The UK’s climate can feel like a moving target sometimes. But one thing is guaranteed: cold weather driving is something we all have to do at some point in the year.
Whether that’s going to work first thing in the morning and scraping the ice off the car or negotiating slippery bends, it can be enough to send a shiver down your spine. And for some of us, winter weather means driving in snow, which throws up a whole new set of challenges.
But although it’s something you probably do regularly with little thought, how much do you actually know about it? Take our cunning quiz to find out.
Changes to the MOT will come into force this May, making it more difficult for dirty diesel cars to pass air quality tests. A three-tier rating for the severity of faults on all cars will also be introduced.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) claims the revisions to the MOT will make it tougher for anyone trying to cheat emissions tests and help keep vehicles in a dangerous condition off the road.
However, at the same time hundreds of thousands of cars more than 40-years old will no longer be required to take the annual road worthiness inspection. Here’s what motorists need to know about the changes.
Dirty diesels face stricter smoke test
While much of the focus for the way motoring is changing is on our cars, road technology will play an increasingly important part in our lives. Cars might be getting ever cleverer but the roads are beginning to catch up.
The safety-conscious Scandinavians are at the forefront of advances and here we explore two common sense bits of road technology. Bluetooth traffic monitoring may already be on a road near you, depending on where you live in the UK. And intelligent streets lights with a low power resting mode that become brighter when cars approach could be coming sooner than you think.
Why monitor Bluetooth?
Back in the day, oil was oil. It came out of the ground and as long as it was the right viscosity for the engine, we’d trust it to do the job. Now there are effectively three kinds of oil: mineral, synthetic and semi-synthetic. And I’m frequently asked: “Should I use synthetic oil for my car?”
I’ve already spoken about the grade of oil drivers should choose for their cars. But once you’ve decided on that, what are the benefits of synthetic oil?
What is synthetic oil?
Let’s face it, driving can frequently be a tiring business. Little wonder that experts believe fatigue is a contributory factor to one-in-five accidents. The issue has become so serious that Highways England recently announced it will design roads with panoramic views and stimulating sculptures.
As part of its £15bn Road Investment Strategy, the organisation that runs Britain’s major highways wants to ensure roads help alleviate the monotony of a long journey. See what the experts have to say. And read on for tips to tackle tiredness when driving.
How roads can combat fatigue
Black ice is the most dangerous natural hazard drivers face on the road. Speak to anyone that’s encountered it and they will tell you it sends a shiver down their spine just thinking about it.
Many parts of Britain are currently experiencing harsh winter weather. However, with some sensible precautions, driving on black ice doesn’t have to be a white-knuckle ride.
We asked Paul Ripley to explain how drivers can safely tackle the often-invisible danger. One of Britain’s most respected advanced driving instructors, Ripley has coached police forces, vehicle engineers and thousands of drivers looking to improve their skills behind the wheel. Little wonder he has earned the nickname ‘God’s chauffeur’. These are his tips for driving on black ice.
What is black ice?
The government is investigating fining more drivers who ignore lane closures on smart motorways. Highways England, which manages the motorway network, is currently trialling cameras designed to automatically snap cars driving in lanes marked with a red cross.
Drivers caught illegally using the closed lanes could then be hit with a £100 fine. And police chiefs are now looking at retraining for offenders – the equivalent of a speed awareness course – to ensure drivers don’t break the law again. These changes could be brought in as quickly as March 2018. Read on to find out more.
How do smart motorways work?
Cold weather isn’t just tough on drivers, it can play havoc with cars too. The heavy hail and snow showers that are hitting parts of the UK in mid-January 2018 are already causing chaos. Green Flag is warning that an astonishing 12 breakdowns every minute will take place this week.
Head of news for Green Flag Simon Henrick said: “After a variable but relatively mild winter period over Christmas, the changing weather conditions may take some drivers by surprise this week.
“By thoroughly checking their cars before leaving home, approaching the roads with caution and keeping plenty of distance between themselves and the vehicle in front, drivers will decrease the risk of encountering a problem while on the roads.” Read on to see how you can stay safe in the snow.
Health and safety
In 2016, Prime Minister Theresa May vowed to make using a phone when driving as unacceptable as drink-driving. Last April, tougher penalties were introduced to deter phone use at the wheel.
But since then, more than 200 drivers a day have been prosecuted for using their phone while driving. That means they’ve been slapped with six points on their licence and a £200 fine.
Some drivers complain they find the law confusing around the areas of making calls while driving and using a phone as a sat nav device. Many reason this confusion comes from being told it’s okay to use a phone while driving when it’s in hands-free mode.
This is what motorists need to know to stay on the right side of the law. As importantly, it will help keep them and other road users safe.
The law: hands-free phone use
When is a flat battery not a flat battery? When it’s a problem with glow plugs. OK, that’s a bit simplistic but frequently people breakdown with what they think is a battery problem, only for it to turn out to be the glow plugs that are at fault.
The reason is that diesel engines use these heaters to help them start. In warmer weather they’re not as necessary. However, when the weather gets cold, glow plugs are vital. That’s why in November 2017, the number of call outs Green Flag attended for glow plug problems rose by 112 per cent. Read on to find out what the problem is and how you can diagnose it.
What are glow plugs?