as a "cash cow" for the local council.

The yellow box, which is located on the corner of Bagley Lane and New King's Road in Fulham, is surrounded by a selection of traffic lights that the Mail claims are timed incorrectly.

The "trap", as the paper calls it, involves one set of lights – the closest to the drivers heading north-east along New King's Road – turning green, while the second set – located a few car lengths after the box junction – turn red.

As drivers unwittingly pass through the first set, the second turn red: Thereby creating a queue of traffic and forcing some drivers to sit illegally in the yellow box.

So effective is the "trap" that the box reportedly generates over £2.7 million per year in revenue – or around £7,300 per day – for Hammersmith and Fulham council - be warned!!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Snow is on it's way

The weather forecast for tomorrow in Kent is for Snow. At the MidKent Group of Advanced Motorist we thought it wise to add our own suggests and tips for preparation and driving in tomorrow's snow.

The first thing to consider is 'is the journey essential?' Last year the group had its schedule Sunday morning training, and due to the snow, it was deemed non-essential to be out on the road. The event was postponed. Therefore consider whether your appointment can be rescheduled.

Check that your vehicle is ready for winter. The highways agency suggest using the POWDERY checklist as a good reminder:

PETROL (or diesel). Have you got enough? Do you know where to fill up?
OIL - check levels once a month
WATER - check radiator and screenwash regularly
DAMAGE - check wipers, lights etc for signs of wear and tear or damage, and make sure windscreens, windows and lights are clear of ice and snow.
ELECTRICS - check lights, indicators and controls are working properly
RUBBER TYRES - are they well inflated, legal, with good tread and free from damage?
YOU - are you fit to drive? Have you slept well? Are you taking any medication(s) that could make it unsafe for you to drive?

The Mid-Kent group recommends POWER, Petrol, Oil, Water, Electrics and Rubber. (We recommend this before every motorway or long distance drive)

Importantly and obviously good tyres should be fitted. As the snow arrives, many people decided to check their tyres or pop to the local tyre fitting garage for a check. Do this before the snow arrives. Do it today! Some people even have snow or winter tyres fitted. (See this blog) Worth considering.

Carry some essential supplies in the car. Like high sugar drink and chocolate bars. If your caught out by the weather or your journey is taking a lot longer then normal, eating high sugar content or drinking a can of fizzy drink can give you an energy boost. Of course, if tiredness sets in - pull over for a break or consider continuing no further. Consider Stowing some tea, coffee, sugar making facilities or even some cup-a-soups with you. If conditions get extremely difficult and you have to abandon vehicle for overnight shelter, their's a possibility a kettle maybe on hand. If you have a long journey to make, it may even be worth considering packing a couple of light camping items - if you have them at hand.

Keep your mobile phone charge topped up. peculiarly if you have to travel later in the day. Consider purchasing a 12v adaptor to charge from the vehicles power supply. Remember however, charge it while the engine is running or you might flatten your vehicles battery. It's important that full concentration is needed on the roads, more so in the predicted conditions. Pull over to use your mobile, not while your driving.  

A shovel or snow shovel should be stowed in the boot too. Some great folder-away ones are available in many stores. It maybe worth carrying a small tub of salt or grit. This may help if you get stuck on small patches of snow or ice.

If you've not had winter tyres fitted, consider purchasing snow socks. These can be fitted when the going gets tough. However, these are often manufacture specific - so sourcing these the day before a predicted snow fall may result in disappointment. Some shops and garages have on sale small strips of plastic tracks. These can be placed in front (or behind) the tyre that is stuck or spinning to help gain extra grip.

Think about your arrangements or schedule for the day. it may be worth considering calling your destination before hand and warn of the conditions and the possibility of being late. Removing the need to 'be their on time' means you can concentrate on the driving in hand and not then need to drive faster to catch up with time. Consider a 'plan B' just in case your journey takes much longer then you anticipated. One of the groups observers was caught in awful traffic conditions due to the snow last year. His 1 hour 15 minute journey home from work took him 10 hours! Even if the roads are passable, the traffic build up will almost certainly delay your journey.

Keep to gritted or treated roads were possible. Park your vehicle near a treated road if you wish to avoid getting stuck in your driveway or cul-de-sac. But don't obstruct the road. You will simply be adding to the chaos if the gritters can not past badly parked vehicles.

While on the road, keep claim. Don't let others rush you and drive appropriately to the conditions. Slow down, add extra braking distance. For example the braking distance in normal dry conditions is two seconds. Double this in the wet, and in ice and snow, times this by 10. Ease application to accelerator and brakes. Heavy application of acceleration will result in wheel spinning. While it may seem fun, you have essentially lost control of your vehicle which could result in an accident or at best your simply burning rubber - and tyres are not cheap. Heavy and hard braking must be avoided. Keeping your distance and thinking well ahead will help. Use engine over run (known by some as engine braking) to help reduce speed - Although we don't advocate engine braking on normal everyday driving. If you do get into a skid, try to maintain steering. Antilock brakes will help so no need to pump the brakes. Try not to panic and if impact is inevitable, use a horn to warn of your presents. Your speeds should be relatively low, so hopefully it will only be minor damage.

If you brake down, don't panic. Get you vehicle in a safe place if possible. Call your breakdown service. If on the motorway call from a motorway phone. Look at the nearest marker post. This will tell you which direction the nearest roadside phone is. Buy using these it will help the highways agency pin point your location.

And the last advice is to take extra clothing, thinker coat. But don't wear this while driving. Wear thin layers in the car so you don't restrict your movement. Keep the heat in the vehicle to reasonable temperature inside and if the going gets tough - stop in a safe place and consider whether its worth going on.

The IAM has a winter driving advice website here.

Stay safe, and drive carefully.

Whats in your boot?  

The Mid-Kent group is interested to know what people carry in their boots when the snow is predicted. Let us know, share your knowledge.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Baby it's cold outside

The IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists) has today issued advice on driving on snow and ice, with increasingly chilly conditions arriving across the UK, bringing with it the threat of snowfall.

IAM Chief Examiner Peter Rodger said: "When there's snow on the ground, avoid travelling unless absolutely necessary, and don't ignore police warnings or advice to not travel on specific routes. Can you work remotely or change your schedule?"

If staying in the warmth of home is not an option, the IAM offers the following advice on driving safely through this period:

  • Make sure your windows are clear and that you have all-round visibility before you set off.
  • Take the time to thoroughly clear your roof and windows of snow.
  • 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 you need it.
  • Start gently from a stationary position, avoiding high revs. Stay in a higher gear for better control and, if it is slippery, in a manual car move off in a higher gear rather than automatically using first.
  •  If you find yourself in 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 just 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 areas.
  • Bends are a particular problem in slippery conditions – slow down well 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 so they can find you.
  • If you must leave your vehicle to telephone for assistance, find a safe place to stand away from the traffic flow; the next driver could lose control in the same place.
  • On motorways and dual carriageways 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 on your situation. 

To help drivers stay safe this winter, the IAM has launched its winter driving campaign which includes a dedicated website,, with traffic updates, weather forecasts and tips on how to drive safely in winter. Check it out before you travel.

Rush hour chaos as Eddie Stobart lorry bursts into flames on motorway

Rush hour chaos as Eddie Stobart lorry bursts into flames on motorway

This is the dramatic moment an Eddie Stobart lorry burst into flames on the M6 motorway.

The incident was caught on camera on Wednesday afternoon at junction 9, north of Birmingham.

The picture shows the lorry cab and wheels were blazing, although West Midlands Police and West Midlands Ambulance Service said there were no reported injuries at the moment.

Motorist John Trifonos said: "You could literally see the plume of smoke for miles. I slowed down to take the photo but the heat from the fire was that intense I couldn't pause for long.

"I've never felt heat like it - it was like a furnace. Immense but very frightening. You could also hear popping and crackling sounds as the fire consumed the lorry.

"It looked like it was carrying a liquid or soft drink of some sort."

A spokeswoman for the Highways Agency said the lorry was carrying cans of cola, which were "exploding" as a result of fire

Monday, 7 January 2013

Hop on a Routemaster for £20k

One special lot at Silverstone Auction's upcoming sale could be just the ticket for one lucky bidder.

A 1962 Leyland Routemaster bus is all set to go under the hammer next month with an estimate of £20,000 to £28,000.

Despite it being 51 years old, this Routemaster has been lovingly cared for and is offered in tip-top condition. More recently it has been used for the occasional summer trip and historic vehicle displays.

Nick Whale, managing director, Silverstone Auctions, said: "This 1962 Routemaster is a great example of a great bus, serving Londoners, visitors and tourists for many decades.

"For most people it remains the best ever London bus and is still recognised throughout the world, so not surprisingly we expect an enormous amount of interest in this vehicle from all parts of the globe."

The Routemaster was designed specifically for London by Associated Equipment Company (AEC) and Park Royal Vehicles in 1954.

In 1958 they hit the streets of London, and their lightweight design meant fuel consumption figures were better than many of the vehicles that replaced it, while power steering and an automatic gearbox eased driving.

In 2005 they were withdrawn and replaced by "bendy buses", however, Routemasters can still be seen in central London thanks to two heritage routes.

The 1962 Routemaster on offer will be at the Race Retro & Classic Car Sale at Stoneleigh on February 23, 2013.

"The Race Retro Sale focuses on classic and race cars but we're also delighted to have a few other lots, such as this Routemaster, adding to the appeal. It might not be as fast or as sleek as some of the cars on offer, but it provides just as much fun and a great investment opportunity," added Whale

Crack down on drug-drivers thanks to new kit

Drug-drivers are facing more rigorous tests in police stations, the Home Office has said.

A new kit for detecting cannabis has been approved for use in police stations across the UK.

A positive saliva test with the new device means officers will no longer have to call a doctor before asking for a blood sample if they suspect a driver of being on drugs.

The testing kit is able to detect THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, while equipment capable of accurately identifying other substances is still under development.

A total of 644 accidents were caused by drug-drivers using both illegal and medicinal substances, including 49 deaths, according to the most recent figures from the Department for Transport, from 2011.

The number of 17 to 24-year-olds who drive after taking drugs increased from five per cent to nine per cent in the 12 months to May, according to a survey by the RAC.

Policing and criminal justice minister Damian Green said: "Those who take drugs and go out on the roads are a menace to pedestrians, other motorists and themselves."

Motorists can already be punished for driving while impaired by drugs, but the new testing equipment will make it easier for the police to prove a case.

Offenders will face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to £5,000 as well as an automatic driving ban of at least 12 months

Can you make your teenager drive more safely?

It's a nightmare when your teenagers start driving. This is because:

1. You don't want them to die

2. It's ridiculously expensive

If, as a parent, you lie awake at night imagining your teenager trapped upside-down in the mangled mess of a head-on collision, you are not being melodramatic. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) says that the single biggest cause of accidental death among young people aged 15 to 24 is getting in a car and dying in a crash.
Forty per cent of 17-year-old males have an accident in their first six months of driving.
Once you know how dangerous the whole thing is, worrying about the cost pales into insignificance. But if you've already paid out for the car and the insurance, the last thing you want is to wave goodbye to thousands of pounds in garage repairs and higher premiums because your teenager has wrapped himself round a lamppost.

So what's to be done about the high accident rate for young drivers? Various proposals
are floating around. Maybe young drivers shouldn't be allowed to drive at night when it's so much harder to anticipate danger.

Maybe they shouldn't carry other passengers for a set period of time after they've passed their test (there's evidence that having your mates in the car tends to distract you, so that you drive less safely).

Maybe the test itself should be harder, or everyone should spend at least one whole year learning to drive.

While the new Secretary of State for Transport mulls over all these suggestions, the car manufacturer Ford has come up with a completely new idea. They have introduced the idea of MyKey, which will be available on all new Ford Fiestas sold in the UK from 1 January 2013.

Basically, MyKey means that the owner of the car (the worried parent) has the master key, and gives their teenager a second key that has been programmed to place restrictions on how the car is used.

If, for example, your teenager likes driving with the audio system turned on full blast, and you think this might be a tiny bit distracting, you can reduce the maximum volume.

You can set maximum speed, too. With MyKey, your teenager can't drive faster than 80mph unless (in an emergency) he really jams his foot down. But parents can also set a maximum general driving speed of 45, 55 or 65mph. Once your teenager goes beyond this, warning chimes will sound continuously – like a really annoying alarm clock – until he drops below your set limit again.

(Why is 45mph the lowest, I wonder? In London, where I live, there are so many traffic enforcement cameras waiting to fine you if you drive over 30mph, I can't help feeling that 25mph might be more useful...)

You can also set the software so that your teenager can't disable safety technologies that control traction or prevent low-speed collisions.

So are all these parental controls a good idea? My son Ben had mixed feelings. "If you were quite a safety-conscious driver, it might help. But if you were with your mates and determined to drive too fast, it wouldn't stop you."

I'm not sure I'm won over either. Ford's MyKey technology might make some parents feel happier.
But I think the only thing that's really going to stop inexperienced drivers from making bad decisions when they're behind the wheel is legal restrictions. It worked for seatbelts. It worked for drinking and driving.

Maybe, like they do in Northern Ireland, new drivers should be required to carry R-plates (meaning 'Restricted Driver') for a year after passing the test and have a much lower speed limit than everyone else. (The green P-plates for 'Probationary' in the UK are optional, so no help at all.)

Maybe newly qualified drivers shouldn't be able to drive at night, or on motorways, or with more than one other passenger in the car.

There are objections to the idea of restrictions. You could argue, for example, that it's safer to have one designated driver on an evening out rather than four teenagers in four separate cars.

But no solution is perfect. What's important is to give young drivers the time to gain vital experience.

Because the Ford MyKey technology is so new, no one knows yet whether having it will reduce insurance premiums. Logically, it should do. Anything that reminds a young driver to reduce speed should make insurance cheaper.

But if you want to encourage your teenager to drive more safely – and at the same time pay out less for his insurance – you might want to think about installing a little black box in your car that records how well he drives. If the insurer can see he's driving well – good acceleration and braking, for example – the premiums are likely to drop.

Even more importantly, one insurer, says that the incentive to drive more safely provided by this kind of insurance accounts for a 35% to 40% reduction in the likelihood of the young motorist being involved in an accident.

It is, as I say, a nightmare thinking of your precious teenager risking his life on the road. Do whatever you can to make sure he has a lot of experience of driving well before he heads out on his own. Driving lessons are horribly expensive, but they do make sure that the basic safety drill is drummed into his head.

Alternatively, buy him a bicycle...

Buyers demand discounts for dirty cars

cigarette butts
Get out your mop, cleaning cloths and some elbow grease – it's time to clean your car if you want to get the best price when you sell it.

That's the advice form car insurance website, which looked at what adds value to a second-hand car and what makes potential buyers knock off a few quid before asking for the keys.

As well as a poor service history, lack of MOT and high mileage, car buyers don't like everyday spills and stains, dog smells and cigarette burns. Any or all of these could affect the value of your car.

So the advice is to thoroughly mop up spills, put a blanket down for pets and make small repairs to the interior. These will help ensure you get maximum value when you come to sell your car.

Researchers from talked to its network of approved repair garages to ask what things affect the value of a car. Smaller, less obvious faults such as stained or ripped upholstery, cigarette burns and dog smells appeared in the list as well as the more obvious lack of MOT, poor service history or high mileage. asked the garages to rank the 12 things that could knock value off the sale price of a car. The dirty dozen, in order of importance, are:
  • High mileage
  • Poor service history
  • Poor old repairs
  • Unrepaired damage dents
  • Scratched or damaged panels
  • Ripped or damaged seats or trim
  • Faded or poor colour matched paint work
  • Cigarette burns
  • Soiled, stained or sticky interior
  • Dog smells
  • Cigarette smells
  • Lack of MOT
Managing director of, Brian Martin says: "It's certainly common knowledge that a poor service history or lack of MOT will affect the amount you can ask for your vehicle when you come to sell it but our research has shown how smaller details matter too.

"I would certainly advise motorists not to cut any corners when it comes to the looking after their cars. Even simple things such as protecting your seats from pets or cleaning up spills can make a difference to the market value of your car."

The bods from also asked the garages how they thought motorists could maximise the value of their car. Apart from keeping the vehicle interior clean and fresh, the mechanics suggested keeping the fuel tank full and even having a full set of mats and mud flaps will all add value to a vehicle.

The glorious twelve things that could increase the value of a car are:
  • Low mileage
  • Full service history
  • Full year's MOT
  • Low number of previous owners
  • New or good condition tyres
  • Two sets of keys
  • Full year's tax
  • Valeted to high standards inside and out
  • Clean interior
  • Fresh and clean aroma inside the car
  • Full tank of fuel
  • Full set of mats and mud flaps

Martin says: "When selling a home, most of us would make sure it was clean, tidy and in as good condition as possible, and the same goes if you're selling your car. Whether that's privately or part exchange, take a look at our lists and see if there's anything you can do to maximise the price you get."

Forget 60 seconds - modern cars are stolen in just 10


broken car window

The film franchise 'Gone in Sixty Seconds' was supposed to emphasise the skill of the car thieves involved. However, if a new report is anything to go by, they were amateurs, because the typical crook takes just ten seconds to steal a car.

So why is the average time falling, and which cars are most at risk?

The research says the secret of the thieves' success is the fact that they no longer try to force their way into a car and start it without the key: modern technology makes this nigh-on impossible in many cases.

Instead, in two thirds of cases, they just steal the key and drive away. This means that the average time taken to steal a car has fallen to just 10 seconds - from an average of a minute a decade ago.
It emerged that keys are remarkably poorly guarded. In just under half of thefts, they were taken from the property during a burglary, and the thief carried the loot away in the car.

Other thefts use more creative means to get around security features. 'Lifting' - where the car is loaded onto the back of a truck - now makes up 14% of all car thefts. This is up from 12% last year - and has been on the rise for the last three years. In other instances keys are forcibly taken from individuals while they are with their car - accounting for 6% of all cases where the criminal has the keys.

Models at risk

There is a clear division between opportunistic thefts - such as those after a burglary - and those which are planned. The latter tend to be stolen to order. The thieves that took part in the research said that the most popular cars to be stolen are black Audis, followed by silver and black BMWs. When asked for the least desirable model and colour they named yellow Smart cars.

The research also revealed why so many stolen cars disappear from sight. One criminal said that stripping it back to its parts will often make ten times more for the criminal, while high-end cars many be shipped in lead-lined containers (to stop the tracker working).

More than 9,000 'unnecessary' road signs taken down


Thousands of unnecessary signs are being pulled down on the UK's roads.

More than 9,000 traffic signs will be removed from major and residential roads in a bid to reduce clutter.

London is ripping out 8,000 repeater signs and 4,000 poles installed on its roads in the early 1990s, while in Hampshire 200 traffic signs have been taken away along a 12-mile stretch of the A32. Somerset has also done away with a further 1,000 signs.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin is urging more local authorities to follow suit, and has published a guide on how to remove signs in the most cost-efficient ways possible.

Dana Skelley, director of Roads at Transport for London, said: "Unnecessary street clutter can make the journeys of all road users awkward, regardless whether they are motorists, cyclists or pedestrians, and can dissuade people from visiting local areas."

The biggest decluttering is in the capital where 8,000 repeater signs are being torn down. These signs reinforce the meaning of the restriction imposed by the double red lines – "no stopping".

Shaun Spiers, chief executive of Campaign to Protect Rural England, added: "Individual signs may be added with the best intentions but before long can sprout into a forest of clutter that degrades our countryside and distracts drivers.

"Rather than being hectored by health and safety signs alerting of any possible risk, people driving on rural roads should be encouraged to expect to share minor rural roads with a range of other road users."

Observer Training - The Next Step.

In part two of Neil's Observer training, he shares with us the first time he takes he fellow trainee observer on his own route.  

Providing a welcome break for most, the recent festivities saw the second part of my Observer training.

This time the routes we drove were solely down to me and my fellow trainee, which made some elements much easier and others a lot harder!  For example, because I'd initially scoped the route and driven it, I knew what was coming up, what actions I was hoping to see and where to look to find them.  As an Observer you need to be much more than just a 'passenger', instead you are an active participant - constantly assessing the Associate and offering advice where needed.  Having rehearsed the route in advance I knew when speed limits were going to change, where the tricky corners were and had planned which hazards I could use to check that the System was being correctly applied.  All of this meant that, in theory, my eyes could be in the right place at the right time.

However, in addition to all of the above, the Observer is also responsible for giving timely, and most importantly accurate, directions.  This is an area both my training partner and I need to work on for the next run.  Consider the confusion at being told "go straight over at the next roundabout" (does the Observer actually mean don't turn the steering wheel?!) or "at the roundabout ahead, turn left".  According to the invaluable training manual, directions should, whenever possible, comply with the "Alert, Direct, Locate" formula - alert the Associate through a command like "I want you", before directing them to what they need to do "to turn left" and locating it "past the row of shops" - to avoid any ambiguity.

As before, it was stressed that during a typical run (insofar as any drive is 'typical'), the Observer needs to be alert enough to take advantage of any opportunities which arise during the drive to use them as examples.  This could be a cyclist on the opposite carriageway or a bus at a bus stop (driving plans), a church coming up in the distance (bearing in mind most Mid-Kent runs take place on a Sunday morning, you can reasonably expect parked cars, a potential change in speed limit down to 30mph and possibly pedestrians), telegraph poles or hedges on a country lane etc.  There are numerous different situations which occur each time we set off that, as Advanced Drivers (or Associates), we naturally deal with.  An Observer's role is to use these to illustrate some of the fundamentals of the theory.

The final element of this training session was the completion of the run sheet.  This is a most important piece of paperwork since it gives both the Associate and future Observers some valuable feedback which they can then use to improve.  Having seen this from both angles - as an Associate when I was doing my Test and now as a future Observer - I can sympathise with this; I know that on the Sunday runs I've taken part in I have devoured the content on run sheets to get an idea about what to look out for during the next hour or so.  It should be used to reinforce the good points to the drive, with examples given so that they can be used as mental anchor points, as well as raise some elements for future work (such as practising commentary, reading the manual or working on the System).

The completion of this I initially found challenging but am confident that, like so much of what I am learning, repeated practice and experience will help.

Neil Lakeland - Trainee Observer.

Neil Lakeland with fellow trainee observer Peter Bott ready for their next training session. 

Follow this link if you missed Neil's first instalment.   

 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, and wish to take on the challenge of advance motoring, why not join us? Contact us by email or apply now on the web

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

More 20mph zones could be on the way

20mph zone

More towns and cities could adopt a 20mph speed limit, new research has found.

Figures obtained by The Independent show more than a third of local authorities have introduced measures to stop motorists exceeding 20mph on at least some roads, or are planning to do so.

Of the 75 local authorities that responded to a survey by the newspaper, 27 said they had introduced or were in the process of considering default 20mph zones, while six were awaiting new guidelines from the Department for Transport (DfT).

A separate poll for the newspaper found public backing for a blanket 20mph limit in built-up areas has reached more than 60 per cent, with support particularly strong among women, younger people and pensioners.

Eight million people are already living in authorities where 20mph limits are in operation such as Liverpool, Bristol, York, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and parts of London.

The move comes after official figures released in August showed road casualties in 20mph zones increased by almost a quarter in 2011.

The number of people killed or injured on roads in built-up areas with a speed limit of 20mph totalled 2,262 in 2011, up by 24 per cent from 2010.

Meanwhile casualties on 30mph roads were down by one per cent from 2010, recorded at 125,494 in 2011, according to data from the DfT.

Transport minister Norman Baker said at the time that local authorities were best placed to make the decision on whether or not to impose 20mph limits in certain areas.

"British Medical Journal research has shown a reduction in casualties and collision of around 40 per cent, a reduction in children killed or seriously injured of 50 per cent and reduction in casualties among cyclists by 17 per cent," he said.

"That is why we believe 20mph speed limits are useful in certain residential areas and support their introduction where it can be shown that they benefit road safety and quality of life."

Would you welcome more 20mph zones?

Fancy a 2012 Ferrari 458 supercar for £89k?


Fancy owning a 2012 Ferrari for less than the price of a brand new Porsche 911?

We thought that question would get you interested – a 2012 Ferrari 458 Italia is currently listed on Auto Trader for a mere £88,875!

That's less than the sum of money Porsche would charge you for a shiny new 911 Carrera 4 3.8 PDK, and makes this particular 458 not only the cheapest right-hand drive example on the used car website, but also the cheapest Italia in the UK!

For £88,875, you'll get a 458 finished in a luscious shade of black and with a vast list of optional extras.

As just a taster, this 458 has carbon brakes, an "internal Carbon Fibre Racing package", sat nav, "Super Racing seats", and 20-inch forged dark painted wheels. Bought less than a year ago, the original owner forked out more than £208k for this piece of supercar exotica.

However, as you may have guessed, there is a snag... quite a big one in fact.


This 458 appears to have had rather a large accident. Damage has been caused to the entire front-end of the car, with the headlamps, front bumper, bonnet and front bumper crossmember all bearing the brunt of the collision. The driver's side extension leg is broken away too. There's also light damage to the rear bumper cover and the airbags have been deployed.

The dealer says the suspension, wheels and main tub are all "okay". The car "starts and drives around no problem" and has all the paperwork, service books, two remote keys and two tracker keys.


The dealer believes the total cost of parts will be just £8k due to the 458 enjoying a healthy supply of second-hand parts.

We have to say that with left-hand-drive 458s in good condition and with around 10k on their clocks fetching £140k, it would seem this particular car represents good value for money. But the question is, could you drive around in a repaired 458?