Our Blog

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Police called after woman used wheelie bin to reserve parking

The wheelie bin that led to police being called
Anger over a wheelie bin led a homeowner in Tredworth in Gloucestershire to call the police. A 44-year-old woman was stunned to be visited by officers, and warned that she was committing an offence by reserving a parking space with her wheelie bin. The woman, who has asked for anonymity, uses her bin to save her space, as her disability means she cannot walk far.

She said that she suffers from arthritis in her legs, gets out of breath quickly and is in pain when she walks. Non-residents park in the road, so she sometimes struggles for a space. As a result she uses her bin to keep a space clear.

However, her practice of leaving the bin in the road upset one of her neighbours, who called police. Officers came to her house and said 'bin-blocking' was an offence, and that she could be prosecuted.

A Gloucestershire police spokesperson advised that it was a PCSO who had visited the woman and advised her to contact the council to request a disabled parking space, because reserving space with a bin contravenes the Highway Act 1980.

Bin dramas

The fact that someone took the time to report her to the police demonstrates just how much ill-feeling can be generated by bin-related arguments.

Two weeks ago, a row over a wheelie bin in Hatherley Cheltenham, ended with armed police being called. In an on-going row, one man had left a 'stinking' wheelie bin under his neighbour's window, so he called the police. Given that the men had an ongoing feud, and the caller threatened to use violence, the police were dispatched with handguns and tasters.

Last Month, a court heard of an argument over a bin that did end in violence. A man in Plymouth had left his bin out to reserve a parking space, and his neighbour moved it in order to let a female friend's car out. The man who was reserving a parking space emerged from his house and started kicking the woman's car. He then got in his own car and tried to run his neighbour over. He was given a suspended sentence, and ordered to attend anger management classes.

And it's not just violence you need to be worried about back in 2013 neighbours who fell out over whether a wheelie bin blocked a shared driveway. The ensuing argument ended up in court and cost them £15,000. One of the families had to remortgage their home to pay the legal fees.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Nigel Mansell backs drive to improve standards with IAM

In a major drive to improve the driving standards amongst motorists, the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) is offering a free advanced driving taster session to any UK licence holder.

The campaign to receive an assessment of your driving standards has won the backing of someone who knows a thing or two about top quality driving - 1992 Formula 1 World Champion and IAM President Nigel Mansell CBE.

The campaign, called Love Driving, has just been launched by the IAM, the UK's biggest independent road safety charity. It takes the light-hearted approach that bad driving is a turn-off to someone of the opposite sex – not only can bad motoring habits cause an accident and injury at the worst; it can also put a damper on you meeting Mr or Ms Right!

The informal, 60-minute session will be carried out by a qualified assessor from the IAM and will take place in your own car. There are no special insurance requirements – you only need to hold a valid UK driving licence.

The taster sessions are part of the IAM's ongoing goal to improve the riding and driving standards of road users and cut the numbers of those killed and seriously injured on our roads.

The IAM also wants motorists to derive more enjoyment from their driving, be less stressed and less prone to road-rage as a result of gaining those extra skills.

The taster sessions, normally worth £39 a person, must be booked by 31 December this year.

To take advantage of the free sessions, which are available in England and Wales, please visit the webpage www.iam.org.uk/lovedriving

Nigel said: "Everyone can benefit from advice on how to drive better. The IAM is offering an amazing free opportunity to give every driver out there a chance to be a safer, more efficient motorist. Each and every one of us has a responsibility to look out for each other on the roads.

"Unlike Formula 1, driving on our roads is not a competition. Keep the racing for the track, and take a responsible attitude on the roads so you end your journey smiling, not scowling and your trips will become much more enjoyable and safer."

Sarah Sillars, IAM chief executive officer, added: "Nigel is right - this is also a great opportunity for people to do something they have no doubt been putting off for a long time. Everyone gets into a few bad habits in their driving over the months and years, and this is the perfect opportunity to put that right.

"The free taster is an enjoyable low-pressure way of sharpening up those skills, pointing out any areas that need attention, and perhaps pave the way for taking part in one of our other courses.

"This is an unprecedented opportunity for drivers, wherever they are in England and Wales, to get a very valuable taster session by an acknowledged expert in the field."

New tech means drivers could face fines for driving slightly over the speed limi

Landscape photo of road and yellow speeding camera.

Following changes in camera technology, drivers could now be facing fines and penalty points for driving even marginally over the speed limit.

When speeds are captured, there is usually a small margin of error coming from the accuracy of the detection equipment. This would give motorists a leeway of around 10 per cent, meaning that a motorist travelling in a 40mph zone wouldn't be stopped if they travelled up to 44mph, though of course this would be down to the discretion of the officer.

With the technological advancement in speed capturing equipment, though this could become a thing of the past. With officers able to calculate the exact speed at which a motorist is travelling, they will now be able to issue fines to people travelling just one mph over the speed limit.

With police in Scotland getting rid of the discretionary manner in which speed offences are issued, this could become more of a nationwide initiative. Drivers in Scotland are now issued warnings for being caught travelling just marginally over the speed limit, with the older discretionary way of dealing with speeding being scrapped entirely.

A spokesman for the National Police Chiefs' Council said on the matter: "If you are over the limit, you are breaking the law and technology makes it easier to pinpoint exact speeds."

Motorists hoping to be spared a penalty or fine by taking into account the traditional leeway will be left without a leg to stand on should the new measures come into effect across the country. Given the ever-increasing accuracy of speed recording equipment, speed limits could be even more specifically enforced.

Driver fined for throwing parking fine out of window

Parking Fine

A driver given a �60 parking ticket was fined another �75 after he threw it out of the window of his car.
The motorist, who has remained unnamed, was issued with the penalty notice in Ammanford, Camarthanshire.  However, before leaving a car park he threw the notice out of the car window and onto the floor, which was noticed by a passer-by.  The witness then reported it to the council, who then issued the driver with another fixed penalty littering notice for �75, bringing his total to �135 for both charges.

Two months ago a woman threw her notice down a drain, only for it to be retrieved and the driver reported. In this instance, the woman had parked in a taxi rank before being issued with the notice. She was traced through the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in order to issue with the littering notice.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Tell the scammers to scram with tips from the IAM

This week's driving tips from the IAM's head of driving standards Peter Rodger are looking at how motorists can avoid intentionally staged road accidents that force insurance companies to pay out high claims. Here are Peter's top tips to help you stay clear of these scams.
  • If you're travelling through busy urban roads stay extra alert and use your mirrors to keep an eye on what is going on around you. If you spot a hazard early, a motorist driving erratically, or a surge of oncoming traffic make sure you slow right down and stay back until you can pass them safely.

  • To help anticipate a hazard ahead, always maintain a safe following distance from the car in front of you on roads, junctions and pedestrian crossings. As a rule of thumb you should maintain at least a two second gap behind any vehicle. This will give you more time to react and slow down if necessary, especially when the driver in front of you brakes suddenly.

  • Be extra cautious of motorists tailgating behind you – the car might be trying to get your attention intentionally so you look at them. Whatever you do, focus on the road ahead and ignore any gestures another driver makes. If you feel threatened, pull over where it is safe and legal to do so and let them past first.

  • If you don't think it is safe to continue with your journey simply don't proceed. Use your judgement to make progress only when you feel it is safe to do so. Even if you think a driver is flashing their headlights to give you way, think again – they may be flashing their headlights to distract you.

  • Avoid getting into arguments with the driver behind you – this will only aggravate them and increase the chances of them crashing their car into yours. Road rage is one the reasons road accidents occur – simply don't react to another driver's bad behaviour. If, at any point, you do feel threatened pull over where it is safe and legal to do so and call the police immediately.

  • If you have been involved in a collision and don't think it's your fault you should call the police. And if there is a suspected injury call the emergency services. Don't take the matter into your own hands.

  • Make sure you collect all the driver's details and take as many photographs as possible, including any images of passengers that were in their car. If the photograph indicates there are fewer passengers in the car you can reduce the potential of any fraudulent injury claims being made.

  • While witnesses may be able to offer a statement, a dashboard camera can be helpful in the event of an accident to help understand how the collision happened and who was involved. You may consider installing this in your car to help protect you against accusations and insurance fraud.

  • For more information on how you can avoid insurance fraud please visit: https://www.insurancefraudbureau.org/

Peter said: "Being the victim of an intentional accident can be a very frightening thing, but you should be aware these incidents are very rare considering the number of car journeys made every day. But you can do a lot to prevent this happening to you. Always be alert of what's going on around you, and avoid the distraction techniques we have talked about – and your journey will be drama free."

Monday, 10 August 2015

Calling all bikers

In an effort to encourage bikers to take their skills to the next level, the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) is launching its biggest ever giveaway promotion in England and Wales geared exclusively to bikers.

Any bike licence holder will be entitled to a free one hour taster session with an IAM qualified instructor in one of 12 locations around England and Wales.

The taster sessions are part of the IAM's ongoing goal to improve the riding and driving standards of road users across the country and cut the numbers of those killed and seriously injured on our roads.

The IAM also wants riders to enjoy their riding more as a result of gaining those extra skills.

But anyone wanting to take advantage of the taster sessions, normally worth £45 a person, needs to move fast – they must be booked by the end of September.

To take advantage of the free sessions visit the webpage www.iam.org.uk/bikemoments

Sarah Sillars, IAM chief executive officer, said: "This is also a great opportunity for people to do something they have no doubt been putting off for a long time. Everyone gets into a few bad habits in their riding over the months and years, and this is the perfect opportunity to put that right.

"The free taster is an enjoyable low-pressure way of sharpening up those skills, pointing out any areas that need attention, and perhaps pave the way for taking part in one of our other courses.

"This is an unprecedented opportunity for riders, wherever they are in the country, to get a very valuable taster session by an acknowledged expert in the field."

Running alongside the IAM's taster session giveaway, the charity is also encouraging bikers to share their love of riding as part of its #BikeMoments promotion on social media.

Riders are asked to share their unforgettable bike memories on the www.facebook.com/IAM.BikeMoments page or on Twitter using the hashtag #BikeMoments.

Anyone taking part has the chance to win free tickets to this year's Motorcycle Live show at the Birmingham NEC between 28 November and 6 December.

Motorcycle Live promises to be a must-see for bike enthusiasts, with more than 30 manufacturers revealing their 2016 bikes for the first time and a host of celebrities expected to attend.

Sarah Sillars, IAM chief executive officer, said: "The campaign #BikeMoments aims to showcase the joy of riding and the fantastic memories it brings, and encourage motorcyclists to discover new advanced riding techniques as a way to ensure even more unforgettable bike memories."

As well as the webpage www.iam.org.uk/bikemoments you can also book your free taster session on our central hotline number: 0300 303 1134.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Stagnation on progress of drink driving


The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) have expressed disappointment at the findings of the latest long term review of drinking and driving data issued by the government this morning (6 August) which shows a stagnation in progress since 2010.

Drinking and driving data from 1979-2014 shows there were an estimated 8,320 drink-drive casualties in 2014 in Britain, up from 8,270 in 2013. This is the first increase in casualties since 2002 (1). More importantly drink-drive related deaths have remained unchanged since 2010.

Neil Greig, IAM director of policy and research, said: "While good progress has been made over the years, we are very concerned that we may have reached a plateau and are not making much progress in further reducing alcohol related crashes.

"The new government has a great opportunity to set the agenda right at the start of the new administration and top of their list should be a consultation on reducing the drink drive limit in England and Wales to align with Scotland and most of the rest of Europe."

Thursday, 6 August 2015

AOL's Johnny Fleetwood takes the IAM's advanced driving test


AOL Cars takes the IAM's advanced driving test


So you think you're a good driver? For the majority of motorists, myself included, years served behind the wheel are often considered an indicator of driving competence. And while there's certainly a lot to be said for skills honed over thousands of miles of driving, we can often fall into bad habits.

Handily, for those who feel as though their driving could do with some improvement – or just want to show off just what good drivers they are – the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) is at hand. For well over 50 years, this road-safety charity has aimed to improve the ability of all manner of road users, with tuition originally based on the police road craft manual; used by highly-trained coppers more accustomed to high-speed chases than the grind of the morning commute.

But just how good does one's driving have to be to pass the organisation's notoriously-rigorous advanced driving test, and gain the kudos (not to mention insurance benefits) that goes with it? To find out AOL CARS up with Mark Lewis, the IAM's director of standards, for a driver assessment. With years of experience of driving from everyone from the Metropolitan Police to the United Nations, he's certainly best placed to tell me where my road craft could do with improvement.

Sat in the driver's seat, I'm immediately taken back to my first driving test – the sense that your every move is being scrutinised, making what is an everyday task seem overwhelming. Thankfully, this being merely an assessment and not the test proper, Mark is friendly and chatty, and immediately puts me at ease.

Firstly, an advanced driver should know his car inside out, and would be able to reach important buttons such as the hazard warning lights without looking. I, thanks to using a borrowed car, fail in this respect. No matter, there's only so much I can do wrong by backing out of a parking space to start our drive.

Wrong again. Despite thoroughly checking all angles, and slowly reversing backwards so not to be caught out by fast-approaching vehicles, Mark soon points out I'm not using all of my senses, and suggests winding down a window to better detect an approaching vehicle I may not have seen. It seems it is this attention to detail that separates the men from the boys.
Joining a main road, I soon make another basic error. While we are told as learner drivers to leave a sufficient gap between the car in front in queuing traffic, how many of us get as close as possible without thinking? "Tyres and Tarmac," says Mark – leave enough of a gap to see both the road and the tyres of the car in front so you can get around it should it break down, or – even worse – the driver gets out in a fit of road rage.

However, by anticipating the moves of other drivers and improving forward planning, such undesirable scenarios can largely be avoided. And so it is on to the motorway so Mark can assess my driving at higher speeds. My long-held loathing of middle lane-hoggers pays dividends here, and by giving ample room to those I anticipate needing to overtake slower traffic, I successfully negotiate our short stint on the M27 – even if some drivers were suggesting I travel above the speed limit by sitting inches from my back bumper.

Turning off the motorway and on to twisting country lanes, forward planning becomes ever more crucial. The tall hedgerows and narrow lanes leave little room for manoeuvre should a wide load or sudden road block come into view. Thankfully, Mark has some handy tricks up his sleeve to better assess what's coming up.

Firstly is to drive at an appropriate speed. The lanes of our Hampshire test route may be national speed limit, but it'd take a very foolhardy driver to blindly zip along at 60mph. Instead, try this: when approaching a blind corner, focus on the vanishing point of the road – the furthest point of asphalt that you can see. Does this move consistently away from you as you drive towards it, or is it getting closer as you approach the bend? If it is the latter then you're travelling too fast for the severity of the curve. Try it out the next time you're out for a drive; it can take some getting used to, but once mastered it will save you the blind panic that comes with driving into a corner too quickly.

There are also other indicators as to the lay of the land ahead. Trees lining the roadside can often show the direction the road is heading, but foliage brings its own hazards. Always be ready to negotiate unseen hazards, says Mark. If there are trees there may be fallen branches, or a mass of slick, wet leaves on the road. Similarly, if you see horse manure on the road, assume that you'll come across a rider at some point up the road. Also, when's the last time you saw just one biker out enjoying a countryside blast?

While this guidance may seem like common sense – and largely it is – it's amazing just how easy it is to forget it when you're driving, particularly if you're distracted or in a hurry. And even once you've gleaned some knowledge from a man as experienced as Mark, it's very easy to slip back into your default driving mode. The importance of putting advanced driving techniques into practice at every opportunity is paramount, and is key to raising the standard of one's driving.

Before taking this assessment I would have assumed that passing the IAM test would have been a walk in the park. The truth, however – revealed in our post-drive debrief – although encouraging, suggests I have some work to do before I can join the ranks of the 10,000-plus (not a lot, is it?) motorists who can call themselves advanced drivers. However, even with this short exposure, I feel my driving has improved immeasurably, and such an assessment would no doubt prove useful to any driver, regardless of their years behind the wheel.

Want to take part yourself? Visit kentiam.org.uk for more information.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Recent Test Passes

Our observers are always pleased to see associates pass their test. This month our Chairman Linda Davies presented test pass certificates to two gentleman who recently passed their Skill For Life test.
Paul Aspinall and Mark Easterby

Congratulations to Paul Aspinall and Mark Easterby. Paul passed with fly colours to gain the IAM's F1rst award.  He advised other who are presently taking the course to 'Have fun and enjoy the course' Mark narrowly missed out on a F1rst by not overtaking a slower vehicle when it was safe to do so and advised others that making progress was high on the examiners list.

Once again from everyone at the Kent Group - Congratulations.


Congratulations also goes to one of our own observers who recently undertook his observer re-test and has now qualified to become one of our growing army of National Observers. Congratulations to David Fleming on passing his National Observers test.   He was soon out putting his skills to action shortly after collecting his certificate from Chairman Linda Davies.
David Fleming with his National Observers pass certificate.


If you want to join Mark and Paul and challenge yourself to become an advanced motorist, why not check out website and sign up for our Skill for Life programme today.