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
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
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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
As the summer holidays get into full swing and millions of motorists take to the road, drivers who are sitting comfortably in their car are luckier than they may have imagined. Four out of five people suffer from back pain, according to the British Chiropractic Association (BCA), and of those surveyed this January, 40 per cent say that sitting down aggravates back or neck pain. It’s enough to send a shiver down a driver’s spine.
Tackling the problem of sitting comfortably when driving and avoiding back pain doesn’t require action as drastic as buying a new car. That could be a very costly mistake, as it’s rare for a car to leave drivers feeling uncomfortable after a brief test drive; often it takes hours on end at the wheel before the telltale signs of back or neck pain begin.
Instead, there are plenty of practical steps to follow that should help most people get comfortable at the wheel. We asked Rishi Loatey, a practising chiropractor and member of the BCA, to share his advice for drivers and help banish Britain’s bad backs. Continue reading
As winter sets in, drivers face a host of hazards from the harsh weather. From dark mornings to icy roads, and smearing windscreens to sudden heavy snowfall, the winter brings added challenges that are just waiting to catch out drivers.
To help ensure everyone gets to their destination safely, Green Flag turned to the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) which promotes better driving, and asked Peter Rodger, its chief examiner, to share his top 10 tips for driving safely in winter weather. Continue reading