Should you install a dash cam in a learner driver’s car?

A dash cam records data and stores it for a period of time, which can be used later to settle insurance disputes and claims. They can also help to improve your driving. Dash cams can be bought relatively inexpensively and are easy to fit.

So should you install one?

We think every car should have a dash cam. With the rise in staged accidents for insurance payouts – known as Crash for Cash – having a filmed record of any accident is a powerful deterrent for opportunistic crash scammers.

Insurance companies and the police approve of dash cams and they make insurance claims and reporting of accidents much simpler and straightforward. Heaven forbid your child has a crash while learning but having a dash cam on board could help reduce the trauma.

They’re also useful to play back lessons later to see where any mistakes are made. Sitting at home doing post postmortems of lessons on an iPad or PC may not sound much fun but it’s a really useful time together to review the previous day’s driving. This new technology really can help the learning process.

A dash cam can cost as little as £50 and the best ones hold a recording for several days, have a front and back view and a cabin function that records what’s happening inside the car. Some even have a parking function that automatically switches the camera on if there’s activity outside your car when it’s parked. And when your child does pass their test having a dash cam on board that they know is recording everything they do will make them drive extra carefully.

The case for dash cams is totally proved, sales in the last couple of years have mushroomed and the use of dash cam footage to help settle insurance claims is up 285% since 2015

 

What do we use at WrightStart?

Over the Limit: Drink Driving and the Older Generation

Picture a typical drink driver. Who do you see? How old are they?

Chances are, they’re quite young; perhaps in their early 20’s.

Now, what would you say if we told you that over 1 million motorists over the age of 55 have admitted to driving while drunk?

As WrightStart pride themselves on offering driving lessons to many older people, this came as quite a shock to us. But a recent survey by Direct Line Motor Insurance found that 1.6 million motorists in this age group have owned up to possibly being over the limit behind the wheel.

Furthermore, 750,000 of them admitted getting behind the wheel the day after a night of drinking – implying a gap in people’s knowledge about how long it takes for alcohol to work its way out of your system. (For the record, it’s about 1 hour per unit of alcohol, but can change depending on weight, age, et cetera.)

The survey also revealed other startling misconceptions about the relationship between alcohol and driving. Just over 1 million older drivers surveyed said that they believed men were able to drink more than women while still being safe to drive. Again, this is actually down to a variety of factors, such as your weight and diet.

1.2 million of those surveyed excused their driving because their trip was only for a short distance, while a further million drivers thought that eating a large meal cancelled out the effects of alcohol. This is also false, as though eating before you drink can slow the speed at which alcohol defuses from your stomach into the rest of your body, it will never stop it completely, making it a flawed strategy for keeping yourself safe on the road.

The same thing goes for thinking you’re less at risk because of your age. Nearly 560,000 people thought that older drivers were safer drivers, and able to drink and drive as a result. This contradicts data from the Department for Transport, which says that 26% of all road accidents in 2017 (45,500 out of 175,000) involved older drivers. Additionally, Direct Line also analysed breathalyser test statistics, finding that drivers over the age of 50 account for around 15% of  failed breathalyser tests in England. In comparison, those aged 20-34 account for more than half.

According to Steve Barrett, Direct Line’s head of motor insurance, the survey results showed how traditional stereotypes about drink driving don’t match the reality. “It is clear that younger drivers are not the only offenders when it comes to drink driving,” he said. “Motorists may become complacent as they get older because they feel they are so experienced behind the wheel, but tolerance levels differ hugely depending on body type. Just because someone doesn’t feel drunk or is only driving a short distance does not mean they are safe to drive.”

Car Theft: How You Can Avoid It

According to new figures, a car is stolen every five minutes in the UK, with the number of thefts increasing by almost 50% in the last five years.

Data from police forces across the UK revealed a 45% rise in reported thefts since 2014, before which there had been a six-year decline.

The figures were gathered by insurer Direct Line, who then cross-referenced them with its own claims data to identify the UK’s car theft hot spots.

Their research shows that it is largely English regions driving this increase, with the West Midlands experiencing the sharpest rise at 214% (or 16 car claims per 10,000 registered vehicles). Birmingham also has four postcodes in the top ten of highest vehicle claims: B31, B90, B62 and B13.

Yorkshire and the North West also saw rates double from 2014 to 2018, seeing changes of 104% and 110%, respectively.

However, London remains the worst spot for car thefts in the UK, as though there has only been a 61% rise there in the last four years, there are still 33 claims for every 10,000 registered vehicles. Five London postcodes also appear in the top ten for the highest number of vehicle claims over the past five years: E4 (Chingford), E6 (East Ham), E17 (Walthamstow), E11 (Leytonstone and Wanstead) and IG1 (Ilford).

Wales and the South East both have the lowest amount of change of all the areas surveyed, with a 29% increase in car theft and 4 claims per 10,000 registered vehicles.

In fact, the only region to experience a fall in car theft was Scotland, where there was a 23% decrease and just 10 claims per 10,000 registered vehicles. Northern Ireland’s figures have remained the same.

There is, of course, a variety of reasons behind this widespread rise in car theft, but it’s been speculated that one reason could be more people choosing cars with keyless entry that are vulnerable to so-called relay attacks (a subject we’ve talked about before [link to this article if poss.]

Steve Barrett, head of car insurance at Direct Line, commented: “With an alarming increase in the number of cars stolen over the last five years it is more important than ever to do all we can to prevent cars from being stolen.

“Using a combination of measures such as parking in a well-lit area or through security features such as steering wheel locks, or by ensuring that the car alarm system is fully activated by double locking the vehicle could help make it as difficult as possible for a thief and may help buy time for the alarm to be raised in case a theft is in progress.”

Here are some more tips to help you avoid becoming a victim of car theft:

1. Keep the vehicle locked –Modern cars’ smoother locking mechanisms can make it difficult to hear if the car locks. Double-check that it is locked before leaving your vehicle, even if you’ll just be gone for a short time. Never leave the vehicle running when it’s unattended, and keep it locked when parked outside your home.

2. Invest in the right technology –alarms and immobilisers often come as standard – however, theives’ technology is advancing almost as fast as the manufacturers’.

However, thieves’ technology is advancing in line with that of manufacturers’, and its always better to be over prepared.

Steering wheel, pedal and gear locks are inexpensive, easy to install and off-putting to criminals, while tracking devices or CCTV systems fitted near your car can help track down your vehicle and the perpetrator should it be taken.

3. Keep your keys safe– The easiest way for a criminal to steal a car is by taking the keys, so always ensure you store your keys out of sight of doors or windows.

4. Block signals– Some manufacturers make it possible to switch your key off. If this is not possible for your car, invest in a ‘Faraday Pouch’.

This shields your key from static electric fields, distributing the electric charges around the outside of the cage and protecting the items within. They are relatively inexpensive and available from many shops.

5. Park smart– If you don’t have the luxury of a private garage or off-street parking, try to park in a well-lit, populated area whenever possible.

Thieves will always target vehicles left in hidden areas, so parking in side roads or areas away from street lights could put your vehicle at risk.

Looking at the time of day that owners are most likely to realise their vehicle has been stolen, early morning comes out top with nearly half (49%) occurring between midnight and 9am, and 23% between 6am and 9am.

This is largely due to owners leaving home to commute to work. By comparison, only 19% of crimes are reported between 6pm and midnight.

Cars are also slightly more likely to be stolen on a weekday than at weekends, with 7% more crimes reported from Monday to Friday than on Saturday or Sunday.

 

The Best and Worst Cities to Drive In as a Tourist

Here on the WrightStart blog, we’ve talked before about driving in Europe, specifically when it comes to the green card system that might come into force post-Brexit [link to article here]. However, politics aside, there’s a lot that can make one city harder to drive in as a tourist than another.

Insurance site Compare the Market ranked 24 cities from across Europe, considering things like the cost of parking, price of fuel, congestion and road safety.

Our own capital city London came second-to-last  in the rankings, a decision that won’t surprise anyone who’s driven there before. Though it did well on road safety, with a relatively low 27.7 road fatalities per million residents, its charges for two hours parking were among the most expensive at an eye-watering £12. It also ranked 21st for congestion, with drivers having to deal with 227 hours of it every year.

The spot for the worst place to drive as a tourist goes to Rome, who scored low for their cost of fuel (just over £6 a gallon), car density (625 cars per 1,000 residents) and congestion (254 hours a year). Given how hectic and sometimes narrow the roads are over there, this shouldn’t be too much of a shock either.

Dublin, the only other British city in the study, found itself scraping through in 20th place. It managed a top 5 spot for car density, with 446 cars per 1,000 residents, and had just under 39 road fatalities per million residents. It did less well when it came to congestion and road quality, though; it only had a little less congestion than Rome at 246 hours, and its road quality rating was a disappointing 4.6/7.

Another country whose cities didn’t fare as well was Russia. They had two in the study – Moscow and St Petersburg. Though both cities took the top two spots for car density, with just over 300 passengers cars per 1,000 residents, paradoxically their fortunes reversed when looking at road safety and quality. Both cities had the same dismal road quality rating of 2.9/7, and they also shared the frightening statistic of almost 141 road fatalities per 1,000 residents.

Clearly, Russia is not the place to go if you value your life.

As for who came out on top, that honour goes to the German metropolis Frankfurt. It finished top of the rankings for congestion, with only 107 hours, and was in second place for the cost of parking, with a two-hour stay only costing you £1.70. Frankfurt also did well when it came to road quality, just missing out on the top 5 with a respectable 5.5/7 rating.

Other cities that did well included Nice in France, which came second in the overall rankings and third for its road quality with a 6/7 rating; Vienna in Austria, which had only 2 hours more congestion than Frankfurt; Madrid in Spain; and Portuguese capital Lisbon, where parking costs a miniscule £2.10 for two hours.

Notably, the rankings for road safety, parking prices and road quality were all topped by cities that fell outside of the top 5. Stockholm, Sweden had only 27 road fatalities per 1000 residents. In Warsaw, the capital of Poland, you pay just £1.30 for a two-hour parking stay, and Amsterdam in the Netherlands had the nearest to a perfect road quality rating at 6.1/7.

If this research tells us anything, it’s that no city is objectively the best when it comes to a tourist’s experience of it. Frankfurt may be the overall winner, but it did fall short in some things, as did every other city. In the end, your decision about where you go this summer willbe informed by your expected driving experience, but also much more than that. To end on a famous proverb, the world is your oyster…except for Russia, maybe.

If you want to see the rankings in full, click here.

Have you driven in any of the places mentioned? What were your experiences of them? Let us know in the comments!

Headlight glare – more drivers being dazzled by bright headlights than a year ago, survey finds

A lot of things can get on people’s nerves about driving – we’ve covered a recent top 10 of annoying habits before  – but according to new research from the RAC, dazzling headlights are  especially irritating.

91% of drivers surveyed said that ‘some’ or ‘most’ car headlights are too bright, with over half (54%) saying they get dazzled by them more now than they did a year ago.

Encountered most often when driving at night, headlight dazzle can blind oncoming traffic, making it a potential danger. 70% of drivers surveyed agreed with this, believing that some headlights were so bright that they put drivers at risk of an accident. Indeed, government data shows that dazzling headlights are a possible factor in 300 collisions every year.

However, those surveyed were less clear about the causes of headlight dazzle. Just over half (51%) blamed vehicles that sit higher on the road, like increasingly popular SUVs, but in contrast 41% said that the problem wasn’t caused by any particular vehicle.

Modern technology was also in the firing line, with 55% of respondents believing that LED and xenon headlights (emitting a blue light that’s around 3 times brighter than normal) are guilty of the increased dazzle. Despite this, 51% of drivers admitted they could not tell the difference between the two types of lights in the first place. RAC spokesman Rod Dennis, thinks this shows people are misinformed about headlight dazzle, saying that “It’s not as straightforward as saying one lightbulb causes more of a dazzling effect than another – there are a range of reasons why a driver might be dazzled.”

Some of these reasons might even be the driver’s fault. The survey found that 47% of drivers either never adjust their headlights to account for carrying different loads, or don’t adjust them regularly enough – which can cause others on the road to be inadvertently dazzled.

Misaligned headlights can also be a problem, with a quarter (26%) of drivers having had problems with one before. Of these, 9% have tried to sort the problem out themselves or even worse, ignored it all together. Headlight aim is checked as part of your car’s MOT, and the requirements on garages to conduct this part of the test thoroughly were strengthened in 2016.

Bright headlights aren’t illegal – as the RAC points out, all of them have to meet international standards – but the regulation hasn’t properly been updated since the 1960’s, and so doesn’t take specific account of newer technologies like xenon and LED. 84% of drivers want to see the regulation updated for this reason, but what can we do ourselves to either lessen the impact of headlight glare or stop our cars from dazzling other motorists?

Dealing with headlight glare

Talk to your optician –if you wear glasses, a coating can be added that can make it easier to see when you are faced with car headlights. A quarter (25%) of respondents to the RAC survey wear such glasses.

Adjust your rear-view mirror more often – Unless your car has a self-dimming rear-view mirror, you can reduce glare from vehicles behind you by doing this – more than half (56%) of drivers who responded to the survey say they do this

Get an auto-dimming rear view mirror– an auto-dimming mirror can be a great bonus when buying your next car. Alongside other additions like darkened glass (sometimes known as “sunset glass”), it can go a long way in reducing the amount of light that eventually reaches you.

Tips to stop your car causing headlight glare for others

Does your car automatically level its headlights?Check to see if your car automatically levels its headlights based on the load you’re  carrying –  most don’t

Remember to manually adjust your headlights  depending on the load you are carrying and according to the car’s manual. A single person driving with an empty boot needs a different setting compared to a single person with a boot-load of luggage, or all five seats occupied and a fully-loaded boot.

What’s the angle of your headlights?Next time your car goes for its MOT, ask to have the angle of your headlights checked so you can make sure the beam is being directed where you want it to go.

 

Do you find yourself getting dazzled by headlights regularly? Does the current regulation go far enough? Let us know in the comments below!

The Highway Code: common mistakes (and how to avoid them)

Over the years there have been many subtle changes to the Highway Code. The latest edition was published in 2019, and it gets updated every few years or so.

This week we’re going to look at some of the common faults and mistakes current licence holders make, whether due to a gap in their knowledge or a change of techniques over time.

Box junctions (rule 174)

These have criss-cross yellow lines painted on the road. You must not:

  1. Enter the box until your exit road or lane is clear.
  2. At signalled roundabouts, enter the box until you can fully cross it without stopping

However, you’re allowed to enter the box and wait when you want to turn right; the only thing stopping you is incoming traffic or other vehicles waiting to turn right.

Crossings

Pelican (rule 196)

These are signal-controlled crossings where a flashing amber light’s followed by a red stop light. You must:

  1. Stop when the red light shows
  2. Give way to pedestrians when the amber light’s flashing

If there are no pedestrians on the crossing, you can proceed with caution.

Puffin, toucan and equestrian crossings (rule 199)

Similar to pelicans, but the lights don’t flash amber; instead, the light sequence goes the same as with normal traffic lights. If the signal isn’t working, don’t despair – just proceed carefully.

Zebra crossings

For this most exotic of crossings, you should do a few things on approach.

Another word of advice – a zebra crossing with a central island counts as two separate crossings, so don’t be fooled!

Signalling (rules 103 and 104)

There’s a reason why signalling is so important – they’re key to warning other road users about what you’re planning to do next.

You should always:

Remember – signalling doesn’t give you priority!

You should also:

Red route stopping controls

Red lines are used on some roads instead of yellow lines. In London, these indicate that stopping to park, load/unload or board and get out of a vehicle (except for a licensed taxi or if you hold a Blue Badge) is prohibited.

The red lines apply to the carriageway, pavement and verge. The times that the red line prohibitions apply are shown on nearby signs, but the double red line ALWAYS means no stopping at any time.

On Red Routes you’re allowed to stop to park and load/unload in specially marked boxes, like the one below.  Adjacent signs specify the times and purposes, and duration allowed.

A box marked in red indicates that it might only be available for the purpose specified for part of the day (eg between busy peak periods).

A box marked in white means that it is available throughout the day.

However, red (and single yellow) lines are only a guide to the restrictions in force. If there are signs nearby or at a zone entry, consult them first!

Bus Lanes (rule 141)

A Confused.com survey found that 48% of drivers have unknowingly driven in a bus lane before. How can you avoid this?

Well, for starters you should check the markings. This will say if any vehicles other than buses can use the lane. In the example below, no other vehicles can use the bus lane.

Some bus lanes will have signs like this, saying when other vehicles can use the bus lane:

In bus lanes that don’t permit vehicles, there are very specific circumstances where drivers can use them:

Trams (rules 300-305)

Rule 300

You MUST NOT enter a road, lane or other route reserved for trams. Try and  avoid driving directly on top of the rails if you can, and take care where trams leave the main carriageway to enter the reserved route, to ensure you don’t follow them.

The width taken up by trams is often shown by tram lanes. These are marked by white lines, yellow dots or by a different type of road surface.

 

An example of some tram lane markings

Diamond-shaped signs and signals using white lights only give instructions to tram drivers.

A diamond tram sign

Rule 301

Be extra careful where the track crosses from one side of the road to the other, and where the road narrows making the tracks come close to the kerb.

Tram drivers have their own traffic signals, meaning they might be able to move when you’re not!

Always give way to trams; don’t try and overtake them unless there’s a designated tram lane for you to pass in!

Rule 302

You MUST NOT park your vehicle where it would get in the way of trams or force other drivers to do so.

Don’t stop on any part of a tram track, except in a designated bay alongside and clear of the track. When doing so, make sure that all parts of your vehicle are outside of the tram path.

Remember, if you’re blocking their path, a tram can’t steer round you!

Rule 303 – tram stops

Where the tram stops at a platform – in the middle or at the side of the road –  you MUST follow the route shown by the road signs and markings.

At stops without platforms you MUST NOT drive between a tram and the left-hand kerb when a tram’s stopped to pick up passengers.

If there are no signs for an alternative route, don’t overtake the tram – wait until it moves off.

Rule 304

Because we’re all late sometimes = look out for pedestrians running to catch a tram approaching a stop.

Rule 305

Always give priority to trams, especially when they signal to pull away from stops (unless it’s unsafe to do so.)

Remember that trams might be carrying large numbers of standing passengers, who could be injured if the tram made an emergency stop.

Keep an eye out for people getting off a bus or tram and crossing the road.

Rule 306

All road users – particularly cyclists and motorcyclists – should take extra care when driving or riding close to or crossing the tracks, especially if the rails are wet. Doubly so when crossing the rails at shallow angles, on bends and at junctions. It’s safest to cross the tracks directly at right angles.

Other road users should be aware that cyclists and motorcyclists might need more space to cross safely.

 

So, there you have it – just a few of the common slip-ups drivers have with the Highway Code. If there are any other topics that you’re struggling with, let us know; we might include these in a future post.

In the meantime, safe driving!

 

Post Test Tips

Have you just passed your test? Congratulations if so, welcome to freedom and miles of open road ready for you to explore.

We do know for some of you that the prospect of that is a daunting and so we’ve given you some extra tips to help you in dealing with these common issues.

We hope these have been helpful and if you have any other queries or areas that you are struggling with please ask and we’ll do our best to help.

Safest place to own a car

Did you know that Birmingham reported a colossal 100 vehicle crimes in July 2018 alone? What’s worse is that 11% of those happened by a nearby children’s hospital.

Using national data, insurance comparison experts Quotezone.co.uk have pulled together a comprehensive map highlighting the safest and most dangerous regions in the UK to own a car. The piece ranks all 45 UK regions from best to worst according to accidents and vehicle offences.

Top 10 best places to own a car in the UK (by police force):

  1. North Wales
  2. Dyfed – Powys
  3. Norfolk
  4. Gwent
  5. Cheshire
  6. Devon and Cornwall
  7. West Mercia
  8. North Yorkshire
  9. Staffordshire
  10. Cumbria

 

Top 10 worst places to own a car in the UK (by police force):

  1. City of London
  2. Police Scotland
  3. Metropolitan Police (London)
  4. West Midlands
  5. Bedfordshire
  6. Warwickshire
  7. South Yorkshire
  8. West Yorkshire
  9. Greater Manchester
  10. Cambridgeshire

 

Quotezone.co.uk Comment

“Our research into accident and vehicle offences in the UK is shocking to say the least,” said Greg Wilson, Founder of Quotezone.co.uk. We found that Birmingham is a hotspot for vehicle crimes with the city reporting 100 vehicle crimes in July 2018 alone, and 11% of these incidents were near a children’s hospital.”

 

“Car theft rates are also particularly high at Manchester Airport, where the vehicles are left unattended for long periods of time, with 74 incidents in July. “This just goes to show how vital it is to safeguard your vehicle and have the right level of insurance in place to save any potential heartache and financial strain in the future.”

 

Additionally, Quotezone.co.uk have revealed some top tips to avoid car theft, such as: Turning your car wheels into the curb, keeping your valuables out of sight and installing an anti-theft system.

If you want to read further you can access the full piece here.

Drink Drive Goggles

Some of you may have noticed we’ve recently introduced a new activity at our experiences driving site, the drink drive goggles.

What are the drink drive goggles?

One truly effective way of reinforcing the ‘don’t drink and drive’ message is by demonstrating just what it feels like to be drunk, and just how dangerous it can be. These unique goggles simulate the effects of impairment, including reduced alertness, slowed reaction time, confusion, visual distortion, alteration of depth and distance perception, reduction of peripheral vision, poor judgement and decision making, double vision, and lack of muscular coordination.

What do we do with the goggles?

We have various uses of the goggles including our driving experiences and our road safety presentations.

The primary use is to deliver drink drive experiences in a safe and controlled environment. After a little introduction to the vehicle and discussion on drink driving we allow customers to drive a marked course to see how competent they are at driving “intoxicated”, the results are incredibly surprising.

Why do we offer this experience?

We have an older generation of drivers who feel that drinking and driving is still acceptable. This older group of people may not be completely over the limit but still under the influence of alcohol and we are aiming to prove it isn’t acceptable and change this attitude and behaviour.

What’s next?

We have a new generation of younger drivers coming through the system that simply won’t even think of drinking and driving. The current issue for them is distracted driving, mainly mobile phones.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you all that the fine and penalty for using a device behind the wheel recently increased (insert link) but it still isn’t stopping some.

So what are we going to do? Well, we have plans to introduce a distracted driving course at our experience centre but for the time being that’s all we can say, so keep tuned…

Smart Motorways

What is a Smart Motorway?

A smart motorway uses technology to actively manage the flow of traffic. The technology is controlled from a regional traffic control centre. The control centres monitor traffic carefully and can activate and change signs and speed limits. This helps keep the traffic flowing freely.
Smart motorways increase the capacity of the road, without the expense and hassle of widening the road, by either temporarily or permanently opening the hard shoulder to traffic. Highways England is responsible for smart motorways in England.

Quick Tips:

* never drive in a lane closed by a red “X”
* keep to the speed limit shown on the gantries
* a solid white line indicates the hard shoulder – don’t drive in it unless directed.
* a broken white line indicates a normal running lane
* if your vehicle experiences difficulties, eg warning light, exit the smart motorway immediately if possible
* use the refuge areas for emergencies if there’s no hard shoulder
* put your hazard lights on if you break down

A brief overview of smart motorways:

One of the most important signs to get to know on a smart motorway is the red X. This indicates that a lane is closed.
If you see a red X closing a lane, move out of that lane promptly. If you don’t, you may receive a fine.

A lane might be closed because there is debris in the road, or because of a person or animal on the road. There may be an accident or a breakdown up ahead. We may be keeping the lane clear for the emergency services, such as an ambulance. So for your own safety and the safety of others, never drive in a lane closed by a red X.

In an emergency

Prevention is better than cure: keep your car well maintained, check your tyres and make sure you have enough fuel for your journey. All motorists should be able to make their own recovery arrangements in the event of a breakdown. We advise that you have breakdown cover and carry details of this with you.

Always try to exit the smart motorway immediately if your vehicle is damaged or experiences difficulties. If that’s not possible, move into the nearest place of relative safety. On most motorways this will be the hard shoulder but on a smart motorway there may not always be a hard shoulder, or the hard shoulder may be open to traffic. In these cases you’ll see emergency refuge areas (ERA) spaced regularly along the motorway. Make your way to the nearest one.

You should follow these steps:

1. Use an emergency refuge area if you are able to reach one safely. These are marked with blue signs featuring an orange SOS telephone symbol on them.
2. If you can leave your vehicle safely, contact Highways England via the roadside emergency telephone provided in all emergency refuge areas. We will either send a traffic officer to help you, or set the motorway signs to temporarily clear lane 1 to assist you to rejoin the motorway.
3. If you cannot get to an emergency refuge area but the vehicle can be driven, move it to the hard shoulder (where provided) or as close to the nearside verge or other nearside boundary as possible.
4. In all cases, switch on your hazard warning lights.

If you stop in the nearside lane next to a hard shoulder or verge and feel you are able to exit safely with any occupants, consider exiting your vehicle via the nearside (left hand) door, and wait behind the safety barrier, if there is one and safe to do so.

If it is not possible to get out of your vehicle safely, or there is no other place of relative safety to wait then you should stay in your vehicle with your seat belt on and dial ‘999’ if you have access to a working mobile phone.

Once the regional traffic control centre is aware of your situation, via the police or roadside technology such as CCTV, they can use the smart motorway technology to set overhead signs and close the lane to help keep traffic away from you. They will also send a traffic officer or the police to help you.

Speed Limits

On a smart motorway, speed limits may appear lit up on overhead signals. These limits can be changed to help manage traffic at busy times. This helps smooth the flow of traffic and prevent “stop-start” traffic caused by shockwave traffic jams. If no special speed limit is displayed then the national speed limit applies.

A speed limit displayed inside a red circle is legally enforceable. If you don’t keep to this speed limit, you are breaking the law.
Speed cameras are in operation on smart motorways. If you don’t keep to the speed limit, you may receive a fine.

Hard shoulder use

On smart motorways you will see refuge areas spaced regularly alongside the motorway. You should use these in emergencies.
This is because on some smart motorways the hard shoulder can be opened up for traffic to use at busy times. If it is open for use you will see a speed limit displayed over it.
If there is no sign, or a red X is displayed, then normal hard shoulder rules apply. In other words, do not use it except in emergency.

A hard shoulder is always clearly identified with a solid white unbroken line. On other types of smart motorway, the hard shoulder has been permanently converted into an extra lane. Where this is the case the lane looks like any other lane, ie it is marked with a broken white line.

Driving in Europe Infographic

Driving in Europe infographic

Driving in Europe

Waiting and Parking – Part 1

With the new test in motion as of today parking is currently a very hot topic. We’ve put together a two part blog on parking, here’s part one…

The Highway Code rules for waiting and parking, including rules on parking at night and decriminalised parking enforcement.

Rule 238

You MUST NOT wait or park on yellow lines during the times of operation shown on nearby time plates (or zone entry signs if in a Controlled Parking Zone) – see ‘Traffic signs’ and ‘Road markings’.

Double yellow lines indicate a prohibition of waiting at any time even if there are no upright signs.

You MUST NOT wait or park, or stop to set down and pick up passengers, on school entrance markings (see ‘Road markings’) when upright signs indicate a prohibition of stopping.

Parking (rules 239 to 247)

Rule 239

Use off-street parking areas, or bays marked out with white lines on the road as parking places, wherever possible. If you have to stop on the roadside:
* do not park facing against the traffic flow
* stop as close as you can to the side
* do not stop too close to a vehicle displaying a Blue Badge: remember, the occupant may need more room to get in or out
* you MUST switch off the engine, headlights and fog lights
* you MUST apply the handbrake before leaving the vehicle
* you MUST ensure you do not hit anyone when you open your door. Check for cyclists or other traffic
* it is safer for your passengers (especially children) to get out of the vehicle on the side next to the kerb
* put all valuables out of sight and make sure your vehicle is secure
* lock your vehicle.

Rule 239

Check before opening your door

Rule 240

You MUST NOT stop or park on:
* the carriageway or the hard shoulder of a motorway except in an emergency (see Rule 270)
* a pedestrian crossing, including the area marked by the zig-zag lines (see Rule 191)
* a clearway (see ‘Traffic signs’)
* taxi bays as indicated by upright signs and markings
* an Urban Clearway within its hours of operation, except to pick up or set down passengers (see ‘Traffic signs’)
* a road marked with double white lines, even when a broken white line is on your side of the road, except to pick up or set down passengers, or to load or unload goods
* a tram or cycle lane during its period of operation
* a cycle track
* red lines, in the case of specially designated ‘red routes’, unless otherwise indicated by signs. Any vehicle may enter a bus lane to stop, load or unload where this is not prohibited (see Rule 141).

Rule 241

You MUST NOT park in parking spaces reserved for specific users, such as Blue Badge holders, residents or motorcycles, unless entitled to do so.

Rule 242

You MUST NOT leave your vehicle or trailer in a dangerous position or where it causes any unnecessary obstruction of the road.

Rule 243

DO NOT stop or park:
* near a school entrance
* anywhere you would prevent access for Emergency Services
* at or near a bus or tram stop or taxi rank
* on the approach to a level crossing/tramway crossing
* opposite or within 10 metres (32 feet) of a junction, except in an authorised parking space
* near the brow of a hill or hump bridge
* opposite a traffic island or (if this would cause an obstruction) another parked vehicle
* where you would force other traffic to enter a tram lane
* where the kerb has been lowered to help wheelchair users and powered mobility vehicles
* in front of an entrance to a property
* on a bend
* where you would obstruct cyclists’ use of cycle facilities except when forced to do so by stationary traffic.

Rule 244

You MUST NOT park partially or wholly on the pavement in London, and should not do so elsewhere unless signs permit it. Parking on the pavement can obstruct and seriously inconvenience pedestrians, people in wheelchairs or with visual impairments and people with prams or pushchairs.

Rule 245

Controlled Parking Zones. The zone entry signs indicate the times when the waiting restrictions within the zone are in force. Parking may be allowed in some places at other times. Otherwise parking will be within separately signed and marked bays.

Rule 246

Goods vehicles. Vehicles with a maximum laden weight of over 7.5 tonnes (including any trailer) MUST NOT be parked on a verge, pavement or any land situated between carriageways, without police permission. The only exception is when parking is essential for loading and unloading, in which case the vehicle MUST NOT be left unattended.

Rule 247

Loading and unloading. Do not load or unload where there are yellow markings on the kerb and upright signs advise restrictions are in place (see ‘Road markings’). This may be permitted where parking is otherwise restricted. On red routes, specially marked and signed bays indicate where and when loading and unloading is permitted.

Parking at night (rules 248 to 252)

Rule 248

You MUST NOT park on a road at night facing against the direction of the traffic flow unless in a recognised parking space.

Rule 249

All vehicles MUST display parking lights when parked on a road or a lay-by on a road with a speed limit greater than 30 mph (48 km/h).

Rule 250

Cars, goods vehicles not exceeding 2500 kg laden weight, invalid carriages, motorcycles and pedal cycles may be parked without lights on a road (or lay-by) with a speed limit of 30 mph (48 km/h) or less if they are:
* at least 10 metres (32 feet) away from any junction, close to the kerb and facing in the direction of the traffic flow
* in a recognised parking place or lay-by.
Other vehicles and trailers, and all vehicles with projecting loads, MUST NOT be left on a road at night without lights.

Rule 251

Parking in fog. It is especially dangerous to park on the road in fog. If it is unavoidable, leave your parking lights or sidelights on.

Rule 252

Parking on hills. If you park on a hill you should:
* park close to the kerb and apply the handbrake firmly
* select a forward gear and turn your steering wheel away from the kerb when facing uphill
* select reverse gear and turn your steering wheel towards the kerb when facing downhill
* use ‘park’ if your car has an automatic gearbox.

Rule 252

Turn your wheels away from the kerb when parking facing uphill. Turn them towards the kerb when parking facing downhill

Decriminalised Parking Enforcement (DPE)

DPE is becoming increasingly common as more authorities take on this role. The local traffic authority assumes responsibility for enforcing many parking contraventions in place of the police. Further details on DPE may be found at the following websites: Traffic Penalty Tribunal (outside London) & London Tribunals (inside London)

 

Stay tuned for part 2 of this parking guide…

Sat Navs

With the addition of sat nav driving on the new test coming December 4th we thought it might be worth shedding some light on what best to buy.

The best sat nav and navigation apps will get you to your destination with a minimum of fuss, and smoothly cope with any disruptions or delays en route. They are a breeze to install and use. But other sat navs and apps are hard to use, with poor routing making them more of a hindrance than a help. They struggle to deal with route recalculations, too, which could leave you going round in circles.

How much does a good sat nav cost?

Standalone sat navs can range from anywhere between £50 to more than £300. Sat nav apps tend to be cheaper and range from free to around £50. There are lots of free options, including Google Maps and Apple Maps, and even paid-for apps will cost you less than £50.

Dedicated sat navs Dedicated sat navs are the traditional sat nav – standalone devices that work out of the box. The sat nav market has reduced considerably in recent years, with Garmin and TomTom accounting for the vast majority of models sold in the UK.

Pros:

Built with navigation in mind
Dedicated devices usually have good speakers and matte
Non-reflective screens
Most come with free map updates
Some also offer live-traffic updates, which can prove handy if you want to avoid delays.

Cons:

A separate device to carry around.
If you require additional maps further down the line (such as for driving in Europe), purchasing them can be expensive.
Traffic updates often cost extra.

Paid-for sat nav apps

Available for your smartphone, paid-for apps are an alternative to the dedicated sat nav. They are often considerably cheaper, and have many of the features of their standalone counterparts.

Pros:

Apps are a cheaper option and are easy to update. They’re also extremely convenient, as you’re likely to always have your phone with you.

Cons:

Their performance can depend on the smartphone you have
Some require a constant data connection, which can be costly if you’re on a limited data plan
You’ll probably also need to buy a windscreen or air vent mount, and a suitable charging cable.

Free sat nav apps

We all like the sound of ‘free’ and, no matter what your smartphone platform, there are a plethora of free apps available. However, they are something of a mixed bag in our experience, so it’s worth checking our reviews.

Pros:

They’re free.
Easy to download and try – and if you don’t like one app, simply delete it and try another.
Useful for occasional users.
Most smartphones come with one built in as standard.

Cons:

Since almost anyone can make a sat nav app and make it available in an app store, quality is highly varied
Some are advert-supported, meaning there might be an advert banner or pop-up ad on the app, which can be annoying
The basic (and built-in) apps often lack the quantity and quality of features available through standalone devices and paid-for apps.

Key features to look for

To make sure you get the most out of your sat nav, here are a few tips when you’re looking to buy:

Mapping and updates – Pick a model with free updates and mapping. These days, most models from the big-name brands will come with free updates out of the box, but slightly older models may not. These may appear cheap initially, but can represent a false economy as you’ll need to pay to update the mapping at a later date.

Traffic information – If you’re a regular driver, you may find traffic information useful. Most sat navs will come with some form of this, although with some you’ll need to buy a separate TMC receiver to plug in. Others will use the DAB signals from your car radio – the charging cable that comes in the box will usually act as the receiver. The best option is to use a device or app that uses your smartphone to pick up detailed traffic information via a mobile-data connection – this should offer the most up-to-date news to help stop you getting stuck in a jam. Look for a device that can be linked with your smartphone. Some newer devices, such as the latest TomTom Go range, have built-in Sim cards so you don’t need to link to your smartphone for live data services. These do cost a little more, though, so decide whether paying a little extra for this convenience is worth it.

Size – Sat nav screens are anywhere from 4 to 7 inches when measured diagonally across. While some people may enjoy the clarity of a larger screen, others may find it obstructive and will want to opt for something slightly smaller. Before buying your sat nav, it’s worth cutting a rectangular piece of card to the size you’re thinking of buying, and placing it in your car to get a feel for the size.

Brands – It’s important to be brand-aware when buying a sat nav. While there are only a couple of big-name brands on the market, there are plenty of cheap, rebadged models available on sites such as Ebay. While these are inexpensive, the few we’ve tested in the past have been poor, and the lack of aftersales service from an unknown company means it’s unlikely you’ll be able to keep the sat nav up to date.

The driving examiners will be using the well known brand of TomTom and their Start 52 model. What sat nav do you think you will use?

Car Cycle Carriers

Do you need to transport your bike by car? What is the best way to transport your bike with your car?

Hurrah — the school holidays are finally here! Hopefully one activity you’re planning to do with your family this summer is to go on a cycling adventure. In fact, even if you haven’t got children, you might want to take your bike (or bikes) away somewhere a little different while the sun shines.

So what is the best way to transport your bike with your car? 

There are essentially three types of cycle carrier available: rear mounted, either attaching to the boot or hatchback; roof-mounted, attaching to roof bars; or tow point-mounted, attaching to either a tow bar or tow ball. With the right provisions, any car can use any type of carrier, but do bear in mind the extra cost of fitting those provisions in the first place. Roof bars are a reasonable extra investment but buying and fitting a tow bar or tow ball with accompanying electrical power supply will cost significantly more.

Rear mounted

The rear-mounted bike rack is most people’s first experience of transporting multiple bicycles with their car, and as a cost-effective option it is hard to beat. The rear-mounted rack tends to follow a relatively basic design — a metal frame which sits against the back of the car, with four or six straps hooking it to the edges of the car boot or hatchback, and two arms on which the bikes hang.
Despite rear-mounted carriers’ apparent simplicity, there are some things to be wary of. Not all racks are designed for all cars. Check with the manufacturer’s guidelines to see if the one you’re intending to buy is compatible with your specific vehicle model and production year. Then take time and care to practise fitting it. Tighten all straps as much as possible during initial fitting and then check them again after all the bikes are in place. Use padding between bikes to prevent damage, and then bungee all the bikes together. Check the straps again if you’re concerned the carrier is wobbling excessively while driving, but don’t become paranoid about it — they will wobble a bit! Finally, make sure nothing is obscuring the car lights or number plate.

Pros
* Inexpensive to buy.
* Simplest way to carry multiple bikes.
* Don’t have to be strong or tall to use.
* Easy to store off the bike.

Cons
* Must buy a model that is specifically suited to your car.
* Takes a little time, thought and preparation to practise fitting.
* Even the most secure rear-mounted carriers can seem a little wobbly while in use.
* Generally carry a maximum of three bikes, although some four-bike versions are available.
* Prevents access to boot.
* Bikes can obscure rear lights and/or number plate, so lighting board with number plate and rear electrical supply may be needed to be road legal.
* Bikes can poke out either side, so be aware of increased vehicle width.
* Some mounting pads — even on quite expensive carriers — can rub the paint off car bodywork.

Roof mounted

Roof-mounted cycle carriers (see main image) simply clamp on to bars that can be fitted to run laterally across a car’s roof. There are a number of different ways that roof-mounted cycle carriers may hold a bike in place, but the two most common options use either a pivoting arm that clamps around the bike’s down tube, or a front bar onto which you can attach the fork dropouts once you’ve removed the front wheel. Although this second option may appeal to road race fans because it looks like the systems used by teams at the Tour de France, we’d suggest most leisure and family cyclists don’t need the extra hassle of wondering where to store a load of front wheels. Even the least expensive down tube-clamping roof-mounted rack is secure enough to hold a bike securely.

One of the benefits of using roof-mounted carriers is that you can buy and fit as many as you need, up to a maximum of about four depending on car size. Remember, you will have to top and tail the bikes — alternating the way each is pointing — to use roof space efficiently and squeeze the most on. Also, you’ll have to be relatively strong and tall to use all roof space. When driving, don’t forget the bikes are up there — a trip to a multi-storey car park will be an expensive mistake. Once the bikes are all securely in place, though, you can enjoy the journey without any of the nervous rearview-mirror glances that come with rear-mounted cycle carriers.

Pros
* Secure and stable.
* Generally reasonably priced and carriers can be bought individually.
* Can access car boot.
* Roof-mounted bikes don’t obscure car lights or number plates.
* May come with a built-in locks, and bikes can then be easily protected further with additional locks.
* Quick to install and remove bikes once practised.
* Easy to store when not in use.

Cons
* Owners have to be relatively tall and strong to fit the bikes onto the carrier.
* Will need to have roof bars on your car — an additional cost.
* Can only fit a maximum of four bikes to most car roofs, possibly only three in the case of small cars.
* Not very aerodynamically efficient — will slightly affect you car’s running costs when being used.
* Don’t forget the bikes are up there! Height-restricted areas are now off-limits.

Tow point mounted

Tow bar or mounted-mounted cycle carriers are quite incredible bits of kit that clamp securely to the car, providing very stable and easy access to your bikes. In some instances, modern tow point-mounted racks have overcome many of their past negatives. For example, although they can be relatively heavy and cumbersome when not in use, some modern tow point-mounted carriers fold for slightly easier storage or have adopted strong yet minimalist designs. Similarly, it was traditionally impossible to access the boot once the bikes were installed on a tow point-mounted rack, but many modern carriers now tilt as one — even with bikes fitted — so you can get to the boot.
By far the biggest downside is that you need a tow bar or tow ball. These aren’t cheap to have fitted, but if your car already has one and an accompanying electrical point for a number plate lighting board — some tow point-mounted racks even come with an integrated lighting board — then they are a superb option and offer possibly the most secure way to transport a family of bikes.

Pros
* Very safe and secure.
*  Quick and easy to load bikes.
* Many modern versions tilt forward so you can access the boot.
* Can carry up to five bikes.

Cons
* Generally expensive to buy.
* Will require a tow bar or tow ball — not a cheap addition to your car — plus rear electrical supply for a lighting board with number plate.
* May be hard to store when not in use.
* May prevent access to the boot.
* Bikes can poke out either side, so be aware of increased vehicle width.

Other options

If you’ve got a big enough car and few enough people to carry, you could transport your bikes inside the vehicle. To make the most of the available room, remove the front wheels of all bikes. If you’re going to lie them down, have the side with the chainset uppermost (so the rear derailleur isn’t bent by having the weight of the bike resting on it). If you’re carrying more than one bike, rest them on top of each other with a sheet or couple of towels between, so that you don’t damage each bike’s paintwork.

Even more bikes?

For people who have to carry more than four or five bikes you could combine roof-mounted carriers with a rear or tow point-mounted carrier. Otherwise, you could go the whole hog and buy a cycle-carrying trailer. These are not cheap but can be thought of as a ‘tow point-mounted carrier de luxe’, with many of the same requirements and pros and cons.

Kids and adult bikes

The easiest way to carry both kids bikes and two adult bikes would probably be to put the smaller children’s bikes in the boot (if you have a reasonably large car) and the two adult bikes on the roof. If that’s not possible, still have the two adult bikes on the roof but use a rear carrier for the kids bikes. Kids bikes will fit on rear-mounted racks. You can get four-bike rear carriers, but I’m not sure I’d trust them to hold the whole family’s bikes – that’s a lot of bikes. Depending on the design, you might have a bit of trouble getting small kids bikes fitting in roof-mounted racks.

Conclusion

For most first-time users of a car-mounted cycle carrier we suspect a rear-mounted option will be the obvious choice. If you’re only intending rare trips with your bikes, it’s the most cost effective option and, if fitted properly, is perfectly useable. However, for people who have to regularly transport bikes on their car, we’d recommend the extra security, stability and convenience that come with roof or tow point-mounted carriers. If you’re not tall or strong enough to use roof-mounted carriers, go with a tow point-mounted option; if you don’t already have a tow bar or tow ball and can’t justify the expense of fitting one, go with roof-mounted racks.

How do you transport your bike by car? If you have any top tips please share them with us.

Dash Cams

A top dashboard camera produces high-quality footage to prove what happened after a crash, have a raft of useful features, and are easy to use.  Having one installed could help prove what happened or protect you from false claims in the case of a crash. Some insurers even offer substantial money off your insurance premium if you have a dash cam fitted, too.

How much will a good dash cam cost?

Dash cams range in price from basic £20 models bought online to feature-laden dash cam systems for anything up to £300. Price doesn’t predict quality, however, as models from both ends of the spectrum have failed to impress in our thorough tests.
That said, cheaper models will often be light on features. A cheaper model may lack any of the following features, while a premium model should have any and all of them: GPS G-force sensor, automatic on/off, on-device display, long power cable, loop recording, smart-file storage, well-designed playback, easy-to-adjust mount.

What makes a good dash cam?

The most important aspect of a dash cam is the quality of the footage it records. If image quality isn’t high enough, you might not be able to use your footage in the case of an accident to prove you’re not to blame.  All dash cams support at least 720p resolution (1,280 x 720 pixels) and some devices record with a resolution of 1,080p (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) or even 4K (3,840 x 2,160 pixels). A higher resolution will generally mean a better quality of footage, but it doesn’t guarantee it, while 720p should still be clear and detailed.

Single vs multiple-lens dash cams

One of the decisions you’ll need to make is whether you want a single camera that records the road ahead, or a multiple-lens system that offers both forward-facing and rear windscreen cameras. Single Single lens dash cams are the most basic and common type of dash cam. These record from a single camera lens and are mounted onto the windscreen to record the road ahead.

Pros:
No need to hardwire them in as they can be plugged in to the 12V socket easily.
They’re the most common type of dash cam, so it’s easy to find one to match your budget.

Cons:
May miss events on either side or behind the car.

Multiple

A multiple-lens dash cam can record from more than one camera at the same time. This is typically done by using a forward-facing lens mounted to the windscreen, and a secondary lens mounted to the rear windscreen, to record the road behind.

Pros:

Will provide footage if someone hits you from behind.

Cons:
More fiddly to set up – you may need to hardwire the devices in, which could require professional installation. Likely to be more expensive than a single-lens dash cam.

What features do I need?

GPS: GPS location tracking will allow you to pinpoint your exact location at the time of the crash. It will also show the route you have travelled, and the speed you were going. This could be useful for building up a picture of exactly what happened in a crash.

G-force sensors: dash cams record on a continuous loop, meaning that footage will be recorded over when the SD card is full. Devices with G-force sensors automatically save moments of high G-force, generally during a collision or another impact, and protect these from being overwritten.

Parking mode: a parking mode will allow your dashboard camera to automatically start recording if it detects a collision or impact while you’re parked. This can be very useful for seeing who bumped your car or left a nasty scrape on your door while using a busy car park.

Other things to consider, SD memory card: all dash cams use a memory card to store recorded images and video footage. All the dash cams in our tests use ‘loop recording’, meaning that when they run out of space on the memory card they rewrite over the oldest footage. Some models come equipped with an SD card, but this is worth checking. If you need to purchase an SD card separately we recommended you use class 6 or above (this ensures that it performs at a high enough standard to be reliable for use in your dash cam).

Installation:  All dash cams come with a power cord that plugs in to the cigarette lighter. These range from around 1.4m up to 4.9m. Choose a model with a longer cable if you want to route the cable around the windscreen and down the car’s front pillars so you can plug it into the power socket, without having cables dangling down from the windscreen. You may prefer to have your dash cam hard wired in, and will need to consider professional installation if that’s the case.

Apps and wi-fi: Some dash cams have bespoke apps for your smartphone, tablet or home computer that allow you to view back the footage in a manner that’s (hopefully) easier to browse and parse than through your device’s default media player. Similarly, some dash cams are wi-fi capable, which allows for the wireless transmission of footage from them to your device – so no need to remove it and take it indoors. You’ll also be able to view footage from the dash cam in real time via the wireless connection.

All of WrightStarts vehicles are completely fitted with the latest and best in-car dash cams to help aid security for both the instructors and pupils along with the added benefit of wireless video playback, a great feature when used review previous junctions during lessons. These are the ones we use.

What are you all using?

Driving on Motorways

With learners and motorways in the news recently we thought it was worth writing a piece on driving on them for the first time…

If you’re about to drive on the motorway for the first time, you might be feeling a little daunted. But contrary to many people’s beliefs, motorways are actually the safest roads to drive on. It’s the speed you’re travelling at which can make all the difference between safe and unsafe motorway driving.

Motorway driving tips for new drivers

* You might want to consider Pass Plus training to help you learn how to drive on the motorway with guidance from one of instructors.
* Familiarise yourself with the Motorway section of the Highway Code so you feel comfortable with the rules, speed limits and layout of the motorway
* Plan your journey before setting off — make a mental note of the junction numbers where you will be joining and leaving the motorway; it’s not safe to use a map while driving and don’t rely on satellite navigation
* Ensure your car is safe to drive – check your oil levels, brake and windscreen wash fluid and your tyre pressures
* Consider bringing along a more experienced driver such as a friend, parent or other relative for reassurance

Joining and leaving the motorway

Before you join a motorway, build up speed on the slip road. Then ensure you do a full observation, not forgetting the blind spot, and join the motorway when you know it’s safe to do so.
When you leave a motorway, the countdown markers which appear before a motorway exit will tell you how far away the exit is, with each bar representing 100 yards. Use these to guide you as you prepare to cross over to the slip road.
For further helpful advice read Directgov’s handy guide to motorway signs, signals and road markings.

Overtaking

You should only overtake if you’re sure it’s safe to do so. It’s crucial to judge the speed of the cars around you carefully and to check that the lane you’ll be moving into is clear in front and behind you. Car door mirrors are usually convex which distorts the image and makes vehicles look further away than they actually are.

Did you know…

If you hog lanes or tailgate on the motorway you could be faced with an on-the-spot-fine of £100 and 3 points on your licence, thanks to new legislation introduced in August 2013. Read more on these regs here. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-penalties-to-tackle-tailgating-and-middle-lane-hogging

What to avoid

* In order to ensure safe driving, keep in-car distractions such as phones, other electronic devices, food and drink out of sight
* Do not slow down to stare at accidents on the other side of the motorway, this causes congestion and accidents in the other direction.

Remember

* The speed limit for cars on the motorway is 70mph but motorway speed limits can change several times on one stretch of road, particularly in the event of roadworks or an accident. So be observant and look out for signs indicating speed limit changes and warning signs — used in the event of adverse weather, congestion or accidents
* Watch out for variable speed limits on ‘smart’ motorways like the M25 or M42. These are a new measure by the Highways Agency to help ease traffic flow at busy times.
* Your speed on a motorway is faster than other roads, so your stopping distance will be longer. Keep a safe distance between you and the car in front, and remember to increase the gap if it’s wet, icy or foggy. The saying goes “only a fool breaks the 2 second rule”
* If you start to feel tired, take a break. Only begin again when you know you’re safe to drive. Try drinking coffee, having some fresh air and a quick power nap.

We hope these points will make you a bit more confident when you have to drive on the motorway for the first time but don’t worry, in 2018 learners will be allowed on the motorway so we’ll be with you every step of the way.

Dashboard Lights

All modern cars these days are pretty good at telling you if there’s something wrong with them or if they have a fault, but your dashboard lights aren’t something that the theory or driving test requires you to know, so for most young drivers – seeing one of those little symbols blinking at you can be a bit worrying if you don’t know what it means! This is why it’s worth brushing up on your knowledge and familiarising yourself with some of the common warning lights you can expect to appear on your dash throughout your cars life.

Bulb checks and understanding what the colours mean

Bulb check – When you turn on the ignition in your vehicle, you’ll notice all of the dashboard lights flash up all at once and then go off again. This is completely normal, but if you notice one of the lights stays on when all the others have gone out – there’s a problem! The colour will depict the urgency of the warning lights and thus allow you to establish whether it’s safe to drive or not.

Orange lights – Generally mean there is a problem but it’s not going to be detrimental to your cars performance at the time. In most cases it means you just need to put some fluids in your car or you haven’t released your hand brake properly! But for whatever reason, if neglected it could get worse or cause damage, so if you see an orange light – it’s still worth getting it checked out as soon as you can!

Red lights – Mean something serious is wrong with the vehicle and you should get it looked at immediately. You want to pay close attention if a red warning light comes on in your car as this could mean there is an engine malfunction, the battery isn’t working properly or there’s a fault in your braking system. Again red lights shouldn’t be ignored and you should get it to a garage or mechanic ASAP.

The most important warning lights to watch out for

Brake System/Brake fluid warning

Icon for brake fluid warning light

This symbol is commonly recognised for its exclamation mark. If it’s on, it means there’s a problem with your brake fluid system – so it’s advised to get it checked right away.

ECU/Engine warning light

Icon for engine warning light

The engine warning light doesn’t always mean the worst and can be due to a minor electrical sensory fault, but it’s still worth getting your vehicle looked at if it comes on. Sometimes you may experience stuttering when you put your foot on the accelerator caused by an engine misfire, if this happens you should speak to a mechanic as leaving it could cause further and possibly irreparable damage.

Airbag warning light

Icon for airbag warning light

If this light appears after you’ve switched on your ignition it means the airbag system is faulty. It potentially means your airbags won’t deploy in the event of an accident but it could also mean that your airbag is going to go off at any minute! So again, we strongly advise getting this looked at if it happens to come on in any case.

Power steering/EPAS warning light

Icon for power steering warning light

This symbol indicates there is a problem with your power steering. It could mean you just need to top up your power steering fluid levels, but if after you have done this and your steering still feels slow and heavy – contact your local garage or dealer.

Coolant warning light

Icon for coolant warning light

If your coolant light comes on, you need to top up your coolant levels. It helps to keep on top of this regularly as does checking your oil and screenwash. If you let the levels run too low your engine could overheat and again could cause irreversible damage.

Oil warning light

Icon for oil warning light

The oil warning light means you definitely need a top up if it’s flashing away at you. If the warning light persists once you’ve topped up your oil, you may need get the vehicle looked at urgently and get the filter changed as neglecting your oil can cause some serious problems with your engine.

Tyre pressure monitor warning light

Icon for tyre pressure warning light

If you own a newer car the likelihood is there will be a warning light for if your tyre pressure is low. If you drive an older car it may not have this feature which is why it’s important to check your tyre pressure and tread on a regular basis and before any long journeys. Most garages have facilities for you to put air in your tyres, so don’t’ be afraid to check if they could do with some next time you fill up!

Battery charge warning light

Icon for battery warning light

This warning light could indicate your battery is not charging or the battery terminals are corroding and it’s on its way out. The symbol will automatically illuminate when the engine is switched on, but if it stays lit then you should think about getting the battery looked at or replaced.

So those are your main warning signs to look out for on your vehicle – bear in mind that not all of them indicate a serious problem, but they shouldn’t be ignored as they can cause irreparable damage to your vehicle and if left unattended could potentially put yours and your passengers’ lives at risk.

Young Driver Statistics

Young drivers

Young drivers (17-24 years old) are at a much higher risk of crashing than older drivers. Drivers aged 17-19 only make up 1.5% of UK licence holders, but are involved in 9% of fatal and serious crashes where they are the driver.

Data on British drivers shows that:

  • Drivers aged 16-19 are a third more likely to die in a crash than drivers aged 40-49.
  • One in four 18-24 year olds (23%) crash within two years of passing their driving test.
  • Young male drivers are involved in many more crashes than young female drivers.

Why are young drivers more at risk?

Research shows that the combination of youth and inexperience puts younger drivers at high risk. Their inexperience means they have less ability to spot hazards, and their youth means they are particularly likely to take risks. In this way, crash risk not only reduces over time with experience but also is higher for drivers who start driving at a younger age.

Below are some of the specific characteristics of young drivers that put them at high risk of crashes.

Over-confidence

Young people quickly pick up the physical skills of driving and, as a result, feel they have mastered it and are often over-confident about their driving ability. However, while the practical skills of driving can be mastered quickly, some (less obvious) skills such as hazard perception require more experience. This means young drivers may think they are in control when they are actually driving unsafely, and become more likely to take risks as they believe their skills are improving. Research has found that young drivers who show overconfidence in self-assessment of their skills are more likely to crash in their first two years of driving than those who are insecure about their driving skills.

Poor assessment of hazards

Although some hazards on the road are easy to identify, there are some situations where hazards are not immediately obvious. It often takes experience to notice these hidden hazards, so inexperienced young drivers may not notice them and react in time. Research has shown young drivers show poorer attention, visual awareness, hazard recognition and avoidance, and are less able to judge appropriate speed for circumstances.

Driving requires constantly balancing the attention needed for practical tasks such as steering and changing gears, and more cognitively demanding tasks such as hazard identification. Because of their inexperience young drivers need to concentrate more on practical tasks, so are slower to switch between tasks and slower to react to hazards.

Prevalent risk-taking

Brake research has found that young drivers are more likely to take many of the most serious risks, including speeding, overtaking blind, driving on drugs, and not wearing seat belts. This may be because the frontal lobe, the part of the brain that helps control impulses and emotions and assesses risk, is not fully developed until your mid-20s.

Young people also underestimate certain high-risk behaviours. For example, research has shown that young drivers are less likely than older drivers to rate speeding as high risk.

Common risky behaviours

Speeding

Excessive or inappropriate speed is known to be a key contributory factor in crashes involving young drivers in the UK and elsewhere. Research has found that a third of fatal young driver crashes in the USA are speed-related.

Learn more: Read the fact pages on the risks of speeding.

Drink and drug driving

Drivers in their 20s have the highest rates of both drink and drug driving crashes. Young drivers who crash are twice as likely to be impaired by alcohol as older drivers who crash, and this is far more common among young men than young women. The prevalence of drug driving is harder to measure due to inconsistent reporting, but one study found that almost one in 10 (9%) of 17-24 year olds in the UK admit having driven on drugs.

Learn more: Read the fact pages on drink driving and drug driving.

Not wearing seat belts

Young drivers and passengers are less likely to always wear seat belts, and may not belt up when in a car with friends due to peer pressure. American research has found that seat belt use by young drivers decreases as the number of young passengers they carry increases.

Learn more: Read the fact page on seat belts and crash protection.

Mobile phones

Young drivers need to concentrate more on driving than more experienced drivers, which makes them more susceptible to distraction, for example from mobile phones. Despite this, evidence suggests young drivers are more likely than older drivers to use their mobile phones at the wheel: a Brake survey found that 19% of young drivers admitted texting at the wheel at least once a month, compared with 11% of older drivers taking this risk. American research has found that 80% of young drivers make or receive phone calls while driving and 72% text.

Learn more: Read the fact page on the risks of distraction.

Other risk factors

Carrying passengers

Research shows that peer pressure can encourage bad driving and result in drivers ‘showing off’ to their passengers and taking more risks. 16-17 year-old drivers are up to four times more likely to die in a crash when carrying young passengers than when driving alone, but 62% less likely when carrying older adult passengers, indicating it is peer pressure rather than simply the presence of passengers that raises the risk. Young passengers can also cause distraction: teenage drivers are six times more likely to have a serious incident when there is loud conversation in the vehicle.

Driving at night

Young drivers have a higher proportion of crashes in the evenings and early mornings. This is particularly true for young male drivers: in the UK, male drivers aged 17-20 are seven times more likely to crash than all male drivers, but between the hours of 2am and 5am their risk is 17 times higher. Young drivers’ high risk at night is thought to be because they are most likely to be driving for recreational purposes, and more likely to be drunk or drugged, or taking risks such as speeding due to peer pressure. It may also be because drivers at night are more likely to be driving tired.

Driving at night also requires extreme care. Young drivers may be under the impression that because roads are quieter at night it is safer for them to speed or pay less attention. In fact, driving at night takes more care due to poorer visibility, and greater likelihood of drink drivers or drunk pedestrians on the roads.

Learn more: Read the fact page on the risks of driving tired.

Unsafe vehicles

Studies have found that young drivers involved in crashes tend to be driving older vehicles. Young drivers often drive older, potentially unsafe vehicles as these are cheaper. This is risky because older vehicles are less safe: they have less advanced crash protection, so crashes involving older vehicles are more likely to be fatal.

Learn more: Read the fact page on vehicle maintenance.

What can be done to improve the safety of young people?

To help young people be safer on our roads, we need a better driver training and testing system, better alternatives to driving for young people, and investment in monitoring technology for young drivers. These recommendations are outlined below.

Graduated driver licensing

Graduated driver licensing (GDL) allows new drivers to build up their driving skills and experience gradually through a more staged and structured approach to learning to drive, including a minimum learning period followed by a post-test novice driver period with licence restrictions. This restricted novice period helps to limit the exposure of new drivers to the dangerous situations highlighted above, including driving at night and carrying passengers. Graduated driver licensing has been shown to be effective in reducing casualties in numerous other countries.

Learn more: Read the fact page on graduated driver licensing.

Provide better alternatives to driving

Because of young people’s propensity for risk-taking, due to the late development of the brain’s frontal lobe (see ‘increased risk-taking’, above), the younger you are when you get a driving licence the greater the risk. A UK study predicted that young people would have 9% fewer crashes in their first year of driving if they delayed learning to drive until 18 years old rather than 17, and a further 8% fewer if they delayed until 19 years old.

Encouraging young people to delay or avoid learning to drive can therefore have a significant impact on safety. Many young people learn to drive as soon as possible because they feel they have little other option for getting around. A Brake and Direct Line survey found almost half of drivers (48%), and three in ten young people (28%), think public transport is not good enough to provide a realistic alternative to driving in their area. Brake believes improving access to and affordability of public transport, and walking and cycling routes to workplaces and colleges, should be a priority for central government and local authorities.

Learn more: Read the fact page on sustainable and active travel.

Monitor and influence young drivers through technology

Some insurers offer ‘black box’ technology to young drivers. These devices monitor their speed and the times they are on the road, and can be used to set curfews so young drivers are not able to drive during high-risk hours, i.e. late at night. Young drivers abiding by these rules can be given discounts on their insurance, which has been shown to be an effective incentive to reduce young driver speeds.

Black boxes can also be used to allow parents to monitor young drivers’ behaviour: as well as providing peace of mind for the parents and guardians of young drivers, parental monitoring has been found to reduce risky driving.

Voluntary codes

In the US, parent/young driver agreements are popular. The new driver is allowed to drive the family car or their own car, unsupervised, if they agree to certain conditions for the first year or two of driving. The conditions include restrictions on carrying passengers and driving at night, similar to formal restrictions imposed under GDL (as above). Although not legally binding, parents could enforce the rules by stating, for example, that their teenager is not allowed to drive for a week if they break any of the rules.

Learn more: Download a sample Safe Driving Agreement produced by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).
Here at WrightStart we firmly believe that learning to drive before your 17, through our Pre-17 Driving Experiences, will enable you to be better equipped once 17 to deal with driving situation. Read why here…

Driving Bans & Penalty Points

Overview

You can be banned (disqualified) from driving if you either:
* are convicted of a driving offence
* get 12 or more penalty points (endorsements) within 3 years

You’ll get a summons in the post that tells you when you must go to court.
Some disqualification rules are different in Northern Ireland.

How long a driving ban will last?

The court will decide how long the disqualification will last, based on how serious they think the offence is.
If you have 12 or more penalty points, you could be banned from driving for:
* 6 months if you get 12 penalty points or more within 3 years
* 12 months if you get a 2nd disqualification within 3 years
* 2 years if you get a 3rd disqualification

Disqualified for 56 days or more?

If you’re disqualified for 56 days or more you must apply for a new licencebefore driving again.
You might also have to retake your driving test or take an extended driving test before getting your new licence. The court will tell you if you have to do this.

Disqualified for less than 56 days?
View your driving licence record online to check the disqualification.
Drink-driving penalties

You could be imprisoned, banned from driving and face a fine if you’re found guilty of drink-driving.
The actual penalty you get is up to the magistrates who hear your case, and depends on your offence.
You may be able to reduce your ban by taking a drink-drive rehabilitation scheme (DDRS) course if you’re banned from driving for 12 months or more. It’s up to the court to offer this.

Being in charge of a vehicle while above the legal limit or unfit through drink
You may get:
* 3 months’ imprisonment
* up to £2,500 fine
* a possible driving ban

Driving or attempting to drive while above the legal limit or unfit through drink
You may get:
* 6 months’ imprisonment
* an unlimited fine
* a driving ban for at least 1 year (3 years if convicted twice in 10 years)

Refusing to provide a specimen of breath, blood or urine for analysis
You may get:
* 6 months’ imprisonment
* an unlimited fine
* a ban from driving for at least 1 year

Causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink
You may get:
* 14 years’ imprisonment
* an unlimited fine
* a ban from driving for at least 2 years
* an extended driving test before your licence is returned

The High Risk Offenders Scheme
Your driving licence won’t be returned automatically at the end of a driving ban if you’re a ‘high risk offender’. You’ll only get your licence back if you pass a medical examination.
You’re a high risk offender if you:
* were convicted of 2 drink-driving offences within 10 years
* were driving with an alcohol reading of at least 87.5 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath, 200 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, or 
267.5 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine
* refused to give the police a sample of breath, blood or urine to test for alcohol
* refused to allow a sample of your blood to be tested for alcohol (eg if it was taken when you were unconscious)

Other problems you could face
A conviction for drink-driving also means:
* your car insurance costs will increase significantly
* if you drive for work, your employer will see your conviction on your licence
* you may have trouble travelling to countries like the USA
Last updated: 12 October 2016

Penalty points, fines and driving bans
* The drink drive limit
* Drink-drive rehabilitation courses
* Drugs and driving: the law
* Morein Penalty points, fines and driving bans

The courts can fine you and ‘endorse’ your driving record with penalty points if you’re convicted of a motoring offence.
Endorsements must stay on your driving record for 4 or 11 years, depending on the offence.
The endorsement and penalty points are put on your driver record. View your driving licence record to see what penalty points you have and when they’ll be removed.
You can be disqualified from driving if you build up 12 or more penalty points within a period of 3 years. There are different rules for new drivers.
Endorsement codes and processes in Northern Ireland are different.
Speeding penalties

The minimum penalty for speeding is a £100 fine and 3 penalty points added to your licence.
You could be disqualified from driving if you build up 12 or more penalty points within a period of 3 years.
If you’re stopped by the police for the speeding offence, they can either:
* send you the details of the penalty
* send the case straight to court
If you weren’t stopped by the police for the speeding offence (eg it was caught by speed camera), the vehicle’s registered keeper must be sent a notice of intended prosecution within 14 days. You may have to go to court if you ignore the notice.

New drivers
If you’re still within 2 years of passing your driving test, your driving licence will be revoked (withdrawn) if you build up 6 or more penalty points.
Read more information about fixed penalty notices for speeding in:
* England and Wales
* Scotland
* Northern Ireland

 

Further information can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/driving-disqualifications/overview

National Speed Awareness Course

In 2015, according to Government statistics  1,207,570 drivers opted to complete a Speed Awareness Course (NSAC), as an alternative to receiving fixed penalty points and a fine.

The National Speed Awareness Course (NSAC) scheme is designed to allow the Police to divert low-end speeding motorists to a re-education course. The course content is designed to change the driver’s behaviour with the aim of preventing the driver from reoffending.

To qualify for a National Speed Awareness Course the driver’s speeding needs to be within certain limits for example in a 30mph zone, your speed needs to be between 35mph and 42mph. On motorways, the figure needs to be between 79mph and 86mph. Furthermore, you will not be offered a Speed Awareness Course if you have taken one in the three years prior to your most recent speeding offence.

The National Speed Awareness Course is a half-day theory based workshop designed to help you recognise speed limits, address the reasons for speeding and give you information to help you reduce the likelihood of speeding in the future. Completing the workshop means that you will not have to pay the Fixed Penalty Notice and you will not get penalty points on your licence.

There are up to 24 people on each course and 2 course trainers. The people attending are of all ages and driving experiences. It is a relaxed setting for you to assess your driving behaviour and gain tips to reduce the likelihood of speeding in the future.

TTC delivers National Speed Awareness Courses in the areas covered by the following Police Authorities: West Midlands; Cumbria; South Yorkshire; Gwent and South Wales; West Mercia; Avon and Somerset; Devon and Cornwall; North Yorkshire and North Wales.
If you have been referred by the Police to attend a National Speed Awareness Course book here.

What is a Speed Awareness Course?
It is a half-day theory based workshop designed to help you recognise speed limits, address the reasons for speeding and give you information to help you reduce the likelihood of speeding in the future. Completing a Speed Awareness Course means that you will not have to pay the Fixed Penalty Notice and you will not get penalty points on your licence.

What are the benefits of attending a Speed Awareness Course?
The main benefits of attending a Speed Awareness Course are that you will gain up to date information relating to speed awareness that can help you to contribute to safer communities and you will not receive the penalty points on your licence.

What is involved in attending a Speed Awareness Course?
You will need to attend on time with your Valid Driving Licence and to complete the course in a ‘satisfactory’ way.
Satisfactory completion of a Speed Awareness Course means:
* Attending for the full duration of the course (around 4 hours);
* Whilst on the course displaying a positive attitude to road safety and;
* Participating in group discussions to the best of your ability and paying attention to the information that is being provided.

If you fail to complete the course in a satisfactory way your case will revert to the Police. Depending on the police force, this will result in you receiving a Fixed Penalty (penalty points and a fine) or attending court proceedings.
Not completing the course in a ‘satisfactory’ way could include (but is not exclusive to):
* Leaving the workshop before the course has been completed, and you have been notified accordingly by the trainer;
* Not showing a willingness to participate in a positive way;
* Disrupting the course and/or being rude to other members of the group or the trainer.

Who will be at the course?
There are up to 24 people on each Speed Awareness Course and 2 course trainers. The people attending are of all ages and driving experiences. It is a relaxed setting for you to assess your driving behaviour and to gain tips to reduce your likelihood of speeding in the future.

Do the Police deliver the course?
No, the courses are delivered by registered course providers, such as TTC. Registered course providers can be private companies or Local Authorities contracted by the Police, but not part of the Police.

How long is a Speed Awareness Course?
The Speed Awareness Workshop is 4 hours long; TTC offers morning and afternoon courses.

How often are the Speed Awareness Workshops run?
Speed Awareness Workshops are held throughout the week and on the weekends across England and Wales. You can attend the workshop in any area that runs a national scheme so you do not have to return to where your offence took place.

Will there be a test? / Can I fail the course?
There is no test; it is theory only with no driving involved. However, you are required to ‘complete the workshop in a satisfactory way’. This means you must make a positive contribution to the workshop by participating fully and displaying a positive attitude to road safety.

Is there any driving involved?
No, it is a theory-only, classroom-based workshop. There is no driving involved on the course. You do not have to bring your car, if you would rather get a lift to the venue or use public transport (or walk) that is entirely up to you.

Do I need to bring my driving licence?
Yes, it will be a requirement for you to produce a valid driving licence upon attending the course.
If you do not have a photo card driving licence you will be required to produce your paper licence (not the counterpart) together with two other forms of identification.
If you do not have your valid driving licence in any form you can attend with two other forms of identification listed below.
Acceptable forms of I.D (2 of these will be required):
* Valid Passport;
* Recent Utility Bill (i.e. gas or electric bill);
* Bank Statement;
* Debit/Credit Card.
If you fail to arrive with the correct identification you will be refused entry to the course and providing you have sufficient time within your completion date, you will be required to rearrange the course which will incur a rearrangement fee as explained in our Terms and Conditions.

Is the Speed Awareness Workshop a lecture?
No, it is an interactive workshop with group work, discussions and some visual aids. The aim is for you to be able to examine your driving behaviour and discuss this with others in a relaxed atmosphere, and to gain some good driving tips with an experienced trainer.
Can I opt to attend a Speed Awareness Workshop if I have not received an offer from the police? 
No, you can only attend a Speed Awareness Workshop if you have received the offer from the police following an alleged speeding offence.
If this all sounds a little daunting or you can’t afford to loose your licence or have it endorsed, think before you drive. Read more at: http://www.ttc-uk.com/police-referred-courses/national-speed-awareness-course/

Britains Dangerous Roads

A ten-mile stretch in Lincolnshire has been named Britain’s most dangerous road.

The A18, between Laceby and Ludborough, presented the “most persistent risk”, according to a report by the Road Safety Foundation.

The danger zone is rural and tree-lined as well as winding and narrow, the report found. And fatal and serious crashes on the A18 increased from ten in 2008-10 to 17 in 2011-13.

The A36 in Totton
The four miles of the A36 north of Totton in Hampshire – between the A3090 and the town centre – was found to be the second most dangerous stretch.
Fatal and serious accidents rose from 12 to 16 between the two three-year periods.
In third place is the 17-mile length of the A588 from Blackpool to Lancaster where serious accidents have risen from 22 to 26.

The A44 near Aberystwyth in Mid Wales may look peaceful but it’s a major blackspot
And other black spots include the A44 between Llangurig and Aberystwyth, in Mid Wales, and the A532 in Crewe.

Britain’s riskiest routes:
* A18: From Laceby to Ludborough, Lincolnshire
* A36: From A3090 to Totton, Hampshire
* A588: From A585 Blackpool to Lancaster
* A44: From Llangurig to Aberystwyth
* A532: From A530 to A534 Crewe, Cheshire
* A291: From Canterbury to Herne Bay, Kent
* A6: From M6 junction 33 to Lancaster
* A361: From Chipping Norton to Banbury, Oxfordshire
* A40: From M40 junction 5 to High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire
* A643: From Brighouse to Morley, West Yorkshire

Source: The Road Safety Foundation
The report also found that crashes on England’s 4,300-mile motorway and major road networks cost £2.1billion between 2011 and 2013.

Car Safety Systems

Browsing the options list of a new car, it can be tempting to choose high-end entertainment kit and technology and overlook advanced safety features. And while it’s never nice to think about the worst that might happen on the road, ensuring your car has the right safety features can make all the difference in a collision.

Thankfully, cars have never been safer, and manufacturers are continually developing vehicle technology to not only mitigate the effects of a collision but, in some cases, avoid one altogether.
Much of this technology is included as standard, but often varies from model to model. For instance, side airbags for rear passengers is often offered only as an optional extra, so it’s worth considering carefully.

Vehicle safety kit can be classified as ‘active’, which will take action before an accident to improve safety, and ‘passive’, which operates to protect passengers once a crash has happened.

Active safety features explained

Electronic stability control (ESC)

One of the most important developments in vehicle safety, ESC automatically reduces engine power and, depending on the individual system fitted, can operate individual brakes should it detect the car is about to lose stability or skid as the result of a driver’s inputs. Independent studies have shown that ESC could prevent up to a third of all road accidents. It’s such an important development that manufacturers are now required by law to install ESC on all new cars. This car safety feature is commonly known as ESC, but other acronyms used by manufacturers include ASC, DSC, DTSC, ESP, ESP+, VDC, VSA and VSC.

Automatic braking systems

One of the most important developments in car safety in recent years, automatic braking systems use a variety of sensors to detect any potential imminent collision. Individual systems vary between marques, but they will generally audibly alert the driver and then automatically apply the brakes should no action be taken. At lower speeds, many automatic braking systems can prevent an accident altogether.

Electronic brake-force distribution (EBD)

This development of anti-lock brakes (ABS) automatically distributes brake force between the wheels, helping to minimise stopping distances while bringing the car to a halt predictably and in a straight line.

Lane-keeping technology

Basic lane-keeping systems simply warn the driver if they let the car stray too close to the edge of their lane on the motorway without indicating. This is done either through an audible warning or through haptic feedback (e.g. a vibrating steering wheel). More advanced systems will automatically make steering adjustments to keep you within lane, though most will stop working after a couple of minutes if they detect the driver is not holding the steering wheel or making any attempt to keep the car within its lane themselves.

Speed-limiting devices

Many cars fitted with cruise control also come with a feature to prevent the car being driven above a pre-set speed. Speed-limiting devices can normally be set to any speed and will gently reduce engine power when it is reached. Many systems will deactivate if the driver floors the accelerator so they can still react to developing situations on the road.

Smart seatbelt reminder

As a nation we’re pretty good at buckling up, but not using seatbelts is still a major factor in road traffic injury statistics. The best systems don’t just remind the driver to buckle up, they sense which seats are occupied and alert the driver if any other belts haven’t been fastened.

Good visibility and/or visibility aids

You would expect that good all-round visibility is among the first aims of any new car design. Unfortunately, with modern cars there is always a conflict between the need to strengthen the cabin to withstand serious crashes and the need to see out from the driver’s seat. This means that modern cars tend to have poorer visibility thanks to oversized pillars, though largely compensate with cameras and/or proximity sensors to alert the driver to obstacles they might otherwise miss.

Blind spot warning systems

Blind spot warning systems can reduce the likelihood of an accident when changing lanes by alerting drivers to unseen adjacent vehicles. This is normally done via a light in the door mirror, which is backed up by an audible alert should the driver not see it and make an attempt to change lane.

Adaptive cruise control

A development of conventional cruise control that uses radar to maintain a set distance from the car in front. Should that car slow down, the system will automatically reduce the vehicle’s speed to match. If the car moves out of the way, it will accelerate back up to the pre-set cruising speed. Advanced versions even work in slow-moving traffic.

Attention monitoring systems

These systems monitor the driver’s responses, looking for signs that might indicate tiredness. They vary between manufacturers – some sound an alarm while others vibrate the seat or give visual warnings to alert the driver that it is time to take a break.

Active headlights

Basic active headlight systems have additional lights that come on to the left or right for cornering, lighting up the bend as you go. More sophisticated systems have active beam control – linking the direction of the headlamp beam directly to the steering. The most advanced systems not only allow the headlamps to turn as the wheels do, but use cameras to detect cars ahead. If the system senses them, it adjusts the headlight beam automatically to provide maximum illumination without dazzling other road users.

Tyre-pressure monitoring systems

Having under- or over-inflated tyres can upset the car’s handling and lead to an accident. Tyre-pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) are designed to monitor your tyres, helping you maintain them at the correct pressures. There are two basic types – ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ pressure monitoring. Direct tyre pressure monitoring involves the use of a sensor inside each tyre to measure the pressure and send a signal to the driver via a warning on the dashboard. Indirect tyre pressure monitoring systems do not have sensors. Instead they use the anti-lock brake system (ABS) sensors to monitor wheel speed. If the system senses a change in a wheel speed relative to the other wheels, it calculates that the rolling circumference must have changed and assumes this is due to a change in tyre pressure.

Passive safety features explained

A stable body shell

A stable car body shell resists and dissipates crash forces well and provides better protection for those in the cabin. Look for cars with a good Euro NCAP crash-test score. Check out the car’s detailed category scoring and not just the headline star rating. Pre-tensioned and load-limited seatbelts Seatbelt pre-tensioners take up any slack in the belt when they detect a crash is imminent, keeping you fixed in your seat. Load limiters, on the other hand, prevent injury by allowing the belt to stretch slightly as the crash takes place so that not too much force is placed on the passenger’s body, particularly their ribcage.

Dual-stage airbags

Airbags can make the difference between an occupant receiving minor injuries and serious injury or death in a 40mph head-on crash. Sensors in the car monitor deceleration rates and then fire the airbags to cushion any impact between the occupant and the car’s interior. Dual-stage airbags have sensors that trigger different responses for crashes of different severity. For example, they inflate less rapidly in lower severity impacts, reducing the chance of airbag-related injuries, while still cushioning the impact.

Good head restraints

Poorly designed or adjusted head restraints account for many whiplash injuries, which usually occur if you are shunted from behind. Make sure that a car’s head restraints can be raised high enough to suit drivers and passengers of all heights – the top of the head restraint should sit level with the top of the person’s head, and the head should be no more than an inch away from the restraint when the occupant is sitting comfortably for it to be effective. Front head restraints are tested by Euro NCAP to check their resistance to whiplash injury.

Seat-mounted side airbags

These help protect the pelvis, chest and abdomen in a side-on crash. Seat-mounted side airbags are preferable to door-mounted airbags as they stay in the correct position should the seat move. Side airbags are normally fitted as standard for front-seat passengers but may only be offered as an option in the rear. Side curtain airbags These usually drop down from the roof lining above the windows to protect the heads of front and rear passengers in the event of a side-on crash.

Knee airbags

Historically, advances in car safety have focussed on crash survival, but now manufacturers pay attention to how the deformation of a car’s interior in a collision can leave passengers with life-changing injuries – particularly to the legs of front-seat occupants. The development of the knee airbag means drivers would be cushioned from immovable objects such as the steering column in a collision, preventing injury to their lower limbs and pelvis. It’s just one of the many developments that could mean the difference between walking away from an accident and being stretchered out.

Isofix child seat mounts

Isofix is a system for fitting child seats that uses mounting points built into the car seats, rather than the adult seatbelt. It has become the accepted standard for fitting child car seats, with nearly all manufacturers offering it, at least as an option. The main benefit is that they make the seat easier to install, increasing the likelihood of it being installed correctly. Three-point Isofix systems are best, as they have a ‘top tether’ as well as two lower anchorages. However, in crashes Isofix seats aren’t automatically safer than belted seats. This is because the Isofix mounts create a stiff joint, through which crash forces are more readily transmitted to the seat shell and its occupant. With a belted seat, the compliance or ‘give’ in the belt allows some movement in a crash, absorbing some of the crash energy.

Pedestrian protection

Cars with a more ‘pedestrian-friendly’ front end should reduce the severity of injury to anyone unfortunate enough to be hit by a car – particularly at speeds of up to 30mph. The key behind this is vehicle design that decreases the likelihood of hitting ‘hard points’ such as the A-pillars or engine block. Manufacturers have employed a variety of different technologies, including pop-up bonnets and deformable bumpers, to decrease the severity of an impact.

If you’d still like to read more, click here.

Vulnerable Road Users

Vulnerable road users 1 Vulnerable road users 2

Towing

Have you just bought a caravan, boat or trailer? Well this is definitely for you. Do you know if your allowed to tow, are there any restrictions on your licence that prevent you from towing?

Holders of a provisional licence are strictly prohibited from towing any trailer.
Drivers who passed their car test before 1st January 1997, should have entitlement B+E C1+E as listed on point 9 of the driving licence, this entitles you to drive vehicles with a G.V.W. up to 7500Kg and tow any trailer provided the combined G.V.W. of the towing vehicle and trailer is less than 8250Kg.

Drivers who passed car test after 1st January 1997, can drive a vehicle with a G.V.W. of 3500Kg with less than 8 seats.
They can also tow any trailer with G.V.W. of up to 750Kg provided:
-The G.V.W. of the towing vehicle is 2 x the G.V.W of the trailer
-The combined G.V.W. of the towing vehicle and trailer is under 3500Kg

If you passed your driving test after 1st January 1997 you will have to take an additional test to tow a trailer in excess of G.V.W. of 750KG

Generally most vehicle insurance policies cover third party liabilities when towing a trailer or caravan. We would always recommend additional cover is arranged for theft and contents.

No additional road fund licence is required for motor cars or light commercial vehicles towing trailers.

NCAP Ratings

Euro NCAP introduced the overall safety rating in 2009, based on assessment in four important areas: Adult protection (for the driver and passenger); Child protection; Pedestrian protection and Safety Assist technologies. The overall star rating was introduced to add more flexibility to the ratings’ scheme, which had been used since 1997.

How To Read The Stars

Euro NCAP has created the five-star safety rating system to help consumers, their families and businesses compare vehicles more easily and to help them identify the safest choice for their needs.
The safety rating is determined from a series of vehicle tests, designed and carried out by Euro NCAP. These tests represent, in a simplified way, important real life accident scenarios that could result in injured or killed car occupants or other road users.
While a safety rating can never fully capture the complexity of the real world, the vehicle improvements and the technology brought the past years about by the application of high safety standards have been shown to deliver a true benefit to consumers in Europe and to society as a whole.

The number of stars reflects how well the car performs in Euro NCAP tests, but it is also influenced by what safety equipment the vehicle manufacturer is offering in each market. So a high number of stars shows not only that the test result was good, but also that safety equipment on the tested model is readily available to all consumers in Europe.
The star rating goes beyond the legal requirements and not all new vehicles need to undergo Euro NCAP tests. A car that just meets the minimum legal demands would not be eligible for any stars. This also means that a car which is rated poorly is not necessarily unsafe, but it is not as safe as its competitors that were rated better.

The five-star safety rating system continuously evolves as older technology matures and new innovations become available. This means that tests are updated regularly, new tests are added to the system and star levels adjusted. For this reason the year of test is vital for a correct interpretation of the car result.

The latest star rating is always the most relevant and comparing results over different years is only valid if the updates to the rating scheme were small. Recently, the inclusion of emerging crash avoidance technology has significantly altered the meaning of the stars.

Cars with Dual Ratings?

From 2016, some cars have two star ratings. One rating is based on a car fitted only with safety equipment which is standard on every variant in the model range throughout EU28. This rating reflects the minimum level of safety you can normally expect from any car sold anywhere in the European Union. All cars assessed by Euro NCAP have this basic safety rating.
The second rating is based on a car with an additional ‘safety pack’, that may be offered as an add-on option to consumers. The additional safety equipment included in a safety pack will boost the car’s safety rating and, therefore, the second star rating demonstrates the safety level that the car can achieve if this additional equipment is included. Not every car has this second star rating, but when available, it helps consumers to easily understand the benefit of additional equipment expressed in extra stars.

The following provides some general guidance as to what safety performance the stars refer to in today’s system:

To check your cars rating or for further information you can visit the Euro N Cap site here.

Tyre Safety Month

How often do you check your tyres? Every week? Every month? Or so long ago you can’t remember? When was the last time you checked your tyres?

October is Tyre Safety Month, the annual campaign organised by TyreSafe which aims to highlight to drivers the importance of making regular tyre checks, not just during the month of October but all year round.

Tyre Safety Month exists because not enough drivers are checking their tyres as often as they should be. Afterall, your tyres are the only part of the vehicle that make contact with the road and roadworthy tyres are crucial to both your safety and that of fellow road users.

Air pressure
Always make sure your tyre pressure is at the correct level. Check the recommended tyre pressure for your vehicle which can be found in your vehicle handbook. It is often also printed in the driver’s door jamb.

Condition
Check your tyres for any signs of irregular wear or damage such as lumps, cuts and bulges. Make sure you also check the tyre sidewall as not all damage occurs in the tread area.

Tread Depth
Make sure your tyres have adequate tread remaining around the complete circumference of the tyre. The legal limit for minimum depth of the tread on car tyres is 1.6mm across the central ¾ of the tyre tread. However, tyre performance will gradually deteriorate before reaching this limit – at 1.6 millimetres in wet weather it takes almost 40 per cent further to stop at 50 mph than it does at 7mm**. This is equivalent to 8 car lengths of reduced stopping distance.

Not only do illegal tyres leave you at risk of three penalty points and up to £2,500 in fines should you be stopped by the police, but even more importantly, they can seriously compromise your vehicle’s safety and handling.

As the weather turns colder and wetter this October, remember to check your tyres and ask yourself: when was the last time you did it?..

A guide for young drivers…

Every year many young and inexperienced drivers will get behind the wheel. Figures now show, however, that the cost of getting on the road for the first time has soared by 18% in five years -to an average of £6,800 (including lessons, insurance, and the cost of the car itself) – while further research shows many young people don’t feel prepared to drive at all.

It is common knowledge that insurance premiums for younger driver are considerably high. This a result of drivers aged 17-24 being more frequently involved in accidents than any other age group. The collisions also tend to be of a more serious nature, including fatalities. This is due to several recognized reasons. These include a lack of driver experience, that it’s statistically more likely for individuals within this age-group to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, to drive in excess of the speed limit, and not wear a seat belt.

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Saving Money
How do you find the cheapest cars to insure? According to Auto Express, it’s the group rating that matters – the lower the figure, the cheaper the insurance. The Dacia Sandero 1.2, Renault Twingo and The Vauxhall Corsa are among the cheapest to insure, while research from Adrian Flux shows classic models like the VW Beatle and Ford Anglia can also be affordable options.

When looking for a new insurance policy, consider if you want to name a parent/sibling as a named driver. This not only gives them permission to drive your car – or even drive you home if needs be – it can also help to lower your premium.

To further save money on insurance, consider getting some advanced qualifications. A course like Pass Plus can provide the additional skills needed to lower your risk of an accident.
Cautions

Although it can be tempting, don’t ask to become a named driver on your parent’s policy. This is viewed as fraud, and can end up being costly, both financially and in terms of getting a new policy.

Installing a black box can lower your premiums – but check the terms. Some only offer a discount if they can monitor your driving behaviour, or you could find yourself subject to curfews.

Managing a breakdown

The way you manage a breakdown will depend on where it occurs. If you’re on the road, move the vehicle if you can. Next, put the hazard lights on. The AA advises that you put your sidelights on in foggy/dark conditions. If you have a reflective jacket use it, and if there’s a chance the car could get struck by other vehicles, get any passengers out of the car.

On the motorway, you should only pull over to the hard shoulder in an emergency. Exit the vehicle to the left and park to the far left. Switch on your hazard/side lights, wear reflective clothing and find an emergency phone, but do not attempt to cross the carriage way.

Coping with an accident

Should an accident occur, stop at the scene and note any damage. This includes to people/animals, vehicles, property or fixtures, and document by taking photos. If another driver is involved, give them your contact information, insurance policy details and car registration. Call the emergency services if someone has been injured or there is damage/blockage to the road, and if there are witnesses, get their contact information, too.

Car maintenance

Don’t forget vehicle maintenance. Checking oil, coolant, brake fluid, tyre pressure and tread are among the essential parts of car maintenance and they should all be second nature to the young or new driver. Becoming familiar with your car and what is required to run it smoothly is time well invested.

Filling up

Make sure you know the basics: the type of fuel your car uses, the side the fuel cap sits on and establish how the key cap opens. Turn into the garage forecourt slowly, and then switch off the car engine and undo the fuel cap. Find the right pump – these are colour coded according to the fuel needed.

Remove the pump and place it in the fuel cap. Squeeze the handle to start filling the fuel tank. The nozzle will click off when it’s full. Once you have finished, check the number of the pump used, make sure your car is locked, and then pay for the petrol.

Changing a tyre

1. Keep a copy of the manual with you as this will detail the basics.
2. Make sure you’re in a safe location away from the road/motorway, and that your car is on level ground.
3. Put the handbrake on so the car won’t move.
4. Attach your wheel brace to the nuts and bolts to help loosen them. Don’t remove them completely.
5. Refer to the car manual for instructions on how to jack your car safely.
6. Remove the wheel – look at your manual for instructions on how to do this
7. Replace it with the spare, secure it in place with the nuts/bolts.
8. The jack can then be lowered and the wheel tightened.

Winter Driving

Winter driving comes with its own set of challenges. Following the maintenance tips in this article will help keep it in optimum condition. In addition:

1. Keep ample supplies of anti-freeze, de-icer, windscreen cleaner, and an emergency kit.
2. Drive at a slower speed to take into account the icy, snowy roads
3. Allow extra time when approaching corners/ bends.
Being a novice driver gives you some independence, but it also comes with a new set of responsibilities. However, by using the above tips, you’ll have the knowledge to save money on insurance and you’ll be able to manage the most common challenges for a new driver.

 

The reality of super cars

It may come as no surprise to some of you that I sometimes drive super cars for a living. I work with many experience companies across the country instructing in cars ranging from an Aston Martin Vantage to a Ferrari F430 through to an Audi R8 and even Lamborghini Gallardo’s, you can see a short instructional video of mine here.

But in truth, what is it like to experience such vehicles and drive them on a daily basis…

Super cars aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, they’re expensive, thirsty on fuel and quite hard to park. The cost of ongoing maintenance such as servicing and MOT’s coupled with high tax and insurance makes for a costly motor, so you’ll have to ask yourself the question, is it worth it.

Now don’t get me wrong, they are beautiful, a true pleasure to be sat in and experience. I have sat in and driven some of the worlds best and quickest cars that only a few of you may one day get to taste. However, there’s a time and a place to really appreciate them and that’s on track. You can really test out their true potential with power and grip in a safe, controlled environment. For more information on track days read our blog on them here.

So where does that leave us? Well, personally I’d be looking at the hot hatch market, they’re cheaper to buy, run and can be equally as fast and exhilarating whilst being more manageable and road friendly. See the AutoExpress top pick now. Sporty diesels are also worth a look at to, they’re surprisingly quick and punchy yet come with a nice return on your MPG stats, which is always a bonus when petrol pump prices rise.

I’m currently in the process of writing a track day blog but in the meantime if you fancy a ride in one of these fine vehicles search for your next drive at Driveme or 6th Gear today.

If you want to know about a specific supercar then click over to AutoExpress to read one of their reviews, or alternatively give me a shout and I’ll tell you more about my experiences.

Tiredness can Kill

We all know drink and drugs are two of the biggest killers on British roads but did you know that 20% of accidents are actually related to tiredness with the peak times being in the early hours and after lunch.

Check out these shocking stats here.

So what can we do to help with tiredness and driving?

* As a driver you should always plan your journey with adequate rest breaks, we recommend at least a 15 minute break every 2 hours.
* Stay hydrated to maintain alertness
* If you begin to feel tired or drowsy open a window to allow better ventilation, turn the heater down and even turn the radio up louder

It is worth mentioning that the methods advised above are reactive solutions to the problem and will only work for short relief. A proactive approach would be to avoid driving when tired altogether. For further information on driving whilst tired follow this link.

Large goods vehicles and drivers that drive for work purposes are required to use tachographs that monitor their driving length and aim to prevent fatigue behind the wheel.

Q: What are Tachographs?

A: They are digital monitors that track driving time and rest periods to ensure drivers aren’t on the roads for long periods and in turn promote driver & road safety.

Q: Why are they important?

A: Surprisignly 40% of sleep related accidents involve commercial vehicles with men under 30 being most at risk of falling asleep.

Q: What laws are there on this?

A: If you drive a goods vehicle or a passenger-carrying vehicle you must follow the rules on how many hours you can drive and the breaks that you need to take.

There are 3 sets of rules that could apply to your journey:

EU rules
AETR rules
GB domestic rules

The rules that apply depend on the type of vehicle you’re driving and which country you’re driving in. For full details and to see if you are required to use a tachometer take a look at the DVSA site here. https://www.gov.uk/drivers-hours/overview

https://www.gov.uk/tachographs/overview
To read more, click here.

Child Seats

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Britain’s Angry Drivers

I was recently sent an article by Bryony from Ocean Finance, it made for good reading so I thought I’d share it with you in this blog. Let us know what you think…

 

Every week, 30 million car drivers are left raging on the roads, according to research conducted on behalf of Ocean Finance.

With as many as 10 million Brits getting agitated behind the wheel every day, it would seem the streets of the UK are a major cause of anger.

Those living in Wales were most likely to keep their cool when faced with driving annoyances. Comparatively, the North East comes out as the hotspot for hotheads, with 92% admitting to losing their rag on the road at least once a week.

Furthermore, men (88%) were marginally more likely to see red than women (84%).

Tailgating, people not indicating and people who use their mobile phone behind the wheel came out as the top pet peeves for most drivers. Other common irritations include, being cut up and speeding.

Bad habits on the road vs Number of people who say they get annoyed by others doing this:

Not indicating – 6.6m
Tailgaters – 6.6m
Using a mobile phone – 6.5m
Being cut-up – 2.6m
Speeding – 2.6m
Not saying ‘thank you’ – 2.4m
Driving below the speed limit – 2m
Blocking junctions – 2m
Jumping traffic lights – 1.2m
Drifting out of lanes – 0.9m

When faced with people who annoy them on the road, 8 million Brits swear to release their frustration and a further 4.5 million use hand gestures to make their anger known.

As many as half a million Brits say that they would go to the length of following the car until it stops so they can tell the driver off – 18 to 24-year-olds were twice as likely to do this than any other age group.

Worryingly, one in three drivers say they have been in an incident as a result of someone’s careless, bad driving habits. While most (8 million) got away with just a minor incident, 2.5 million were caught up in a more serious accident.

Ian Williams, Ocean’s spokesperson, said: “The vast majority of drivers are careful, polite and considerate. However, when we do encounter one that isn’t it seems that many of us struggle to keep our cool. We’d urge drivers who encounter some dodgy driving to stay calm – getting stressed isn’t going to help.”

Editors’ notes

* Red Dot questioned a nationally representative sample of 2,000 adults aged 18 and over between 14th March 2016 – 17th March 2016, of whom 636 were Scottish residents. Figures have been extrapolated to fit ONS 2013 population projections of 50,371,000 UK adults.

Driving in Europe

So you’ve been driving happily on the left side of the road, following U.K. laws and road procedures but you’ve now decided to go on holiday and drive across Europe. Maybe your going down to the south of France or blasting across Germany on their autobahns, either way this blog will give you some top pointers to help plan your incredible journey.

Speaking from experience, a driver and rider that has covered a few thousand miles on foreign soil I thought some useful tips might help ease the strain and pressure of unfamiliar roads.

First things first, don’t forget you drive on the right, this means the far right hand lane. Your blind spots will be in different positions, you overtake on the left, move anti-clockwise around roundabouts whilst giving way to the left. Speed is depicted in KPH instead of MPH and if you accrue points or fines whilst abroad they still apply to your U.K. licence.

Lets now take a look at roundabouts, something that causes a little confusion for many on their first approach. The picture below demonstrates simply the procedure you should follow…

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We’ve also listed a few common signs that you may not be fully aware of…

european road signs
For an extra breakdown of signage you can read more here.

If you’ve been doing your research you may have noticed that legislation has recently changed and the requirement to carry additional equipment whilst in certain E.U. countries, a full breakdown of kit is detailed here.

We recommend travelling with all the necessary and advisory equipment, to purchase one you can find a great example at Halfords here. For further information or if you want any additional help or advice, give us a call.

Public Information Films

This weeks blog is short but not so sweet, we will let it speak for itself.

Below are links to various public information films about road safety, they are hard hitting and rightly so, so please watch at your discretion.

We use them widely at our road safety presentations within local schools and their message is simple but effective, please take time to watch…

Let us know what you think and share with us any videos you find…

Blues & Two’s

Many current and passed pupils always ask how to deal with emergency service vehicles. This is a common question not only by them but also full and experienced licence holders.

This is a tricky one to answer as each situation that arises is different and unique in its own way. To begin lets take a look at this short video.

With this in mind you’ll find what happens in practice isn’t always the same as real life.

Here are some basic principles to follow;

• Keep calm, slow down and move over to the side of the road where possible.

• If you are near a large roundabout or maybe a traffic light controlled roundabout ensure you don’t put yourself in danger

• Don’t do anything illegal such as go through red traffic lights as you could be prosecuted.

For further information or advice check out the blue light aware page here.

Road Rage…

Did you know that more than 80% of drivers in the UK have been the victims of road rage incidents, or that 20% of motorists have got out of their car to confront another road user? Losing our temper, and our sense of reason, while behind the wheel can be lethal, with the situation liable to get completely out of hand, and the consequences can be extreme. Motorists and road users need to take a step back and think about their level of aggression while driving. Realising the problem and taking preventative measures can have a hugely positive impact on our motoring.

road-rage-infographic

Accident Procedure

It’s inevitable, 1 in 4 newly qualified drivers is statistically going to have a crash in the first 2 years of motoring. Sorry to break it to you but this is the harsh reality of modern day driving and the facts are quite clear its young inexperienced drivers and usually involves speed. Check out the statistics on the Brake Charity page here.

In this blog edition we aren’t going to lecture you on figures from the department of national statistics but instead help provide advice on what to do if you’ve been involved in a crash or accident.

There are a few key details that you’ll need to take when you’ve been involved in an incident. Firstly get all the names, address and phone numbers of those involved plus any key witnesses.

Take a note of the date, time and location of the incident. Be as specific as possible and back this up with photos. Don’t forget to exchange insurance details and write a detailed report of your side of events.

Keep your cool and try not to panic, ensure the area is safe, not causing an obstruction and your not putting yourself or anyone else in danger. Ince you have your evidence and required information clear the scene without causing further hazards.

It’s handy to keep an accident check sheet to hand inside your car for situations such as these, take a look at this one below and feel free to take a copy:Accident Checklist

We hope this useful information helps reassure you a little but until next time, stay safe out there.

Lorry Blind Spots

So many of us complain about van, bus and lorry drivers. The usual story is they were going to fast, they cut you up or they simply didn’t see you were there.

For a minute, lets look at this through the eyes of a lorry driver. You are driving a large 44 tonne articulated lorry carrying precious cargo for the company you work for. You have a great view down the road ahead and can forward plan easily. You also have two side view mirrors showing you the edges of the truck but not a centre rear view mirror so have no idea what’s directly behind.
Because of the sheer size and weight of the lorry you struggle to speed up or slow down quickly and therefore take longer at junctions to complete the same processes a typical car driver would.

Let’s take a simple look at view points of the vehicle below:

Truck blind spots

Newer lorries do come complete with rear facing cameras to help reversing exercises and of course better braking and safety systems however manoeuvring these vehicles is still a tough act.

Take a look at this picture of all these cyclists, hidden simply at a junction because of these large blind spots:

Lorry bike blind spot

Andy recently attended a truck driving experience with 6th Gear at Blyton, York. He has successfully been towing trailers and vans for around 30 years, but this was an entirely new challenge all together. He say “Although the lorry had large mirrors and even delegate blindspot mirrors the view to the side and read of the vehicle was extremely limited, plenty of space for a car or cyclist to hire”

If you fancy getting behind the wheel of one of these enormous machines check out their page here, they are awesome!

We hope this blog gives you more of an insight into the operation of large goods vehicles and in turn might give you more appreciation and respect for the people that drive these vehicles daily. For further information check out Eddie Stobart here.

For a simple guide to lorry sizes and weights click here, but until next time don’t linger in those blind spots.

Motorways…

Did someone mention the ‘M’ word, the feared motorway…

When you are learning to drive there are many topics on the syllabus that you need to cover and master before you are ready for test. Major subject areas include; junctions, manoeuvres, dual carriageways and independent driving to name just a few.

One important part of driving that can be talked about in theory but cannot be practiced until the learner test is passed are motorways. In this blog we’re not discussing whether being allowed on the motorway whilst being a learner is a good or bad idea, that’s for another day, however we’ll give you more of an insight into motorway procedure to prepare you better for your first experience.

So, where to begin…

Similarities to dual carriageways:

Differences to dual carriageways:

Other points to note:

For further information take a look at the highway code on the government site here or alternatively book onto one of our special motorway taster or refresher sessions here.

Pass Plates

Congratulations, you’ve passed! Well, hopefully you have if your reading this and this now makes you a newly qualified driver. So the question is, to P or not to P…

Most of you have probably seen the bright green ‘P’ plate. Some of you may wonder what it is, why it’s used and whether there’s a need for it so we thought we’d explain to help you out.

What is it?

You can display green ‘probationary’ P plates to show that you’ve just passed your driving test. You don’t have to display them. You can leave them on your vehicle for as long as you like

What are the benefits?

Are there any drawbacks?

For further info take a look at the government site here or check out Inginie Insurance here.

Post Test Driver Training

Many people believe that once you’ve passed your test that’s it, you know how to drive and everything there is to know about the roads. Those that do enquire about additional training such as the traditional pass plus course or motorway training often question is it worth it.

To some extent, the cost of such training may out way the benefit of insurance discounts however the real cost comes in the knowledge and skills imparted on you and your driving ability.

Let me just propose this;

Your driving on a motorway in heavy traffic, your closely following the sat-nav to an appointment that your late for. The sign above your lane displays a Red Cross, would you know what to do?

What about this;

You are leaving work on a typically busy Friday afternoon. You are turning right at a traffic light controlled crossroad with a box junction in the middle. Do you pull forward and sit in the box when the lights go green, do you wait behind the white line or something else entirely?

Or maybe even this;

Your in the middle of town and want to turn left, first exit at the upcoming roundabout. On approach to the roundabout there is a bus lane with signage which stops shortly before the roundabout, there are no buses as you approach. Do you get into the bus lane early so your ready to turn left at the roundabout, wait until it finishes or nip into the lane just before it finishes to skip the traffic?

These examples are just a snap shot of what we see full licence holders and experienced drivers get wrong every day. Let’s be honest, when did you last read a current edition of Highway Code?..

If you want to enhance your skills and take your driving to the next level by being a safer and more aware driver then take a look at our full list of additional training courses we can offer here. Until next time, stay safe out there.

Winter Driving Tips

As winter has well and truly set in its time to think about driving in the snow, ice and fog. What do you need to know and is there a difference to normal driving conditions.

Snow:

Fresh snow is easier to drive on than hard or compact snow. Fresher snow provides more grip as compact snow can turn into ice. If your struggling to move off, maybe from your drive, it may be an idea to pack snow around your wheels. Snow sticks to snow, hence being able to build snowmen, and can sometimes give you the extra traction needed to move off.

Ice:

As we know ice is very slippy and is especially hard to spot, as is black ice. Think about braking earlier to avoid skidding and move off more slowly. By using a higher gear when moving off it should reduce the amount of wheel spin you obtain. Don’t forget your minimum depression gap when in flowing traffic.

Fog:

Foggy conditions can be difficult especially on your daily commute. Severe fog tends to gather at high points and near marsh land or water. Think about your following distance with other traffic, you need to be able to stop in the distance you can see to be clear. Also think about your use of fog lights, every vehicle has to have rear fog lights but front fogs are optional. Only use fog lights when visibility is less and 100 metres, not as soon as you see fog. The lights are very bright and intense and so must be switched off when visibility improves.

Safety Systems:

Traction control systems such ABS and ESP are great however they are usually reactive systems to help prevent incidents from occurring. By driving in a smoother and slower manner you will proactively prevent dangerous situations from occurring and therefore won’t need to rely on such technology. Don’t forget, there is a limit to grip and even with the best systems in the world, when it’s gone, it’s gone.

Additional Info:

If your planning any long journeys this winter it might be worth thinking about what essentials to carry. If you were to become stranded in the bad weather conditions you need to consider what key equipment might you need. Our suggested items to store in the boot would be: de-icer, anti-freeze, coat, food & drink, phone charger and also a first aid kit.

We hope these little pointers might be of use, stay safe out there this winter!

Drink & Driving, they’re not mixers…

Christmas is now nearly upon us and so to will be the New Year. It’s a great time of year to be out with friends and family, enjoying good food and plenty of drink, celebrating the past year and the year ahead.

It’s been an eventful year for us here at WrightStart to: 2 new vehicles, our Pre-17 launch and other various milestones throughout the way and we will definitely be celebrating before promptly planning another successful year ahead of us.

However, it isn’t a good time for drink driving. Did you know, consuming a second drink can double your chances of a fatal collision… You can’t accurately guess your alcohol level so don’t try, instead use the guidance below.

Here’s a little advice for you to follow on your nights out:

– Designate a driver, if you are the designated driver don’t drink, don’t risk it
– More than one drink will double your chances of a fatal accident
– It takes about an hour for a single unit to leave the body
– Ensure you leave adequate time the day after to sober up before driving
– Think about the financial, emotional and criminal consequences

Who will be taking you home tonight?

#dontriskit

For more information take a look at this great site: http://think.direct.gov.uk/drink-driving.html

We hope you have an amazing Christmas and a very Happy New Year, we wish you all the best for 2016! Goodbye 2015, from all at WrightStart.

Journey Planning

You’re probably all to familiar with your usual commute to work or school but what about those longer irregular journeys on holiday or going shopping in big cities. How do you cope with different roads and junctions, how do you plan on what lanes to be in or how to actually get to your destination? It’s coming up to the holiday season and you’ll soon be making your way to see distance friends and family in areas that may not be so familiar.

Here are a few handy hints for those more awkward journeys:

1. Have a look at a map prior to leaving so you have a rough idea of where your going. Knowing the general direction of your travel will significantly help when your looking for signs.
2. Even if you have an idea of where your going run a sat-nav in the background to help relieve stress. It may give you prompts if traffic conditions change or you take a wrong turn.
3. Look at your final destination on Google maps so you are already familiar with your end point. This is so simple yet really effective as you will know where to go when you get there.
4. Research how long the journey is likely to take and at the time your planning on leaving. Don’t forget Monday mornings are busy than Sunday afternoons and plan for contingency in case of accidents.
5. Remember the golden rules; follow the road ahead unless tensing says otherwise, usually the left lane goes left and straight and if in doubt go the wrong way and do it correctly.

We hope you have a fun and safe road trip this festive season.

Drive Safely With A Roof Box

It’s nearly summer holiday time and if you are travelling by car you may be wondering how on earth you are going to squeeze all of your holiday clobber in. If you are, then a roof box could be just the solution you are looking for.

Roof boxes use the valuable roof space of your car, allowing you to carry much more luggage. They make it easier to organise your stuff and you can put items that you will need throughout the journey in your boot where they are easily accessible without having to root around to find them. It also means your passengers can travel more comfortably without having bags squashed in between them and under their feet.

If you are using a roof box it is important that you know how to use them safely. We’ve compiled this post to give you some sound advice and if you follow these pointers you should have hassle free roof box motoring.

Fitting Your Roof Box

A roof box should never be attached directly to the roof of your car. Instead it should be fixed securely to a set of roof bars. Buy sturdy roof bars that are compatible with your car and that will take the weight of your roof box when it is loaded.

Your roof box should be positioned on the roof bars so that the weight is distributed evenly between the two bars. You should also ensure that the sides of the box are in line with the sides of your car and that the base of the box is parallel to the road. This will eliminate any uplift as the wind hits the underside of the box as you drive. If you have a hatchback car also make sure that the box is positioned so that your boot can open fully.

Loading Your Roof Box

Take care when loading your roof box to distribute the weight evenly throughout. This will ensure that your car handles normally when you are driving. Make sure that items are secured and cannot move around. It is a good idea to use straps to secure any heavier items.

You also need to be aware of the maximum loading weight of your car and the maximum weight that can be safely loaded on your roof. Consult your car manual for this info. Find out the weight of your roof bars and roof box. Then weigh luggage items before you load them into the roof box. Add all these weights together to make sure you haven’t exceeded the roof load capacity.

Driving With Your Roof Box

You need to be aware that your car will handle differently when you have a roof box attached. The extra height of the box will increase wind resistance and make it more sensitive to cross winds. You also need to be aware that you car will need extra head clearance, so keep this in mind if you are driving under low bridges or overhanging branches. The extra weight will also cause your car to brake and corner differently, so adjust your speed accordingly and allow for extra braking distance.

Insuring Your Roof Box

Many people often make the mistake of assuming that their roof box is insured as standard under their existing car policy. This isn’t always the case though and you should check your policy documentation.

If your policy doesn’t include cover for luggage in your roof box it can often be added for an additional premium or you can take out a separate policy for your roof box.

We hope this post has been useful and if you have any roof box tips, questions or have experience driving with one please let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you.

5 Tips If Your Car Breaks Down On A Motorway Or Dual Carriageway

Hopefully you’ll never be involved in a car breakdown. Chances are though it’ll happen at least once in your life and breaking down on a dual carriageway or motorway can be a worrying experience. Being prepared and knowing what to do can be really useful. So read on for some handy tips.

1. Get your car off the road: Try and drive your car off the road if possible or pull onto the hard shoulder (if there is one), as far to the left of it as possible. This keeps the road safe and free of obstructions for other motorists.

2. Warn other motorists: Put your hazard warning lights on to warn other motorists that you have broken down. This is especially important if your car is obstructing the roadway but you should also use them if your car is pulled up at the side of a dual carriageway or on the hard shoulder of the motorway. If you carry a hazard warning triangle in your vehicle place this on the road approximately 45 meters behind your car if your car is obstructing the road. Do not do this though if you are on a motorway, even if the road looks clear. Traffic moves too fast and this can be highly dangerous. If you have broken down at dusk or night time put your cars sidelights on if possible to improve its visibility. If you have a high-vis coat or vest put it on. Generally make your car and yourself as visible as possible.

3. Get out of your car: Once you have taken steps to warn other motorists get yourself and any passengers out of your car using the left hand doors and move away from your vehicle to a safe distance. This way if your stationary car is hit by another vehicle you and your passengers will not be harmed. Move up the grass verge into a position where you can see your car.

4. Telephone for help: Call the Police or Highways Agency. If you have broken down on a Motorway you will find emergency telephones in orange boxes at 1 mile intervals. Use these if you have broken down near one as the operator will be able to tell exactly where your car has broken down based on the phone you are calling from. If this isn’t possible and you are calling from a mobile phone you can communicate where you are by telling them the number on the nearest marker post. You will find these at regular intervals along the side of the motorway. This way the police or Highways Agency will be able to pinpoint your position.

5. Be prepared for bad weather: It can be a really good idea to pack some emergency clothing in the boot of your car. A waterproof coat and other warm clothing and a blanket can be extremely usefull if it is cold and wet and you are sitting on a grass bank freezing cold in the pouring rain waiting to be rescued.

Seat Belt Advice

Andy answers your questions and shares some useful advice on seat belts.

Understeer & Oversteer

You will sometimes here the phrase understeer and oversteer. If you’re a motorsport fan you probably hear it a lot.

Understeer and oversteer aren’t problems that should effect you very often, as long as you are sticking to the speed limits and driving sensibly. Every once in a while though you may find yourself in a tricky situation involving under or oversteer and it can help to know the reasons for your car handling this way and how you can correct the problem. If you are ever driving a car on a race track – perhaps on one of our driving experience days, this is essential reading for you.

I am going to give you a simple explanation of understeer and oversteer that is easy to undestand. After each explanation I’ll also give you some tips for how to correct them if you find yourself in a pickle. At the end of this post I will also give you some useful links if you want to get more technical and detailed info on them.

However, if you want a really simplified explanation of understeer and oversteer check out this Top Gear video.

Driving in Flip Flops

A nifty pair of Havaianas can set a summer outfit off nicely and they are good for lounging around the house in at any time of year. But if you are thinking of driving in flip flops please don’t do it! Flip-flops are not a sensible choice of driving shoe. They are flexible and can very easily bend and get wedged under your pedals causing you to loose control of your car.

While not illegal to drive in Flip Flops if you were involved in an accident the police would likely take a very dim view of you driving in them as they know it can prevent you from controlling your car correctly. So just don’t do it under any circumstances. Take them off, put them in the passenger foot-well and drive barefoot instead. It is much safer to drive barefoot than to drive in flip flops.

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Driving Barefoot

Wheel Alignment and Wheel Balance

It is important to get your wheel alignment (also called wheel tracking) and wheel balance checked on a regular basis. Why is that you may ask?

Well, correctly aligned and balanced wheels will give you a much smoother, less bumpy ride and your car will also handle better. Misaligned wheels will also reduce your fuel economy and wear your tyres out quicker, costing you more money…and that’s never a good thing!

Wheel Alignment

Wheel alignment refers to the direction your wheels are pointed in and the angle they lean at. This will vary depending on your car and it is important to make sure that they are aligned to the manufacturer’s specifications. Correct wheel alignment will improve the handling and fuel consumption of your car and also reduce the wear and tear on your tyres.

There are three main adjustments for correct wheel alignment, toe, camber and caster.

Toe

Toe refers to how much the wheels point inwards or outwards. If the tow is not correctly aligned it can cause your tyres to wear unevenly on the outer or inner edge. The best way to imagine this is by looking down at your feet. When you walk if your toes point straight in front of you in the direction you are walking, the heel of your shoe will wear evenly all across. If your toes point out to the side slightly you will find that over time the soles of your shoes will wear out on the side of the heel first. This is exactly the same for the tyres on your car.

 

Info-graphic showing wheel alignment toe.

Camber

Camber refers to how far the wheels lean away from your car or towards your car. If a wheel leans away form the car too much (positive camber) it will cause the tyre to wear more on the outer edge. Likewise if it leans inwards too far (negative camber) the tyre will wear on the inner edge.

 

Info-graphic showing wheel alignment camber.

Caster

Caster is the amount of forward or backward tilt on your steering axis. If there is an imbalance between the two arms it can cause the body of your car to become misaligned down it’s length i.e. the back of your car won’t sit directly behind the front as you are driving. Again this can result in uneven tyre wear and in extreme cases cause dangerous instability.

Take a look at this great video from Hunter Engineering for a easy to understand visual of wheel alignment.

How can I tell if my wheels need aligning?

– If you notice that your car pulls to one side when you are driving on a straight, flat road this is often a sign that your wheel alignment is out.

– Also check to see if your steering wheel lines up straight when you are driving on a straight, flat road. If it is off to the side this could be another indicator that your wheel tracking is out.

– And check your tyre tread every couple of weeks. If you find that one side of a tyre is wearing out more quickly this is another give-away that your wheel alignment is out. See our useful post on how to check your tyres are safe for more info on this.

Wheel Balance

The wheels on your car need to be balanced correctly. If they are not it can cause your car to vibrate whilst driving. A wheel on your car may have one area that is heavier. This heavy area needs to be balanced with the opposite side of the wheel and this is achieved by attaching a small weight to it. This effectively balances the wheel and ensures it rotates smoothly. A sign that the wheels on your car need balancing is often a vibration and wobbling in your steering wheel when you travel at a certain speed, usually somewhere between 50-70mph.

Image of a man balancing a wheel.

 

How to get your wheels aligned and balanced

The best time to get your wheels aligned and balanced is when you have new tyres fitted. Always ask them to check if your wheels need balancing and tracking. Most good tyre shops should do this check free of charge.

You should also get your wheel alignment and balance checked if you drive into a curb with any force or if you drive over a deep pothole or any other debris on the road that jolts your car.

How much will it cost to get my wheels aligned and balanced?

If you are getting your wheels balanced and tracked most tyre fitters around Derby charge between £6-£8 per wheel for balancing and around £25-£30 for wheel alignment. Depending on your car the wheel alignment may need to be done for both the front and the rear axel so you will be looking at roughly double this amount.

While this may seem like another cost you could do without it may cost you more money in the long term. Misaligned and unbalanced wheels will wear your tyres out quicker which means you wont get as many miles out of them and will need to replace them sooner. Don’t be afraid to haggle on the price though. There are lots of tyre fitters competing for your custom and you’ll often get a discount if you just ask.

We hope this post has been useful and if you have any questions drop us a comment below.

 

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Tyre Safety

Prepare your car for Winter in 4 easy steps

Preparing and checking your car for winter may seem like a bit of a chore but spending a few minutes of your time on it can save your bacon and your wallet. Read on and we’ll tell you what to do…

1. Tyres, Tyres, Tyres

We never tire of talking about tyres. And that’s because it’s massively important they are kept in peachy condition, especially throughout the winter months. Your tread depth should be at least 1.6 mm deep over the central 3/4 breadth of the tyre and round the full circumference – This is a legal requirement by the way. Most insurance companies recommend a minimum of 2mm and in snow and ice the more tread the better. Take a look at our post on Tyre Safety for more info on how to check yours are tip top condition.

2. Engine Coolant

It is well worth checking your engine coolant, this should have been done when your car was last serviced, but you need to ensure you have enough antifreeze concentration to prevent it from freezing during the winter. Usually down to -20 should be sufficient for the UK, even in the harshest of winters.

3. Washer Fluid

Make sure the concentration of washer fluid to water is strong enough for the minimum temperature you are likely to encounter. Remember if the washer fluid freezes in your washer reservoir it could burst (very expensive). If it freezes in the washer jets then you won’t be able to keep your windscreen properly clear. Top tip, NEVER use washing up liquid or similar in place of proper washer fluid, it will form a soap scum and eventually block the washer pump filter preventing your washers from working, and that’s not a good thing!

4. Car Cold Weather Survival Kit

In your car it is a good idea to carry a blanket, extra clothing including gloves and a hat. You should always remember to keep a good waterproof coat in the car, if you break down and the engine won’t start it can get very cold waiting for the recovery vehicle. If you get stuck in snow it could be a long cold night waiting for a snowplough to get through if your not properly prepared.

Stopping Distances

Finally remember to increase your safety margins in poor weather conditions. It can take 10 times further to stop in snow or ice, so that’s 20 seconds separation distance instead of the usual minimum of 2 seconds.

Tyre Safety

Car tyres. Ok so perhaps not the most exciting subject but knowing how to check your car tyres is so important. Why? Because driving on worn out, battered tyres could cost you your life.

Loosing control of your car can be seriously scary and can have serious consequences. But one simple way to drive more safely is by checking your tyres regularly.

These 3 simple tyre checks will take you about 30 seconds to do and they could just save your life.

 

Petrol station tyre inflator

You can check your tyre pressure at most petrol stations.

1. Check the Air Pressure – Do this at least every two weeks and before you go on a long journey. You can check it at a petrol station with an air machine or do it at home with a simple tyre pressure gauge or portable tyre inflator. Ideally check your air pressure before you drive the car when the tyres are still cold.

Portable tyre inflator

Small tyre inflators like this are great for checking and inflating your tyres at home.

If you need to check them at a petrol station drive straight there before you drive anywhere else. This is because your tyres warm up as you drive which in turn increases the air pressure preventing you getting an accurate air pressure reading.

Your car manual will tell you what your tyre pressure should be and some cars have a sticker or plaque on the inside of your door, door jam or in your glove box with this information.

2. Check for Tyre Damage – Have a quick look at each tyre to make sure there is no sign of damage to the side of the tyre (tyre wall). Check for bulging, cracks, splits or holes. Also look at the treads of the tyres and if you see any stones or other objects embedded in the tread flick them out with a key.

If you spot any damage get the tyre checked out by a professional tyre fitting shop. It may be fine, but they will tell you if it needs replacing.

3. Check Tyre Tread Depth – It’s really important to ensure your tyres have enough tread on them. If they are worn out they wont grip the road properly and your car is more likely to skid. It’s really easy to check tread depth. Each tyre has long grooves that run along the length of it. At regular intervals along these grooves you will find wear bars (see image).

Tyre wear marker

Once tyre tread is level with the tyre wear bar the tyre must be changed.

When these wear bars are level with the tread on the tyre you must replace it by law. The grip of your tyres will deteriorate as they near the minimum level, especially in wet conditions so it is best to get your tyres changed before they reach the minimum legal level.

Every few weeks it is also a good idea to turn your wheels on full lock in each direction and check the tyre wear to the inner edge of the front tyres as this can sometimes wear faster than the outer edge especially if your tyres are not balanced correctly or the tracking is out, and can be hard to see when the wheel is straight.

 

Correct Air Pressure

Tyre pressure infographic

It is important to inflate your tyres to the correct level. If your tryres are over-inflated you will feel the bumps in the road more and there will be less contact between your tyre and the road. The inner part of your tyre will wear more rapidly which means your tyre wont last as long. Similarly, If your tyre is under-inflated it will wear more at the edges with less contact  on the road, giving you less control over your car.

 

Are you Breaking the Law?

If you drive a car with damaged tyres or tread below the minimum legal limit you could be fined up to £2500 and get three penalty points on your licence. During the winter the police are on the lookout for drivers who have illegal cars and frequently set up random checkpoints where they will pull drivers over and inspect their tyres. Don’t get caught out. Check your tyres regularly and get them changed when necessary.

 

Taking Your Life in Your Hands

Checking your car tyres is quick and easy. Make a note in your diary every couple of weeks, put a reminder on your phone, whatever, but just remember to do it! Before long it will just become a habit, and it really is a good habit to form. Every time you get into your car you are literally taking your life in your hands. If you loose control of your car for just a split second you or someone else could be seriously injured or even killed.

Making sure your tyres are safe is just one simple way you can ensure you reach your destination safely.

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How to prepare your car for winter

Wheel Alignment and Wheel Balance