UK to introduce green number plates for zero emission vehicles

The UK Government has announced that special licence plates with a green band on the left hand side (where the blue EU stars symbol used to be located) will be introduced this coming Autumn to help identify electric cars, plus other zero emission vehicles.

At the same time, the British Government will also commit a further £12 million in green vehicle research and development funds.

These new number plates with a distinctive green band on the left will make the identification of all zero emission vehicles – be they passenger cars, commercial vehicles, motorcycles, coaches and buses – easier for local authorities to issue special regulations for pure electric and other zero emission vehicles.

The green reflective plates will be white at the front and yellow at the rear, with clear black letters and figures, as per today, with a green strip on the left side. The use of these new licence plates will not be made mandatory for all zero emission vehicles registered in the UK, but it is likely that this will become popular as an easily visible form of ‘bragging rights’ for the owners and users of such vehicles.  

The British Government claims that’s this new green number plate band will make the granting of special benefits for clean mobility on the UK’s roads, unlocking a number of incentives for the drivers of greener vehicles as part of its planed initiatives to reduce CO2 emissions from road transportation.

Article written by Gary Axon.

More motorists are visiting car dealers than ever before, according to study

These days, one of the first places you’re likely to go to look for your next motor is online. Car buying sites are so widely used nowadays that you’d be forgiven for thinking that the traditional car dealership is all but dead.

Not so, according to a new study.

CitNOW conducted a survey of 1000 consumers, and found that 55% of them visited a dealership as part of buying their last car. This is up from 48% in previous reports, flying in the face of some predictions that car dealerships are falling out of favour, and even industry announcements (such as Honda’s plan to cut its number of sites within the next two or three years.)

The company, which specialises in image and video for the automotive industry, also discovered the impact that the age of consumers has on where they choose to look for a car. 69% of over 55’s visited a dealership, compared to 45% of those aged 35-44. There was also a slight gender gap, with men more likely than women to visit a dealership in person to buy their next car.

These statistics, along with many others, were compiled as part of CitNOW’s recent “Evolution of the Car Buyer” Report – and though it paints an optimistic picture for car dealerships across the country, our habits regarding them have changed.

The study found that out of those surveyed, 1 in 10 would expect to buy a car immediately when they visit a retailer, rather than browsing multiple different forecourts first. Therefore, the company emphasised that car dealerships needed to diversify if they were to stay on top.

Carol Fairchild, Commercial Director of CitNOW, said that “Motorists clearly still covet that face-to-face customer experience and want the buying journey to be a personal one with the dealership.”

“The challenge for retailers is standing out; making sure that they are using technology like video – which offers a personal, face to face experience remotely – to build customer engagement before they even set foot in the dealership. In doing so, dealerships can make sure customers are visiting their forecourt, rather than the one next door.”

Strategies that build this – like engaging social media – might seem secondary to customer experience, but as you’ll know if you’ve ever bought a car before, recognising the company beforehand can make all the difference. This is especially true for the 35-44 year old age group, who the statistics show might need that little bit more encouragement to go to a dealership.

Whether you’re buying your maiden motor or are a vehicular veteran, buying a car can seem like a minefield. Luckily, our friends at Carwow are here to help. They compare prices from local and national dealers, you can get the car you want, where you want, at a competitive price. Click here [link] to go to their website and start exploring!

Did you go to a dealership to buy your last car, or are you planning to for your first? What could dealerships do to be more appealing? Let us know in the comments!

Electric Dreams: The UK’s Best and Worst Cities for Charging your Electric Car

As people have become more environmentally conscious, electric cars have gained a real presence in Britain’s roads. In 2018 alone, nearly 60,000 plug-in cars had ben registered in the UK, making up 2.7% of its total new car market.

However, despite the fact that more people are buying electric cars now than ever before, there are still some barriers to them being more widely used. According to a Confused.com survey, while 61% of drivers polled said that they were bothered by long recharging times and over half were put off by the expense, the biggest portion – 72% –  were deterred by the lack of charging stations.

Whilst this isn’t entirely based in fact – after all, there are currently over 23,000 charging points across the country – analysis by Tonik Energy has discovered that some cities aren’t as well prepared for the electric revolution. Where they are might surprise you.

Their methodology was pretty simple; using data from online platform Zap-Map, Tonik compared the number of full driving license holders in each postcode area with the number of publicly available charging points. Those cities with a higher number of charging points per license holder are best prepared, and so placed better in the rankings.

From their research, they discovered that Sunderland came out on top. Though it only has 87 charging points in total, it also has just over 127,000 full license holders. This means that the amount of license holders per charger is a healthy 1,460.

Bigger areas have the largest numbers of charging points, with Greater London laying claim to almost 4,000 of them – but this only amounts to 2,227 license holders per charging point, placing them in fourth behind Milton Keynes and Dundee.

However, a look at the lower end of the table makes for some grim reading, especially for us here at WrightStart. As we’re based in Derby, we were dismayed to see that our hometown came third from last in the rankings, with only 26 charging points currently in use across the city for its 442,965 full license holders.

Spare a thought for Shrewsbury and Portsmouth, though: they were the only two places that came lower than us on the list. The former has just 11 charging points to serve almost 28,000 license holders, while Portsmouth unbelievably has only 1 charger per 32,388 license holders. This not only makes for a lot of potential queues in this coastal city, but also gives it the dubious honour of being the place in the UK that’s least prepared for the arrival of more electric vehicles.

So, what can be done to level the playing field? According to Tonik’s Managing Director Chris Russell, the answer lies with those in power. “Local councils must be prepared for the increase in the amount of EVs on our roads,” he says. “One of the main barriers to purchasing one of these vehicles is the fear of running out of charge on a long journey so it’s crucial that all councils, particularly those towards the bottom of these rankings, recognise the need to invest in publicly available charging points.”

One positive to all this is that more charging points are being installed all the time – even if this might be happening slower in some areas. “The UK charging point infrastructure is growing at a rapid rate with over 12,000 devices now on the public network,” says Melanie Shuffleboatham, director at Zap-Map.

“A record 900 new devices were added to Zap-Map last month alone; providing a great mix of on-street residential chargers, destination chargers and en-route rapid chargers – necessary to support the day to day urban driving as well as longer electric journeys.”

What’s more, councils in certain areas have already been changing their approach to electric vehicles. Take Brighton, for example; though it also featured quite low on the list of cities, with 10,391 license holders per charger, it’s already taking steps to become more prepared.

Tom Kiss, founder of the Electric Brighton initiative said: “This data has proved extremely helpful for Brighton & Hove Council, as this year they will be installing over 200 on-street lamp post chargers following their successful bid to OLEV [Office for Low Emission Vehicles] for £300,000. Lots of drivers are beginning to understand the benefits of driving an EV and are considering the switch.”

“But, it’s a big decision to make and anyone thinking about switching needs to have assurances that there will be somewhere to charge their car regularly.”

Considering that new petrol and diesel vehicles will be banned in the UK from 2040, these changes seem to be coming at just the right time – and hopefully we’ll soon see more infrastructure for electric vehicles in all areas of the country.

Have you got an electric vehicle, or are you thinking of buying one? What experiences have you had with EV charging points in your city? Let us know in the comments!

Nuisance Noise: How “Acoustic Cameras” Could Help

How do you feel about car noise?

For some of you, it probably isn’t that annoying. Those of you living near a main road will feel differently.

Whatever your stance on the issue, you’ll be interested in the Department for Transport’s latest bit of in-progress kit: acoustic cameras.

They’ll look a lot like the speed cameras we’re currently used to seeing on the road, but will be fitted with microphones. When they detect noise levels above a certain threshold, they will flash, taking a picture of the suspect vehicle in order to send them a fine.

It comes after pressure from those living in rural communities, who have campaigned against people who disturb otherwise peaceful areas with illegally modified vehicles.

Though politicians like Transport Secretary Chris Grayling are in support of the plans, claiming that the cameras will assist overstretched police forces by “[providing] an alternative to make sure those communities are protected against excessive noise”, others aren’t as convinced.

Critics argue that, as what counts as ‘too noisy’ is a subjective judgement, legislation may fail to achieve anything of note for the affected areas (though police forces class noise above 90 decibels as a nuisance). In addition, campaigners have questioned its effectiveness; Dr Jonathan Moore, who has been working to reduce noise along the A52 in Hampshire, welcomed the trial, saying that residents were “thoroughly fed up” with people driving through villages late at night.

However, he questioned whether current technology was advanced enough to truly prevent rural noise problems.

“Where there are wide open spaces, I am not entirely sure that this will be effective,” he said.

The Motorcycle Industry Association was more optimistic; CEO Tony Campbell said that the key to the success of the measures would lie in the vehicle industry’s changing response. “All manufacturers produce new motorcycles that follow strict regulations regarding noise and emissions,” he said, “and we welcome these trials as a potential way of detecting excessive noise in our community.”

“Motorcycle manufacturers accept that they have a role to play and I think you’ll see it more difficult to start tampering with vehicles in the future.”

It’s worth noting that similar systems are in use in places like Canada, Singapore, Australia and the United Arab Emirates – but this will be the first time it’s been trialled in Britain, a country where in 2017, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea was paid more than £10,000 in fines and legal costs from noisy drivers in Knightsbridge.

The cameras will be set up in several noise hotspots over the next seven months, where their effectiveness can be measured. If they are successful, the scheme could be extended to other areas. No fines will be issued during the acoustic cameras’ trial period, but if the cameras are rolled out across the country, the DfT has made clear that they intend to use them in conjunction with already-widespread automatic numberplate recognition (ANPR) cameras to help identify offenders.

Whether it’s through removed silencers, damage to a vehicle or just revving engines for fun, noise pollution from cars has been shown to have a serious impact on people’s physical and mental health. Not only has prolonged exposure to noise been linked to conditions like stress and high blood pressure, but in London it’s been found to be responsible for increased risk of early death and stroke.

With the evidence on both sides, what do you think about acoustic cameras? Will they have any difference on noise pollution levels? Let us know in the comments!

Sovereign Vehicles: Cars of the Political Elite

We all need to get around – presidents and dignitaries included. But while we might hop into a hatchback or even use public transport,  they use somewhat different methods.

Stunning cars are synonymous with politicians, almost as much as the suits and speeches. Here are some of the best:

“The Beast” – President Bush onwards

American presidents might be known for jetting around in Air Force One, but another vehicle is just as much a part of presidential legend – The Beast.

The public knows precious little about its specs, but we can say for sure that it’s a Cadillac, and that it’s huge, weighing around 10 tonnes.

It also has a raft of special features that wouldn’t seem out of place in the next James Bond movie. Amongst other things, the 2009 version driven on President Obama’s inauguration day contained a tear-gas cannon, infrared smoke grenades, and 2 pints of the president’s blood type in case of an emergency.

Jaguar Land Rover XJ Sentinel – UK prime minister

The UK’s prime ministerial car may not be as big as its American counterpart, but it’s every part as slick. However, despite what it gives up in size this motor still has speed to match The Beast – and then some. Its top speed is actually 121mph, which is double that of the President’s car. It’s also got similar protective upgrades, alongside some that are just for pleasure. Forget the gun ports and the run-flat tyres – we want those heated and cooled rear massage seats and the high-definition television!

Various vehicles known as “the Popemobile”

While the Pope isn’t technically a politician – and his vehicle of choice not a traditional supercar –  the “popemobiles” are still closely associated with the role. The image that comes to most people’s minds is a vehicle with an enclosed glass room through which the Pope waves to crowds, but the worldwide leader of the Roman Catholic Church has had many modes of transport over the years, from a standard open-top car in 1929 to the current Pope Francis’ penchant for public transport when he was Cardinal.

The Pope’s most recent vehicle of choice is in keeping with his “no frills” papacy – a Fiat 500L. Though it has just a 1.6L engine capacity and none of the mod-cons favoured by his international counterparts, recent Popemobiles have been fitted with bulletproof glass windows to guard against gunfire, explosions and the like.

Project Kortezh – Vladamir Putin

The motivation for this project came from Russia’s dwindling production of luxury cars in 2010. Out of a desire to create vehicles that could compete with  more popular Western models, the Russian government began the Project. Resources were pooled from both the state and private companies to create a Bentley-like saloon car and a presidential limousine (which, as we’ve seen, is a must for any modern head of state).

The saloon – known as the Auras Senat – was officially introduced at President Putin’s fourth inauguration in 2018. A camouflage version was later seen being test driven in snowy conditions, putting its four-wheel drive to very good use.

Again, many of its details remain a secret – but we know it boasts V-12 turbocharged engine and a cabin that’s Kevlar-reinforced. Whether it’ll spark a Russian car renaissance still remains to be seen…

Lexus Landaulet– Prince of Monaco

Finishing off our list is what surely qualifies as the best wedding gift ever. That’s right – though Prince Albert seemingly has everything he could want, this stunning car was given to him in celebration of his wedding to his then-fiancée Charlene Wittstock.

It has a transparent, retractable bubble roof, made using aerospace technology but utilised here to allow the couple to wave to the crowds. Notably, it’s also a hybrid – meaning the couple travelled with zero-emissions on their big day.

What do you think of our list? Which one of these cars would you most like to own? Are there any famous cars from politicians or statespeople that we missed out? Let us know in the comments!

What’s In A Name? The Most Popular Car Names in the UK

A car is a vital part of a lot of people’s lives. In rain or shine, it provides a safe, comfortable and convenient way for us to get from A to B. For a lot of us it isn’t just a metal box on wheels – it’s part of our family. In fact, we love our cars so much, 1 in 10 of us give them pet names, according to a Quotezone.co.uk survey. 

What’s more, the top 10 names given by the drivers in the UK are names you would give to a human. It shows that we do see our cars as something that’s more than just a vehicle. 

UK’s Ten Most Popular Car Names

1

Betty

6

Bertie

2

Bob

7

Alfie

3

Bert

8

Peggy

4

Dave

9

Katy

5

Amy

10

Tilly

 

Can Cars Have A Gender?

You might laugh at this question, but the survey also revealed that  the most common car gender on UK roads is female!

According to figures, 50% of cars are perceived as female in gender, and 30% of cars are considered male, while 20% have no gender identification.

 The gender of cars is largely dependent on the gender of their owners. For example, 1 in 2 female respondents considered their car to be female.

Naming Your Car Makes You More Attached to It

66% of the survey respondents said that naming their cars make them feel more attached to the vehicles.

So, what makes people want to name their car? According to car owners, both its inner and outer beauty are inspirations when naming their motors.

Top 5 Inspirations Driver Use When Naming Their Cars

28%Car’s colours or appearance

20%Car’s personality

15%Friend/family member

11%Movie/TV show

7%   Celebrities

 When we delve further into what kind of perceived personality traits a car can have, 39%of respondents described their cars as dependable and reliable. 20%said their cars has a ‘playful’ nature, and 15%said their cars are sexy.

Perceived Personalities According to Car Brands

Adventurous

Honda

Confident

Fiat

Cute

Nissan

Dependable/Reliable

Ford, BMW

Intelligent

Mercedes, Honda

Playful

Fiat, Peugeot

Sexy/Good Looking

Honda, BM

 

It’s probably unsurprising that the top car names are quite common, but they’re not all like that…Quotezone also produced a graphic showcasing some of the weirder ones they found:

See the full top 10 list of car names at  https://www.quotezone.co.uk/car-insurance/most-popular-car-names.htm

Have you named your car? If so, what was the inspiration behind it? Let us know in the comments below!

The Scenic Route: Poll Reveals the UK’s Favourite Drives

Driving is often a mundane activity. We use it to get from A to B – for the weekly big shop or the school run – so much that we can forget how it gives us access to some of the most beautiful scenery in the country.

Highways England sought to help us remember this through an online poll last week. Two roads – the Cumbrian stretch of the M6 in the North West and the M1 in Leicestershire (near Lutterworth) – came in joint first place. The reasons for this aren’t entirely surprising – the former is loved for its rolling hills, whilst the latter was liked for the smooth journey it provided.

The other roads in the top five were as follows:

2. M5 in the South West (near Taunton)

3. A1 in Northumberland

4. M62 in the North West (near Chainbar)

5. M40 in the South East (near Chiltern Hills)

The survey came just days before the late May bank holiday, when roadworks on these and other stunning roads across the UK are halted to make sure people’s travel plans go as smoothly as possible.

The company’s teams will be working around the clock to remove more than 700 miles of roadworks – meaning around 97 per cent of motorways and major A roads will be roadworks-free in time for the big day.

Highways England’s customer service director, Melanie Clarke, said: “Many people have a favourite road they love driving on – and we want everyone to reach their destinations safely. We know from experience that almost half of breakdowns can easily be avoided if motorists carry out simple vehicle checks before setting off over this period.”

These checks include:

Fuel: make sure you’ve got enough in your tank to get where you want to go

Tyres: check the condition of all your tyres (that includes the spare!) Look out for cuts or wear and make sure your tyres meet the legal limit for tread depth, 1.6mm.

Engine oil: use your dipstick to check oil before any long journey, and top up if you need to. If you find yourself topping your car up more than usual, don’t be afraid to take your car back to the garage.

Water: to ensure you have good visibility, always keep your screen wash topped up so you can clear debris or dirt off your windscreen.

Lights: If your indicators, hazard lights, headlights, fog lights, reverse lights or brake lights are not functioning properly, you are putting yourself at risk. In addition, light malfunctions can cause your vehicle to fail its MOT.

Highways England is also reminding about the rules surrounding vehicle loads. Ensure that you have the correct licence and insurance to tow whatever the weight, make sure you have connected correctly, and always ensure your load is secure and within the limits for your vehicle before setting off.

What are your favourite roads to drive? Do you regularly check the things that Highways England suggest? Let us know in the comments below!

Are You Guilty Of Any Of Britain’s Top 10 Most Annoying Driving Habits?

Summer is in full swing, and with the bank holiday only just behind us, it’s likely that many of us will be taking a trip. Chances are that at least some of it will involve driving – and as we all know, that can bring frustration.

Every day motorists find themselves being wound up by the annoying habits of other drivers. Perhaps it’s no surprise that a recent study found that in 2017, 80% of British drivers suffered from road rage.

Select Car Leasing conducted an independent national survey of 1,200 UK motorists, to find the most frustrating and annoying driving habits on the road. Here’s their top five.

Top 5 Habits

5. Last minute lane mergers

It’s the scourge of many a driver’s existence. You’re on a road which has roadworks on it; as a result, only one lane is available. The common view is that once you’ve seen the merge lane sign (usually after 500 yards), you should gradually start moving into the adjacent lane. Those who try and do so earlier are openly disparaged as “queue-jumpers.”

   Though they may make an enemy of their fellow drivers, a 2008 study by Minnesota state work zone engineer Ken Johnson found that late lane merging (known as “zip-merging” in the States) had three main benefits:

• Less difference in speeds of the two lanes: without the urgency to move over, the traffic is travelling at roughly the same speed in both lanes, making the merge easier and safer.

• Reduction in queue length: queue length can be cut by up to 50% by zip-merging, making junctions and slip roads easier to handle.

• Less road rage – as nobody has a perceived advantage.

Even the British government seems to support zip-merging – to an extent. Rule 134 of the Highway Code says that: “Merging in turn is recommended but only if safe and appropriate when vehicles are travelling at a very low speed, e.g. when approaching road works or a road traffic incident. It is not recommended at high speed.”

4. Sudden braking

Having a car slam on its brakes in front of you is always a frightening experience. You’ve got very little time to react, especially when it happens at a roundabout. You’ll see that there are no cars to your right and prepare to go – but before you’ve even clocked it, the innocent car in front of you will come to a halt and you’ll do well to avoid a rear-end collision. And the offending car doesn’t get off scot-free either; continuous unnecessary braking can reduce tyre traction and burst brake tubes, amongst other things.

3. Slowing down to look at an accident

This is also known as rubbernecking, but despite the silly-sounding name, it can cause several problems. The most pressing is that the ‘rubbernecker’ holds up everyone else on the road – creating tailbacks that need not exist. Ironically, rubbernecking can cause more accidents, due to unexpected braking and acceleration from other motorists.  Add this to the building frustration of being sat behind a rubbernecker and then only being able to speed up a little to get back on the open road, and you’ve got a very unsafe – and annoying – driving environment…

2. Driving way below the speed limit

We’ve all been there. It’s a busy Monday morning and you’re desperately trying to get to work on time when you get stuck behind a driver doing 20mph in a 30mph zone. As that car is travelling to exactly the same place as you, unfortunately  you’re stuck behind them for your entire journey. What’s more, driving too slowly isn’t just an annoyance; if the police have evidence of your slow speed creating a road hazard, you can get up to six points on your licence for the offense of “inconsiderate driving”. Furthermore, driving below 50mph on a motorway could land you with a fine of up to £1000.

1. Parking over two spaces

Or, to give it its other name, ‘Clarkson Parking”. Named after former Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson’s own infamous techniques, it’s become a social media trend, with pages set up just to document instances. Supporters of the technique claim that it prevents vehicles from being scratched. For regular motorists, though, the coming across it after driving around in circles in a busy car park to find a space is an all too common frustration.

Do any of these get on your nerves? Or are you guilty of any of these annoying habits? Let us know!

A Brief History of the Highway Code

You might remember that a few weeks ago, we published a post on some commonly forgotten rules in the Highway Code. The density of the document – with over 307 individual rules as of 2019 – might make you wonder when exactly it all started, and what people did before the Code existed!

Well, that’s the subject of this week’s post. Settle in for a history lesson…

The Beginning

The first edition of the Highway Code was published in 1931, though its origins can be traced back to 11 years earlier. That was the point where the government, spurred on by RAC Vice President Mervyn O’Gorman, announced a plan to create “a compulsory and uniform code of signals for all road vehicles”. It was modelled off a successful system created by drivers in London. Driving licences had existed for 32 years before this point, but by 1931 the number of drivers had risen from 1 million to 3 million. This underlined the need for a full set of laws.

The publication of a full code was delayed for several years as additions were made, but in 1923 a booklet titled “Traffic Signals to be used by the Police and Drivers of Vehicles” was released. It covered exactly what the name implies.

By the time the full code was published, it amounted to just 18 pages of advice. It cost one old penny, and was the only edition to carry advertisements. Though many of its rules are outdated now, with their references to horse-drawn vehicles needing to “rotate the whip above the head; then incline the whip to the right or left to show the direction in which the turn is to be made” – a surprising amount hasn’t changed. One rule that features in both the first and latest Code is that all road users must be careful and considerate towards others, putting safety first.

Expanding and Changing

More of the things that modern drivers take for granted were added in subsequent editions. The second edition of the Code in 1934 marked the first appearance of road sign diagrams (of which there were only 10), alongside still-wise advice about the effects of driving while drunk or fatigued.

Information about stopping distances was only included from 1946’s third edition onwards. This also included unique advice for cyclists.

The 1954 edition of the Highway Code saw a big cosmetic revamp – it was printed in colour for the first time, and the back cover contained guidance on first aid. The section on traffic signs was also expanded, containing the first triangular warning signs.

The fifth edition came along just as motorways became a fixture of Britain’s driving experience, and so included much more advice on how to deal with them. It also explained slip roads and gave more advice on handling drowsiness while driving.

The 1978 edition also responded to the changing nature of our roads; alongside the first appearances of orange badges for people with disabilities, and the now-renowned Green Cross Code, the Code also detailed vehicle security in the wake of rapidly rising car crime.

The introduction of the written theory test in 1996 called for an entire section devoted to it in the Code’s next edition. Later editions accounted for the growing popularity of mobile phones.

Where are we now?

The Highway Code was never intended to be a static document. In the last few years, not only has its content changed, but the way it’s been distributed has too: 2011 saw the Highway Code joining Facebook and Twitter, and the next year a Highway Code app was launched. Both allowed for more convenient learning.

One common criticism of the Highway Code is that few drivers actually utilise it outside of their theory test. However, it almost certainly makes our roads safer, and hopefully will continue to do so for years to come.

Tech Trouble: How New Car Technology could be Pushing Up Your Insurance

Many of us have technology as part of our driving experience. Whether it’s a Sat Nav to (hopefully) send you in the right direction for that holiday or a parking sensor that makes sure you definitely do have enough space, these types of additions to cars are becoming the standard.

However, some of the nation’s top car insurers are reporting that this is having an unintended consequence for drivers, making their car insurance claims more expensive.

As Hastings chief executive Toby van der Meer told Financial Times, “the cost per accident – particularly repair costs – are driving inflation. “More expensive vehicles are safer than other cars, but more expensive to repair. It is not just repairing a piece of bent metal, it is fixing technology and sensors.”

These types of repairs are, naturally, more complex than your run-of-the-mill cosmetic upgrades – and that’s driven up both the price of parts and the cost of labour, which has been passed onto consumers.

And because of just how many of us around the world now have tech in our cars, it’s not a UK-only problem; Stephen Hester, the chief executive of insurer RSA, said it was “the same in pretty much every motor market.”

Another problem that’s unique to these newer, more technologically advanced cars is keyless entry car theft, also known as relay theft attacks. Criminals use the signal going between pair of relay boxes – one near a property, where the key is stored, and the other near the car itself – to trick the car into thinking it’s received a signal from its real key. This allows the car to be seamlessly unlocked and driven away, often in a matter of seconds.

The Association of British Insurers says that the industry paid out £376 million for car thefts in 2018; that’s almost 30% more than the previous year.

All this could see claims inflation rise – but the cost of cover more generally is less likely to do so. Normally, insurers would increase their prices to try and offset this rise, but in a market that’s more competitive than ever, many of the major insurers are trying to keep prices low to entice customers.

Despite this, the need for these major players to balance customer retention with their profit margin has meant that some of the ‘mid-market insurers, like Esure and the AA, have been able to thrive.

Of course, technology isn’t all bad. Last year, for example, Netbase revealed that younger motorists could cut their claim prices by up to 30% if they used a dash cam. Nonetheless, it’s still a confusing market for insurers and customers alike, and it’s set to get even more so. There’s currently an ongoing inquiry into pricing practices, and the Civil Liability Act is aiming to cut the number of whiplash claims.

In the meantime, insurers have a few methods of damage control. “We make sure we do repairs at the most economic cost,” says Toby van der Meer, “and the rest is about pricing effectively, increasing retention and remaining low cost.”

Have you seen your insurance premiums rise recently – and how much do you think this is due to new technology in cars, competition or something else entirely? Let us know in the comments!

Then and Now: How and Where has the Car Industry Grown?

When you’re talking about the car industry, there are definitely some major players. America, Japan, the UK…but how has the car industry been growing – or shrinking – across the world?

With global vehicle production increasing by a whopping 157% between 2000 and 2018, Quotezone has examined the total motor production output from the top 14 countries between that period and analysed how their share on the global market has changed over the years.

The car market itself has remained quite stable in terms of overall production, but you can see from these GIFS that there have been huge shifts in power within the car industry. Let’s look at how it’s impacted specific countries…

America

The States is known for its muscle cars, and they’ve been selling rather a lot of them between 2000 and 2018. The early 2000’s saw them share plaudits with Japan for high car production levels, and in the period this report was studying, they accounted for 14% of car production.

However, they have seen a major drop in production due to one factor – China. Its explosion onto the scene has dealt everyone a blow, but America has arguably suffered the worst; its market share was 22% in 2000, and only stands at 12% today.

China

Across the entire period of the study, China produced 19% of the world’s cars. That begs the question: why has China turned into such a massive motoring superpower in the last 18 years?
To answer that, you have to go back to before 2000. After spending 3 billion dollars on imported vehicles in 1985, the country was faced with a severe trade deficit – much more was going into China than was being shipped out. To combat this, the Chinese government imposed a ban on imported vehicles that same year. This might not have been good for the rest of the world, but it had a big benefit for Chinese car makers. Deals were struck with companies like Volkswagen that allowed passenger vehicles to be produced in China, boosting local output.

Further advancements came in 2001, when China became part of the World Trade Organisation. This opened up China to more international trade, and by extension, forced companies within China to up their efficiency.

The Chinese car industry even managed to weather the storm of the 2008 financial crisis – when Europe and North America were struggling, China was making its way up the food chain. And the statistics show this – between 2008 and 2009 China went from producing 13% of the world’s cars to 22%.

Even in the last decade, China has been making more strides – in 2008, the government implemented a strategy to focus more on research, development and increasing production capacity. To the surprise of no one, it worked wonders – with production capacity growing by 48% in just one year.

Germany

Germany might have had a big part to play in China’s rise to power in the 1980’s, but the study finds that they haven’t been doing so well more recently.

In 2000, Germany was manufacturing a healthy 12% of cars, but by 2018 this had almost halved. Germany’s market share has also dropped from 9% to 6%.

China has, of course, caused this to an extent, but there’s also a factor you might not expect – Brexit.
“But they’re not leaving the EU!”, you’re probably thinking.
This is true. However, the declining interest in the UK importing from European countries has been shown by Deloitte to have a major potential impact. Amongst other things, there would be a slump in sales – with 255,000 fewer cars being sold as a result of a hard Brexit.

Brexit would also directly endanger German jobs, with 18,000 of the 60,000 jobs in German manufacturing at risk.

Britain

So, what of us here in Britain? Well, as the second GIF in this article shows, in the last 18 years we’ve never risen above 3% (and even that figure was from the very early 2000’s). We, like most other countries, were hit hard by the 2008 financial crisis – but overall, our 3% of
production amounts to 24.3 vehicles produced for every member of the population.

Our car industry is undoubtedly being affected by Brexit: just last June, Toyota’s Derbyshire plant lost the contract to make the Avensis, and more generally, the UK’s automotive production fell by 9.5% between 2017 and 2018; bad news, considering that the Society of
Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) had predicted record vehicle production levels in this period.

The Toyota Avensis

And with Honda set to depart the UK in 2021 – doing away with 3500 jobs in the process – rates of production could fall even more. From 2012 to 2016 Honda produced, on average, 135,693 cars in the UK. Quotezone has worked out that their departure could bring the UK’s
total global market share to just 1.59% in 2021.
It all makes for some sobering reading, but if you look beyond the numbers you’ll see that it’s not all doom and gloom.

China has put aside a lot of resources to promote and create UK factories – with Norfolk getting a state-of-the-art Lotus HQ, and research and development in the UK for their cars likely to continue. Jaguar Land Rover also have plans to create a new battery assembly centre for electric cars in Warwickshire. Perhaps Business Secretary Greg Clark was right to emphasise Britain’s “unrivalled business environment “ in a 2016 letter to former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn.

The General Picture, and Some New Faces

A lot can change in 18 years – and as we’ve seen, no country’s fortunes have been stable. Even Japan, who once accounted for 13% of global production, faced a steady decline to only 10% by 2015.
Most notably, there was a relatively big downturn in global car production in 2018, with it decreasing by 6%. None of the 14 leading countries increased their production levels this year either; possible reasons for this include new European emissions laws, which we’ve discussed before on this blog, and associated changes to the manufacturing process.

Overall, it’s the big three – Japan, China and the USA – that have largely dominated proceedings from 2000-2018. But we’d suggest keeping an eye on newcomers like India and South Korea: they may have only accounted for 5% and 4% of all car production in 2018, but emerging manufacturing facilities and company takeovers make them countries to watch as the car industry continues to change.

What are your thoughts on the growth of the car industry over the last 18 years? Where do you think the numbers will be in the future? Let us know in the comments section below!

“False and Foolish”: Lidar, HD maps, and how Tesla’s driverless cars (might) be different

Elon Musk has become something of an internet icon over the last year. From sending a Tesla Roadster into space to building and selling a literal flamethrower (that’s not actually a flamethrower, apparently), he’s used to doing the things everyone else would be scared to try. It makes sense, then, that he’s moving into electric cars.

And he’s not being shy about it, either – predicting that the technology will turn Tesla into a company worth $500 billion. That’s a bold prediction, especially when coupled with a rejection of two of the main elements of everyone else’s attempts at making driverless cars. He recently called Lidar and HD maps “the two main crutches that should not be used”, as well as branding them “obviously false and foolish”. This has caused considerable annoyance amongst the people that build
both these things into self-driving cars for a living – but the average consumer is probably a little stumped.

Fear not – in this post, we’re going to explain what exactly each of those things are, why they’re so important to electric cars, and how Tesla not using them could make a difference in how their self-driving cars of the future end up operating.

What is LIDAR?

Lidar is a specific type of sensor that uses lasers to calculate the distance between it and other objects. By measuring the time it takes for the laser to bounce back off an object, a driverless car with LIDAR can figure out what obstacles are around it and work to avoid them.

What is HD mapping?

HD mapping, as the name implies, involves the creation of extremely high-definition maps, accurate down to centimetres. Including things like the height of curves in a road, these maps work to help the driverless car understand its surroundings, allowing it to make decisions that humans take for granted, like waiting for a traffic light to change colour. Having the maps available also means the cars can do this with a smaller time delay, leading to more seamless movement.

An example of HD mapping in action…

Why does Elon Musk dislike both of them?

Musk’s main issue with both these technologies is the problems it can run into when its surroundings change before they do. Accuracy is, of course, key to the running of driverless cars, and if inaccuracy leads to failure, less people will invest in driverless cars because of it.

But these cars still need to navigate the city somehow – so what is Tesla putting in its place? The answer is deceptively simple: cameras. Each of Tesla’s driverless vehicles are equipped with lots of them, covering all angles with the aim of teaching the car to “see” what’s around them. A forward-facing radar and ultrasonic sensors placed around the vehicle add to the car’s potential field of vision. The Financial Times also notes its reveal two weeks ago of a computer chip, designed in-house that will be installed in all its vehicles. The specs themselves are mind-blowing, but the chip’s real significance is that, according to Musk, it can handle all the data input from these sensors and cameras more effectively than any of the other chips currently on the market.

Tesla also has some complex software onboard to offset the chances of things going wrong. Much of that is grounded in AI, or artificial intelligence, specifically “neural networks”. In essence, these are
networks that simulate the structure of the human brain – with its billions of connected cells – that allow humanlike decisions to be made. Like other AI, the network can learn by itself, but does need
to be programmed first. Tesla’s way of doing this is to feed the network lots and lots of data about the objects that the car might encounter – data that’s currently being captured by the 40,000 standard Tesla cars already on the road.

All this might make for a smoother driving experience eventually, but as with any new technology, these neural networks do have their own problems. Neural networks can go slightly haywire when they see an object that doesn’t match what they have in their data banks – and with the world always changing, these networks might not be able to keep up with demand. Just look at some of the experiences of the lucky attendees that got to demo the “AutoPilot” system at Tesla’s Autonomy
Day: Trip Chowdhry, managing director at Global Equities Research, noted to Wired that it didn’t recognise a turn arrow on a traffic light. Though the driving was smooth, these issues make Tesla’s ambitious time scale hard to believe: will they really have fully driverless cars by the end of 2019?

Well, Tesla is notoriously flexible on its deadlines, so that may not come to pass. But Elon Musk and co are looking to reinvent what we think we know about driverless cars – and if they do it as well as
they say they can, waiting might not matter.

What are your thoughts on Tesla’s ambitions for their driverless cars? Do you think disowning all these common technologies is a good or a bad move? Let us know in the comments!

Road Rage: The Most Frustrating Places to Drive in England

Driving can be an annoying experience at the best of times. Tailbacks, roadworks, and others’ bad decisions is often enough to make you tear your hair out…but what part of England has it the worst?

Our friends at Moneybarn carried out a study to find out just that.

They took data from 47 different places in England, based around 4 common annoyances:

• Speed Cameras

• Potholes

• Slow Traffic

• Delays

By normalising the data on a scale of 0-10 (0 being the least frustrating, and 10 being the most), they were able to find out what regions really got on driver’s nerves.

The Top 5

1. Greater London – overall frustration score 8.63

2. Greater Manchester– overall frustration score 7.67

3. West Midlands – overall frustration score 6.06

4. Lancashire– overall frustration score 5.68

5. West Yorkshire– overall frustration score 5.07

It’s probably no surprise to any of you to see London heading up the list. It has a population higher than Greater Manchester and the West Midlands combined – meaning more cars and more annoyances. It also ranks relatively highly for individual annoyances, coming second for its number of potholes and topping the rankings for slow traffic and delays.Even its lowest score – for speed cameras – is 5.83 out of 10, placing it in 4th.

When it comes to each separate category, the results are a bit more varied.

Lancashiremay be known as the home of the hotpot and one half of Morecambe and Wise, but it’s also got lots to answer for in terms of its speed cameras. Data from Speed Cameras UK used  in the study found a total of 274 speed cameras in the county – almost 80 more than its closest rival Essex.

In terms of potholes, East Sussexhas the most, with it ranking a solid 10/10 on the frustration scale. This might be confusing, but becomes less so when you realise that the number of potholesin the area totalled a car-shaking 7,245!

Another place whose ranking might amaze you is Kingston upon Hull. This port city in Yorkshire ranked second for its slow traffic behind London – and by a very small margin at that. The average speed on its local A-roads only gets up to 16.6 miles per hour.

In the same vein, Kingston upon Hull also takes second place for frustration with delays. It scores an 8.21 for annoyance on that, behind London but above Greater Manchester. Per vehicle, per mile, a car is usually delayed there for 87 seconds on average.That may not seem like much, but when you consider how people in each of these places drive the same routes every day to get to or from work, or complete the school run, it’s easy to see how it can all add up…

Top 5 Least Frustrating Places to Drive

1. East Riding of Yorkshire – overall frustration score of 0.31

2. County Durham– overall frustration score of 0.67

3. Northumberland– overall frustration score of 0.72

4. Shropshire– overall frustration score of 0.86

5. Herefordshire– overall frustration score of 1.05

On the other hand, people seem to have a much easier time of things in the North East. The East Riding of Yorkshire was ranked the least frustrating place to drive, and all of the five places you see listed above came pretty low in the rankings for individual annoyances too.

Herefordshire was second-to-last for people’s annoyance with speed cameras, with only 6 reported in the area. County Durham had the third lowest number of potholes, with only 401 reported.

And taking the coveted place at the bottom of the list for both delays and slow traffic is once again the East Riding Of Yorkshire. The average speed on their localW A roads is 36.6 miles per hour – which, in comparison to some of the others on the list, seems positively speedy!

What about in Derbyshire?

All these statistics are well and good, but they did leave us at WrightStart wondering how we did in our neck of the woods.

Well, we’re pleased to report that Derbyshire did very well. Its overall frustration score is a satisfactory 2.77, with the majority of the individual scores in the low threes. Our highest score was on speed cameras, where 100 of them got us a score of 3.58 (exactly the same as Bedfordshire).

So, what does this study teach us? Well, there’s definitely a split between the urban and the rural. If you want to keep clam on the roads, the Yorkshire countryside is the place to go. One of its lessons is something most of us already know, though  – avoid driving in London. Take the tube instead…

What frustrates you most about driving in your area? Do you think there’s anything Moneybarn’s study missed out? Let us know!

Green cards: what you need to know

If you’re anything like us, you’ll have heard enough about Brexit in these last few months to last you a lifetime. But have you ever stopped to consider how it all might affect your driving in European countries?

Currently, getting on the road in Europe is a pretty easy process. As the UK is still within the EU, a valid UK driving licence  is enough to get you on the road. But as it stands at the moment, if we leave the EU without a deal, you’ll need a Green Card to drive in Europe.

What’s a Green Card, and why do I need one?

They’re internationally recognised documents that prove your vehicle is insured, and make things go a lot smoother in the event of you needing to make a claim, or exchange details with police.

Though there was an agreement reached in May that would waive the need for green cards in the event of a no-deal Brexit, this hasn’t been passed into law yet, so it’s better to err on the side of caution.

Other countries outside of the EU already require green cards for driving, such as Russia and Turkey.

How do I apply for a green card?

Cards are issued free of charge, but because of the time it takes you should contact your insurance provider about a month before you’re planning to travel. It’s valid for a whole year, and if you aren’t travelling for a while you can delay the card coming into effect for up to three months. It is important to note, though, that a green card is not a substitute for your driving license; make sure to keep both on you when driving abroad.

Who do the changes affect?

In 2018, the Eurotunnel carried approximately 3 million cars and 2 million trucks from England to France. All these people could potentially fall foul of the changes to EU driving rules – alongside those travelling either way across the Irish border.

However, there are some circumstances where you won’t need a green card. This includes if you’re hiring a car abroad (in which case you should be covered by the rental company’s insurance on its own).

Will I need anything else to drive in Europe if we leave without a deal?

Yes. If we leave the EU without a deal, a green card is just one of the things you’ll need. The other big document is an International Driving Permit, or IDP. This costs £5.50 and can be bought over the counter at your local post office. There are three different types of permit, and which one you’ll need is dependent on where you’re driving to.

A full list of countries and their respective IDP’s are available on the government’s website, but most of the popular holiday destinations, such as Spain and Cyprus require a 1949 IDP. Other countries, like Italy, Germany and Greece need you to have a newer 1968 IDP.

A parting disclaimer

We do a lot of things here at WrightStart, but predicting the future isn’t one of them. Even if we could, Brexit is infamous for how fluid it is day-to-day, and so there’s no guarantee that these changes will actually go through.

In any case, we think it’s a good idea to be prepared – and for less than the price of a coffee and a slice of cake, how can you say no?

China’s Motorways: The Greatest Scheme You’ve Never Heard Of

If you think about China, a few things probably come to mind. Pandas. Noodles. The Great Wall.

What you probably don’t think of, though, is motorways.

A few weeks ago, we talked about the history of the UK’s motorways – but the Chinese may have us beat for the sheer amount of them.

Up until the 1980’s, the majority of China’s goods were transported by rail. 1988 saw the construction of the first motorway (or “expressway”, as they’re known locally). It connected Shenyang and Dalian, the two largest cities of the Liaoning province. More expressways connecting more major cities followed, and as almost 14% of freight and 53% of passengers began to be transported on the road by 1997, companies were formed to accommodate the growing network.

And grow it did. In January of 2005, then-Transport Minister Zhang Chunxian announced a plan to build a network of 85,000 kilometres of expressways over the next three decades. They appear to be well on track with this, with 142,500 kilometres existing as of 2019. That’s more than any other country.

If you read our earlier post on the history of British motorways, you’ll remember Lord Montagu, and his harebrained scheme to build motorways on top of viaduct-like structures. Though his idea may have ben absolutely untenable for the British authorities, no such issue seems to exist for China.

This, for example, is the Duge Beipanjiang Bridge.                                          

IMG_0196.jpeg

It’s placed almost 600 metres above the Beipan river; that’s so high up that you could fit two of London’s Shards.underneath it, end-to-end.

Of course, this kind of spectacle doesn’t come cheap. The 1,341-metre structure cost over 1 billion yuan to build – that’s almost 115 million pounds. It and other ambitious expressway projects are funded in various different ways, including vehicle purchase tax and money collected from tolls (China contains around 70% of the world’s tollways.)

The majority of expressways operate on a card system; the card is given to the driver, and the payment is determined by the distance traveled when the driver hands the entry card back to the exit toll gate upon leaving the expressway. However, some motorways charge normal fares, and places Beijing and Shanghai have started to phase in new electronic toll systems.

That might be similar to Britain – but unlike us, China’s motorway building programme doesn’t seem to have slowed down into the 21st century. Since 2011, there have been 6,000 miles of motorway built every year.

No wonder Jeremy Clarkson called China’s road network “the eighth wonder of the world.”

The Great British Motorway: a troubled history, and how they’re named

Motorways. Everyone knows these long stretches of road that connect our major cities – there are 2,241 miles of them in Britain– but have you ever wondered how they came about?

Well, it took a while. Britain wanted a similar system to those already in place in the USA and Belgium, but beginning with the rejection of a Private Bill for a route between Croydon and Patcham in Sussex, there were many roadblocks for us to overcome. Whether it was the Roads Board (created just before WW1) or Lord Montagu’s bonkers idea for a railway-duct like structure with flats and offices, nothing got off the ground. After the war, it was a different story…

The Special Roads Act: things get moving!

In 1949, the Special Roads Act was passed. This allowed for the creation of roads that no cars had the right to drive on unless stated. Additionally, Special Roads were forbidden from being dug up for other maintenance projects, like water pipes and electricity cables.

Four separate motorways were ordered under the passing of the Act:

1. The Stevenage Bypass (now part of the A1)

2. The Newport (Monmouthshire) Bypass

3. Both sides of the Severn bridge (now the M48)

4. The Port Talbot Bypass (now part of the M4)

As the 1950’s arrived, more motorways were ordered. They included stretches from London to Yorkshire and the West Midlands to Bristol amongst others, but the major development of that period was…

The Preston Bypass: the First “Proper” Motorway

Originally added to the list alongside its Lancastrian cousin, work began on the Preston Bypass in 1956. It was officially opened on 5th December 1958, despite a disagreement between its creator  James Drake and the ministry about the amount of lanes. However, damage caused by extreme wet weather conditions did mean that the motorway had to be temporarily closed soon after its grand opening.

The Preston Bypass was extended into the 1960’s, adding an extra lane (and ironically matching with James Drake’s original plan!). Throughout the decade, it was gradually joined to the rest of the M6, with the section to the Lancaster Bypass to the north opening in 1964, and the south coming first in 1963.

Scotland and Wales got their own motorways as the 1960’s rolled on, and by the end of 1968 there were 72 individual stretches for drivers to use. And there were plans for even more – until 1970.

Westway: Changing Fortunes

That year, the A40 Westway was opened. At the time, it was the largest continuous concrete structure in Britain, and its proximity to people’s houses caused a lot of controversy. By 1973, plans for the Westway were scuppered.

Things didn’t get any better for the motorway industry as we got into the mid-70’s. Economic problems meant less money for building motorways and longer-term plans put on the back-burner.

This continued into the late 80’s to early 90’s. What was more, environmental groups were getting increasingly concerned about the impact of motorways on the planet – and their presence at almost every major road construction project of the 1990s led to schemes being more unpopular than ever.

Perhaps as a result, government motorway construction properly stalled. Despite this, the privately-funded M6 toll road was opened in 2003 – providing a pleasing echo to how everything began in the 1920’s.

What’s In A Name?

Throughout that first bit, you’ll have seen acronyms popping up all over the place – M1, A1, A40… Chances are, you’ve been down one or more of these yourself, but it’s not often you’ll have stopped to think about why motorways have the names that they do.

On the surface it might seem simple; you start with the M1, and then continue down the line for Motorways 2, 3, 4 etc. Right?

Wrong!

For a start, this assumes that the M1 is the first motorway, which we’ve already seen is false. The numbering system is, annoyingly, more complicated.

The numbering scheme of motorways has its origins in the one for the A-roads that were created before them.  Under this system, A-roads were numbered clockwise out of London, meaning the route to Edinburgh was the A1, to Dover A2, and so on. Indeed, many of today’s motorways still run parallel to their A-road counterparts (such as the M40, which runs close to the A40).

However, as motorways became ever more popular it was decided that they should be given their own numbering scheme to avoid confusing drivers.

Earlier motorways were numbered in relation to their Motor Road Projects. This included the M1 and M2, but was altered soon after due to worries about it leading to a completely random set of numbers. Various other ideas were thrown around – including the possibility of using the European system of ‘E’ numbers – but the main one to emerge was doing away with giving spurs, shorter offshoots of larger motorways, their own number.

It wasn’t until 1959 – quit a while after the Preston Bypass opened – that C.H Wykes, a key figure within the Road Traffic Division proposed the idea of a separate “M” system based on the existing one of A-roads. Current bypasses, such as Preston, would have (M) tacked onto the end of their name to show that they were also motorways.

It seemed logical enough, but of course there was opposition to the plans. People disagreed about exactly how the numbering should be implemented – but in September of 1959, almost a full year after the opening of the Preston Bypass and 33 DAYS before the opening of the M1, the majority finally agreed on a system!

The proposals were gradually fleshed out into 1960. Even after this point, there were still disagreements within the Ministry about the merits of the system – but the policy was officially adopted on 16th December 1961, probably to the relief of many!

As you’ve seen here, motorways have a confusing history in more ways than one. Hopefully this has demystified some of it for you!

Ultra Low Emission Zone

If you’ve been watching the news recently, you’ll have seen a lot about ULEZ, short for Ultra Low Emission Zone.  It’s Sadiq Khan’s new scheme to decrease air pollution in central London – but what does it involve? Will it make any real difference to air quality? And what might it mean for those of us outside the capital?

The theory behind London’s ULEZ is pretty simple. In order to drive through the zone, vehicles that don’t meet a set emissions standard will have to pay a fee. For most cars, this will be £12.50, but drivers of larger vehicles like trucks will have to pay £100.  The hope is that, by discouraging the driving of more polluting cars in the city, its air quality will gradually improve. This can only benefit the city’s children – who have been shown to have stunted lung capacity resulting from pollution levels – as well as older people, and those with asthma like the late Ella Kissi-Debrah.

However, not everyone is happy with the thought of paying substantial fees in such a key area of the city. On the same day it was announced, drivers and business owners took to Twitter to voice their concern, with many pointing out that they had to pass on the cost of the charge to customers, or at worst, risk bankruptcy.

Another worrying aspect of the ULEZ is the lack of exemptions. According to Transport for London’s official website, the only vehicles that will bypass the charge are black taxi cabs. Vehicles used by disabled people, or charity minibuses get a temporary grace period – but only until 2025 and 2023, respectively. Low-emission vehicles may be on the rise, but they’re still not cheap when compared to traditional petrol or diesel cars, meaning that many who would be most affected by the ULEZ simply don’t have the money to spend on upgrading their vehicles. Add this to the recent U-turn made by the government on people owning diesel cars, and it’s not hard to see why ULEZ isn’t entirely welcome.

It‘s important to note, though, that London isn’t alone in their scheme. As climate change has become a bigger social issue, countries around the world have been creating emission zones in their biggest cities. The world’s oldest was created in Stockholm in 1996, and though local truckers were initially against it – presumably for the same reasons as their London counterparts – they soon realised the positive impact it could have on their image. They even wanted the zone made bigger! Furthermore, London’s scheme may not even be the toughest. Madrid’s zero emission zone covers about the same size as the  London ULEZ, and though residents are exempted, others need to drive electric cars – as they’re the only type that will get the authorisation needed to pass through.

There are also smaller version of the London ULEZ in force around the UK. For us here at WrightStart, the closest is in Nottingham. It’s less wide-ranging than the scheme in the capital, only affecting public buses, but is similarly permanent. And it’s the same story when you look at the other low emission schemes that exist around the country; though many of our major cities have implemented schemes London’s is definitely the most ambitious.

As for whether it works – well, the evidence seems to suggest so. The Low Emission Zone (LEZ) came into effect in 2008 and has led to a 40-50% reduction in the amount of black carbon, and a 2.4% (26 tonne) reduction in nitrogen dioxide – both chemicals that have been shown to affect health.  A feasibility study also predicted that 310,000 cases of respiratory illness could be prevented as a result.

Overall, it’s clear that London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone will continue to draw passionate opinions from both sides. What’s more, with the increased profile of pollution and its impacts, it may not be too long before other cities have to follow London’s lead.

What are your thoughts on London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone? Do you think it will help or hinder motorists? Let us known in the comments!

UK’s Worst Motorway Junctions to Take A Wrong Turn

Ever found you’ve missed your exit? Now panicking about where to go? Wondering how long will the detour take?

Well, the data analysts at Quotezone.co.uk have crunched the numbers and can reveal the UK’s worst motorway junctions to take a wrong turn.

Detours do not only add to the additional mileage and cost of fuel, but it’s the extra time on the road and stress of finding the next junction to correct your course that get to most people.

The number one on our list is the famous M25, or aka ‘The Road to Hell’ per hit song by Chris Rea. This is especially true if you miss your southbound exit on the M26 and accidentally end up on this ‘road to hell’… because you’ll have to travel for another 18 miles on the M25 before you can correct your course.  

Here is a list of the top 10 UK’s worst motorway junctions to take a wrong turn. Do you live near any of them? Do you have a similar experience that you could share?  

Motorway Area Junction Junction Distance (Miles) Detour (Miles) Litres Cost* Time (In Minutes)

1

M26 / M25 Kent J2A J6

18

36

2.77

£3.44

31

2

M11 Cambridge J10 J8

17.5

35

2.68

£3.33

30

3

M6 Lancashire J32 J33

13

26

2

£2.48

22

4

M74 Glasgow J14 J15

13

26

2

£2.48

22

5

M20 Maidstone J8 J9

13

26

2

£2.48

22

6

M4 Chippenham J16 J17

12

24

1.86

£2.31

20

7

M1 Northampton J14 J15

12

24

1.86

£2.31

20

8

M90 Perth J9 J7

11

22

1.68

£2.09

19

9

M6 Stoke-on-Trent J14 J15

11

22

1.68

£2.09

19

10

A1(M) North East J50 J51

10

20

1.55

£1.92

17

*Based on a Ford Fiesta Hatch 3Dr 1.0T EcoB 100 SS ST-Line 6 19MY
Mpg used for this calculation: 58.90 mpg

 

To illustrate it better, here is a great interactive map to reveal the findings so you can see how a wrong turn could impact on the journey – Wrong Turn Map

 

Top Tips if you go the wrong way:

  1. Don’t panic – this will usually lead to making other mistakes
  2. No last minute decisions – deciding to flick the car across a lane without properly planning/checking will result in an incident
  3. Let the sat-nav reroute – most of us use sat-navs these days so let is work out the next best way to go
  4. Pull over when safe – don’t pull over on the hard shoulder but try the next service station or exit and make a plan
  5. Better late than never – don’t drive faster to make up time, stay safe out there

 

Please tell us your stories of missing the junction you needed, I’m sure most of you have done it…

 

Go Karting Tips & Tricks

Go-karting tips to be the best driver on the track – from Activity Superstore

Do you want to be the fastest driver on the track? Whether you’re trying go-karting for the first time or already consider yourself an expert racer, our hot go-karting tips will help you perfect your technique and become the king or queen of the track. Before you know it, you’ll be claiming first place and leaving the other drivers in the dust.

Indoor vs. outdoor go-karting

Before you begin, you’ll need to decide if you’d like to race indoors or out. As the UK is infamous for its rainy weather, an indoor track means you can race even on the foulest of days. On the other hand, indoor tracks are normally smaller and narrower, which makes overtaking other karts more challenging.

On indoor tracks, you’ll also find plenty of fun and cool features like bridges and tunnels. However, the close track walls can be pretty unforgiving if you fail to navigate them properly.

Since outdoor tracks tend to be larger, you can easily overtake other drivers and reach higher speeds. As such, professional go-kart drivers often prefer outdoor tracks, which means you could be racing with some of the best on these circuits.

Gearing up for the race

As with any sport, it’s important to be prepared for the track. Regardless of where you’re racing, you need to have the right gear.

You’ll want to wear comfortable yet durable clothing. Jeans and a loose-fitting t-shirt are ideal for wearing to the track. You don’t want to be restricted by clothing that’s too tight or worry about keeping your favourite shirt in pristine condition. You’ll also want to wear a pair of trainers as you won’t be allowed to wear open-toed shoes or heels.

When you arrive at the track, you’ll be given a pair of overalls, gloves and a helmet for ultimate protection. If you have long hair, you’ll need to tie it back and tuck it into your overalls, so it’s good to have a hair tie on hand for this purpose.

When trying on your helmet, make sure it fits correctly. The helmet should be snug but not so tight as to be uncomfortable. Remember that you’re likely to be wearing it for a while. Ask a member of the team if you’re worried about the fit. An ill-fitting helmet can be a serious distraction when zooming around the track.

Common kart racing rules

Once you’re geared up, the track team will brief you on the rules. It’s important that you pay attention, as failing to follow the rules could see you disqualified, and you certainly won’t reach the podium that way.

Rules are in place to help keep you and the other drivers safe. Erratic and over-aggressive driving can be very dangerous and even slow you down.

All tracks use different colour flags to communicate with drivers. It’s useful to know what each flag means to make sure you’re following the track team’s directions. Below, you’ll find explanations for some of the most common flags.

Go-karting tips

Adjust your seat

The first step to a podium finish is to make sure you have the right seat position. You want to be able to comfortably reach the brakes and throttle. With the ideal seat position, your legs should be slightly bent and your feet should rest lightly on the pedals. Your arms should be able to reach the steering wheel without too much of a stretch.

Most go-kart seats and pedals can be adjusted to reach the perfect position. Some tracks even provide padded inserts for smaller drivers.

Top Tip: Rather than leaning into the corners, try to keep your body completely centered so that your weight is evenly distributed in the kart.

Using the brake

The best kart drivers have mastered the art of using the brake. Most go-karts come equipped with a left-foot brake, which saves time as you don’t need to switch between the accelerator and brake. Getting used to this can take a bit of practice, especially if you’re used to braking with your right foot as you would in a car.

You want to avoid slamming on the brakes, as this can cause your car to lose control. Go-kart brakes are typically located on the rear axle, which means that brakes are only applied to the back wheels. As such, pushing the brakes too hard can cause the back wheels to lock and the kart to slide out.

While most people think of brakes as only a way to reduce speed, the best drivers know that they can also help you go faster. When approaching a corner, you want to slow down your kart enough so that it can zip around it without losing grip and sliding out. Keeping it tight around the corners can give you a competitive edge over other drivers.

Top Tip: Don’t apply the throttle and brake at the same time as this could cause you to spin or lead to the engine cutting out completely. Instead, aim to transition smoothly between throttle and brake by easing off one before moving onto the other.

Using the throttle

Applying the throttle properly is just as important as effectively using the brake. In most go-karts, the throttle is the right pedal and pressing it powers the engine. The harder you press the pedal, the more power you get. While it may seem tempting to put the pedal to the metal to get the most speed, professional drivers understand the value of throttle control.

You want to use the throttle carefully and smoothly to get the maximum speed. Giving the throttle too much power during corners can slow you down by causing you to slide out. If you feel the go-kart starting to slide, ease off on the throttle as this will allow the wheels to regain their grip on the track.

Top Tip: Study the more experienced drivers to assess the racing line and determine where you should re-apply the throttle when cornering.

Go-kart steering

In addition to properly using the brake and throttle, speed also relies on expert steering technique. You should grip the steering wheel at the ‘quarter to 3 position’ with both hands on either side of the wheel. This position allows you to use your largest arm muscles, so you can maintain control with minimum effort. Experts recommend keeping your hands here throughout the entire race for best results.

You want to avoid turning the wheel too sharply as this can result in over or understeer. Understeer happens when you move the wheel too quickly as you enter a corner, causing the front tyres to lose traction. On the other hand, oversteer happens if you move the wheel too quickly when exiting the corner, causing the rear tyres to lose traction.

Top Tip: Grip the steering wheel loosely and try to remain relaxed as this will give you better composure on the track.

How to enter a corner

Every go-kart track features corners and getting these right can make the difference between the fastest and slowest driver. Before you start the race, try to get a look at the circuit and identify key corners – ones that lead onto a straight section of the track. Maximising your momentum for these parts of the circuit is essential for gaining a competitive edge.

To truly master the race circuit, you’ll need to be the fastest on the corners as this is where most novice drivers fall behind. We recommend using the racing line as a guide for where you need to adjust your steering or apply the brakes. The exact trajectory of the racing line (the optimal path for quickly moving around the track) will depend on the sharpness of the corner and length of the following straight. Ultimately, you want to try to gain as much momentum as possible as you enter and exit the corner.

As you approach a corner, try to keep the go-kart wide as this will minimise the amount you’ll need to turn, creating an easier entrance. Once you enter the approach, take your foot off the throttle and apply the brakes. Slowing down for corners will give you more control and help you avoid sliding out. Now that your speed has been reduced you can turn into the corner, how much you need to turn will be determined by the sharpness of the corner. As you turn, try to aim for the apex – or central point – of the turn on the inside. Ideally, you want to reach this point during the middle of the turn.

Top Tip: When racing in wet conditions, the best drivers often find the most grip off the racing line so you may need to adjust accordingly.

How to exit a corner

Once you’ve hit the apex or central point, it’s time to start your exit. Now, you want to aim towards the outside of the track as this will allow the kart to swing wide and pick up momentum. As you straighten the wheel, re-apply the throttle to give the engine more power. Increase the pressure on the throttle as you continue to exit the corner, so that you’re at full power and the wheel is corrected by the time you hit the straight stretch of the track.

To successfully master the corners it’s important to perfect your “slow in, fast out” technique which requires understanding the right place to apply the brakes. As you exit the corner, you want to avoid accelerating too late or too hard as this will slow your speed and throw you off the race line. Instead, focus on picking up as much speed as possible during your exit so that you can slingshot past your opponents.

Remember that every corner is slightly different, so you may need to adapt the above approach to suit the circuit. More experienced drivers are able to transition quickly from easing off the throttle when entering the corner and powering up on the exit.

Top Tip: Going around corners will inevitably slow you down so it’s important to get your kart pointing straight as quickly as possible to reach the highest speed.

Go-kart overtaking

Once you’ve mastered the art of entering and exiting corners, you can start to think about overtaking. Corners are one of the best places on the track to overtake your opponent and your success here will depend on how smoothly you can brake and accelerate around them.

Always make sure it’s safe to overtake before doing so, ensuring there are no obstacles in your way. When you’re ready, move to the inside as this will put you in the best position to pass drivers that understeer in the corners. It’ll also allow you to pick up the most momentum so that you can leave other drivers in the dust.

Hairpins and chicanes are common forms of slow-speed corners well suited to overtakes. When approaching hairpin or chicane corners, less experienced drivers often brake earlier than necessary. By braking later, you can gain a competitive advantage and speed past the drivers that brake too early.

While corners are certainly one of the best places to overtake, drivers can also use slipstreams on the straights. Every moving object encounters wind resistance, known in the racing industry as drag, when travelling at high-speeds. The lead driver will need to overcome this challenge to stay ahead. You can use this to your advantage by driving in the space directly behind the lead driver. Since the lead driver takes the brunt of the drag, this space acts as a partial vacuum without wind resistance. By staying here till you’re ready to pass, you’ll be able to build up the necessary momentum for quickly overtaking.

Top Tip: The best drivers use their judgement and bravery to brake as late as possible when overtaking competitors into corners.

Lights out and away we go!

Now that you’ve got the top tips and tricks, you’ll be ready to hit the track and start training for the Grand Prix. Who knows, you may even become the next Lewis Hamilton! Activity Superstore has discounts on some of the best karting experiences in the country. We’ll help you release your inner speed demon with a 50 Lap Karting Race, dominate your opponents in an indoor karting session, or encourage the young ones to learn the art of racing with Junior Karting.

If you’re feeling brave enough, why not race around in a speedy supercar or go off-roading on a quad bike? Activity Superstore offers some epic driving experiences perfect for drivers of all ages.

Experts Have Predicted The Release Dates of Science-Fiction Cars

This weeks blog has kindly been created by Lou at Leasing Options, it’s quite an interesting read…

 

Self-inflating tyres, Hydrogen Fuel Processors and Collision Avoidance Technology were once just the figments of movie-writers imaginations. But here we are in 2018, and all these technologies now exist.

I imagine, like many other movie-goers, the first time you ever watched Minority Report, I, Robot or Blade Runner you wondered if you, one day, would own such a super car.

To put your pondering to rest, Leasing Options have been investigating how close we are to developing the high-tech and seemingly impossible features of some of the world’s most popular sci-fi cars.

With the help of experts, they have even been able to predict when they are likely to become commercially available.

Take K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider, almost every feature on this futuristic car, already exists. The Medical Scanner & Voice Stress Analyzer is expected to become a reality in 2025, whilst General Artificial Intelligence is expected in 2068. Only 50 years to wait, then.

Leasing Options have also been looking at the potential release dates of:

You can access the full article here.

What would you like to see incorporated in a futuristic car?..

Review of the latest driving test – 1 year on

So it’s been a year since the introduction of the new driving test and so we thought it would be good to give you our findings so far.

As a driving school we have had many pupils pass since the 4th December and all have said it flowed well and was nothing to worry about, especially in comparison to the old test.

The sat-nav element is proving popular and in most ways easier to follow than conventional instructions or signs. The park in the right reverse is also fitting in nicely, most pupils seem to be able to manage this manoeuvre with relative ease.

Something that is new to test but not to us is the show me questions. At WrightStart we have been conducting these questions as part of the learning process despite them not being in the old curriculum. They are relatively straight forwards however what you need to bare in mind is that you should only conduct the action when it is safe to do so and when looking only glance towards the button or switch, real emphasis is paced on driving safely.

 

Positive feedback:

– Sat-nav gives clear visual instructions

– Manoeuvres are more realistic

– Show me/tell me questions relevant

 

Tricky areas:

– Some audible instructions via sat-nav misleading

– Forwards bay park not as easy as people think

– More emphasis on independent driving – however this is a positive thing in the long term 

 

General failed areas:

– Lack of mirror checks

– Late planning

– Too much time spent looking at the sat-nav screen

– Badly timed show me question operation.

 

The conclusion is clear, the test is not only more fit for purpose by encompassing more real life driving scenarios but still requires a decent level of skill as before. We always try to oust pupils above and beyond the level required to pass a test, not only to ensure your passage through to full licence holder is easier but to keep you safe when you are on your own. My final thoughts…practice and prepare and you shall be fine.

If you’ve taken your test recently what did you think to it?

Driving a minibus

Now that summer has come to a close and winter is setting in we thought it’d be fitting to reminisce about our holiday earlier this year.

WrightStart recently had a works holiday in Tenerife, a lovely island just to the west of Morocco. Whilst there both Andy and I (Lewis) were driving, something we’ve both done numerous times before in foreign countries. However, this one was a little different…

Our hire vehicle was a Renault Trafic van, a large 9 seater minibus, something that both of us weren’t used to. Although we regularly drive large vans they don’t normally have the ability to carry that many passengers.

This in itself was a bit of an issue; many excited and rowdy passengers that posed as a big distraction but also inhibited the visibility throughout the vehicle.

Some of the rules of road were also different to what we’ve seen or experienced when driving in other European countries.

For example:

On the whole it was a positive experience and enabled us to travel the island and visit sites more easily. I do prefer to drive aboard as the roads tend to flow more easily, mainly due to the fact the roads are quieter and usually with more space available. Of course it takes a while to get used to but when your in the know and understand the flow more it works well.

One final point to note is that if you are hiring a minibus larger than 9 seats, usually a 16 seater then you must ensure you have the relevant licence code on your driving licence.

Do you have any interesting stories of driving elsewhere?

Nearly a fifth of drivers don’t use motorways

17% of drivers never use the motorway as a means of travel, according to a new OnePoll survey of 2,000 UK drivers.

The survey, commissioned by InsuretheGap.com, a new independent provider of GAP (Guaranteed Asset Protection) insurance, found that women (22%) were nearly twice as likely than men (12%) to stay away from motorways.

Of the respondents that said they never drive on motorways, 34% said they avoided the motorway because they didn’t feel safe driving on it. This is despite the fact that, statistically at least, motorways are safer than other roads.

26 to 35-year olds were most likely to cite safety concerns as the reason they didn’t use motorways (41%), followed by 60+ (36%) and 17 to 25-year olds (32%).

From the 4th June 2018, learner drivers in England, Scotland and Wales were allowed to take lessons on the motorway, giving them an early exposure of motorway driving, something that would previously happen only after you had passed your test.

According to the Government website, the idea behind this initiative is to ‘improve [drivers’] confidence to drive on the motorway unsupervised after passing their driving test’ and to ‘help to make sure more drivers know how to use motorways safely’.

Ben Wooltorton, Chief Operating Officer of InsuretheGap.com, said: “The change to allow learner drivers to drive on motorways whilst accompanied by a qualified instructor is a positive step to help them feel comfortable in what can be a challenging driving environment. The fact that over a third of people who avoided motorways said they did so due to safety concerns suggests this is something that is long overdue, despite motorways being some of the safest roads to drive on based on accident numbers. It will be interesting to see if these statistics change in a few years’ time once motorway lessons are established as a key part of learning to drive.”

At WrightStart we have been actively encouraging pupils to take motorway sessions as part of their learn to drive process. It isn’t something we force upon a pupil but all so far have been excited and grateful for the experience. Most have said it’s a positive move and that they already feel more confident than they did prior to the session and that in turn they would have much less fear entering a motorway post test.

What was your first motorway experience like?..

Government launches Road to Zero Strategy

Government confirms ambition to see at least half of new cars to be ultra low emission by 2030 as Road to Zero Strategy released.

 

 

The government has confirmed its ambition to see at least half of new cars to be ultra low emission by 2030 as part of plans to make the UK the best place in the world to build and own an electric vehicle.

The proposals are outlined in the Road to Zero Strategy, which sets out plans to enable a massive expansion of green infrastructure across the country, reduce emissions from the vehicles already on the UK’s roads, and drive the uptake of zero emission cars, vans and trucks.

Together, the measures will put the UK at the forefront of a global revolution in motoring and help to deliver cleaner air, a better environment and a strong clean economy.

The Road to Zero Strategy will help the government to achieve key elements of its modern Industrial Strategy — leading the industries of the future and building the UK’s competitiveness in the face of major global economic trends.

And the government will further look to prepare for and capitalise on the opportunities which will arise from the profound changes in how people, goods and services move around the country through its ‘Future of mobility grand challenge’.

As set out in the government’s Air quality plan, the UK will end the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040. The Road to Zero Strategy will build on this commitment and outlines how government will work with industry to support achieving this.

The government will work alongside industry, businesses, academia, consumer groups, devolved administrations, environmental groups, local government and international partners to enable the deployment of one of the best electric vehicle infrastructure networks in the world and prepare for a greener future for the UK’s roads.

Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport, said:

The coming decades are going to be transformative for our motor industry, our national infrastructure and the way we travel. We expect to see more change in the transport sector over the next 10 years than we have in the previous century.

We are expecting our economy and society to experience profound change, which is why we have marked the Future of mobility as one of the 4 grand challenges as part of our modern Industrial Strategy.

The Road to Zero Strategy sets out a clear path for Britain to be a world leader in the zero emission revolution – ensuring that the UK has cleaner air, a better environment and a stronger economy.

The government‘s mission, as part of the modern Industrial Strategy, is to put the UK at the forefront of an industry that is estimated to be worth up to £7.6 trillion per year by 2050.

The Road to Zero Strategy is technology neutral and does not speculate on which technologies might help to deliver the government’s 2040 mission. The government has no plan to ban any particular technology – like hybrids – as part of this strategy.

The government has already committed to investing £1.5 billion in ultra low emission vehicles by 2020 and the Road to Zero Strategy outlines a number of ambitious measures including:

The initiatives will set the stage for the mass uptake of ultra low emission vehicles. The government is also taking powers through the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill to ensure chargepoints are easily accessed and used across the UK, available at motorway service areas and large fuel retailers and will be smart ready.

The government expects the transition to be led by industry and consumers and a review of the uptake of ultra low emission vehicles will take place in 2025 to consider what interventions are required if not enough progress is being made.

The UK will be hosting the world’s first Zero Emission Vehicle summit this year in Birmingham. This event will bring together policy makers, industry experts and opinion formers from around globe to tackle carbon emissions and to explore ways to improve air quality.

We are creating a new £40 million programme to develop and trial innovative, low cost wireless and on-street charging technology. UK business can apply for innovation grants to design, develop and deploy innovative electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

We are also announcing the winners of the 14th Low Carbon Vehicle Innovation competition. The winners have been awarded a share of a £20 million pot to accelerate the transition to zero emission vehicles, with a focus on innovative low carbon HGV technologies.

There are already more than 150,000 ultra-low emission vehicles on British roads and the UK is already leading the way in research, engineering and design, a skilled and flexible labour force and a welcoming business environment.

What happens when you pass or fail the driving test?

Taking a driving test is usually the final stage of the learn to drive process and the start of independent driving, but what actually happens once you pass or even if you fail? Let’s find out…

What happens when you pass?

The examiner will finish the test by asking you to switch off the engine and asking you to relax ahead of them informing you of the result. The examiner will then proceed to inform you that you have been successful and will initiate the issuing of the licence.

They will complete the test pass certificate which is your entitlement to drive and asking you if you would like them to send off for your licence (plastic card) automatically. We usually advise this is the best way to do it as it saves you time and getting the process wrong.

The examiner will then take your plastic card licence from you for shredding and will exchange that for the test pass certificate. This certificate still entitles you to drive but it’s probably best to keep it with you until your new card arrives in the post.

The new plastic card driving licence will be pink in colour and no longer green. It usually takes up to 21 days (3 weeks) to arrive but they usually drop through your door in a week roughly, depending on how busy a period it is. Please note if the licence doesn’t arrive within this 21 day period then there is a number to call on the back of the paper certificate for you to chase.

Before the examiner vacates the vehicle they will provide some feedback on your drive, where you could improve and sometimes tips on eco safe driving. This is always useful to listen to as these pointers may prevent you from having issues in the future, remember your still not a perfect driver.

Finally the examiner will normally leave you with a copy of the latest driving magazine which is full of useful hints, tips and advice, it’s definitely worth a read.

So what happens if you aren’t successful?

As before the examiner will finish the test by asking you to switch off the engine and asking you to relax ahead of them informing you of the result. The examiner will then proceed to inform you that unfortunately you haven’t been successful and will begin to explain why.

At this point it is always a good idea to have your instructor or accompanying driver present so they also know and understand why you weren’t successful on this attempt.

They will leave you with a copy of your test report and accompanying notes for you to read through and work on in your own time, don’t throw this.

In regards to booking another test you are eligible to rebook straight away, it may take a few minutes for the examiner to update the system, process your unsuccessful test and enable the booking of a new one but it is turned around quite quickly.

You will not be able to sit a test for a period of 10 days so dates within this period won’t be shown but that doesn’t mean you can’t log on and book one instantly.

During the period between tests it is essential you get out and continue to practice, whether that’s in your own/family car or with your instructor. Utilise the time well to work on weaker areas and maintain the standard of already good areas.

If you have any further questions or are still unsure of any test day procedures then let us know.

Fake I.D’s

The fake ID card business is thriving although many may not be aware of the fake ID industry and how large it actually is. There will be some of you that are fully aware of the fake ID industry but do not have anything to do with it and there are some of you who have taken advantage out of this service there will also be some of you who may have had bad experiences with fake ID cards.

Identity theft is a huge problem all over the world. These gangs are using people’s personal information to create forged documents including fake ID cards including fake driving licenses and fake passports. They then use these fake documents to apply for credit cards and bank loans in that person’s name. Once the criminals obtain the credit card they purchase items until the card has been maxed out. They will then move on to another unsuspecting victim. Unfortunately for the victim the criminals are rarely caught as by the time they are aware of the act the criminal has stopped using the credit card. These criminals are also using fake ID cards to claim benefits off the government in someone else´s name.

Fake id cards are allowed in some countries including the UK and Canada as a souvenir. However in the USA fake id cards are looked down on and selling fake id cards online is illegal.

High definition printing is required to produce high quality novelty and fake id cards, this ensures security micro text does not become blurred and distorted, often a tell tale sign that a card is a fake, the lines and text should be crisp and clear. High definition printers are often able to use UV ink which is commonly used in driving licence production to print covert security features only visible with a black UV light, again many fake id cards will not include this level of detail.

So is it illegal to have a fake ID card in your wallet?

No it isn’t, even if it is a very good fake ID card that is possible to fool a person of authority if you just have it in your wallet or purse as a novelty item then this is perfectly legal. The producers of novelty ID cards state on their websites that these cards are for novelty purposes only and should not be used for anything other than this then neither you or the company that sold you the card are doing anything illegal.

How this relates to the driving test…

The driving examiner will check your licence prior to commencing the test. Although prior online checks have been made to ensure your eligible for the practical part of the test they will be checking your physical copy to ensure it is the correct person attending and not an impostor.

The examiner will check the licence thoroughly, inspecting details such as name, address, D.O.B and your entitlement to drive along with your picture. The picture is important as this verifies it’s the correct person attending, having an up to date picture is important for this which is why your licence needs updating every 10 years.

The examiner will ask you to sign documentation prior to starting the test, they will also be checking your signature matches the one that’s on your licence, if it doesn’t the test won’t be going ahead. Finally they will use a UV light to check for authenticity and validity of the licence, this is all normal procedure.

Our last note on this topic is, DO NOT FORGET YOUR LICENCE ON TEST DAY!

Public Transport

Now the words ‘Public Transport’ aren’t something we use often, nor do we actually travel on it, but why?

The last time we remember using public transport is in London, the tube, as it’s definitely the way to go if your not on foot and an airplane is our obvious choice for those all important getaways. But for everyday travel, we don’t use it so much.

Take a look at these interesting stats we found recently (from DofT 2016)

Let’s look at some key advantages and disadvantages of each mode of transport:

Mode of Transport Pro’s

 

Mode of Transport Con’s

From our basic findings it’s clear to see the benefits of driving, such as convenience and practicality, far out way the other modes making it a far better choice for us, but maybe not for you.

What would make public transport more appealing for us?

Our general thoughts on this are not necessarily cheaper or more frequent as many bus routes local to use run every 10 minutes. Ideally for us journey planning would be made easier as trying to negotiate several small journeys to complete the big journey can be quite complicated.

We asked others what would make it better for them…

  1. One person surveyed said better network links, they said that to get to work they would have to catch two separate buses and still walk another section.
  2. Someone else we spoke to said that you have to rely on other people too much and that some services are not always reliable, making them late for work or other appointments.

So, how do you get to work?..

Diesel Ban – 2040

All sales of new petrol and diesel cars will cease in the UK by 2040, under plans to tackle air pollution. But with electric cars currently accounting for less than 1% of new sales, the switch will mean seismic changes, and gives rise to a host of pressing questions.

Why are petrol and diesel cars being banned?

Poor air quality is the “biggest environmental risk to public health in the UK” – thought to be linked to about 40,000 premature deaths a year – the government says.

Diesel vehicles produce the overwhelming majority of nitrogen oxide gases coming from roadside sources. The government was ordered by the courts to produce a new plan to tackle illegal levels of harmful pollutant nitrogen dioxide, a form of the nitrogen oxide pollutants emitted by vehicles.

Hybrid vehicles, which combine petrol and electric motors, will not be included in the sales ban.

Why now?

Concern about air pollution is not new, but the issue has risen to prominence because the UK government lost court cases over caused by nitrogen dioxide levels. It has been compounded by the fact car makers were found to be cheating emissions tests.

Scientists are also more certain about the ways air pollution harms people. Recently, it has even been linked with dementia, although that link remains debatable.

The High Court set an end-of-July deadline for the government to publish its clean air plans for tackling.

What else is being done to reduce pollution?

As well as the future ban on petrol and diesel cars, more than £200m is being given to local authorities to draw up plans to tackle particular roads with high pollution. This is all part of the same package of measures from the government.

Will tax revenues from petrol and diesel dry up?

It’s likely the government will have to change the way fuel is taxed to make up for losing billions of pounds at the pump.

The government raised about £27.9bn from fuel duties in 2016-17, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility. That’s getting on for 4% of the total tax take.

Say I buy an electric car… where will I recharge it?

There are more than 4,500 locations with charging points around the UK, according to website Zap-Map.com. New locations are being added daily – with an increase of 255 in the past 30 days alone.

But if mass market ownership of electric cars is to be viable, there will need to be on-demand access to power points.

It can take up to eight hours to charge an electric vehicle, so more efficient batteries will be needed.

While some vehicles can only travel up to 50 miles between charges, others can manage more than 200 miles. This puts commuting and city driving within reach, but makes long distance journeys more of a challenge.

What would happen if I ran out of charge mid-drive?

Cars alert drivers in plenty of time, electric cars give drivers a range or countdown. On long journeys, drivers need to plan ahead. Navigation systems in electric cars can factor in charging points on the way to a destination as they plot a route for the driver.

Will the National Grid be able to cope? The electricity demands will be massive.

The National Grid says electric vehicles could drive large increases in peak power demand, but it will be able to cope. This is despite concerns the grid is already strained at times by the demands of charging electric vehicles.

Smart charging, which intelligently controls when vehicles draw electricity from the grid to avoid peaks and troughs, is one way of managing the situation. It is a developing technology and there is even speculation car batteries could return power to the grid to help smooth out demand.

However, not all vehicle owners will switch to electric replacements when their petrol or diesel ones finally stop running. For example, it is expected that some of the owners of heavy goods and public service vehicles may switch them to natural gas or hydrogen powered modules rather than electric.

What about paying for old cars to be scrapped?

According to its consultation, the government believed a so-called scrappage scheme would take 15,000 of the most polluting diesel and petrol cars off the road in a year.

Drivers would be given about £8,000 to switch to a fully electric alternative, meaning the government would have to fork out £110m. The impact on emissions of nitrogen dioxide would be to cut them by 0.02%, not a huge change in the grand scheme of things.

Why not ban the dirtiest vehicles from the most polluted roads?

Environmental campaigners believe creating what are termed “clean air zones” (CAZs) in the most polluted towns and cities is the most effective and speedy way of reducing emissions of nitrogen dioxide. Councils will be able to impose these zones and will be able to block certain vehicles or impose a daily charge on drivers.

Most of the breaches with diesel emissions happen on 81 roads around the UK, says the government, in vast swathes in the hearts of urban areas. It wants councils to target these roads with a range of tactics that cut nitrogen dioxide, including removing speed bumps and changing traffic lights so that traffic isn’t slowing or speeding.

However, recognising that this might not be enough, the plan does give local authorities the power to charge or ban drivers on certain sections of road.

How do diesel and petrol compare as pollutants?

Sales of diesel cars surged in the early 2000s as drivers were encouraged to choose them because they had lower climate-warming carbon dioxide emissions than petrol cars.

While diesel cars are the biggest single source of nitrogen oxide emissions, diesel powered buses, coaches and – especially – heavy goods vehicles are the really heavy polluters, producing eight to 10 times the amount of gases per kilometre than cars. There are, however, many more cars.

Does this mean London’s congestion charge will spread to other cities?

The government isn’t keen. Establishing a clean air zone (CAZ) for which motorists would be charged to drive into could simply move the pollution problem elsewhere rather than solve it. Policy makers believe that by targeting the 81 roads around the UK that are the main cause of the problem, they can prevent the type of emissions transfer that could happen if one town has a big CAZ and its neighbour did not.

What about those who need a larger car in the class of a Ford Galaxy, or one to tow a caravan?

Tom Callow, of Chargemaster, told the BBC: “There are a couple of cars available on the market now which are capable of towing trailers. While they are not exactly like a Ford Galaxy they are equivalent to SUVs or estates or saloon cars.”

Will motorcyclists be affected?

Potentially, but only those who drive the very oldest bikes. Essentially, motorcycles built before the year 2000 could face fines if councils decide to impose charges or bans on some roads. The government is currently giving a grant of £1,500 for the purchase of an ultra-low emission motorcycle.

What about aeroplanes? How much air pollution is caused by aircraft?

In the UK about 1% of nitrogen dioxide emissions are caused by aviation. Far more are caused by people driving to airports in their cars.

What about hydrogen-powered vehicles, as opposed to electric?

The government has already announced a £23m fund to boost the uptake of hydrogen vehicles. A competition is due to be launched this year so companies can bid for funding to help build the infrastructure that will support hydrogen cars.

Using tablets during the driving test

DVSA have published their digital strategy for 2018 to 2022, which sets out their plans as they work to become a digitally enabled organisation. An examiner’s clipboard hitting the dashboard may have been the signal for an emergency stop in thousands of driving tests, but it could soon be replaced by a more hi-tech option.

DVSA also add that they are transforming services for driving tests and motorcycle tests, including allowing DVSA driving examiners to record test results directly onto a tablet, rather than on paper, by the end of the year.

A driving examiner is not there to supervise a learner driver during their test, as they are observing and assessing the learner’s skills (regulation 16 of the Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) Regulations 1999). During the test, the tablet screen won’t be visible to the learner driver, and the rest of the tablets functions will be turned off.

Driving test examiners are to begin experimenting with the use of tablets for practical tests from this year, according to the Driving Standards Agency (DSA).

Traditionally, examiners gather test information on paper forms, which are sent to the DSA’s Newcastle area office for scanning and processing before information on successful candidates is passed onto the DVLA. In future, if trials of the tablets prove successful, examiners will be able to collect data and input it directly into DSA systems from their devices.

“This will enable [examiners] to conduct all types of tests, collect results electronically at source and improve customer services by sending results information to central systems immediately after a test has been completed,” the agency’s 2012-13 business plan says.

Using the touchscreen devices would also allow examiners to access DSA systems quickly and keep up to date with relevant business developments, it adds.

The agency has a “vision” that all examiners will swap paper and pen for tablets, the plan says, and it is now “investigating the feasibility and affordability of this vision”.

Before the vision can become a reality, however, the DSA will run proof of concept tests, where the tablets will be used in simulations of driving tests. If the tests are successful, the tablets will then be trialled in live practical driving tests.

The DSA currently employs 1,800 examiners, and carried out over 1.6m practical tests last year. DVSA have said that they will be blogging more about how this will work soon – so keep your eyes peeled.

 

Truths & Myths of Driving Examiners

This weeks blog is all about driving examiners and identifying the truth behind some of the false accusations being thrown around out there. We’ve listed some of the top questions asked by pupils and answered them, honestly…

Are examiners horrible?

Truth: No, not at all. Most have been driving instructors prior to switching roles and fully appreciate what it’s like to be on both sides of the fence. Unfortunately when pupils don’t pass a test they are understandably upset and look for someone to blame which is normally the person delivering the bad news, the driving examiner.

Do they sit there in silence?

Truth: Examiners will usually ask an icebreaker question after informing the candidate how the test is going to be conducted. This is the opportunity to settle in, have some general conversation and relax. If a candidate cannot cope with conversation as they become distracted the examiner will be fair and keep quiet.

Have examiners already decided if I’ve failed?

Truth: Definitely not, they will conduct a fair test and if you meet the required standard you WILL pass.

I’ve heard examiners make up faults, is that true?

Truth: Again, this is false. If an examiner were to make up faults that would not only be totally wrong but also an unfair test. Most instructors run in car cameras and these can be used during test providing their is no sound, the footage could then be played back to prove either way. This rumour is circulated because candidates don’t remember conducting faults even though they did, mainly because there was so much going on at the time that they didn’t realise.

Are there any other questions or myths that you’ve heard that need answering?..

The history of numberplates

Ever wondered how numberplates became to be or actually what they mean? Well have no fear, we have solved it here…

At the beginning of the century, with mechanically propelled vehicles increasing in number, and accidents occurring more frequently, it became apparent that a means of identifying cars had become necessary. The solution was The Motor Car Act 1903. From 1st January 1904 it become compulsory for every motorcar to be registered with a number plate. This came about 5 years after Dutch authorities first introduced the idea to the world.

The first mark to be issued in London was the simple, bold, A1 and this was registered to Earl Russell. He wanted the mark so badly he camped out all night to secure it, making him not only the first registrant but also the inventor of the idea of having a distinctive, personalised or cherished plate on a vehicle.

Since then, the registration system has changed 4 times to accommodate the ever-growing demand for vehicle registrations. Let’s take a look at the different number plate systems that have come into play over the years…

Dateless 1903-1963

The first plates issued were dateless, that is, there was nothing to denote the year of issue. This system lasted for an incredible 60 years.
Initially, the marks were made up of a local council identifier code of up to 3 letters, followed by a random number, e.g. ABC 123. In the early 1950s, as numbers started to run out, the components were reversed, giving rise to registrations in the format 123 ABC.

In 1920 The Roads Act was passed that made a few minor changes to the number plate system. Up until this time, there was nothing to stop authorities having two registers, one for cars and one for motorcycles. This meant that it was possible for a car and a motorcycle in the same area to have the same plate. The 1920 act put a stop to this and ensured that all authorities had one single register for all vehicles. Also, up until 1920, if a vehicle moved from one area to another, it would lose the plate and receive a new one in the new area, the old plate being reassigned to another vehicle. It was decided that this was simply too confusing and inconvenient, so this practice was stopped by the 1920 Roads Act.

Not surprisingly, all the dateless registrations are now in high demand, especially short combinations such as O 11 which is worth in excess of £95,000. The high price tag is due to the single letter and the fact that it only has 3 characters in total.

Suffix 1963 – 1983

By 1963, a number of local councils had run out of registrations, even by adding extra digits and reversing them. As a result of this, the Suffix system was introduced, a letter indicating the year of registration being added at the end of the plate, which until then had comprised only 3 letters followed by 3 numbers. Thus, 1963 plates had the format AAA 111A, 1964 plates AAA 111B and so on. This was the first change to a system that had been set up in 1903 when there were far fewer cars on the roads. Since then the administration of the system has turned into a massive task. Everything was done manually and locally.
Police checks on vehicle records were time consuming and labour intensive. There were also delays with registrations and the public were not happy with having to wait. So in 1963, as well as a revamp of the system, thought started to be given to utilising some modern technology, namely, computers to create a centralised system. This system would be nine years in the planning!

Since 1903 the design of the physical plates had gone through a few changes but the most significant was in 1973 when all newly registered vehicles were required to have reflective style number plates, with black letters on a white background at the front, and on a yellow background at the rear. Older style plates, with white or silver letters on a black background, remained legal for vehicles already registered.

Eventually, in 1974, the centralised DVLC system was up and running, no longer were local councils responsible for vehicle-registration.

Prefix 1983 – 2001

The Prefix system started in August 1983. This saw the letter indicating the year moved to the beginning of the registration mark, thus doubling the lifespan of the number plate system.

Prefix registrations can be broken down in three sections:

First Letter: The year the car was registered and put on the road, hence its age. A for 1983, B for 1984 and so on

Last two letters: An area code that indicates where the plate was registered.
The three numbers and the first of the three letters at the end have no meaning, only providing a variation for identification.

This system continued until the end of August 2001, and a large number of these registrations were held back for later release or for personalised registrations.

The letters I, O, U and Z were not issued at all as Prefix letters, and Q was used only where the age or origin of the vehicle could not be identified.
Of course the lifespan of this system could be guessed at. It had taken just 20 years to exhaust the suffix system, souring the 1990s a lot of thought was given as to what to do when the prefix system had also run out of combinations.

Current Style 2001 – Now

The current style started in 2001. Police evidence suggested that witnesses, particularly in hit and run incidents, remember the letters of a registration mark much more easily than the numbers. As people read from left to right it made sense to put this information, the local code, at the beginning rather than at the end of the number plate. As the result the current system for registrations is made up of 3 parts, as shown below:

Local Region:

This represents the place where the car was first registered. Vehicles registered in Birmingham, for example, begin with the letters BA – BY; those registered in Chelmsford begin EA – EY.

Date ID:

This indicates the date of registration of the vehicle, and changes every 6 months, in March and September.
The system started with the use of 51 to denote the 6 months from September 2001, with 02 replacing it in March 2002. 52 then denotes September 2002, 03 denotes March 2003 and so on. This continued until March 2010 when 10 and 60 had been reached and so it goes on.

Random:

The last three letters are random and can now include Z.
This current system is far more future-proof that than the previous plate styles were. This system can cater for up to 12.6 million new registrations each year. It is believed this system will run smoothly until at least 2049, when it can simply be reversed.

Islands

The Isle of Wight

For many years the Isle of Wight, with county council status, used the areas letters DL within the general system for all vehicle registrations. Following gradual rationalisation of DVLA local offices. DL identifiers were issued by Portsmouth Vehicle Registration Office. Under the system that started on 1st September 2001, the island falls within the Hampshire and Dorset region, and HW is used exclusively for residents of the island.

The Isle of Man

The Isle of Man introduced vehicle registration in 1906, in the same format as the mainland Britain system, with the first MN registrations having up to four digits. This series endured for some time, before the island moved on to a three letter, three digit sequence commencing with AMN. The MAN series was also used, diverted from West Ham Borough Council, where it was made unavailable. The letters MAN followed by four digits have also been used. All these series have also been issued in reverse. The island did not follow the British year identifier system introduced in 1963, though since then its plates have utilized both suffix and prefix letters as integral parts of the registration, on a seven character plate of British appearance.

Guernsey and Jersey

Vehicles here have carried mandatory registrations marks since before 1915, with each island having a unique arrangement unrelated to the British registration system. Guernsey vehicles carry straightforward numerical plates with no letters and in 2003 up to five figures. Jersey also uses a five-figure series, preceded by the single letter J. Interestingly, J, was also allocated by the mainland county Durham, between 1903 and 1922.

The Isles of Scilly

The registration mark SCY was made available for use on these islands in 1971, and simultaneously withdrawn from use by Swansea, which had previously issued that combination. Because there are relatively few vehicles on the Isles of Scilly, any plate carrying the registration SCY is a rare sight in the mainland.

3 Peaks Challenge

We’ve been really busy on the roads and in the office recently, same old to be fair. Anyway, we’ve been so rushed that I haven’t been able to share a little challenge I completed last year, which included a lot of driving!

Despite a full diary I managed to find time to fit in a little challenge in September last year with one of our Pre-17 staff members, Joe.

I completed the 3 Peaks challenge which in short is a walking challenge whereby the three highest mountains in England, Scotland and Wales are to be submitted within 24 hours. We’re pleased to say that our finish time was 20 hours and 28 minutes.

I didn’t drive much of the route on this journey as I was navigating but did manage to ride shot gun for the majority and noticed some interesting differences of the road whilst on my travels through the 3 countries.

So where do I begin, let’s compare the other two home nations to ours;

Scotland:

* Scottish roads don’t appear to have NSL (National Speed Limit) signs, but instead they display physical 60 & 70 mph signs. Why? We’re not sure but it does save guessing what the speed limit is

* We were up in the Ben Nevis region of Scotland, which if you didn’t know is about 1300 metres high so there were plenty of snow marker posts dotted around

* In north Scotland there are vast areas of country roads and in turn hours of continuous driving on end

* Most back lanes and rural country roads are direct, basically from A-B. However don’t mistake this for a fast journey, despite the shortest route available they tend to be over very hilly terrain with narrow passing places.

* The best bit is the abundance of beautiful scenery, I love the peaks but those mountains are incredible!

Wales:

* All road signs are predominantly in Welsh, there is the English written underneath but it is a little weird to see.

* There are plenty of hills, big hills!

 

For the most part of the journey it was very simple to drive and similar to back home, it definitely wasn’t as challenging as some of my European or American road trips. It was trying not only physically tiring but mentally to and if you want some tips on coping with tiredness when driving check out our previous blog on this very topic here.

To summarise, it was one hell of a trip with lots of mundane miles under our belts but interwoven with some of the most picturesque scenery we’ve ever seen. And what’s more, we’re going again this year with a new group of friends but this time in a minibus, stay tuned for that one.

Worst Driving Habits

Waiting & Parking – Part 2

Continuing on from last weeks blog is our second part on parking.

Important note before you begin:

Parking rules across the country are confusing. On official sites like Gov.uk or Transport for London, the relevant info can be hard to find. We’ve worked through as much original source material as we can, but rules vary around the country, so it’s important you always double-check your local rules before acting if you’re not sure, and see this only as a starting point.

You can sometimes park on a single red or yellow line, but many assume there are standardised times – that’s a mistake. Restrictions for parking on single lines will usually be shown on accompanying road signs – make sure you scope the area and check before you park. Generally speaking, you’ll be barred during peak daytime hours but are usually OK at some point during evenings and weekends.

When it comes to double yellows you simply can’t park, though you can sometimes stop to load or unload. There are also some exceptions for Blue Badge (disabled) holders. With double reds, you can’t even stop, unless you are a Blue Badge holder and there are designated parking bays for you.

Parking in paid bays and council car parks

Paid-for bays include pay-and-display, council-run car parks, voucher parking and metered bays. During controlled hours (usually during working hours on Mondays-Fridays, plus weekends in busy areas), you’ll need to pay.
Outside these times, you’ll be free to park. So check the signs on the roadside or at a ticket machine/meter to be sure. Also make sure your vehicle is completely within any bay.

But there’s more you need to know:

Watch your wheels

Make sure your motor is completely within any defined spot, such as a residents’ or pay-and-display bay. If just one wheel is outside, you could get a ticket.

Especially in London, unless signs specifically indicate it, don’t park on the pavement and keep your car as close to the kerb as possible. If you park more than 50 centimetres from the kerb (unless within a bay), you could get a ticket. This also means double parking is prohibited unless you’re loading or unloading for no more than 20 minutes.

Nipping off for change isn’t fine

Make sure you have enough coins with you as many parking ticket machines do not accept notes or cards.
Sadly, if you get a parking ticket you cannot technically appeal on the grounds you were getting change.

Beware the ‘no return’ sign rules

With all paid-for parking, watch out for maximum time limits or no return limits in some bays to ensure you don’t spend too long there.
If you can park somewhere for an hour but it says ‘no return’ within two hours, it means you must leave at least two hours between parking spells.

Sometimes you can pay by phone

In some built-up areas, you can pay for your parking by phone. It works by setting up an account by phone or text and then letting the council know when you’re parking and how long you want to stay there for. Your chosen credit or debit card will then be charged.
The advantage of this method is you can top up your payment if you want to stay longer without returning to your motor. The disadvantage is, in some cases, you’ll have to pay a fee for each payment.
Many of these schemes also require you to call 0870 or 0871 numbers, which cost more than a normal phone call so factor that in.

What if the meter or machine’s broken?

If the meter or pay and display machine is broken or has a cover placed over it, it usually means you cannot park there during controlled hours.
For pay-and-display though, if you can find a nearby machine that works and operates under the same time restrictions and cost, you can get a ticket from there.
However, to be safe, check the rules written on the machine as it will state if it’s legal to park there if out of action.

Proudly display your permit or ticket

If you have a special permit (such as a residents’ or disabled permit), a warden must be able to see and clearly read it, otherwise you’ll probably get a ticket. The same goes for any voucher or pay-and-display ticket you’ve bought. While this sounds obvious, permits can fall off after a few months’ wear so make sure they are securely fastened. Plus, if you simply load one parking ticket on top of the next on the dashboard so there’s a whole pile, making the current one difficult to distinguish, that can get you a fine.

Also, if you have a residents’ or other permit, note the renewal date. If you miss it, and you park outside your home, it’s likely you’ll get a ticket.

Different councils have different bank holiday rules

Many people wrongly assume you can park where you want on a bank holiday. Some councils will allow you to park in a residents’ bay or on a yellow line, but others won’t. Sadly, there’s no hard and fast rule so if you’re unsure, check the council website for the area you wish to park in or the message on the parking meter or ticket machine. If unsure, don’t do it. You’ll need to check the relevant council’s rules via its website. See Gov.uk to find local authority pages.

Beware EVERYTHING in private car parks

Most of this guide is about parking on public roads, but the rules change on private land or in private-run car parks – in supermarkets, hospitals, housing estates or elsewhere. Here, you can sometimes enter the land of the cowboys, where you can be asked to pay huge amounts without reason, or for just minor ‘offences’. Always check signage – it may be hidden – and be ultra-cautious.
If you get an unfair ticket, as is common, DON’T automatically pay it. The firm has no right to fine you. All they’re actually doing is invoicing you – though it’ll be dressed up like a fine.

Residents’ parking bay rules

These are designed, as the name would suggest, to ensure local residents have a spot to park near their home.
However, they are free to use outside restricted hours (usually during evenings and/or at weekends).

Residents’ bay parking suspensions

It’s not all plain sailing for residents. They also need to beware the curse of the dreaded suspended bay. A council can shut off any parking spot for an indefinite period to allow roadworks, tree-cutting, domestic moves, etc (see suspended bay example pic, right).
While the bay is suspended, no-one can park there or you risk a ticket or being towed away. The suspension warning sign should be placed on the nearest parking sign plate, tree or telegraph pole.
You’ll normally get a few days’ notice but in emergencies, a bay could be suspended with less than 24 hours’ notice.

What if the bay gets suspended while you’re on holiday?

The regulations state it is your responsibility to check for any suspensions and to move your car if necessary otherwise you’ll get a ticket, or worse.
If you’ve gone on holiday and you miss the notices going up, it can be a real pain. The warden will understandably issue a ticket, and proof of travel will not necessarily get you off the ticket.

If you don’t have a permit

You can only park in a bay outside restricted hours, which will be signposted (see example pic, above right). Make sure your car is completely within any bay to avoid a ticket.

If you have a permit

You can park in a bay at any time unless the bay is suspended (see below). Also watch out for metered or pay-and-display parking mixed amongst residents’ bays as you may not be able to park for free in them. Read the notices on the overhead signs, meters or pay machines.

Keep your permit visible

Even if you have a permit, it is also your responsibility to display it clearly. So make sure it’s upright and the holder is sticky enough to keep it up. Even if you have legitimately bought a permit but fail to clearly display it, you may lose an appeal against a ticket if you get one.

Councils can play hard-ball on ticket appeals

You’ll have to rely on the council’s discretion when appealing as, technically speaking, you have committed an offence (see Parking Ticket Appeals for how to do this).
If your appeal is rejected by your council, the independent arbitrator can only recommend the council cancels your ticket – it cannot force it.
Some councils are particularly unsympathetic to this problem and insist it is motorists’ responsibility to check their car is parked correctly. They say you need to make specific arrangements to get someone to check the car if you plan to leave it parked in a residents’ bay. If you’re away with the family, ensure a neighbour is insured before asking them to move the vehicle.
Some councils have specific car parks reserved for those going on holiday, or if you’re flying, you could drive to the airport and leave your car nearby (see the Cheap Airport Parking guide).

We hope this guide has been useful but please message us if your still unsure of any parking restrictions in your local area, we can always check it out for you and provide more advice.

Health problems of driving for a living

You know accidents are a risk when you climb behind the wheel. But a new study from Australia also links driving to obesity, poor sleep, stress, and other life-shortening health issues.

The Aussie study team asked roughly 37,000 people to answer questions about their daily drive times, sleep schedules, exercise routines, and a handful of other health factors.

Compared to non-drivers, people who spent two hours (or more) on the road every day were:
* 78 percent more likely to be obese
* 86 percent more likely to sleep poorly (less than seven hours)
* 33 percent more likely to report feeling psychologically distressed
* 43 percent more likely to say their quality of life was poor

Regular road warriors were also a lot more likely to smoke and fall short of weekly exercise targets, the study data shows.

But don’t get stuck on the two-hour threshold; even 30 minutes of daily drive time increases your risk for all of these negative health issues, the research shows.

So what’s so bad about driving? “At this point, we can only speculate,” says study coauthor Melody Ding, Ph.D., a research fellow at the University of Sydney. But here are her three best guesses, which, alone or in combination, could explain how driving hurts your health. And know this:

1. Sitting a lot is bad for you. “Especially uninterrupted sitting where you’re not standing up for long periods,” Ding says. There’s some evidence that sitting hurts your body’s ability to burn fat, which may explain its attendant health risks. Ding says some scientists even believe sitting for long stretches shortens your life regardless of your physical activity levels (although that’s still being hotly debated).

2. Driving is stressful. Study after study links stress to cancer, heart disease, and a lot of other scary health issues. And researchers have found driving is one of the most stressful activities people do on a daily basis. “Driving-related stress could explain some of the mental health risks we observed,” Ding adds. Research suggests managing stress could help offset some of driving’s health risk.

3. Road time is lost time. There are only 24 hours in a day. And if you’re spending a couple of them on the road, you may not have time left over for exercise, sleep, cooking healthy meals, and other beneficial behaviors, Ding says. Public transportation might also be a safer option because it involves more walking and standing than driving, she adds.
For most drivers, nothing is as appealing as the freedom of being on the road – just you and the asphalt peeling away behind your tires. However, sitting behind the wheel for hours on end can soon take a toll on your health. Unfortunately, due to demands of the industry many truckers tend to shrug off some of the signs that tell them that their bodies are in poor shape. The following symptoms are some of the signs that your health is beginning to deteriorate.

Chronic Back and Joint Pains

How long it takes varies from person to person, but given enough time and it catches to up to most truckers. This is not surprising really seeing as sitting all day, every day, in the rig with the consistent “jarring” or vibration of the truck can take its toll on the body. There’s a limit to the amount of vibration the body can take.
So, if you’re a trucker and are having chronic body pains, particularly in the back and the lower part of the body, be sure to see your doctor as soon as possible. While they may be able to prescribe some medications that’ll ease the pains, you may also want to try getting some exercise and move around physically for about 30 to 45 minutes any time you can as this can offer tremendous relief.

Sleep Deprivation


Many truck drivers suffer from sleep apnea and insomnia. This condition is not only uncomfortable, it is potentially dangerous. This is because drivers can unexpectedly nod off whilst driving due to the lack of sleep.
In fact, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA), of the 5,000 annual driver deaths, over 1,400 are caused by Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). This is something you should take seriously if you drive long hours. If you’re not sleeping well at night, talk to the doctor immediately. Studies have also shown that sleep apnea is often linked to obesity, so as with back pain a combination of diet and exercise may help to relieve symptoms.

Fatigue and Lethargy

This is sometimes linked to conditions like inadequate sleep and inadequate heart activity. If you have sleep apnea, it makes sense that you’ll feel tired all day, and because most truckers live a very sedentary life, it is fairly common for them to have low energy levels.
To counteract this, start exercising about 15 or 30 minutes every day to start. Get that heart ticking and pumping faster. This will not only help you lose weight, it’ll make you feel fit, dump some badly needed endorphins into your body, increase your life span, reduce your chances of getting cardiovascular or heart diseases, and possibly boost your libido.

Obesity


The average trucker is either overweight or obese. The few that aren’t either have a naturally fast metabolism, or more commonly they exercise. When you don’t work out and eat a lot of junk foods, it only makes sense that you’ll find yourself rapidly gaining weight. Once you find you’re getting overweight and obese, it’s time to change your lifestyle. Exercise more, eat healthier, speak to your doctor about possible lifestyle changes and study up on everything you can find on healthier living.

High Blood Pressure

The more time you spend on the road without much movement, the slower your blood moves around the body. This combined with too much time to think and having to keep track of everything going on around you more than regular drivers can also create additional stress. If you have a high blood pressure, talk to your doctor and start taking the necessary medications.
Most importantly, change your lifestyle and become more active. Cut back on the amount of junk food you eat on a regular basis, and drink a lot more water if you’re not already at the recommended minimum. For high-blood pressure related to stress, there are many meditative and other mental activities shown to reduce stress even when on the road.

Check if a health condition affects your driving

You need to tell DVLA about some medical conditions as they can affect your driving.

You can be fined up to £1,000 if you don’t tell DVLA about a medical condition that affects your driving. You may be prosecuted if you’re involved in an accident as a result.

You must give up your licence if either:
* your doctor tells you to stop driving for 3 months or more
* you don’t meet the required standards for driving because of your medical condition

Weird Road Laws

The news that the Government intends to crack down on anti-social driving, particularly those who hog the middle lane on motorways, has largely been met with a positive reaction. It seems the majority of motorists think it is definitely time something was done about those who selfishly sit in the middle lane.

So if you’re not wanting penalty points and a hefty fine for driving too close to the car in front, you can at least be reassured with the knowledge that you’re not subjected to these weirdest driving laws we’ve found from around the world.

No washing cars on a Sunday – Switzerland

What we would consider the archetypal Sunday afternoon in Britain will land you in hot water with the Swiss plod. Switzerland is notoriously car hating and the illegality of cleaning your wheels on your day of rest pales into comparison to speeding or modifying your car to increase its power – both of which can leave you behind bars if you’re particularly unlucky. Harsh, yes, but then what do you expect from a country that voted for increased petrol prices.

Check for dead bodies – Denmark

Rather morbidly, drivers in Denmark are legally required to check there isn’t a dead body wedged underneath their vehicle before they set off. Unless sudden death syndrome is a particularly common occurrence in the country, you have to wonder what the point of the law is – save preventing drivers making a mess of their driveways by failing to spot that errant corpse.

No drinking water at the wheel – Cyprus

A particularly sadistic law in a country with the warmest climate in the Mediterranean. With temperatures regularly soaring higher than 25 Celsius, the ban on sipping a refreshing beverage at the wheel is utter madness. There are those that would argue it distracts the driver from the job at hand, but what about heatstroke and chronic dehydration? If you’re ever hiring a car on the holiday isle, just ensure it has air-conditioning… and a built-in drinks dispenser with straw.

No jumping from cars travelling over 65mph – California

Yes, that’s right, it seems it is perfectly legal to leap from a moving vehicle in the sunshine state, provided you don’t go above the national speed limit. Quite how the authorities decided that this arbitrary speed was the safe limit at which people could hurl themselves onto the highway is anybody’s guess, but any budding George Micheals out there, consider yourselves warned.

Pee only on your back wheel – UK

Public urination is something that – quite rightly – the police frown upon in Britain, with offenders liable for an instant fine of £80. It seems however, that motorists caught short in the middle of nowhere can get some relief (pun intended) as long as they take aim squarely at their back wheel, specifically on the right hand side of the vehicle. It’s an antiquated piece of legislation, which is unlikely to hold much water (sorry) with plod, but could provide a handy argument if you’re ever caught relieving yourself all over your pride and joy.

No splashing – Japan

No one likes to be splashed by a muddy puddle from passing cars but in Japan it’s actually illegal.
In a traditional display of Japanese courtesy, it’s against the law to splash mud or water on a pedestrian.

Don’t stop for pedestrians – China

In Beijing the law protecting pedestrians is much less courteous – so much so that it’s illegal to stop for them.
This makes crossing the road something of a hazard.

Animal crossing – South Africa

In South Africa, it’s not just pedestrians that drivers need to be aware of.
Animals are given as much right to the roads as drivers, with motorists facing stiff fines if they fail to slow or stop for passing herds of livestock.

Wir fahren fahren fahren auf der Autobahn – Germany

If you’ve driven in Germany then you’ll know that much of the autobahn network – their equivalent of our motorway – has no speed limit.
Stopping or breaking down for any reason is strictly illegal, which includes being out of fuel. Keep your tank full when you’re driving here.
We’re not 100% certain on this, but it’s probably a legal requirement to blast out Kraftwerk while you’re driving on the autobahn too.

Sun’s out, guns in – Thailand

Travelling topless in Thailand is a no-no. This applies to men as well as women, and all motorists, whether it’s bike, car or tuk-tuk, have to obey.
If you can’t stand the heat and need to shed a layer, you’ll be slapped with a small fine. It’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it.

When in Rome, get a permit – Italy

Historic zones in certain Italian cities are subject to a special permit. Drivers who ignore this can face a hefty fine.
These areas are called “zono traffic limitato”. Sat navs and GPS navigation often doesn’t pick up on these, so watch out if you’re using one to navigate around Italy.

No blind driving – Alabama , USA

In Alabama it’s illegal to drive while being blindfolded. All we can say is: “duh, obviously.”
We don’t know what happened there in the past that required this very specific law.

Don’t let the dogs out – Alaska

In Alaska it’s illegal to tie a dog to the roof of your vehicle.
Perhaps the abundance of sledding dogs makes this necessary but it’s one of the more bizarre laws out there.

Think of the children – Denmark

Drivers in Denmark have to perform an unusual ritual before getting behind the wheel.
The law states that they must check for children who may be hiding underneath before setting off.

Keep it clean – Russia

In Moscow it’s all about cleanliness – police impose fines on anyone with a dirty car.
There’s no definition for what counts as “dirty” – it’s up to the officer, so in Russia it’s best to keep your motor looking tip-top to avoid a penalty.

Big plot twist – Costa Rica

You’re allowed to have a cheeky beer while you’re driving in Costa Rica but don’t be fooled.
If they catch you with a blood alcohol level of more than 0.75% you’re going straight to jail. Do not pass go, do not collect £200.
The best thing to do, of course, is to not drink at all when you’re driving.

 

There’s definitely some interesting ones in there. What other weird road laws have you heard or come across?

Driving Stateside

Morning everyone Lewis here, sorry it’s been so long since our last blog but I’ve been on my holidays travelling the east coast of America. Whilst on my travels I drove from Orlando Florida down the east coast to Miami in South Florida so I thought this week I would return with a blog about driving stateside.

I’ve had plenty of experience driving on the right hand side of the road in many European countries and I’ve also driven a left-hand drive car on a racetrack here in the UK but this was my first experience driving on the wrong side of the road and on the wrong side of the car. Interesting…

Before picking up the hire car I decided to do a little bit of research about driving in America, especially in regards to the common do’s and don’t’s along with the basic rules of the road just so I was clued up prior to my 400 mile trip down south.

So this is what I found out; the speed limit in built-up areas is 35 miles an hour, slightly faster than here in the UK at only 30 miles an hour. When it rains lights must be on outside the vehicle and it appears that you don’t necessarily have to stop at zebra crossings or stop lines at the end of junctions although there is still some confusion about this.
I also find out that driving with alcohol in the cab of the car in Florida is illegal and all alcohol related products must be stored in the trunk of the vehicle (or the boot if you prefer)

When I started driving from Orlando I noticed that drivers can perform a ‘U’ turn on every block, it was hard to see most people turning because most vehicles don’t have conventional indicators like here in the UK but instead used brake lights as indicators.

Our journey took us from Orlando to Miami, approximately 400 miles along the Interstate 95. During the journey there were a lot of differences with the freeway compared to the UK motorway such as services being in the central area of the carriageway and can be accessed from both sides instead of having two separate services on the outer edges of carriageway back here.
I also noticed that lorries could actually travel at the same speed as all of the traffic unlike here where LGV’s have to travel usually several miles per hour slower.
Another key difference was that you could undertake as well as overtake which means passing a slow vehicle on both sides of the car. Although there were signs recommending slower traffic to keep to the far right hand lane a lot of people stayed in the middle and were being overtaken and undertaken throughout.

Miami was a maze of crossroads, America doesn’t seem to have heard of roundabouts. The crossroad procedure in America is slightly different to here in the UK, you initially get a green filter arrow allowing left turning traffic to proceed immediately, then followed by a single green circle and then the red light after, it took a little bit of working out but after some practice it started to flow nicely.

Filling the car up was also a different experience, you have to prepay for fuel and any unused fuel is then reimbursed and refunded at the kiosk. Nearly all vehicles were actually petrol cars with the price of petrol being around two dollars 30 per gallon which equates to approximately 34p a litre here, you can see why everybody drives in America. There is usually only one pump to use instead of various nozzles and then you select the grade of fuel required before filling up as normal.

We also experienced our first American yellow school bus in Miami, it turns out it’s actually state law to stop on both sides of the road if the school bus presents a stop sign as students need to cross in front or behind the bus before it moves off.

Overall it was a good experience driving in America, there was plenty of space on the road and most traffic was very pleasant, the only real downside was waiting at traffic lights unnecessarily. Anyway that’s it for my travels, please share with us your experiences of driving abroad…

Pointless Road Signs

This weeks blog is rather simple, we thought we’d share with you some of the most seemingly pointless road signs we’ve come across. There really are some funny ones and maybe one that is a little inappropriate.

Please share with us others you have found on your travels…

A Sign not in Use sign on a country road  missing words sign

Nothing useful

no right turn

lane closed

stop

Stop2

road unsafe

Sotp

secret bunker

Cocking fuckborough

Funny Road Names

Ever driven down a road and thought the street name was funny or maybe a friend has given you a postcode and you don’t believe the address. Well you wouldn’t be the only one, we’ve found some of the funniest and rude road name across the U.K. And have listed them below for your amusement.

Please note some of them are a little inappropriate…

Rude and Funny London Street and Place Names

* Back Passage, London
* Mincing Lane, London
* Mudchute, London
* Percy Passage, London
* Swallow Passage, London
* Trump Street, London
* Cumming Street, London
* Cockfoster, London
* Dick Turpin Lane, London
* Cock Hill, London
* Titley Close, London
* Cockbush Avenue, London

Rude and Funny English Village and Place Names in England

* Acock’s Green, Worcestershire, UK
* Babes Well, Durham, UK
* Bachelors Bump, Essex, UK
* Backside Lane, Oxfordshire
* Balls Green, Kent, England
* Balls Cross, WestSussex
* Bareleg Hill, Staffordshire, UK
* Barking, Essex
* Beaver Close, Surrey
* Bedlam Bottom, Hampshire, UK
* Beef Lane, Oxfordshire
* Beer, Devon, UK
* Beggars Bush, Sussex passed her prime
* Bell End near Lickey End
* Bishops Itchington, Staffs, UK
* Bitchfield, Lincolnshire
* Boggy Bottom, Abbots Langley, Herts, UK
* Booty Lane, NorthYorkshire
* Bottoms Fold, Lancashire
* Broadbottom, Cheshire, UK
* Brown Willy, Cornwall,UK
* Bushygap, Northumberland, UK
* Catholes, Cumbria
* Catsgore, Somerset, UK
* Charles Bottom, Devon, UK
* Clap Hill, village in Kent, UK
* Clay Bottom, Bristol, UK
* Cock Alley, Calow, UK
* Cock Bridge, Hope, Derbyshire, UK
* Cock Green, nr Braintree
* Cock Lane, Tutts Clump, Berkshire, UK
* Cock Law, Northumberland, UK
* Cock and Bell Lane, Suffolk
* Cockermouth, Cumbria
* Cockernhoe, nr Luton, UK
* Cocking, Midhurst, West Sussex, UK
* Cockintake, Staffordshire, UK
* Cockpit Hill, Derbyshire, UK
* Cockplay, Northumberland, UK
* Cocks, Cornwall
* Cockshoot Close, Oxfordshire
* Cockshot, Northumberland, UK
* Cockshutt Wood, Sheffield, UK
* Cockup Lake District, Cumbria. UK
* Coldwind, Cornwall, UK
* Crackington Haven, Cornwall, UK
* Crackpot, North Yorkshire, UK
* Crapstone, Devon
* Crotch Crescent, Oxford
* Deans Bottom, Kent, UK
* Devil’s Lapful, Northumberland, UK
* Dicks Mount, Suffolk
* Drinkstone, Suffolk, UK
* Faggot, Northumberland, UK
* Fanny Barks, Durham, UK
* Fanny Avenue, Derbyshire
* Fanny Hands Lane, Lincolnshire
* Feltham Close, Hampshire
* Feltwell, Norfolk
* Fingringhoe, Essex
* Flesh Shank, Northumberland, UK
* Friars Entry, Oxfordshire
* Fruitfall Cove, Cornwall, UK
* Fudgepack upon Humber, Humberside
* Gay Street, Sussex. UK
* Gays Hill, Cornwall, UK
* Giggleswick, Staincliffe, Nth. Yorkshire, UK
* Golden Balls, Oxfordshire, UK
* Gravelly Bottom Road, nr Langley Heath, Kent, UK
* Great Cockup & Little Cockup, hills in The Lake District, UK
* Great Horwood, Bucks, UK
* Great Tosson, Northumberland
* Grope Lane, Shropshire
* Hampton Gay, Oxfordshire, UK
* Happy Bottom, Dorset
* Helstone, Cornwall, UK
* Hole Bottom, Yorkshire, UK
* Hole of Horcum, North Yorkshire
* Holly Bush, Ledbury, Herefordshire, UK
* Honey Knob Hill, Wiltshire
* Honeypot Lane, Leicestershire
* Hooker Road, Norwich
* Horncastle, Linconshire
* Horneyman, Kent, UK
* Hornyold Road, Malvern Wells, UK
* Horwood, Devon, UK
* Jeffries Passage, Surrey
* Jolly’s Bottom, Cornwall, UK
* Juggs Close, EastSussex
* Knockerdown, Derbyshire, UK
* Lacock, Wiltshire
* Letch Lane, Bourton-on-the-Water, The Cotswolds, UK
* Lickar Moor, Northumberland, UK
* Lickers Lane, Merseyside
* Lickey End, Worcestershire, UK
* Lickfold, West Sussex
* Little Horwood, Bucks, UK
* Little Bushey Lane, Hertfordshire
* Long Lover Lane, Halifax
* Lower Swell, Gloucestershire
* Menlove Avenue, Liverpool
* Minge Lane, Worcestershire
* Moisty Lane, Staffordshire
* Nether Wallop, Hampshire
* Nob End, South Lancashire, UK
* Nork Rise, Surrey
* North Piddle, Worcestershire
* Ogle Close, Merseyside
* Old Sodbury, Gloucestershire
* Old Sodom Lane, Wiltshire
* Over Peover, Cheshire, UK
* Pant, Shropshire
* Penistone, Sth Yorkshire, UK
* Piddle River, Dorset, UK
* Pork Lane, Essex
* Pratt’s Bottom, Kent
* Prickwillow, Cambridgeshire
* Pump Alley, Middlesex
* Ram Alley, Wiltshire, UK
* Ramsbottom, Lancs, UK
* Rimswell, East Riding of Yorkshire
* Sandy Balls, Hampshire
* Scratchy Bottom, Dorset, UK
* Shaggs, Dorset, UK
* Shingaycum Wendy, Buckinghamshire
* Shitlingthorpe, Yorkshire, UK
* Shitterton, Dorset
* Shittington,, Bedfordshire, UK
* Six Mile Bottom, Cambridge, UK
* Slackbottom, Yorkshire, UK
* Slag Lane, Merseyside
* Slip End, Beds, UK
* Slippery Lane, Staffordshire
* Snatchup, Hertfordshire
* Spanker Lane, Derbyshire.
* Spitalin the Street, Lincolnshire
* Splatt, Cornwall, UK
* Staines, Surrey
* Stow cum Quy, Cambridgeshire, UK
* Swell, Somerset
* The Blind Fiddler, Cornwall, UK
* The Bush, Buckinghamshire
* The Furry, Cornwall
* The Knob, Oxfordshire
* Thong, Kent
* Tinkerbush Lane, Oxfordshire
* Titcomb, near Inkpen, Berkshire, UK
* Titlington Mount, Northumberland
* Titty Hill, Sussex, UK
* Titty Ho, Northamptonshire
* Tosside, Lancashire
* Turkey Cock Lane, Colchester, Essex, UK
* Ugley, Essex
* Upper Bleeding, Sussex, UK
* Upper Chute, Hampshire, UK
* Upper Dicker & Lower Dicker, East Sussex, UK
* Upperthong, West Riding, Yorkshire, UK
* Wash Dyke, Norfolk, UK
* Weedon Lois, Northampton
* Weedon, in the Parish of Hardwick, Buckinghamshire, UK
* Weeford, Staffordshire, UK
* Wet Rain, Yorkshire, UK
* Wetwang, East Yorkshire
* WhamBottomLane, Lancashire
* Wideopen, Newcastle, UK
* Willey, Warwickshire
* Winkle Street, Southampton
* Wormegay, Norfolk, UK
* Wyre Piddle, Worcestershire

Rude and Funny Place Names in Scotland

* Ardfork, Aberdeenshire
* Ardgay, Ross & Cromarty, UK
* Assloss, Ayrshire, Scotland
* Backside, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
* Backside, Banffshire, Scotland
* Ballownie, Angus, UK
* Blackdikes, Angus
* Bladda, Paisley
* Forest Dyke Road, Lanarkshire
* Boghead, Ayrshire
* Boysack, Angus, Scot.
* Brokenwind, Aberdeenshire
* Butt of Lewis, Hebrides, Scotland, UK
* Cock of Arran, Isle of Arran, Scotland, UK
* Cumloden Court, Dumfries and Galloway
* Dick Court, Lanarkshire
* East Breast, Inverclyde
* Fannyfield, Ross and Cromarty, UK
* Fattiehead, Banffshire, Scotland
* Hillo’ManyStanes, Scotland
* Inchbare, Angus, uk
* Inchinnan Drive, Renfrewshire
* Inchmore, Aberdeenshire
* Merkins Avenue, West Dumbartonshire
* Stripeside, Banffshire, UK
* Tarty, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, UK
* The Bastard, a mountain in Scotland, uk
* Twatt, Orkney

Rude and Funny Welsh Place Names

* Bullyhole Bottom, Monmouthshire, Wales, UK
* Cat’s Ash, Monmouthshire, Wales
* Pant-y-Felin Road, Swansea
* Penisarwaen, village in Gwynedd, UK
* Sodom, Flintshire, Wales, UK
* Splott, Cardiff, Wales
* St.Mellons, Cardiff
* Stop-and-Call, Pembrokeshire, UK
* Tarts Hill, Flintshire, Wales, UK
* Three Cocks, Breconshire, Wales, UK

We’re sure you’ll agree there are a few cracking ones in there, if you’ve ever visited any of these then please share a picture with us. In the meantime we’re off to find a few more…

Driving Jargon

Ever wondered what all the acronyms stand for in the driving industry, well here’s our jargon buster to help you understand the most common terms…

A-pillar: The two vertical struts sitting either side of and supporting the windscreen. The A-pillars are a critical part of the crash structure and increasingly house a side airbags, so have widened over the years. Some A-pillars are split in two (see the Citroën C4 Picasso) in order to improve forward visibility. Behind the A-pillars are found B-pillars, C-pillars and, in the case of larger cars, D-pillars. Also known as A-posts.

ABS: Antilock Braking System – A computerised system that prevents the wheels from locking during emergency braking, improving steering control and reducing stopping distances.

AC – Air Conditioning provides cold air through the heating vents inside your car.

ACC: Adaptive Cruise Control – An advanced automatic vehicle speed management system that monitors traffic ahead and reduces or increases the car’s speed based on the flow of traffic. Also known as Intelligent Cruise Control. See also Mercedes-Benz’s Distronic.

A/T: Automatic transmission – A gearbox that shifts through gears automatically, doing away with the need for a manual clutch and gearstick.

AWD: All-Wheel Drive – When power is fed to all four wheels, otherwise known as four-wheel drive or 4WD.

AWW: Automatic Windscreen Wipers – Wipers that come on when an infrared optical sensor mounted on the windscreen detects changing levels of light reflected by the glass as a result of rain water. The system adjusts the wiper speed in response to the level of water.

B-pillar: The vertical struts running from the roof to the waist-line of a vehicle, between the front and rear side windows. Provides strength to the mid-section of the vehicle.

BHP: Brake Horsepower – The measure of an engine’s horsepower output before frictional losses caused by components such as the gearbox, alternator and differential. Previously, a brake was used to load the engine and its power measured. Today, a dynamometer is used instead.

C-pillar: The third strut running from the roof to the wasitline of a vehicle, after the A-pillar and B-pillar. On saloons and coupés, the C-pillar is the final such post and supports the rear window.

CO2: Carbon Dioxide – an exhaust emission, measured in grams produced per kilometre (g/km) driven. CO2 emissions are also the basis for vehicle tax, with higher emitting vehicles penalised.

DOHC: Double Overhead Camshaft – An engine design with two camshafts positioned at the top of the cylinder heads, one to operate the intake valves and one to operate the exhaust valves. More powerful and efficient than an engine with a single overhead camshaft.

DPF: Diesel Particulate Filter – Traps particulates in a diesel-engine vehicle’s exhaust. Particles are then burned off at high temperatures.

DRL: Daytime Running Lights or Daytime Running Lamps – Low energy lights fitted to the car that switch on automatically whenever the vehicle is in operation to increase the visibility of the vehicle to other road users (rather than to illuminate the road or indicate a manoeuvre). Typically, DRLs are made of white LEDs fitted to the front of the car but they can be found elsewhere on the vehicle and can be other colours. At night or in low light situations, when the headlights are required, DRLs tend to switch off automatically. Since February 2011, European legislation has required DRLs to be fitted to all new passenger cars and small delivery vans. Trucks and buses followed from August 2012. It is possible to retrofit DRLs to older cars using after market products.

DSC: Dynamic Stability Control – see Electronic Stability Control (ESC) or Electronic Stability Program (ESP).

DSG: Direct-Shift Gearbox – Volkswagen Group’s dual-clutch gearbox which dispenses with a conventional clutch pedal and allows either full automatic operation or semi-manual control via the floor-mounted selector and steering wheel paddles.

DVSA – Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency. Government agency responsible for issuing driving licences, vehicle registration documents, setting driving test standards, carrying out driving tests, licensing driving instructors and other related activities.

E-REV: Extended-Range Electric Vehicle – a vehicle that uses an electric motor for propulsion but also uses an internal combustion engine to generate electrical power and maintain a minimum level of charge in the battery when it gets low. Unlike a Plug-in Hybrid, an E-REV doesn’t use the petrol/diesel engine to directly power the wheels. E-REVs are designed to eliminate the ‘range anxiety’ associated with pure electric vehicles.

ESC: Electronic Stability Control – An electronic program that applies the brakes to a specific wheel when a loss of steering control is detected. Helps combat understeer and oversteer events to improve safety. Also known as Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) or Electronic Stability Program (ESP).

ESP: Electronic Stability Program – see ESC.

EV: Electric Vehicle – A blanket term to describe any type of vehicle that is primarily powered by an electric motor. Can include Extended-Range Electric Vehicles (E-REVs), Plug-in Hybrids (PHEVs) and Hydrogen Fuel Cell (HFC) vehicles.

FDSH: Full Dealer Service History – as FSH (see below) but the service stamps have been acquired from a registered dealer.

FFV: Flexible Fuel Vehicles – a vehicle that is fuelled by a blend of ethanol and petrol. FFV vehicles can also run on normal unleaded petrol.

FSH: Full Service History – often seen in used car adverts to denote a full log of regular maintenance and annual service stamps from service outlets.

FWD: Front Wheel Drive – When engine power and torque is channelled to the front wheels only.

GPS: Global Positioning System – The network of satellites that provides the location and time information used by a vehicle’s Satellite Navigation (Sat Nav) system. (See also Sat Nav/Satellite Navigation.)

GT: Grand Tourer – A car that is designed for long-distance driving. Usually used as a prefix or suffix on high-performance, luxury vehicles

HP: Horsepower – The measure of an engine’s work rate, which is torque (twisting force) multiplied by speed (how fast it is spinning). It’s a useful measure of how quickly a car can overcome issues like weight and drag when moving. ‘Horse’ refers to the original measure which was based on a comparison of the output of steam engines with the power of draft horses.

HPI Check: A used vehicle history checking service that provides a report to determine if the car is stolen, accident damaged, written off or clocked. (See Clocking.

ICE: Internal Combustion Engine vehicle – abbreviation increasingly used to differentiate vehicles purely powered by petrol, diesel or other form of combustible fuels from electric or hybrid vehicles.

ISOFIX: The international standard attachment for child safety seats which permits a compliant seat to be fixed to anchor points on the car rather than secured solely by the seatbelt.

i-VTEC: Intelligent Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control – Honda’s variable valve control system that improves efficiency at low engine revs and performance at high revs.

J-turn: A driving manoeuvre in which a car being driven backwards is, without stopping, quickly turned almost about its axis so as to continue in the same direction but facing forwards.

KPH: Kilometres Per Hour – The number of kilometres a vehicle can travel at a constant speed in one hour.

LED: Light Emitting Diode – a type of light source that requires less power to run than conventional filament bulbs and is often used on modern cars for low-beam headlights, brake lights, indicators and daylight running lights.

LSD: Limited Slip Differential – A standard differential will split power to the driven wheels via the path of least resistance, meaning if one wheel is off the ground or on a slippery surface it will be fed 100 per cent of the power and the vehicle will go nowhere. A limited slip diff prevents all the power being transmitted to the spinning wheel, instead allocating a proportion of the power to the other driven wheels that have grip.

LPG: Liquid Petroleum Gas – A flammable mixture of propane and butane that can be used as a vehicle fuel. It is considered a ‘greener’ alternative to petrol because less exhaust CO2 is produced. Also known as Autogas or Auto Propane.

LWB: Long Wheelbase – A lengthened version of an existing vehicle chassis, often available as an option for luxury saloons such as the Mercedes Benz S-Class.

MPG: Miles Per Gallon – The number of miles a vehicle can travel per gallon of fuel consumed. Officially expressed as urban (city), extra urban (rural roads) and combined (a mix of city and rural).

MPH: Miles Per Hour – The number of miles a vehicle can travel at a constant speed in one hour.

MPV: Multi-Purpose Vehicle – a vehicle based on a family-car chassis and designed to provide maximum cabin space and versatility. Also known as People Carriers (UK) and Minivans (USA).

NVH: Noise, Vibration and Harshness – A measure of the noise and vibration characteristics of vehicles as well as a subjective measure of the quality of the ride. There are legal requirements regarding exterior noise and interior vibration but car makers will spend a great deal of time fine tuning the NVH of each new model to make it acceptable to the brand and the vehicle’s class.

OTR: On The Road – Related to car prices, this refers to the cost of the car as it is driven off the dealership forecourt. It starts with the retail cost of the car from the factory to which are added any additional fees required to drive the car away including taxes, insurance, delivery fees, etc. Also known as the “List price”. Customers can almost always negotiate downwards from the OTR price.

PHEV: Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle – a type of Hybrid vehicle with a larger on-board propulsion battery that gives better range in pure electric power. The propulsion battery can be plugged into an electrical supply and charged.

PS: An alternative measure of engine power output to BHP, used primarily in Continental Europe. PS comes from the German word ‘Pferdestärke’, meaning ‘horse strength’). To convert PS to BHP, multiply the PS figure by .986.

Q Plate: Registration plates starting with a Q indicate the vehicle was either not originally registered in the UK and proof of its age was not available at time of registration, or that it was built using a large number of off-the-shelf parts (e.g. kit cars)

RPM: Revolutions Per Minute – The number of times the crankshaft of a motor turns through 360 degrees in one minute.

RWD: Rear Wheel Drive – Power from the engine is sent to the rear wheels only.

Segment: Types of car are divided into groups depending on size and shape. In Europe, segments are as follows:
* A: city cars (e.g. Ford Ka / VW UP!)
* B: superminis (e.g. Ford Fiesta / Fiat Panda)
* C: small family cars (e.g. Ford Focus / Honda CIvic)
* D: large family / compact executive cars (e.g. Ford Mondeo / BMW 3-series)
* E: executive cars (e.g Mercedes E-class / Audi A7)
* F: luxury cars (e.g. Mercedes S-class / BMW 7-series)
* S: sports cars / supercars / grand tourers (e.g Audi TT / Ferrari 458 / Maserati GranTurismo)
* M: MPVs, aka people carriers (e.g. Ford B-Max / Vauxhall Zafira)
* J: SUVs & 4x4s (e.g. Renault Captur / Range Rover)

SUV: Sports Utility Vehicle – a tall-bodied vehicle with some off-road capability but designed mainly to perform well on roads. SUVs may have four-wheel drive, but may also be two-wheel drive, and have varying degrees of off-road capability. Examples include BMW’s X5 and Audi’s Q7. Within the catch-all term, SUV, can be found Crossover, a type of vehicle not built from the ground up as an SUV but instead based on a car platform.

TCS: Traction Control System – an electronic system that contains wheel spin by cutting engine power and/or applying brake pulses.

TFT: A type of advanced LCD (liquid-crystal display) screen used to display information about the car’s functions and controls. TFT (thin-film transistor) technology is standard on PC monitors these days as it improves image quality over early “passive” LCD screens, which could not keep up with fast-moving objects. TFT screens are, therefore, more suitable for video and animated menus.

TUV – the TUV is the German equivalent of the UK MOT test. You may also find that individual parts and pieces of equipment have TUV marks – this means they have been tested for safety in use

VIN: Vehicle Identification Number – a unique number, usually 17 digits, given to each vehicle during the manufacturing process. VINs can be used to identify vehicles so that their history can be checked (see HPI Check).

VRM: Vehicle Registration Mark – the number plate.

ZiL lanes: Lanes on some of Moscow’s major roads reserved exclusively for government officials and named after the manufacturer of Russian-built armoured limousines. The term was also used to describe the lanes on roads in London reserved for cars carrying officials and athletes during the 2012 Olympic Games.

If you have any others that your not sure of let us know and we’ll decipher them for you.

Changes to the Vehicle Tax

What You Need To Know About Changes To Vehicle Tax This April – by Justin Fox

If you’ve just passed your driving test, are looking to drive, or are thinking of purchasing a new car from this coming April onwards, you need to be aware of the latest amendments to Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) set forth by the DVLA. Having been set for implementation since 2015, this new method of calculating the tax seems complex, but in reality is actually fairly simple to understand.
In practice, the amount you will have to pay depends what category your vehicle falls under, in terms of pollutant emissions. Aside from zero-carbon emitters such as electric and hydrogen cars, all other vehicles will have to pay £140 a year as a base rate. For those that cost more than £40,000 though regardless of emissions, a new fee will apply of £310 every year for five years. After these 5 years are up, the £310 is removed and the tax rate will return to £140.

However if these £40,000 plus vehicles do not give off any emissions, they will be free of the £140 constant tax.
For the majority of road users though, our rate of Excise Duty will be set via a series of ‘CO2 bands’, with the amount of tax owed dependent on the level of emissions. Similar to the methods applied to trucks and lorries, though, the more you pollute the more you will pay. For example a vehicle emitting 111-130g/km of carbon dioxide will have to pay £160, and a vehicle within the 131-150g/km bracket will have to pay £200 a year-on top of the ever-present £140 mentioned earlier. At maximum, the heaviest polluters which are anything above 255g/km will incur a massive £2000 fee initially, but only as part of the additional rate for the first five years.

The new system also takes into consideration the fact that over the years, the price of various makes and models of vehicles will fluctuate. Therefore the value of your vehicle will be taken from the level it was when it was purchased, so you can’t look to take advantage of the system by making a purchase when the cost comes down!

Vehicles also purchased going forward from the end of March will also be divided into one of four categories. These are entitled ‘M, M1, M1SP and M1G’. Category M is your standard 4 wheeled vehicle designed for people transport, M1 is for larger vehicles but with no more than 8 seats, M1SP refers to special purpose vehicles such as ambulances and caravans, and M1G is the category for off-road vehicles like tractors. Regardless of category however, the new charges will still apply.
But why the need for such changes to the law? One common theory is that under the current system, more and more vehicles were being produced that came in below the lowest rate of tax due to technological advancements, which meant that the Government was losing out on a sizable amount of revenue. Others seem to think that the decision was motivated by a concern for the environment, to encourage the purchase of vehicles that are comparably less harmful to our quality of air. There’s been the long-standing issue of fuel efficiency in regards to HGV’S in particular, so perhaps this is a move aimed at making the operators of commercial vehicles think twice before investing in such major sources of carbon pollutant gases. The Government has long been keen for commercial fleet owners to take more of an interest in reducing their carbon footprint, so by incentivising the purchase of electric vehicles for both commercial companies and individuals, perhaps all will be persuaded to make the transition.

So if you’re itching to get out on the road, bear in mind the secondary costs that accompany acquiring your vehicle. Whilst they may be pricy due to the relatively new technology used to power them, electric vehicles appear to be the way to go as politicians seemingly appear to be pricing petrol users off the road, albeit over time. Make sure to research how long you could be paying off your car, and check out what other resources exist that can help save you money.

Sources:
• https://wrightstart.co.uk/learn-to-drive
• https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/534511/ved-reform-briefing-for-motor-industry.pdf
• https://chrishodgetrucks.co.uk/useful-info/trucks-ved-rates.htm
• http://www.kentlive.news/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-changes-to-car-tax/story-30146184-detail/story.html
• https://www.trucklocator.co.uk/hub/truck-fuel-efficiency-guide/
• https://wrightstart.co.uk/resources

Auto or Manual

Whenever I’ve had the opportunity to choose between buying a manual or an automatic, I’ve always gone for a manual.

For me, automatics take the fun out of driving. No longer do you have the nervous tension of knowing you could stall while pulling away at the traffic lights, thus missing out on all that friendly hooting from the cars behind. And what about the quiet satisfaction you can derive from holding the car on the clutch when queuing while going up a hill?

A devotee of automatic transmission would dismiss these innocent pleasures and say their preferred option makes much better sense if, for example, you’re commuting 80 or 100 miles a day on a motorway. And should you get stuck in a jam, your left foot won’t have to mimic Buddy Rich working the hi-hat as you inch forward, minute by grinding minute.

Fans of automatics tend to say that, once you’ve tried one, you’ll never go back to a manual. But if you’re bitten by the bug, you’ll have to get used to the fact that automatics burn through more fuel because they do the work your left-side limbs do in a manual.

All other things being equal, you’ll get a couple of miles per gallon more out of a manual. And when you consider that you’ll pay more for an automatic in the first place, and then pay more to maintain and repair it, the cost considerations can become significant.

You’ll probably find yourself paying more for insurance on an automatic, precisely because they’re more complex beasts and therefore attract higher bills when things go wrong.

Ah, yes, say the automatic lovers (that doesn’t sound quite right, but you get my drift), they may cost more in the showroom, but our automatics retain their value more, so you see the benefit when you trade on. And if you torture your manual with late gear changes and you ride the clutch like it’s a fairground attraction, you’ll soon hear the first of a million hisses – and you’ll be keying in your credit card number at the garage with devastating frequency.

On the plus side for automatics, there’s no doubting the compelling safety argument that says you’re in more control of your car if you’ve got two hands on the wheel at all times. And it’s undeniable that anyone hiring a car abroad should at least acquaint themselves with an automatic before collecting their vehicle – because that’s what it’ll probably be.

Getting used to an automatic while driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road is a recipe for unnecessary stress, or even worse.

If you’re in the US, avoid asking for ‘a manual’ – you’ll only get raised eyebrows. Ask instead for ‘stick shift’ – the eyebrows will still go up (everyone drives an automatic in the US) but the sense of alarm will be less tangible.

Currently, less than 20% of the UK private car fleet is automatic. So how do you see it? Will we eventually follow the lead of the US and switch overwhelmingly to automatic transmission? Or will we stick doggedly to our traditional method? What do you see as the pros and cons of the two types of transmission?

Car Fuel Types

Ever wondered the difference between fuel types and exactly how it makes effects driving. Well we’ve done the research and stated the basics below:

Petrol – Premium Unleaded (95 RON)
This is bog-standard unleaded petrol. Despite the name ‘premium’, it’s actually the standard petrol sold all over Europe.
95 RON refers to the octane level of the petrol. This is a measure of how easily the fuel will ignite inside an engine. Higher octane levels mean that the fuel will not ignite as easily and are required for some (a few) high performance engines.
Premium unleaded is suitable for almost all petrol engines. You should be safe to use it unless your car’s user manual specifically specifies that you should only use petrol with an octane rating higher than 95. Very few cars require this.
Premium unleaded fuel pumps are usually green. Check the label before you fill.

Petrol – Super Unleaded (97/98 RON)
Super unleaded is the highest octane petrol that is widely available in the UK. A higher octane rating means that the fuel will require greater compression (more pressure) to ignite. Some car engines – especially high performance Japanese cars – require the use of super unleaded, while performance cars like Porsches and Ferraris will also tend to use this fuel, although it may not strictly be required.
Super unleaded can be used in any petrol engine but will only provide a beneficial effect in a small minority of engines as most engines are not able to take advantage of the higher octane rating.

Premium Fuels – e.g. Shell V-Power, BP Ultimate
Several fuel manufacturers offer own-branded high performance fuels that claim to offer additional benefits in addition to a higher octane rating. The best known example of premium petrol in the UK is probably Shell V-Power Unleaded. V-Power Unleaded has an octane rating of 99RON, the highest available in the UK.
Shell say that V-Power Unleaded offers three benefits – improved lubrication, cleaning action and higher performance (for engines that can benefit) due to the high octane rating.
Two alternative premium fuels are BP Ultimate Unleaded and Total Excellium Unleaded. These claim to offer similar benefits to V-Power but are only rated at 97RON.
Premium super unleaded petrol fuels can be used in any petrol engine but only some drivers/cars will experience a noticeable improvement in fuel economy or performance.

Diesel
Many garages only offer one type of diesel for cars. It may be labelled as ‘city diesel’ or ‘low sulphur diesel’, just plain ‘diesel’ or something else.
Whatever it’s called, it should be fine for any current diesel car or van.
Diesel fuel pumps are usually black. Check the label before you fill.

Premium Diesel Fuels
As with petrol, however, there are a few higher performance diesel fuels available. The main three available in the UK are Shell V-Power Diesel, BP Ultimate Diesel and Total Excellium Diesel.
Whether these are worthwhile for you is down to your testing and your vehicle. These fuels generally offer a higher cetane rating which means that when used, they should ignite and burn more quickly and efficiently. These fuels also include additional lubrication and cleaning agents to help keep your engine clean and remove existing deposits, something which can reduce performance on diesel engines.

LPG
LPG Autogas is an alternative to petrol. LPG stands for Liquefied Petroleum Gas. Petrol engines have to be specifically converted to run on LPG and have an additional tank fitted (a bit like a gas cylinder).
LPG is available at a reasonable number of UK garages and is much cheaper than petrol, although it does give poorer fuel consumption.
However, before you start thinking about converting your car to LPG, it is important to remember that LPG is only cheaper because the fuel duty (tax) on it is much lower than the duty on petrol.

LPG isn’t intrinsically cheaper, so if the government of the day decides to change the rate of duty on LPG, the cost could shoot up. LPG is good in London, however, as it makes you exempt from the London Congestion Charge.

What Are Biodiesel & Bioethanol?
Biodiesel and bioethanol are diesel and ethanol fuels that are made from plant crops, rather than oil. They work in approximately the same way as diesel and petrol (respectively) and can be used instead of these fuels on their own or blended with regular diesel and petrol.
What this means for you and I is that the petrol and diesel we buy in the UK (and throughout the EU) now normally includes some biofuel. These fuels still confirm to the relevant British Standards for petrol and diesel and are accepted by car manufacturers – so they won’t cause problems with your car or with the warranty on new cars.

Using A Higher Percentage of Biofuel In Your Car
If you want to run a fuel with a greater percentage of biofuel, then you need to look at a specific biofuel product.
Before doing this, be aware that many car manufacturers do not support the use of these fuels in their cars. While they may work fine, using an unsupported biofuel is likely to invalidate your car’s warranty if any problems arise as a result.
For diesel vehicles in the UK, biodiesel is the most common substitute for regular, oil-based diesel. While there are biodiesel companies out there who make 100% biodiesel, this requires modifications to most cars for them to remain reliable so isn’t recommended for most casual users.
More practical is to use a fuel that is a mixture of diesel and biodiesel. Some regular garages are now selling such fuels. The fuel names normally include a number indicating the proportion of biodiesel that has been added to regular diesel to make the fuel.
For example, B30 would be 30% biodiesel, 70% regular diesel.
For petrol car drivers, the choices are even fewer – bioethanol is the chosen biofuel substitute for petrol but availability of ethanol-based fuels in the UK is very limited. If you do find one, it should have the same naming convention as biodiesel fuels – e.g. E30 would be a fuel containing 30% ethanol and 70% petrol.

Hybrid
A hybrid car is one that uses more than one means of propulsion. At the moment, that means combining a normal petrol or diesel engine with an electric motor.
The chief advantages of a hybrid are that it uses less fuel and emits less CO2 than most conventional non-hybrid vehicles.
Because of this, owners also get extra benefits in the shape of lower rates of road and company car tax, as well as possibly avoiding congestion charges.

How do they work?
Hybrids are powered by either a petrol or diesel engine and an electric motor.
However, different manufacturers have come up with different ways of merging the two powertrains into one.

Conventional hybrids
In the Toyota Prius, arguably the best known hybrid, each of the power sources can drive the car separately or they can work together.
At low speeds, the engine is turned off and the car is driven only by the electric motor. Then, when maximum acceleration is needed, both work together. At stages between, any excess power generated by the engine is used to recharge the batteries that power the electric motor. The battery is big enough that the electric motor can power the car for up to 1.25 miles.
Toyota also uses this system in the Yaris and Auris hatchbacks and Prius+ MPV hybrids, while cars from Audi, BMW, Citroen, Land Rover, Lexus, Mercedes, Peugeot, Porsche and Volkswagen work on the same basis.
The Honda Insight and the Honda Jazz are slightly different. Here, a relatively small conventional engine uses an electric motor to give it extra help when required. The big difference is that the electric motor is not capable of powering the car on its own.

Plug-in hybrids
There are also the so-called ‘plug-in hybrids’ which, as the name implies, can be plugged into an electric outlet to recharge their batteries, as well as being charged on the move.
Effectively, they are a halfway house between conventional hybrids and full electric vehicles. Although they have a conventional engine, they also have larger batteries than regular hybrids and can drive longer distances on electric power alone – up to 30 miles in some cases.
Toyota produces a plug-in version of the Prius, while Volvo has a diesel-hybrid V60 and Mitsubishi’s petrol-powered Outlander PHEV is the only plug-in SUV.
The Vauxhall Ampera and Chevrolet Volt work slightly differently. In these two cars drive always comes from the electric motor; the petrol engine is just there to act as a generator to charge the battery pack when it starts running out.

Who owns who?

The auto industry has a very confusing family tree. The past few years have seen partnerships, sales, separations, bankruptcies, and entire divisions killed off, making it difficult to keep up with who owns which car brands.

As automakers slim down to become more profitable and efficient, a number of changes have been made in recent years. We have seen storied names, such as Hummer, Mercury, and Pontiac, fade away into the history books. We have seen others, such as Chrysler, Jaguar, and Volvo, find new international corporate parents. And some, such as Aston Martin, remain in flux.

To help clear up some of the confusion, we present a basic road map to navigate who owns which car brands among the major automotive companies that sell in the United States. Of course, the list is definitely subject to change.

BMW owns: Mini and Rolls Royce.

Fiat owns: Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Ferrari, Jeep, Lancia, Maserati, Ram and SRT.

Ford Motor Company owns: Lincoln and a small stake in Mazda.

General Motors owns: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC. GM owns a controlling interest in Opel and Vauxhall in Europe and Holden in Australia. (The U.S. Treasury Department is in the process of selling off the remaining GM stock holidngs.)
Honda owns: Acura.

Hyundai owns: Kia.

Tata Motors (India) owns: Jaguar and Land Rover.

Mazda mostly independently owned (Ford has small stake)

Mitsubishi is independently owned.

Daimler AG owns: Mercedes-Benz and Smart.

Nissan owns: Infiniti. (Nissan, in turn, is owned by Renault.)

Saab is owned by National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS).

Subaru: Owned by Fuji Heavy Industries with Toyota a minority partner.

Tesla: Toyota is a minority partner. Partnership with Daimler AG.

Toyota Motor Company owns: Lexus, Scion, Daihatsu and Hino Motors, with a stake in Fuji Industries (Subaru’s parent company) and Isuzu.

Volkswagen owns: Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, and overseas-brands SEAT and Skoda.

Volvo is owned by Chinese-automaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, aka Geely.

As you can probably see this is quite confusing and you would be forgiven for thinking you’d brought a car that is actually from someone else.

Most Popular Car Names

Another guest blog this week, we thought this was quite quirky and so decided to share, especially as it’s National Name Your Car Day.

Let us know what you call your car…

‘Betty’ the most popular car name among Brits

One in five Brits who own a car christen their vehicle with a name, according to research conducted on behalf of Ocean Finance.

Women are marginally more likely to give their car a title than men. And people aged 55 and over are half as likely to name their vehicle as the national average.

The top 10 most popular car names are:

1. Betty
2. Betsy
3. Lucy
4. Herbie
5. Bob
6. Sally
7. Bessie
8. Daisy
9. Foxy
10. Pablo

Not all car names are so obvious though. From the slightly less PG titles like ‘BJ’ and ‘Passion Wagon’ to well-known personalities like Beyonce, Pellegrino and Nemo, Brits have no barrier when it comes to branding their car.

Other less traditional vehicle names include: Frapuchini, Frugal, Gladys, Hoopla, Lord Thaodin of Rohan, Nooka the Nook, Snozzles, Custard and Toadzilla.

Most people (20%) name their car based on the letters and numbers on their number plate – men (26%) are almost twice as likely as women (15%) to use their car’s number plate as inspiration for its name.

Marginally fewer (18%) car owners name their motor after its colour, and less than one in 10 (8%) name it after a film or book character.

Finally, one in 10 say they name their car after a celebrity or famous person – interestingly, men (16%) are more than three times as likely to name their motor after a well-known personality as women (5%).

Ian Williams, Ocean’s spokesperson, said: “Us Brits love to bring our cars to life by giving them a name – and the names we give them are weird and whacky, well-known and wonderful.

“From the make and model of the car, family members and instinct, to simplicity, sarcasm and football teams, our study shows there’s no end to car-naming triggers.”

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.

Why do we drive on the left?

About 35% of the worlds population drive on the left. So some of you may wonder why in the UK we drive on the left, others just accept that we do and understand that mainland Europe drives on the right, but where does it all originate from…

Well, after some extensive research and interesting articles we can see that it all dates back the 1700s. The reasoning behind this is due to violence and attacks. Most people were right handed and so drivers of vehicles wanted to keep their right arm free in order to use their sword if an attack situation was to arise.

We were a little unsure of the strength of truth behind this but after a while it all began to make sense but for more information click here.

The U.K. is one of few countries that actually drive on the left whereas mainland Europe and America drive on the right. See out our blog on European driving here. You can clearly see on the map below how many countries drive on the right, countries in orange drive on the left.

list-of-left-driving-countries-

 

You can see a detailed list of which countries drive on the left or right including miles or kilometres by clicking here. If you want more information about driving on the other side of the road then check out our blog on European driving here.

When were road signs introduced?

The first U.K. Road signs date back to 1880 when British cycling organisation began to erect signs in order to warn of hazards ahead and directions to destinations. As more cars flocked onto the roads there became a significant need for road signs as car drivers travelled quicker and further than cyclists and therefore needed signs in advance of their destination. A full detailed history of the U.K. Traffic signs can be found here.

The type font used on road signs is also quite significant. Unsurprisingly it is called ‘Transport’ and was designed in 1957 with the instruction of being read quickly and easily. You’ll notice when looking at road signs on your travels that the wording stands out and is easily legible which is essential when travelling at up to 70mph and your frantically looking for which direction to go.

You can see an example of the type font below, to read more on road sign type fonts click here.

transport_specimen

 

Check out how confusing this sign is below, its of the Magic Roundabout in Swindon showing a rather unorthodox method of incorporating mini-roundabouts into signage. (The correct method, introduced in the 1994 TSRGD, is to use a black disc with a central white dot for each mini-roundabout.) This peculiarity is common in Wiltshire, we’ve not had the pleasure of driving it as yet but let us know how you get on if you do.

magic roundabout

Road signs make up a large chunk of the theory test so learning and revising them is essential to obtaining your licence.

To download your copy of the Highway Code traffic signs ready for your theory test, click here.