Driving advice

The zip merging debate: is it perfect sense or pushing in? We find out

zip merging

Are you driving in the closed lane on the left, or queuing patiently on the right? (Picture © Alamy)

The debate on how you merge into moving traffic when the lane you’re driving in closes is a fierce one. Do you stay in the closing lane to the very end, then merge in turn with the traffic in the open lane? Or do you move out of the closing lane as soon as you possibly can?

It’s a bit like whether you put cream on a scone before the jam or vice versa. Or perhaps even more fundamentally, whether you pronounce the word scone like ‘own’ or the other way. The law states that we should merge in turn, better known as zip merging. Yet only around a quarter of drivers (27 per cent) know this is the correct thing to do. Read on to find out why people who stay in the closing lane aren’t doing anything wrong.

What usually happens

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Quiz: 12 tasty motoring teasers from 2018

Quiz 2018

How well do you remember 2018? Our fun quiz looks at some of the news from the year just gone. Laws to do with car tax, the MOT test and learner drivers all changed. And there was plenty of eyebrow-raising research too.

How much attention were you paying? Take our test to find out. And don’t worry if you get any of them wrong: our questions have been designed to help you become a better, safer driver. Here we pose 12 teasers – one from every month of the year – to see how much you remember.

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Expert advice: How you can beat the Christmas food coma this year

Food coma

An estimated 24 million drivers are expected to hit the road after eating their Christmas dinner on December 25th. Nothing unusual about that. What worries me is they could experience side effects from over eating that affect their driving in a similar way to drinking.

I’m a qualified nutritionist and have spent years studying the effect of food on the human body. One thing it’s taught me is that if you eat a large amount of the sort of food that makes up the average Christmas dinner, you’ll have sluggish reactions and maybe even fall asleep at the wheel.

Green Flag research found that more than a third of drivers (37 per cent) claim they can’t control dozing off after eating a festive feast. That doesn’t surprise me. But nod off at the wheel for just three seconds on a motorway and you’ll cover the length of about four football pitches. The dangers are obvious. Read on to find out how you can beat the Christmas food coma.

Why Xmas dinner makes us dozy

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Stop unnecessary work on your car. Find out what jobs really need doing

Unnecessary work

If you’re not sure about repairs, ask the technician to point them out to you. (Picture iStock/Sturti)

Has a garage recently suggested you need new brake fluid, an anti-freeze drain and refill or a fuel and oil flush? If so, how do you know whether it had to be done or was unnecessary work? Research by Green Flag has revealed that UK drivers spend £3.4billion every year on work by garages to their cars that doesn’t need doing. That’s around £90 per car per annum.

The problem stems from drivers not having the knowledge about their cars to question whether work recommended by garages is really required. More than a third of drivers (39 per cent) say they have no idea what’s checked when their car has its annual MOT roadworthiness check. But this is when garages often say jobs need doing.

Read on to discover which 10 jobs Green Flag believes should ring alarm bells if they’re suggested by a garage. And find handy hints on how to check whether the work really should be done.

“Your brake fluid needs changing”

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Expert advice: Running out of fuel – all you need to know

Running out of fuel

Running out of fuel at the roadside is a bad idea for many reasons. For a start it can put you in unnecessary danger, stranded beside speeding vehicles. And depending on the kind of car you drive and its age, it could cause mechanical complications when you do get fuel.

But that doesn’t stop hundreds of thousands running out of fuel every year. I read a survey a little while ago which said that 70,000 drivers a month run dry on the road. The problem seems to be that owners overestimate how far their car can travel when its tank is nearly empty. Here’s what you need to know.

How do you know your car is running dry?

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New drivers face more limits with Graduated Driver Licensing

Graduated Driver Licensing

Getting the keys to the open road is an exciting moment. But changes are afoot (Picture iStock/Londoneye)

New drivers could face a strict probationary period after they’ve passed their test. Plans drawn up by the government will restrict what newly qualified drivers can do when they hit the road. The government wants to slash the disproportionately high number of accidents involving the 17-24 age group.

A Driver Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) spokesperson explained: “Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) will establish a revised training and testing regime for car drivers and motorcyclists. It will introduce some post-test restrictions for drivers/riders to reduce the over-representation of new – mainly young – drivers/riders in fatal and serious road collisions.” Read on to find out more.

Are the changes definitely going ahead?

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How they sit at the wheel gives 75 per cent of drivers back pain

Back pain

Back pain affects three quarters of drivers (Picture iStock/Chesiire Cat)

Three quarters of UK drivers suffer from back pain because of their car’s seating position. Researchers from car supermarket Motorpoint quizzed drivers about how they sit when behind the wheel. They discovered that many didn’t know what the proper seating angle was. And when shown different examples, a third thought the wrong seating position was correct. Read on to find out how to sit in your car.

How many drivers aren’t sitting comfortably

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My Mud & Motors: Chris Hughes and the competition to win £1000

Mud & Motors

Driving through mud isn’t rocket science. As you’ll see from my advice on how to cope with mud when you’re in a car, much of it is common sense. And that’s how I came to spend a day sitting at the wheel of an Isuzu D-Max pick-up truck, waiting to rescue competitors at the inaugural Green Flag Mud & Motors.

The event took place at the dauntingly named Devil’s Pit near Luton in Bedfordshire. We had Love Island finalist Chris Hughes plus six competitors. The idea was our six entrants had to do a lap of the four-wheel drive course. During that lap they had to make various choices based around common sense that would ensure they didn’t get stuck. They would score points on the way according to the decisions they made and the winner would get £1000. Here are four things I learned from the day.

Chris Hughes was great fun

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Spot the warning signs of the five most common faults in new cars

How to spot the warning signs of the five most common faults in new cars

For some drivers, the excitement of a showroom-fresh motor is short lived. Car faults can frequently take the pleasure out of owning a new motor.

At least, that’s the view of members of consumer champion Which?. Nearly 45,000 owners of cars aged up to three-years old were asked to rate their motor for reliability. Yet despite many of the vehicles still having that new-car smell, a surprising number of problems reared their head.

Here are the five most common faults that occur in a new car’s first three years of driving. And we’ve added the symptoms to help you understand if your car might be suffering from one.

Fault 1: Exhaust or emission control system Continue reading

Learner drivers to be allowed on motorways for the first time from June

Learner drivers

The government has confirmed learner drivers will be allowed on motorways from June this year. It’s one of the biggest single changes to the process of learning to drive since the driving test was introduced in 1935.

Overwhelming approval during a government consultation led to the green light. Learners will now be able to drive legally on motorways from June 4, 2018. The Driver Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) says this will allow unqualified drivers to get a broader experience of driving before taking their test. They will get practical training on joining, leaving and driving on motorways. They will also be able to practice driving at higher speeds.This will help them to understand how the theory they learn works in reality. Read on to find out more.

Will this apply to all learner drivers?

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