UK road safety: car buyers urged to pick only 5-star cars to cut deaths in at-risk road users

UK Road safety

It’s claimed drivers should buy EuroNCAP 5-star cars such as the Volvo XC90

British car buyers have been urged to choose only Euro NCAP five-star cars after new research revealed a worrying trend in UK road safety. According to the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS), we ranked third in the world for road safety last year, behind only Norway and Sweden. But when it comes to new cars that are sold with Euro NCAP five-star scores for pedestrian protection, we came just 19th of the 28 European countries.

The UK road safety struggle

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Tow car of the year: Best cars for pulling caravans, boats or other trailers

Tow car

You can’t employ any old motor as a tow car. Pulling something heavy such as a caravan, boat or trailer requires a broad range of abilities from a car. That’s why every year the Caravan Club awards its Tow Car of the Year gong.

In the words of the Caravan Club: “Our annual tow car competition puts a variety of cars to the test, to provide members with an evaluation and recommendation on which are the best buys for 2017.” Continue reading

Spare wheel versus repair kit: Which is best when you suffer a flat tyre

Spare wheel versus repair kit

Feeling a bit deflated? We’ve all had a flat tyre. But what’s the best way to fix it?

The spare wheel versus repair kit debate is one that gets many drivers revving like a racing engine, particularly if they’re buying a new car. The majority of new motors ‑ nine out of 10 according to website Honest John ‑ are sold without a full-size spare wheel. In most cases the spare is replaced with a repair kit that is designed to get you back on the road and to somewhere where you can buy a replacement tyre.

A flat tyre is likely to afflict every driver at some point in their motoring life. Changing wheels is the second most popular reason that customers call Green Flag out. And according to tyre maker Continental, drivers suffer a puncture on average every 44,000 miles or five years. So having something that can replace a flat tyre is clearly important. But in the spare wheel versus repair kit argument, which comes out on top? We investigate.

What’s wrong with the good old-fashioned spare wheel?

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Hacked Tesla Model S highlights the difficult road ahead for self-driving cars, say experts

self-driving cars

Tesla has updated the software of its Model S to help resist hacking attempts (Picture © Tesla)

As an acknowledged leader in the field of electric self-driving cars, California-based Tesla is the golden boy of the Golden State. But over the last couple of weeks, dazzling-white smiles have been thin on the ground at the American car maker. Hackers have revealed they could take over a Tesla’s brakes, open the boot and unlock doors, operate the indicators and even move the electrically adjusted seats.

The cyber attack was carried out remotely by Chinese hackers. Tesla has confirmed that it was informed of the vulnerability in its software and systems several weeks ago, and has subsequently issued updated software as a free download to all affected customers.

The American electric car manufacturer worked with Keen Security Lab, which approached Tesla after discovering the weak areas that led to the hack. Keen Security Lab is part of Tencent, one of the giants of China’s booming technology and communications industry.

How was the Tesla Model S ‘hacked’?

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Expert advice: In-car must haves

In-car must haves

A mobile phone and reflective jacket could save your life if you break down

Many of us treat our cars like a home away from home. Yet frequently we don’t have even the most basic equipment to cope with the unexpected. So I’ve created my own list of in-car must haves. These are the essentials that I carry in my car and I recommend that you do too. You can buy most of them for less than a fiver. It could end up being the best money you’ve ever spent.

First aid kit

I read somewhere that fewer than one in five of us know even basic first aid. I like to think that I do know the basics and I always carry a first aid kit just in case. For a start, you never know when something as simple as some bite or sting cream will come in handy. Equally, if you’ve got kids, plasters can be needed when you least expect it. And if you have bandages at the scene of an accident and you don’t know what to do with them, someone else might. Continue reading

Quiz: Can you name all of these car badges?

Car badges

Are you a secret car spotter? When traffic grinds to a halt, do your eyes and mind wander to identifying all the makes and models of car on the road around you? If you recognise the description, then you may be able to name all of these car company logos.

The designs are all found on the front, or back, of current models that are sold in showrooms across Britain. Some may be familiar, others appear remarkably similar, and a few should have you racking your brain.

We’ve deliberately left out some of the better known names, such as Ford or Ferrari, because, well, that would be too easy, wouldn’t it?

Let’s get started on a spot of badge spotting…

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Increasing car crime: drivers urged to protect their cars and keys

Increasing car crime

Do you know who’s got your car keys? Drivers are being urged to do more to protect their cars amid increasing car crime. According to new research, nearly half of drivers (43 per cent) will happily give their car keys to a complete stranger. That is compared to just one in 10 (11 per cent) who would do the same with their house keys.

The revelations come as the police, insurance bodies and car industry launch a campaign to make car drivers more aware of security. The latest figures show that car crime increased by 8 per cent in the first three months of 2016. Further demonstrating how serious the problem could become, the number charged with interfering with a motor vehicle was up by 19 per cent over the previous 12 months. This is a crime where the accused are caught attempting to steal or break into a car.

To help owners keep their cars safe, we’ve published the authorities’ 10-point plan for improved car security. Continue reading

Disqualified drivers: 18 banned drivers stopped at the wheel every day

Disqualified drivers

Untaxed cars and drink driving are on the up while nearly 7000 banned drivers were found still at the wheel last year

New figures show some worrying trends on Britain’s roads: thousands of disqualified drivers have been caught at the wheel; the number of drink drivers is on the up; and there’s been a rise in the number of untaxed cars. Official statistics from the Ministry of Justice found 6592 disqualified drivers were stopped for driving in England and Wales in 2015. That’s the equivalent of 18 banned drivers being halted by the police every day.

The report, compiled by Churchill car insurance, also discovered that the average fine for being disqualified from driving was £247. And 44 per cent of drivers were fined £150 or less. That is despite putting other road users in potentially life-threatening situations. The maximum fine for not having a TV licence, meanwhile, is £1000. And the harshest financial penalty for fly tipping is £400.

Steve Barrett, head of car insurance at Churchill, said: “Disqualification from driving isn’t just a punishment for committing a very serious driving offence, or series of offences; it’s in the interests of all road users and their safety. With the average fine for driving while disqualified averaging a mere £247, Churchill believes the penalties should be considerably tougher to serve as real deterrents and ensure the public’s safety.”

Last year, 87 of the 6592 disqualified drivers prosecuted were aged 17 and under. Between 2005 and 2015, 3911 banned drivers who were stopped were 17 or younger. It means these drivers had picked up two driving bans, despite being too young to drive in the first place.

Driving while being disqualified is the fifth most popular way of losing your licence in the UK; drink driving is the reason most drivers lose their licence. Last year the number of drink drive accidents was up by two and a half per cent compared to 2014.

The second most frequent reason drivers lose their licence is by the points totting up process. However, last month we revealed that an increasing number of drivers are keeping their licence despite exceeding the 12-point limit.

There have also been reports of an increase in the number of untaxed cars since the paper tax disc was abolished in late 2014. Between October 2014 and March 2015, £2.7bn was paid in Vehicle Excise duty. In the six months prior to that, 3.2bn was collected.

Read all you need to know about taxing your car here

Pre-registered cars: All you need to know about buying a bargain motor

Pre-registered cars

Car dealers frequently sell ‘used’ cars that are virtually brand new

When’s a new car not a new car? When it’s one of the tens of thousands of pre-registered models that go to new owners every month. Pre-registering is a practice encouraged by car makers because of how dealers receive bonuses. And it means there are bargains to be had for car buyers. Here’s our guide to buying a car with a handful of miles on the clock for a lot less than its brand new equivalent.

What are pre-registered cars?

It’s no secret that car dealers up and down the country carry out what are known as pre, self, or tactical registrations. This is when they buy the car themselves and register it. They can then sell the car to customers for a discount price because although it may only have covered a handful of miles, it is effectively second-hand.

What are the advantages?

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Volkswagen diesel scandal: British owners of affected cars could get compensation says EU

Volkswagen diesel scandal: EU drives for compensation for motorists

The Volkswagen diesel scandal has taken a new twist with British owners of affected diesel-powered Volkswagen, Audi, Seat and Skoda cars possibly in line for compensation. And consumer organisation Which? wants the British government to do more to ensure British buyers of affected cars are suitably reimbursed.

European Union regulators are now urging 20 European countries to investigate whether consumers are entitled to financial compensation from VW, like drivers in the US. Vera Jourova, the EU justice commissioner, told The Financial Times it was likely the German car maker had breached Europe’s “unfair commercial practices directive.” The legislation is in place to protect consumers from misleading advertising claims.

Why does the EU want action?

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