Driving advice

Balancing act: how to load a car roof rack safely

Balancing act: how to load a car roof rack safely

When drivers run out of space in their car, an increasingly popular practical solution is to fit a roof rack and storage box. These allow for a holiday’s worth of luggage to be carried without resorting to packing out the passenger seats. But failing to load road-mounted luggage correctly might lead to more than scattered clothes in the road. It could cause an accident.

According to IAM Roadsmart, a leading UK road safety charity, each year thousands of accidents are caused by debris falling from vehicles. Even if there aren’t any casualties caused by such an event, the charity points to the practical problem of delays. It claims that each incident leads to a 20-minute traffic jam on average.

To help keep drivers safe, the IAM’s driving experts share some simple tips for loading a roof rack safely.

Why use a roof rack or roof box?

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Expert advice: how to achieve better fuel economy from your car

Expert advice: how to achieve better fuel economy

Hyper milers: Paul Clifton (left) and Ian McKean with their diesel Ford Fiesta (Picture © Ford)

Failing to achieve the fuel economy that their car is claimed to return is one of the most common grumbles among drivers.

So what would you say if simple driving tips could improve your car’s economy? And in some cases it might even climb by a staggering 60 per cent compared with the manufacturer’s figures.

Most of us would raise an eyebrow and wonder if it’s really possible. But these aren’t the claims of sharp-suited sales execs; they’re perfectly practical tips from normal drivers that anyone can put into practice.

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New driving test: what young drivers can expect

New driving test

In order to handle a car legally on public roads in the UK, new drivers have to pass a 40-minute driving test. But to ensure the test better prepares drivers for modern motoring, the biggest shake up in 20 years is happening in December 2017.

The driving test will still last the same amount of time and still be marked the same way. It will still cost £62 on weekdays, £75 for evenings, weekends and bank holidays. But from Monday December 4, the driving test in England, Scotland and Wales will face the most far-reaching changes since the addition of the theory test in 1996. Here are the four new features budding drivers will encounter.

Increased independent driving

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How to let an emergency vehicle pass without breaking the law

Five fails when letting an emergency vehicle pass: Driving in a bus lane

If there’s one thing on the road that all drivers are happy to make room for, it’s an emergency vehicle. But many of Britain’s motorists are unaware that by clearing the road for the blue flashing lights and wailing siren of an ambulance, fire engine or police car, they could be breaking the law.

From bus lane penalties to yellow box junction fines, there are plenty of mistakes that drivers may make when being passed by an emergency vehicle. The Highway Code (rule 219) says: “Consider the route of such a vehicle and take appropriate action to let it pass, while complying with all traffic signs.”

To help keep everyone on the right side of the law, we’ve flagged up the five most common mishaps.

Five fails when letting an emergency vehicle pass

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Road rage: How to cope with confrontation from other drivers and riders

Rage against the machine how to cope with confrontation on the road

Is road rage on the rise in Britain? Increasing numbers of incidents in the headlines suggest it might be. Often, these can be attributed to the boom in sales of dashboard and helmet cameras as video clips of confrontations are shared across social media and news outlets. But surveys have suggested that despite the UK’s roads getting safer in terms of accident rates, more people claim to have been a victim of road rage.

For the vast majority of drivers it can be a harrowing experience. Nerves are left frayed and a good day can be spoiled because another driver or road user’s temper has got the better of them.

The good news is, there are steps everyone can take to guard against road rage from others. Read on to help yourself stay safe and calm behind the wheel.

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Expert advice: How to drive and stay safe on smart motorways

smart motorways

Variable speed limits are a vital element of smart motorways

Smart motorways are possibly one of the biggest shake ups to our motorway network since the M1 opened in 1959. They use variable speed limits to manage the flow of traffic. And in some cases, by opening the hard shoulder, the government has managed to increase traffic capacity without spending billions on building new roads. However, the smart motorways do take some getting used to. Here’s what you need to know.

What is a smart motorway?

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Expert tips: how to stay safe driving in the rain

Expert tips: how to stay safe when driving in the rain

It’s been a great summer with long, warm days that have been as appreciated by drivers as they have by those putting up a deckchair or firing up the barbeque. However, the autumn weather is bringing rain to Britain, which makes for more difficult driving conditions.

Despite modern cars brimming with electronic systems that can help prevent an accident, all experts agree that it’s important drivers adjust their driving style to allow for the challenges that wet roads present man and machine. We asked Daffyd Williams, a professional driving instructor and driving team manager at Mercedes-Benz World, for his expert tips on staying safe when driving in the rain.

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Quiz: Test how well you know the Highway Code

The cover of the first edition of the Highway Code, introduced in 1931

It’s one of the few books that never leaves the bestseller list, but ever since the Highway Code was first published, in 1931, few readers would admit to finding it a gripping page-turner.

However, the Highway Code has contributed to saving thousands of lives over the years. When launched, there were just 2.3 million cars on Britain’s roads, yet more than 7000 people were killed in road accidents each year. Today, there are more than 27 million cars on UK roads, but there are fewer than 2000 fatalities.

The driving standards book originally had just 24 pages of guidelines, with a single paragraph on how pedestrians should cross a road. Today, a whole chapter is dedicated to educating both pedestrians and drivers on safely reaching the other side of the road.

It also goes on to cover areas of digital technology, such as smartphones, which increasingly fight for a driver’s attention when they’re at the wheel.

To see how well you know the latest rules and regulations of the road, take this snapshot quiz and test your knowledge of the Highway Code. Continue reading

Top 5 winter emergencies drivers face – and how to deal with them

 

Winter driving emergencies and how drivers can deal with them

Aquaplaning is the most common hazard drivers face in winter (Picture © Porsche)

When we’re on the road, the firefly twinkle of Christmas lights and warm glow of a roaring fire is just something to look forward to when we get home. The rest of the time it’s mostly cold, damp and dark – in other words, the most difficult driving conditions of the year.

Sprinkle a fresh and fluffy layer of snow on the roads, add a touch of black ice for good measure, and it gets downright treacherous. While it’s a good idea to invest in tuition at an advanced driving course, not everyone has the time or money to spare. So these invaluable tips from Peter Rodger, a former chief examiner at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, should benefit all drivers this winter.

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To chill or not to chill: when to use a car’s air-conditioning in the winter

Driving in winter with air conditioning

Once upon a time, air-conditioning in cars was the ultimate luxury, available only on the most expensive motors. Now it’s a standard feature in the most affordable cars on our roads: the small Dacia Sandero, Skoda Citigo and Vauxhall Viva city cars offer it. But drivers often think that it will be more economical and save on fuel if they don’t use it over winter, when the air rarely needs cooling. So the question is this: to chill or not to chill in winter?

Should you switch a car’s air-conditioning off in winter?

Air-conditioning expert Sam Sihra from Alpinair, in West London, has been servicing cars’ air-conditioning systems since 1972. In his view, switching off a car’s air-conditioning system for weeks on end when the weather is cold, and perhaps only running it occasionally, is a mistake.

Why should drivers use air-con in winter weather?

Air-conditioning is the best way to dehumidify, or dry, damp air. With it running, the inside of a car’s windows won’t mist up; switch it off and it could seem as though you’re driving in dense fog. Equally, using the air-conditioning is a great way of de-misting the car if it steams up when you first get in it on a cold day. Continue reading