Our Blog

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Test passes

Hearty Congratulations to Jonathan Taft and Malcolm Harlin on passing
the Advanced Driving Test.
 
                                          Well Done Guys!!
 
 

Drivers paying price for weak pound as petrol and diesel rise to two-year high

 

The average price of petrol in the UK has reached £1.20 per litre for the first time since December 2014, Government figures show.

Filling up a typical 55-litre family petrol car now costs £66, compared with £56 in March last year.

Diesel is also at its most expensive level since December 2014, at £1.23 per litre.

The weaker value of the pound and a recovering oil price sadly means motorists are now paying more for their fuel than they have done in over two years.

Looking back to December 2014, it was a very different, much brighter picture, as the oil price was consistently falling, going from 70 US dollars to 55 US dollars in the month and the exchange rate was 1.55 US dollars.

Today, however, oil has risen to 55 US dollars a barrel and the pound is worth just 1.25 US dollars, which means with fuel traded in dollars, the cost of filling up has once again become a far greater financial burden to drivers.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

M1 could get 60mph limit to cut pollution

A section of the M1 could get a 60mph speed limit during rush hour under new plans to reduce pollution.

Highways England is considering the initiative, which would come into force along a stretch of motorway that runs close to schools and homes in Sheffield. 

The motorway between junction 28 and 35a already breaches UK and EU air quality limits hundreds of times each year, but it's set to get worse as the Department for Transport is converting it to a smart motorway.

Under the £106 million scheme, between 5,000 and 10,000 more cars are expected to travel the route because the hard shoulder will be opened during peak periods.

However, Highways England's own reports suggest that increasing traffic flow to that degree could make nearby residents' exposure to pollution hit illegal levels.

The organisation's operations director Nick Harris wrote to local MPs last month, saying: "We are looking into initiatives that might avoid or reduce the need for these speed limits."

One such initiative, which involved painting barriers with special paints that soak up pollutants, had already been deemed unsuccessful.
 
An AA spokesman said that motorists were being unfairly targeted by schemes like this.

He said: "Car users are always the easy hit when it comes to pollution when actually they are not one of the main contributors.

"There is a very good chance that the traffic is already moving at that speed during rush-hour."

Monday, 23 January 2017

Test Passes

Congratulations to Joe Grey and Steve Bailey on passing
the Advanced Driving Test
 
Well done guys!!
 
 

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Snow-loving families have parked cars ticketed in Wales



Families enjoying the snowy weather that fell on the Brecon Beacons had their fun cut short – as police issued the cars they left behind with parking tickets.

After the hilly area of south Wales received a heavy downpour of snow, sledge-lovers headed straight to areas surrounding the A470 near Pen y Fan. 

However, the sheer number of vehicles parked on verges of the busy road soon caused traffic build-ups.

Dyfed Powys Police began issuing warnings to motorists through Twitter, at first saying: "If your vehicle is one of those parked on A470 Storey Arms you are in the process of receiving a parking ticket."

The Police reaffirmed their first statement the following day, saying: "A470 Storey Arms – have fun sledging but park safely and securely OFF the road otherwise you will have a ticket."

Most cars were parked off the road and it was ok but then it got manic and left no room for lorries on this major artery.

One driver said "It's so beautiful up there that I'm not surprised people want to flock there in their hundreds.

Seven in 10 drivers will pay more tax under new rules

New vehicle tax regulations, set to be implemented from April 1, will see seven out of 10 drivers paying higher rates.

Recent research by HonestJohn.co.uk has revealed that these new tax rules will particularly affect buyers of new eco-friendly models, many of which are amongst Britain's most popular cars. At the same time, owners of some more-polluting vehicles will benefit from the legislation. 

Previously, the government has enticed new car buyers to opt for eco-friendly vehicles that emit less than 99g/km of CO2, with the promise of no VED. However, now, with 74 per cent of new cars emitting less than 130g/km of CO2, ministers have made a U-turn, and introduced these new rules.

On cars registered from April 1 2017, the government will replace the current 13-band tax system with three new bands - zero, standard, premium. There will also be a surcharge for electric cars with a list price above £40,000.

This will mean that some of Britain's cleanest and most-efficient cars, emitting below 99g/km, will face significant fees. Owners of a Toyota Prius, for example, will end up paying £405 in tax over four years, while Tesla Model S buyers will receive a bill of £930.
 
New buyers of Ford's Fiesta 1.0-litre EcoBoost 99bhp Zetec and Focus 1.5-litre TDCi 118bhp Zetec, Vauxhall's Corsa 1.3-litre CDTi 94bhp ecoFlex Design and the Nissan Qashqai 1.5-litre dCi 108bhp Visia will now face tax of £540 over four years, whereas previously these models were VED-free.

But while buyers of new cars over £40,000 – such as the Tesla – will be forced to pay an extra £310 a year for five years, the research by the consumer motoring site revealed a gap in the tax law that allows some of the UK's highest polluting cars under this price limit to benefit.
 
Managing editor of Honest John Daniel Powell commented: "Many motorists are unaware of the changes that are coming for VED, but the fact of the matter is this – the system is changing, and low emissions cars won't be as tax efficient as they were before.

"It's a bit of a mixed message to increase tax on fuel efficient cars while reducing it on less eco-friendly models when the government is trying to increase the uptake of low and zero-emissions cars."

Police-liveried Polaris Slingshot to promote road safety

Motorway police have dreamt up a novel way of promoting road safety, and it involves a 130mph, Batmobile-style three-wheeler. 

The police-liveried Polaris Slingshot motorcycle was unveiled at this weekend's Autosport International Show at Birmingham's NEC. 

The two-seater was used by the Central Motorway Police Group, which covers about 400 miles of motorway in the West Midlands, as a talking point to promote road safety, alongside a virtual reality driving simulator and other audience-engaging activities. 

A giant CMPG bear named Perry and police dog Yasmin manned the force's stand alongside a team of officers.

The Polaris was displayed alongside other high-powered Police vehicles, which included a Vauxhall Insignia VXR, BMW 1200RT and a Ford Focus RS.
 
The CMPG later queried its Twitter followers with a poll, asking which was their favourite of the four. The Focus RS took the top spot, with almost half of the 257 votes. In second position was the BMW motorcycle, third was the Vauxhall Insignia, and finally the Polaris – surprising, considering its popularity at the show. 
 
Unfortunately, the two-seater will not be seen pursuing criminals, Batman-style, as it isn't a permanent addition to the force's fleet. Instead, it was on loan from Polaris. 

The CMPG bade farewell to the powerful machine yesterday, announcing on Twitter that it was being returned to the manufacturers. 

"Sadly we've had to return the #slingshot to @UkPolaris @Slingshot," it wrote. "Thanks for the loan, it was a great talking point to promote road safety."

How to avoid MOT palaver: Tips from IAM RoadSmart

 

A lot of you may be in the mentality of 'New Year, New Me' and hopefully fulfilling your News Year's resolutions, walking down the road of positivity. Some drivers will be going for their MOT checks and it would be a negative start to the year to fail this. This week's tips give advice on how to avoid failing your MOT, from IAM RoadSmart's head of driving and riding standards Richard Gladman.

  • Check your lights. This easily slips through the net becoming a thing that we look at but do not actually see when it needs replacing. Tap each light to make sure there's not a loose connection which might appear at the test.  Most bulbs are easily changed, but you will probably need to look in the handbook to find out how to get at them.  Don't forget to check the headlamp washers if you have xenon (HID) or LED headlamps, if these are not working the car will fail the test

     

  • Try and get into the routine of checking your tyres. This would be for bulges and cuts as well as plenty of tread.  Uneven wear means they are at the wrong pressure or the wheels are not aligned properly – get this fixed before the tyres are changed otherwise the new ones will wear out prematurely

     

  • Handle your wipers with care. Top up the washer fluid, then operate the washers and wipers. If the wipers leave lines on the screen or scrape over the water without clearing it, they need replacing although you could try cleaning them with methylated spirit first   

     

  • We understand that you may be busy but try not to leave it until the last minute. You can submit your car for a check up to a month before the old certificate runs out. This also gives you enough time to make any corrections should there an issue.

     

  • Make a check list. Having a checklist sounds simple but allows you to remember little things that you need that may have slipped off the radar. Try to read the comments after whether you pass or fail. Prevention is better than cure

      

Richard said: "If we maintain our car correctly during the year MOT time will not be as much as an issue, remember a failure means you are driving around in a car that fails to meet the recommended 'minimum' safety standard and that is not how an advanced driver operates."

Friday, 13 January 2017

IAM Roadsmrt tips on the snow

Snowing me, snowing you … there is something we can do!

 

IAM RoadSmart brings you expert advice on driving in snow from its head of driving and riding advice Richard Gladman.

Best advice is to avoid travelling in extreme weather. If no one is moving, you just add to the problem - so listen to travel advice.

If you do have to travel in bad weather, plan your journey thoroughly. Think about where you are going and what it will be like all the way along the journey. If you can, avoid travelling on less-used roads or country lanes as these are less likely to be gritted.

Before setting off, clear all your windows and mirrors fully. Clear off snow piled on the roof of your car and the bonnet too, as it can fall and blow on to the windscreen. Don't leave anything obscured.

Start your car gently from stationary and avoid high revs. If road conditions are extremely icy and you drive a manual car, you should move off in a higher gear rather than first gear. You should stay in a higher gear to avoid wheel spin.

It's important you get your speed right when travelling in snow. Never drive too fast that you risk losing control, and don't drive so slowly that you risk losing momentum for getting up a slope.

Increase your following distance from the vehicle in front of you. It may take up to 10 times as long to stop on snow or ice build this into your following distance – this will give you more time to slow down using engine braking which is less likely to induce a skid.

Make sure you slow down sufficiently before reaching a bend so you have enough time to react to any hazards that appear as you go round it – and so you do not skid as well. You should have finished slowing down before you start to turn the steering wheel.

If you break down or have to pull over on a motorway or dual carriageway, you should leave your vehicle and stand to the safe side of it - ideally well over the armco to the nearside of the road, but not in front of it, when waiting for help.

Richard said: "Many of the problems associated with travel during snow could be avoided if people planned in advance. People routinely travel with only the minimum of safety equipment, without realising their journey could be a lot longer than expected.

"At the very least you should have a shovel, torch, blanket, jump-leads and tow rope. You should ensure your mobile phone is fully charged, and the number of your recovery organisation is saved into it. A bottle of water and a snack may also prove useful and don't set out without knowing the locations of petrol stations on your way.

"This all might sound obvious, but too many of us forget to do any of this. Don't be one of the ill-prepared, and listen to the weather forecast for the whole length of a winter journey to help you prepare for it."

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Winter Driving


Winter is truly here and up until now, we've had a few cold snaps and a few heavy covering of fog. Temperatures in November and December have been unusually high with Christmas Day temperatures reaching 13 or 14 C in some places around the UK. Certainly not a white Christmas. But the weather is turning and its easy to be unprepared for what is about to come.
The weather in the UK is notoriously hard to predict. Three weather systems constantly battle it out above the UK sky's. The warm weather from the south. The wet and windy weather from the Atlantic, and the cold weather from the north. The referee, the thing that separates these weather fronts is the unseen Jet Stream. The stream cuts through these weather systems to keep them separated. It normally sits north of the UK, but often ventures down bring that colder snap, causing ice to form and rain to turn to snow.
That jet stream often falls slightly south of Scotland bring ice and snow regularly north of the border. It would be true to say that motorists in Scotland and the north of England are use to these cold snaps each year. However, the south east corner is not, and many motorists in London and the southern counties come to somewhat difficult situations when the really cold stuff hits us.
In one day during the winter of 2009/10 the AA took some 28000 breakdown calls from around the UK. A large number of breakdowns no doubt could have been avoided with some simple yet effective checks.
F.L.O.W.E.R. Check your Fuel before you leave. You never know when you might get stuck in long traffic jams on our road network. Make sure you can been seen by checking your Lights all work, and is free from obstructions during your journey. Check lights are working too. Switch them all on, hazards and fog lights too and take a walk around the vehicle. Too check your brake lights ask another person to check they switch on when you depress the brake peddle. If on your own, an easy way is to check the lights reflect back when something is behind you, I've often used the walk behind me to check daily that the brake lights work, viewing the reflection on the wall. Oil levels should be checked. Don't rely on the car telling you it's low, that often happens when your on the move and it's inconvenient to stop to top it up. No oil and the engine will cease. Your vehicle needs Water too. Check screen wash and coolant are topped up. No coolant will lead to over heating engine no mater how cold it is outside. The RAC reports that the most common breakdown is flat battery. So check the Electrics. If the car struggles to start on a nippy day, it's likely it will give up on the colder ones.  And check those tyres. The Rubber, or the depth of grip to be precise should be no lower then 1.6mm. That's the legal limit, but it would pay dividends to have them change before that to give you the best possible grip should the road be icy or covered in snow. Owners of rear wheel drive vehicles might want to consider winter tyres.
In addition the IAM recommends packing a small shovel, spare bulbs, ice scrapper, blanket and touch. That's something that could be sourced before the weather really turns. I would recommend some chocolate, a large bottle of water and maybe a small 12v travel kettle and a cup of soup, just in case you get stuck. From experience, on one occasion, a one hour 15 minute journey once took me a whopping 10 hours in the winter of 09/10. The chocolate bar and water came in very handy that night.

What's in your boot?  A selection of kit carried in the vehicle as
a 'Just in Case'. Including Hi Vis jacket, water, oil, folder away
shovel, window cleaner, snacks and a 12v kettle. 
The weather will no doubt slow you down. Leave a little earlier then normal. Plan the journey. If your journey is a long one, check that there is service stations on the route that you could stop at for breaks. Check the forecast too. And use technology to help too. Take a phone charger with you and keep the phone plugged into the 12v supply. Sat Nav's with traffic Reporting could come in handy, re-routing you around any major traffic jams and incidents that may happen on route. Local radio stations may provide suitable reports too, and if your entertainment system has RDS and TP, learn how to switch them on prior to you journey so the radio can automatically inform you of the current situation ahead.
Above all, however, pay attention to the road and the conditions. It's all too easy to be complacent when sitting in a nice warm car with your favourite music on. Switch your lights on to be seen, and keep your speeds down. Give plenty of room between you and the vehicle in front. In dry weather you should use the 2 second rule, double that in wet weather, and times that by 10 on ice!
By taking some simply steps, you should hopefully be able to avoid a breakdown. Should you breakdown or be stranded, however, you may be a little more prepared then before. The AA has some good advice about what to do should you be in that situation. Worth reading before hand or even printing it out and take it with you.

Stay safe this winter.

Monday, 9 January 2017

F1rst Pass


Congratulations to Antony Palourti who recently passed his IAM Road Smart course and collected his certificate yesterday (Sunday). Antony achieved a F1rst pass only being marked down slightly for his 'spoken thoughts'  Antony found the course very helpful and was impressed with all the observers he had during the course.

Well done Antony from all at the Kent Group of Advanced Motorists.  

If you would like to try your hand at advanced motoring technique's and join the ranks like Antony, take a look at our website for all the details.  

Monday, 2 January 2017

Test pass - Paul Abbott

Congratulations to Paul Abbott on passing the IAM Advanced Test
 
Well done Paul !!
l

F1rst Class Test Pass

Congratulations to John Farrow on achieving a F1rst class IAM Advanced Test Pass
 
Well done John!!
 

Recent test passes

Hearty Congratulations to the following members on recently passing the IAM Advanced Driving Test - Well done everyone!!
 
Alex Broadley
 
Barry Grist
 
Mark Harvard
 
Simon Skeet
 
Susan Farrington
 

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Happy New Year

Happy New Year! 


We truly hope that you've all had a good time over the festive period and indeed you arrived at each and every destination safely too. With so much to do over the festive period it can be easy to succumb to some bad driving habits. Rushing around completing last minute Christmas shopping, searching car park after car park for a space or stuck in traffic frustrated that your not moving as fast as you want with all that needs to be done before the big day. Office parties and gathering with friends and family provide some light relief. Hopefully you took a taxi or public transport home after a few glasses of that strong Mulled Wine.

Then the new year comes. The final party of the season approaches and once again decisions on who's party your going too and how you get there has to be made. Once again we hope you all travelled safely. Then the high street sales comes along - as if you've not had enough with shopping, you find yourself struggling to find parking in town once again. The New Year also gets us all thinking about what's happened over the past 12 months and what we all like to do, see, experience and or course improve upon for the next 12 months. Stop smoking, lose weight, join a gym are just a few items on many people's New Years resolution list. But I'd put money on not many people will have 'Improve my driving skills' on that list. Yet for most people, driving is something that we do most days. It's our independence and in many cases its a life style and even a life line. Yet most people have never had any form of training or re-cap since passing the standard driving test.

Some people find as roads become busier and cars become larger, their confidence behind the wheel doesn't seem to be as good as it once was. Then you have the other end of the scale. As we grow more experienced with life and the road, we can become complacent with our skills behind the wheel. The New Year is a great time to stop and think about our skills, confidence levels and our own attitudes in our vehicles we drive today.

At the begaining of 2016 Sarah Lewis done just that. She joined the Kent Group of Advanced Motorist to address her confidence levels and was kind enough to write for us her reasons in joining and her experinces of completing the IAM Road Smart course.


I had gradually lost my confidence behind the wheel over the last couple of years, likely due to my advancing age and the ever increasing volume of vehicles on our roads, but mainly following the purchase of a rather 'sharp' little sports car. Unfortunately (or fortunately as it transpired) the new car was so quick and responsive that it had turned me into a quivering wreck very rapidly; ironic since over the 31 years since passing my driving test I had confidently driven all kinds of vehicles from vans to Land Rovers and everything in between, had driven abroad, negotiated central London at its busiest, towed a horse trailer to Normandy, driven a 7.5 ton horse lorry with 2 ton of horses behind me, 2 young daughters on board and 2 dogs. So quite why this little sports car had broken my confidence, I really don't know. When my husband Charlton jokingly told me one day that my driving was becoming like Miss Marple's and that he was going to install a basket on the front of my car, things had to change!

We saw an IAM stall at the Bearsted summer green motor show, it was a bit of a eureka moment and without hesitation I signed up with my husbands full support and encouragement. When I started the course, to pass the test was never a goal, only to regain my confidence. As time went by and I turned out (with a groan) on the regular Sunday mornings for the lecture and my observed drive, it turned into so much more. With the help of my assessors (David, David, David and Nick), I not only found my confidence returning, but I got to refine my driving skills and began to appreciate how to drive my high powered car safely, efficiently and enjoyably. With my regained confidence and growing knowledge, when the test recommendation came up, I decided to go for it. Nobody could have been more pleased than me on the handshake and congratulations from my examiner Hannah Brown on the day of my test, other than my husband who now insists I drive everywhere! He's next to be signed
up.....


My tips for success in becoming an IAM driver are: Read the book. No, really... Read the book! Learn from the lectures. Understand what they're saying and ask if you don't.  Take advantage of your assessors while you have them in the confines of your car (!) - ask loads of questions and take advantage of their knowledge. Use the many online quiz sites for Highway Code questions and answers. Practice what you learn every single time you drive. Challenge yourself to be better and better with every journey - it soon becomes second nature to drop old habits in favour of new ones and you don't have to drive for miles and miles every day (my 3 mile drive to work 4 days a week was enough, together with the occasional weekend drive further afield) 
Remember.....Nobody made you do this, it was your decision to sign up, so make the most of it and enjoy yourself!

Thank you to Sarah and we hope that her story inspires you to make the call and join in to become a better driver, no matter what your level of skills are behind the wheel. Find details about the IAM Road Smart course on our website. 

Happy New Year and safe motoring.