Our Blog

Thursday, 23 February 2017

A man with 62 penalty points is still driving on our roads

A man with 62 penalty points on his licence is among thousands of motorists still allowed to drive, despite them exceeding the limit to qualify for a ban, an investigation has found.

The speeding West Yorkshire man was one of 10,000 drivers legally on Britain's roads last month who had racked up more than 12 points, according to Freedom of Information requests by the BBC.

Typically drivers with 12 penalty points must attend court to face a six-month ban but magistrates can choose otherwise if the offender shows that losing their licence will cause "exceptional hardship".

Some 203 people were still driving despite accumulating more than 18 points, while Greater London was the worst offending area with 1,385 motorists qualifying for a ban, the BBC said.

David Nichols of road safety charity Brake told the broadcaster: "The penalty points system is supposed to be in place to protect the public from dangerous repeat offenders and it's appalling that these risky repeat offenders are allowed to keep driving."

It is not known why the West Yorkshire man was allowed to continue driving.

Common reasons for so many points to be amassed include a failure to inform the DVLA of an address change, followed by speeding offences.

The loss of a job is not enough to pass the "exceptional hardship" test but magistrates may decide not to ban an offender if it would cause bankruptcy or the default of a mortgage, legal experts say

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Vulnerable road users: Tips from IAM RoadSmart

Vulnerable road users: Tips from IAM RoadSmart


We are all made up of different shapes and sizes, from old to young and within our unique make-up we each have a different set of problems and vulnerabilities. This week's tips give advice on sharing the road with vulnerable road users, from IAM RoadSmart's head of driving and riding standards Richard Gladman.

  • Treat pedestrians in the way you would want to be treated. We all have to walk to get to various destinations. It is important give people time and space they need to use the road, especially those with who have restricted mobility. Pay special attention in the rain – you may just spot someone so keen to get out of the rain they may not see you before crossing the road in front of you 

  • Cyclists need space too. They share our roads and are vulnerable to other traffic. When driving ensure you have checked to see it's safe before changing speed or direction. You may be in a hurry but be patient; cyclists are easily affected by the elements and could wobble in instances of windy weather.  Before you overtake them, make sure you have given them enough room as they could adjust their road positioning unexpectedly for a pothole or drain. A few seconds delay is better than a lifetime of regret

  • Mobility scooters are becoming more common. This road user may have restricted movement, vision or hearing. Give this road user plenty of space and time, look for any clues which might help you work out where they are heading

  • Don't scare animals. Animals such as cows and sheep need to be driven past carefully. Horses are normally in rural areas and are accompanied by a rider. They could be nervous of traffic; however police horses can be spotted working in any area.  Turn the radio down and keep the engine revs low, be patient and take your time when passing a horse. Keep your car well away from them and proceed slowly

  • Look out for motorcyclists. They can be hard to see especially in blind spots created by pillars or when looking into the sun. You may find them filtering in traffic so before you change position - Think Bike!

Richard said: "Drivers need to remember they are inside at least one tonne of highly engineered metal box fitted with all the latest safety features.  Cyclists and pedestrians have no airbags, crumple zones or seatbelts to protect them.  Always give more vulnerable road users that extra little bit of space and time so you can react. The roads will be a much nicer place if we share nicely."

"This car is automatic, systematic, hydromatic, its grease lightning"

John Travolta couldn't have sung it any better way back in the late 70's, there he was talking about driving an automatic car in a systematic way.  That's what I think now I know about a little book called Roadcraft.  Are you singing the tune in your head now?  Yes, me too.

Driving a car fitted with an automatic gearbox should be straightforward; I mean how hard can it be? The gearbox practically does it all for you, 'no need to touch it after putting it in drive sir' said the Ford salesman way back in 1973 to my father as he parted with his hard earned for a Ford Consul L 2.5 litre V6 with an automatic gearbox. The venerable BorgWarner three speed auto was my first introduction to the world of driving with an automatic gearbox. 


Automatics, so often sneered at by advanced driving traditionalists years ago, have come a long way.  Technology has moved on dramatically in recent years but has the human factor?

I remember people being told you could not pass your advanced test in an automatic, then later 'only if you drive it in manual mode' as that is what the examiner wants!  What rubbish. Most modern automatic gearboxes are now so clever with their multiple modes you rarely need to touch them, just select the right mode for the job.  


The IAM RoadSmart Associate Logbook is very clear where it refers to the use of an automatic gearbox.

• Be aware how to correctly select gears using either paddles or gear selector

• Be aware of additional functions and modes


But how will you know what to do?  Try something that so many of us just don't do – read the owner's manual. I checked the Mercedes manual for the new C Class, there are nine very detailed pages dedicated to the use of the automatic transmission.  


If drivers just did that simple thing they would get so much more out of their car.  Roadcraft (page 100-103) echoes the same advice as in red text it says 'Always consult the vehicle handbook to understand the features of a particular automatic system.'  


However, there are occasions where a manual intervention is desirable, for example when descending a hill.  Roadcraft tells us 'A lower gear also restrains the vehicle's speed when descending a slope.'


I remember once being told by someone: "I don't like automatics as they run away on hills."  I didn't feel it appropriate at that point to suggest a more likely cause was a driver input error!  

Another automatic classic is what to do when stopped in traffic?  Constantly moving it to park every time the vehicle is paused in traffic is a common error, Roadcraft, in red again, offers 'Check the advice in the vehicle manual as systems vary.' In truth most automatic gearbox systems advise you not to change to 'park' unless actually stopping to park.

The system of car control does not change when driving an automatic. Bad habits can creep in like losing speed late, entering bends on the brakes etc.  It is still 'brakes to slow and gears to go' so get the speed on approach right, this gives the car time to select the gear for the circumstances, then drive.  Many modern automatic gearboxes are adaptive, they learn as you drive and get used to your driver inputs.  With that in mind don't fall into another classic trap. As Roadcraft also says 'don't fiddle with the gearbox repeatedly. As automatic systems become more sophisticated they need less driver input.' 


I'm told that the Volkswagen dual clutch transmission is one of the quickest automatics out there swapping cogs in around eight milliseconds.  Yet I know people who say they personally can still do it quicker in a manual, ahem, I think not.


In closing and returning to Mr Travolta once again, I wondered what hydromatic meant in the song.  It just so happens that the hydra-matic was the first mass-produced automatic gearbox manufactured by General Motors in 1939.  See the song really was about gearboxes all along.  So sing along now, 'we'll get some overhead lifters and some four barrel quads, oh yeah, keep talking whoa keep talking...'

Enjoy the drive.

Shaun Cronin, IAM RoadSmart's Regional service delivery team manager (Southern)

Monday, 20 February 2017

Test Passes

Hearty Congratulations on their recent test passes goes to :-
Karen Dry, Michael Horner and Alan Crompton - well done!!

Maria Costello MBE new IAM Ambassador

Pioneer biker Maria Costello MBE suits up to become IAM RoadSmart road safety ambassador


Pioneering motorcycle and sidecar racer Maria Costello MBE has been appointed as Rider Ambassador by Britain's biggest road safety charity IAM RoadSmart.

'Queen of Bikes' Maria, 43, has made more than 40 starts at the Isle of Man TT and became world famous as the first women ever to claim a podium on the island – with third place in the Ultra Lightweight category of the 2005 Manx Grand Prix.

Her career spans two decades, with 2016 proving the most successful yet. She scored the female lap record at the Vauxhall International Northwest 200 plus a podium alongside 23 times TT winner John McGuinness in the Isle of Man Senior Classic TT.

For five years Maria held a Guinness World Record at the Isle of Man TT, when she lapped the Snaefell mountain course at an average speed of 114.73 mph in 2004 – thus becoming the fastest women to have done so.

Maria will be promoting the work of IAM RoadSmart in the field of motorcycle safety in her public appearances around the country, as well talk about current developments on rider safety and advanced riding through her well-read social media channels.

Maria said: "I am delighted to take on the role of IAM RoadSmart Rider Ambassador. The charity is famous for its commitment to reducing the numbers of riders killed and injured on the roads by helping them improve their skills on bikes.

"It's also crucial that all road users respect each other and have an understanding of the demands of each other's modes of transport and share the road better.

"As a racer, I understand that skills turn us into winners. We can all be winners on the road without reaching racing speeds. Improving your skills will make you a road riding winner."

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Smile, breathe and go slowly: tips from IAM RoadSmart



Emergency vehicles are everywhere, going at unexpected speeds responding to the needs of the public. They do not expect you to put yourself or others in danger to facilitate this. This week's tips give advice on how to handle approaching emergency vehicles whilst travelling on the roads, from IAM RoadSmart's head of driving and riding standards Richard Gladman.

  • If an emergency service vehicle (ambulance, police etc.) is approaching remain calm. Try to look for the most suitable place to give way. Reacting out of fear can make the situation longer and more difficult than it needs to be

  • Be prepared to pull over and stop if it is safe to do so, always making sure there is enough room for the vehicle to pass. Drivers of emergency vehicles have had the training to negotiate you – allow them to use the skills they have in 'blue light' situations

  • Remain patient. If you notice a road is closed it is being done for safety or to gather evidence. Take that into consideration and don't take out any anger or frustration.  If you see an emergency vehicle stopped, slow down and give it a wide birth – there could be people rushing around

  • Let's not add to the drama and place others in danger. For instance passing through a red light to give way is not the correct way to handle the situation. Do not put yourself in danger by moving through a red traffic light into moving traffic, you have no exemption and will be responsible for any accident caused. At a roundabout remember the traffic behind you may not be aware of an approaching emergency vehicle so avoid an emergency stop                            

  • This may not seem like rocket science but never try to overtake a moving vehicle unless you have been instructed to do so by a member of the emergency services.  Signal your intent; often a nearside indicator and a slight slowing down is the only invitation the other driver requires. They can then make a positive decision to pass you

Richard said: "Refer back to the Highway Code rule 219 which refers to emergency services, doctors and highways vehicles: 'Do not panic, consider the route of such a vehicle and take appropriate action to let it pass whilst complying withal traffic signs. Do not endanger yourself or other road users.' Stay safe and help where you can but the last thing the emergency services driver wants is you having a collision as they will have to stop and not get to their emergency."


Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Motorists may be offered up to £3,500 in diesel scrappage fund

Traffic on Brixton Road in Lambeth, London, which has broken the annual legal air pollution limit for the whole year just five days into 2017, figures show.
Drivers could be offered up to £3,500 for scrapping their diesel vehicles and replacing them with more eco-friendly models.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has called for a diesel scrappage fund following the issue of a 'very high' air pollution warning in the Capital last month. 

The warning came under a new alert system, and such was the level of pollution that residents were advised not to go outside unnecessarily. 

Under Khan's diesel scrappage fund, as many as 200,000 polluting vehicles could be removed from London's roads. This would consist of up to 70,000 van and minibus drivers receiving £3,500 to buy greener models, while low-income households would be handed £2,000 each towards replacing 130,000 diesel cars.

A thousand pounds would be offered to scrap the oldest taxis. 
In total, the scheme would cost £515million and result in an estimated 40 per cent reduction in vehicular nitrogen oxide emissions in London.

While the scheme is currently proposed for London alone, Khan said that it could eventually be introduced countrywide. 

At the same time, he is also proposing that car tax system be redesigned to remove any incentives to buy a diesel car. 
"The toxic state of our air leaves us with no choice but to rid our city of the most polluting diesel vehicles," he is reported to have said.

"It is shocking that nearly half of new car sales in the UK are still diesel vehicles and the national system of vehicle excise duty still incentivises motorists to buy these polluting cars.

"I'm urging government to immediately review this policy, and today I've delivered a detailed report on how it can deliver an effective national diesel scrappage fund. One that both fairly compensates motorists and rapidly helps clean up our filthy air."

Become more attractive to your loved one on Valentine’s Day … by being a better


Become more attractive to your loved one on Valentine's Day … by being a better driver!


For all those hopeless romantics out there, IAM RoadSmart has a great way to make you more attractive to your special someone this Valentine's Day – and it's (almost) guaranteed to make you more attractive to them!

The first 14 people (see what we did there?) that answer the Valentine's themed question that will be posted on our Twitter and Facebook pages at 9.30am on 14 February can have the course at a bargain £99 – that's one-third off.

IAM RoadSmart conducted a scientific experiment which showed bad driving reduces attractiveness by 50%. It also found four in five women and nearly half of men are physically turned off by bad driving.

Pulse rates increase by as much as 20% when watching bad driving, showing significant levels of stress.

Bad driving significantly reduces levels of attractiveness in potential partners, with women finding it particularly off-putting.

IAM RoadSmart teamed up with prominent behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings for the study.

Candidates were shown videos of both good and bad driving whilst being tested for their levels of attraction towards the driver using pulse rate, pupil dilation, blink rate and body language.

Attractiveness dropped from 4.8 to 2.8 in women proving the most significant reduction, with 84% of candidates reporting more negative feelings towards the driver after experiencing their incompetence on the road.

The pulse rate of 60% of female candidates increased whilst watching bad driving manoeuvres, with a 20% increase for a third indicating a significant rise in stress levels.

And it's the aggressive and confrontational manoeuvres that were found to be most unattractive to women – with road rage, illegal overtaking and tailgating topping a list of gaffes that provoke the strongest negative reactions.

In contrast, reactions in men were found to be less significant, with just over a quarter (28%) reporting a dislike for the driver after seeing them behind the wheel.

Body language indicators showed that for men, instead of stress, frustration was the overwhelming response. Candidates were found to frown, become agitated and shift position as they watched videos of parking, turning the car around or other examples of distracted or preoccupied behaviours.

Jo Hemmings explains: "There is no doubt that across the board most candidates, and nearly all of the women, found bad driving to be a turn-off. However, it's interesting to look at the reactions of different genders. Some male reactions to bad driving included laughter and amusement, indicating that men have a less mature emotional response to bad driving than women who instead furrowed their brows and shook their heads."

Top driving behaviours that turn off women:

1. Illegal overtaking

2. Road rage

3. Bad parking

4. Texting whilst driving

5. Three point turn

6. Three point turn

7. Talking selfies at the wheel

8. Texting whilst driving

9. Driving the wrong way round a roundabout

10. Bad parking

The experiment follows IAM RoadSmart independent research which uncovered bad driving as one of the UK's biggest first date turn-offs. Road rage was the worst first-date faux pas for almost half (46%) of Brits, whilst a similar number say texting at the wheel leaves them wanting to end a date then and there.

A further one in 10 (11%) are irritated by someone who takes 15 minutes to park, whilst an eighth of Brits (13%) find overly cautious drivers who go under the speed limit off-putting.

And finally … Brits pick up on the driving skills of a date – good or bad - within the first 65 seconds of getting in the car.

To watch our video on the subject click here:  https://www.iamroadsmart.com/campaign-pages/end-customer-campaigns/valentinesday

Follow us:

On Facebook: www.facebook.com/IAMRoadSmart                   

On Twitter: @IAMRoadSmart  

IAM RoadSmart has a mission to make better drivers and riders in order to improve road safety, inspire confidence and make driving and riding enjoyable. It does this through a range of courses for all road users, from online assessments through to the advanced driving and riding tests. IAM RoadSmart is the trading name of all businesses operated by the UK's largest road safety charity, the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) and was formed in April 2016 combining the IAM, IAM Drive & Survive, PDS and IAM Driver Retraining Academy. The organisation has 92,000 members and campaigns on road safety on their behalf. At any one time there are over 7,000 drivers and riders actively engaged with IAM RoadSmart's courses, from members of the public to company drivers, while our Driver Retraining Academy has helped 2,500 drivers to shorten their bans through education and support programmes.

To find out more about IAM RoadSmart products and services visit the new website www.iamroadsmart.com                 

To find out more about IAM RoadSmart's Driver Retraining Academy visit www.iamdra.org.uk       

To find out the name of your own local IAM RoadSmart group please visit: https://wwwiamroadsmart.com/local-groups                 


Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Support for tougher sentences for those who kill on the road, says IAM RoadSmart

A survey by the UK's biggest road safety charity IAM RoadSmart has shown road users want the law to be far stricter on those who cause death and serious injury when driving.

The survey of nearly 2,000 road users (reference 1) found nearly 80% agreed there should be a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving.

Some 56% of those who agreed said the maximum penalty should be between one and five years in prison; 44% went further and felt the maximum penalty should be more than five years.

Many respondents also felt the current maximum penalty of 14 years in jail for causing death by dangerous driving wasn't nearly high enough; with almost 50% saying the penalty was not set at the right level.

However, when asked if the maximum penalty for causing death by dangerous driving should be increased to life imprisonment, those taking our survey were more evenly divided with slightly over 51% 'agreeing' or 'agreeing strongly' but 49% unsure or against the government's proposed new tougher sentencing proposals. 

Under plans put forward by ministers in December, dangerous drivers who kill could face life sentences. It added dangerous drivers causing death by speeding, street racing or while on a mobile phone are among those now facing the same sentences as those charged with manslaughter.

Offenders who cause death by careless driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs could also be handed life sentences - an increase on the current 14 year upper limit. A government consultation seeking views on this ran until 1 February.

A majority of those surveyed by IAM RoadSmart also did not want to see the fundamental principles of early release for good behaviour or shorter sentences for pleading guilty waived in cases involving death or serious injury on the road.

The results were much clearer on longer periods of disqualification where injury or death are involved with nearly 80% of respondents 'agreeing' or 'agreeing strongly' with this.

The government's consultation on new penalties closed last week and the issue was brought into even sharper focus with the jailing of Tomasz Kroker for 10 years last October. Kroker killed a mother and three children when he was distracted by changing music on his smartphone and ploughed into a line of stationary traffic (reference 2) in his lorry.

Sarah Sillars, IAM RoadSmart chief executive officer, said: "Our survey shows that on the very emotive issue of those who cause death by driving offences, there is public support for tougher sentencing and that many feel the law simply doesn't go far enough.

"Holding a driving licence should be considered a privilege, not a right – and those that fail dangerously to reach the highest standards should have that right taken away.

"It is very clear that in the minds of many of the UK public, the punishment often does not fit the crime – and British people think the law should reflect that in a far more fitting and appropriate way.

"We want to see the current guidelines applied consistently by the courts first. In practice the current maximum of 14 years in prison for causing death by dangerous driving is rarely used which is deeply upsetting for the families of victims. There is no guarantee a higher maximum would be used either.

"Until this happens, we cannot be sure that tougher sentencing would make a marked difference in the way people act behind the wheel."

Reference 1: IAM RoadSmart's survey took into account the views of 1,989 respondents, which were a mixture of IAM RoadSmart associates and members and non-members. They were all road users and came from across the UK.

Reference 2: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-37823457

Monday, 6 February 2017

Recent Test Passes

Congratulations to Kenneth Willis and Jamie Brooks who collected their IAM Roadsmart pass certificates yesterday.  Jamie thanked the group for their time and effort and told our associates who are on the current course to enjoy themselves.  Kenneth explained that their are so many bad drivers on the roads these days and skills learnt from the group has sharpened his eyes on keeping safe and spotting early signs of bad drivers.  Kenneth walks away with a F1rst pass today. 

Congratulations to both men

If you fancy improving your driving skills, why not enrolled on IAM’s Roadsmart courts today.  Visit our website for more details.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Lack of progress in reducing drink-drive deaths


Lack of progress in reducing drink-drive deaths has gone on too long says IAM RoadSmart


The UK's leading independent road safety charity IAM RoadSmart has expressed disappointment in yet another year of no significant change in the levels of drink-driving in Britain, based on new Government statistics announced today (2 February).

IAM RoadSmart again called for England and Wales to follow Scotland's lead and reduce drink-drive limits to the same level, in combination with an increase in high-profile and intelligence led policing.

The Department for Transport announced that provisional estimates for 2015 show 220 deaths in alcohol related crashes.

Some 1,380 people were killed or seriously injured when at least one driver was over the limit. This represents a statistically significant rise from 1,310 in 2014.

In addition, the total number of collisions and accidents where at least one driver was over the alcohol limit rose by 2%to 5,740 in 2015 (reference 1).

Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, stated that the continued lack of progress in reducing these figures had gone on for too long and was still too high - 13%, or around one in seven of all fatal crashes involved alcohol in 2015.

He added: "The increase in serious injury crashes and the overall increase in drink related crashes is worrying and suggests the problem is not reducing among a hard core of drivers willing to take the risk.

"The Government should introduce a lower limit in England and Wales. It won't eradicate the problem completely but it will deliver a small but significant decrease in drink drive casualties and underline the clear message that driving and drinking don't mix."

Neil added: "The only way to catch those who ignore the limit is through intelligence led high profile policing so investment in roads policing must be protected."

He continued: "Drivers who take a drink-drive rehabilitation course do appear to be less likely to reoffend. Currently a convicted drink-driver has to choose to take a course if offered.

"At IAM RoadSmart we believe a more effective option would be to make the course compulsory and force drivers to opt out only if they choose to."

To find out more about IAM RoadSmart products and services visit the new website www.iamroadsmart.com