Road safety

Expert advice: try my car cold weather hacks on freezing mornings

cold weather hacks

Follow our tips below and this need not be you (Picture iStock/sonsam)

Standing outside on freezing cold mornings scraping ice off your car has to be down there with visits to the dentist and paying tax. All are necessary for very good reasons but that doesn’t make them enjoyable.

I can’t help you with your teeth or tax, but I can give you some pointers to make it easier to get your car ready for the road in the mornings.

Air-con’s your friend

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MOT changes reveal how many ‘dangerous’ cars are on Britain’s roads

MOT changes

Changes to Britain’s MOT test prove an alarming number of cars are on our roads in a potentially lethal state. Official figures show that nearly a third (32 per cent) of MOT failures were due to a dangerous defect.

In numbers, that’s 1.13m cars categorised as ‘dangerous’ after failing their MOT between the introduction of the revised test in May 2018 and the end of the year. This means the car is considered an immediate risk to road safety. The owner is then banned from driving the car until it’s been made road legal again.

However, the Government’s Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) says more than half of MOT failures are preventable. Drivers, it says, could avoid the money and aggravation that an MOT failure can cause by conducting simple maintenance.

What are the MOT changes?

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Expert comment: our New Year’s resolutions will help prevent breakdowns

New Year's resolutions

Do you keep to your New Year’s resolutions? Or do you forget them as soon as you’ve made them? No matter how quickly you give up going to the gym three times a week, I hope you’ll stick to the five resolutions here. Not only might they save you a heap of money before the year’s out; they could also prevent you having to sit at the roadside in a conked-out car.

Some recent research found that millions of drivers don’t even perform the most rudimentary maintenance to prepare their motor for winter. Here’s a handful of checks that will keep your car motoring long after memories of New Year’s parties have faded.

New Year’s resolution 1: check the oil

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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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Tailgating drivers cause one in eight crashes

Tailgating

Driving too close to the car in front increases the chances of crashing, the Highways Agency says (Picture iStock)

Are you guilty of tailgating or driving too close to the car in front? If you are, government agency Highways England warns it could only be a matter of time before you crash. It claims that one in eight accidents on motorways and A-roads is due to tailgating. It adds that about 100 people a year die because of vehicles following too closely.

This makes tailgating the third most likely cause of crashes in the UK. It comes behind failing to look properly and not judging another vehicle’s speed accurately. It’s such a problem that Highways England has launched a campaign to draw attention to it (below). Read on to find out why tailgating is so dangerous.

Why do road users drive too closely?

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Quiz: How well do you know your road markings?

Road sign quiz

The Highway Code and its extensive list of road signs and markings is one of the fundamentals of motoring. But how well do you know it?

If you take our quiz and you’re a bit rusty, don’t worry: you’re not alone. A recent survey found that half of drivers don’t know what a roundabout sign is when it’s shown to them. And two thirds don’t know how far behind the car in front they should be travelling.

The survey was conducted by driver training organisation IAM Roadsmart. It is calling for road safety to be part of the National Curriculum so that it’s drilled into drivers from an early age. Take our quiz to see how you get on.

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Expert comment: Why the Slow down, move over campaign makes sense

Slow down, move over

The roadside can be a dangerous place. If you see something like this ahead, slow down and give it plenty of space (Picture iStock)

If you’ve ever had to get out of your car at the roadside, you’ll know what a hostile place it can be. It’s no exaggeration to say that for some people it can be deadly. To raise awareness about this, we at Green Flag have come together with the AA and RAC to support the ‘Slow down, move over’ campaign.

We’re asking drivers to pay more attention to what’s going on at the side of the road. We all know how easy it can be to have our attention diverted when driving. Whether it’s by something interesting on the radio or pondering a problem at work, we don’t always think about what’s going on outside our own little bubble.

Slow down, move over campaign in detail

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Expert advice: how to know when your brake pads need replacing

Brake pads

Emergency stops can be frightening enough without having dodgy brakes too (Picture iStock/RapidEye)

Braking and brake pads are vitally important when it comes to road safety. We’re frequently so consumed with how fast cars can go or the economy they return that we forget how important stopping is. And anyone who’s had any kind of brake failure will testify to what a terrifying experience it can be.

But some recent research revealed that the confusing way garages measure brake pads isn’t helping. It could mean drivers are leaving it too long to have their pads changed. Or they might even be changing them too soon, without getting the full amount of wear out of them.

How is brake pad wear measured?

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Part-worn tyres: nine in 10 chance of buying a dodgy one

Part-worn tyres

Tyres might be on the scrap heap but they can still be sold legally in the UK (Picture iStock/Birdofprey)

If your car needs new tyres you might be shocked at how much replacement rubber can cost. But while often cheaper than new, buying second-hand tyres can have serious safety implications. New research has found that nine out of 10 retailers selling used or part-worn tyres are trading in illegal rubber.

Charity TyreSafe and Trading Standards have spent the past five years investigating part-worn tyres on sale in the UK. They discovered that just 13 of the 152 dealers they visited were selling roadworthy tyres. TyreSafe chairman Stuart Jackson said: “As far as we’re aware there is no other retail sector with such an atrocious track record.”

What exactly are part-worn tyres?

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