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Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Three Things You Can Do Before Jumping In The Car

Many of us have done it, we've jumped in the car, switched the engine on and driven straight off. We've then taken a look in the mirror only to find its so dirty you can't see a thing behind you. 

So how can you avoid this happening time and time again? 

Their are quite a few things we can all do before driving off. I'll point out 3 simple things we can all do without getting under the bonnet. No machical skills required.  

Leave the house 5 minutes earlier. 
This is often a difficult one for many people, specially those who like their beds in the morning. Giving yourself those extra minutes to complete the next two tasks means your'll be leaving on time and not rushing your journey.

Check tyres are inflated. 
An easy and quick one. Does it look flat? No,  job done. However it doesn't mean that should replace your weekly tyre check of correctly inflated tyres and with plenty of tread. 

Clear windows and mirrors. 
Clear view all around us is very important. Don't try and reverse out of your drive with frost still stuck on window. You simply can not see what's coming. Sounds obvious, but people do do this. If it's frosty, start the engine and get the heaters going. Clear the ice with a good ice scraper. In mild conditions keep windows clean before starting your journey. I use a simple household window cleaner and kitchen towel. Remove excess rain water in wet conditions where possible. Don’t forget to clean the mirrors too. Not forgetting the windscreen wipers also. Good tip is to use a cloth with a small amount of malt vinegar and wipe the blades - this will reduce smearing. 

By getting into the habit of completing these task before every drive to work means you will be a step safer and at the very least by able to see what's going on around you. 

Monday, 27 October 2014

More than 60 drivers caught snapping accident on phones

Man stabbed after confronting group

Rubbernecking is nothing new. A build-up of traffic often occurs on the opposite side of an accident purely because humans find it extremely difficult not to indulge their dark side and cop a good look at the carnage.

But police have decided to draw the line on motorists who insist on photographing the scene of an accident with their mobile phones.

An accident that saw an overturned lorry spill its load over the A34 at Sutton Scotney, Hampshire, last week resulted in a staggering 60 drivers receiving a letter asking if they were driving at the time a photograph of the scene was snapped.

Police officers recorded the number plates of the offending vehicles and plan to punish those reckless enough to reach for their mobiles and take a picture.

If the drivers were found to be using a mobile phone at the wheel, they could be fined £100 and given three penalty points, or offered a driver awareness course, police revealed.

An unnamed passenger who admitted to taking a photo of the scene told the BBC: "If you're hanging out the window with your camera phone then you're asking for it.

"There were not any police around when I went past. If people were stationary, what harm are they doing?"

But the law clearly states that drivers are only allowed to use their mobile phones in the car when they need to call 999 or 112 in an emergency when it's unsafe or impractical to stop, or when the vehicle is safely parked.

Nick Lloyd, from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, commended the police for taking such positive action against offending drivers but said, "it's very disappointing they have to do this in the first place, that 60 drivers have been seen taking a photograph," 

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Daylight Running Light

Kent's Group of Advanced Motoring's social media editor Graham Aylard voices his concerns on Daylight Running Lights fitted to modern cars.

Is it me? Has anyone noticed that as the days get shorter and the nights get longer more and more motorists are driving at night with no headlights on?  I'm not so sure it is me. I notice this as I came home from a recent long friday night drive in rush hour on the M25. The traffic was awful. Clacket Lane roadworks adding to the congestion on the southern side of the M25 creating what is often joked about as the biggest car park in the UK.  I counted no less then six drivers in the Kent area alone driving oblivious to the fact that they are hard to see, if not impossible.  As the 'invisible' vehicle drove past, I notice that a couple of them were illuminated from the front - yet nothing from the back. The reason of course is their Daylight Running Lights were on.

With the dashboard and instrument panels lit during the day, I believe drivers are not paying attention to their lighting conditions.

A vehicle showing its Daylight Running Lights.
Some expensive models use an LED that dim when an indication
is used and use a fraction of energy used by traditional bulbs   
Why on earth however has the driver not noticed that he or she is driving around with no headlights on? Well, my theory is with some models of vehicles, the dashboard is illuminated as soon as you start the engine. Not like older vehicles were the dashboard and instruments are lit only when side lights or headlights are switched on. And this is my problem. With the dashboard and instrument panels lit during the day, I believe drivers are not paying attention to their lighting conditions. They can see the speedo, so the light must be on? right? Err.. no! Motorist must look out for the symbol that indicates the headlights are switched on. However, I still have a problem with this. Let me explain.

I drive a 60 plate, Vauxhall Astra, 1.7TD Sports Tourer - or Astra van with windows to the rest of us. It has daylight running lights. My instruments and dashboard is lit nicely and stays lit all the time the engine is running. My rear lights however are not on at all - and that's fine.  But with I switch the side lights on, the daylight running lights switch off, side lights come on, instrument lights stay on and rear lights switch on. Great. But the only indication of this is a small green double light symbol (also known as a 'position lamp') displayed within the rev counter, just under the needle. No problem. But if I switch my headlights on, no other symbol eliminates. (This is true of Vauxhall and some Ford models, where no 'dipped beam' indications are present in the instrument panel) If your in a well lit area, you might be forgiven to think you do not have any headlights on at all. In fact I've had the need to check on a number of occasions by checking the switch itself. It's obvious however in an unlit area. And my point is that small green symbol is not enough when in well lit areas, and leaving the instrument panel lit simply doesn't give a big enough visual clue that maybe your running around at night with only your daylight running lights on. I believe manufactures need to have the instrument panels un-lit when side or headlights are switched off.

And this is the reason why I believe their has been an increase in 'invisible' drivers.
A hint of illumination in the instrument panel of this vehicle while
the engine is running at the Daylight Running Lights are on.

One of my first vehicles was a Volvo 240. It was the first car in the UK to have daylight running lights. It was in fact side lights running switch on all the time - you were unable to switch them off.  But the dash never lit up until side (which then switched the era lights on) or headlights were on. Once again, Volvo proving to be ahead of its time. But why are so many cars fitted with Daylight Running Lights?

Vehicles in Sweden had to drive with lights on, all year round since 1977

In 2008 European legislation ruled that dedicated 'Daylight Running Lights to be fitting to all new cars from February 2011. Trucks and buses followed just over a year later. However, its not a new idea. Vehicles in Sweden had to drive with lights on, all year round since 1977 (hence why the Volvo lights were always on) Iceland, Latvia, Macedonia and Norway since around 1980, Denmark since 1990 and Romania, Slovenia and parts of Portugal since 1998. In fact

by 2006 drivers in 12 european countries were driving with daylight running lights. It was proven to reduce daytime accidents by a study group and the Department of Transport study confirmed this. The study also showed that the benifts out-weighed the possible cost in fuel to keep lights on and the possible chance that these lights could dazzle other motorist or even masked motorcyclist headlights, making them less conspicuous.
However, nothing has be said about the chances of drivers not noticing that they are driving unlit at night. And this is my problem.

A good rule of thumb in wet weather, if your windscreen wipers are switched to constant, switch your headlights on. 

So what can motorist do? Simple really. See and be seen. When light levels drop, even in the day - switch your headlights on. For example, during wet weather conditions, low winter sunlight that my dazzle motorist in the morning an hour or so after sunrise and hour or so before sunset and of course fog and misty conditions. A good rule of thumb in wet weather, if your windscreen wipers are switched to constant, switch your headlights on.

However, for those who are driving vehicles not fitted with day light running lights and still traveling at night with no headlights on… How are earth can you see your speedo?

Words and images: Graham Aylard, Source AA

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Use of Fog Lights

Do you know the Highway Code guidance around the use of fog lights?

If, upon seeing the first signs of mist in the air, you reach for the button on the dashboard then you may want to dust off your copy of the Highway Code.  According to Rule 226 you "must use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced, generally when you cannot see for more than 100m (328 ft). You may also use front and rear fog lights."  There is no hard and fast rule that states when it is misty/foggy, you should use fog lights - this is left to the driver and is a subjective decision.

These two images, taken at the same location clearly shows the reduced visibility the fog has. Although not thick fog, you can clearly see the cream building ahead in the right hand picture, but not in the left. 

However, having assessed the conditions and decided that fog lights are necessary, there are some definite things which you should do.  Firstly, increase the gap between yourself and the car in front.  Whilst this may seem counter-intuitive - after all, given that visibility has been reduced doesn't it make sense to close in other cars so that you can see them - by increasing the gap between you and the car in front you are giving yourself a safety cushion.  You do not know how observant the other driver is and, if they do not see something and have to react at the last minute, you want time to bring your vehicle to a stop safely whilst also managing the car following you so a multiple pile up is avoided.

Secondly, be aware that driving long distances with limited visibility can be tiring.  You will therefore need to plan more breaks than you might have initially anticipated and allow time for your eyes to recover from the strain you're placing on them.

Remember the Sheppey Crossing incident
last year? 130 vehicle pileup happened
in the fog. But was it solely the fault of
the weather?
Thirdly, do not assume that just because you can see no lights that there is nothing there.  Whilst you have been conscientious and used your fog lights (or dipped headlights if visibility is impaired but not less than 100m), not all road users are as good as you are!  As an ex-driving instructor of mine used to say "treat everyone else as a fool and you'll seldom be disappointed".  Therefore, before proceeding at any junction or hazard, take time to double-check and consider winding down your window to listen for engine noise.  Sound can often carry better in fog and this will give you some early indications that you're not alone!

Finally, once the fog has cleared, remember to turn off your fog lights.

Some top tips:
  • When in traffic consider turning off rear fog lights.  They are designed to improve your visibility to other road users and continual exposure at close range may dazzle the driver behind and mask your brake lights (thereby potentially causing a rear end shunt).
  • Do not keep turning them on and off when going through patchy fog - make a decision and stick to it.  Flickering lights will be more of a distraction to following cars than the potential dazzle.
  • Only use fog lights if visibility is below the recommended 100m and, when they are used, slow down as well.

Post written by Neil Lakeland, Observer with the Kent Group of Advanced Motorists. Originally posted on the Mid-Kent Group of Advanced Motorists blog on 2nd October 2014

If you wish to know more about Advanced Motoring or wish to join us and become an Advanced Motorist, please vista out website for all the details.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Survey reveals what makes a happy driver

Candybox Stock Image
Is your name Daniel? Do you live in Dumfries and Galloway? If yes, you could be amongst the happiest drivers in the UK, according to new research by WeLoveAnyCar.com.

Analysing data submitted by over 650,000 motorists who had independently rated their vehicles, the car-buying website was able to identify not only which cars made people happy, but who the owners were and where they came from.

The results indicated that male drivers most happy with their car were most likely to be called Daniel or Jack, with happy female motorists most likely to be named Wendy or Jane.

Conversely, the Jamies and Waynes of this world were least likely to be happy about their cars, along with drivers named Liz and Tracey.

WeLoveAnyCar.com also identified a correlation between driver happiness and the colour of their vehicle, with owners of teal green, yellow and white cars appearing most satisfied. The opposite was true for owners of purple and brown cars.

Picking a vibrant colour therefore could make your motoring life a bit more exciting – something residents of Rochester in Kent and Newcastle Upon Tyne may wish to consider, being areas where motorists are least happy with their vehicles.

Or they may instead consider a move to Sunderland, Dumfries and Galloway or even further north to Inverness, where drivers are more content with their motors.

In terms of car models, Czech brand Skoda was singled out by the research as having the most satisfied customers.

A spokesman for WeLoveAnyCar.com said: "Our data gives us the ability to find out why drivers are truly happy or unhappy – taking into account not just the make and model of car they own but also who they are, where they are and why they're happy or unhappy with their vehicle.

"It's priceless information, and as the reviews are all live on our site it's there for any car owner or potential buyer to see what any car is like to live with in the real world. Škoda's achievement is exceptional as there's no bias or agenda – just real car owners talking about their experiences. Seeing one brand repeatedly do well clearly shows there's a reason to like the cars."

Are you generally happy when behind the wheel? If not, why not?

Sorry Mate, I Didn't See You.

Has another driver ever pulled out on you, seemingly without noticing you're there? Almost inevitably it's nearly always someone else's fault. Sixty per cent blamed the other driver.

SMIDSY, or 'sorry mate I didn't see you', is when a road user pulls out in front of another vehicle or road user, stating 'they just hadn't seen them'. Failure to look properly is the most frequently recorded factor in all accident types.

This type of incident is much more common for smaller vehicles: in the last six months seventy per cent of motorcyclists, and eighty per cent of cyclists reported being involved in a SMIDSY moment with a larger road user. 

This problem is also more dangerous for motorcyclists and cyclists, who are much more vulnerable without the protection of a car around them. Drivers must give them plenty of space, and be prepared for them to make sudden moves to avoid potholes and other surface problems, less obvious to car drivers.

Similarly, motorcyclists and cyclists need to keep room between themselves and other vehicles – creating space around your vehicle gives you more time to react to hazards.
Drivers should check their mirrors frequently, to keep an eye out for bikes approaching from behind. It's particularly important to check mirrors before changing direction, especially in traffic queues, when a motorcyclist or cyclist might be trying to get past. If they are, be tolerant and let them past– don't try to impede their progress just because you are stuck. But cyclists and motorcyclists need to ride defensively, and be prepared for other drivers to change lanes suddenly, especially when frustrated with the traffic. All road users need to look out for the body language of other vehicles – if another vehicle is slowing down or edging across a lane hang back. 

As a smaller road user it makes sense to do everything you can to be seen. Always ride assuming that other road users haven't seen you, and improve your visibility by positioning yourself where a car driver would be sitting when travelling in a straight line – this is where other road users will be looking.

All road users should check their lights regularly to make sure they are all working. Communication is key, and you can't give clear signals if you have a dead bulb, so test all your lights weekly. Motorcyclists and cyclists should wear big blocks of bright colour – broken up or patterned clothing effectively camouflages you. 

Drive or ride with the knowledge that another road user may behave irresponsibly, so you're ready to react when it happens. It doesn't matter who's fault it was if you damage your car, or more seriously are injured or injure someone else. 

Man proposes to girlfriend in back of police car

Marriage proposal
Think of all the places you would choose to propose to your significant other: a secluded beach, over a romantic dinner or, if you're a particular fan of clichés, on top of the Eiffel Tower. One motorist decided to live for the moment, and proposed to his girlfriend in the back of a police patrol car.

Caine Hutchings had been on the way to the seaside to pop the question to his girlfriend, Emily Dukeson, when his car left the road and collided with a tree.
Thankfully, neither was hurt in the accident, which happened on Saturday on the A39 near Shapwick, Dorset. Police confirmed that no one was to be charged over the collision, which required Mr Hutchings's Citroen hatchback to be recovered from a roadside ditch.
Happily, his other half saw the funny side of the situation and accepted his impromptu proposal as the pair were being driven away from the scene in the back of a marked police car.
Mr Hutchings, 30, said: "We were only in the police car a short time but the accident had put everything in perspective, so I decided that I would ask there and then because anything can change in just a moment and I didn't want to wait any longer," the BBC reports.
"We had to get a photo of me going down on one knee in front of the police car after we got to the pub or no-one would have believed what I'd done."
Ms Dukeson, 27, said: "I didn't have a clue that was going to happen. As far as I was aware we were going to Blue Anchor to take the dogs for a walk.
"In the car Caine said 'did you really think we were going all that way just to walk the dogs?' and pulled the box [with the ring in it] out."
The couple are now planning to tie the knot next year

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Welcome to the Kent Group of Advanced Motorists

Back in March 2014 the Mid-Kent and East Kent groups merged to become one.  A successful merger where both groups were able to keep up the standards we all aim for, to deliver Advanced Motoring courses to the standard of the IAM. This week it's been announced that Mid-Kent Groupd of Advanced Motorists will change its name to Kent Group of Advanced Motorists. We will still be able to meet the standard expected and since we cover the whole of Kent, it certainly makes sense. Our Chairman Linda Davies released a statement on our new site.

With this news our Website and Social Media Co-Ordinator Graham Aylard has been busy creating a new look website, containing all the information and inspiration to attract new members and those wanting to improve their driving. Not to leave anyone out, our current members and observers will also find our new website useful too, with information about our events throughout the year. 

The new website can be found at: 


Our blog will also move. This will contain motoring related news, and advice and tips of the motoring nature. We'll also be posting congratulations messages when associates pass their Advanced Motoring test. 

Our new blog can be found at 


Our Facebook and Twitter pages has also undergone the change and we'll be posting all sorts of motoring related information, driving tips and road related safety advice. Twitter will be updated regularly several times a week. 

Please take a look at our new look website and feel free to post your comments here or if you wish email the Website and Social Media Co-ordinator Graham Aylard.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Changes to the Mid Kent Group of Advanced Motorists


21st October we will be announcing a big change with the Mid Kent Group of Advanced Motorists. 
Be the first to read it right here on our blog