Road safety

Eating, drinking, smoking: most common driver distractions

Driver distraction

Does driver distraction play a part in your motoring life? Are you a habitual nose-picker during the morning rush hour? Do you put on lipstick or brush your hair in traffic? Maybe you air-drum to your favourite tune on the radio? Or perhaps you reach for the electric shaver and smarten up on the way to a meeting?

Of course, as a responsible law-abiding driver, you’re shaking your head in disbelief: none of these descriptions rings true for you. However, according to a new survey, there are plenty of other drivers who do engage in deadly in-car habits.

Who’s not been paying attention?

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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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Caught on camera: should every driver have a dash cam in their car?

Caught on camera should every driver have a dash cam in their car

Drivers could be forgiven for thinking almost every other car, van, lorry or motorbike has a dash cam fitted to it. The pocket-size portable video devices have boomed in popularity, with an estimated four million dashboard-mounted cameras now on Britain’s roads.

And that number is only set to rise. When 29 leading vehicle insurers were questioned about dash cams, all said they would consider accepting dash cam footage in the event of a claim. Some companies go so far as to offer discounts to drivers for using a dash cam.

However, one of the UK’s leading road safety organisations has spoken out over concerns that footage from dash cams might take traffic police off the roads. And privacy campaigners have slammed the phenomenon of ‘vehicle voyeurs’. These are drivers who publicly share footage of other road users without their consent. Find out how objections are increasing to this widespread and relatively new gadget.

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Scrappage: all you need to know about car maker incentive schemes

scrappage

Vauxhall has been running its scrappage scheme since May (Picture © Vauxhall)

For drivers who might be considering swapping their old car for a new model, there are now multiple scrappage schemes to help. But, unlike last time when we had government-organised scrappage, these are car maker-inspired schemes. We explain what scrappage is, which manufacturers are currently doing it and look into these latest incentives.

What is scrappage?

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Life savers: safety features drivers should pick for their next car

Life savers: optional safety features drivers should choose for their next car

Car firms can now fit even the most modest motors with an astonishing array of safety equipment. It’s kit that’s designed to assist drivers and prevent crashes happening. But according to a study by What Car?, four times as many drivers prioritise connectivity, fancy audio units, navigation systems and alloy wheels over advanced systems that can help keep them, their passengers and other road users safe.

Many road safety experts believe this is because drivers don’t fully understand what the systems do, and how they can help. Here we investigate some of the most significant safety systems available on used and new cars.

Automatic braking systems

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Bright idea: how to change or upgrade car headlight bulbs

Headlights

Whether driving at night or motoring in the rain, fog or snow, one of a car’s most important safety features is its lights. The headlights in particular are a vital component for keeping drivers secure on the road. They dictate the view of the road ahead and surrounding environment, and help other road users see the approaching vehicle.

But as cars age, so do their bulbs. And nobody can have failed to notice that lighting technology has raced on over the past decade. The latest cars have ultra-bright LED lights. These can often make traditional halogen bulbs seem no more effective than a candle in a lantern.

If you’ve found yourself cursing your car’s lighting performance, or felt a pang of envy as you’ve shielded your eyes from other cars’ dazzling headlights, there is, ahem, light at the end of the tunnel.

Upgrading a car’s headlights is one of the simplest maintenance jobs drivers can tackle. It’s also highly affordable. And when you consider the safety benefits of changing a car’s bulbs for brighter items, it’s little wonder that sales of aftermarket bulbs are booming. Here’s how to do it.

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Quiz: Think you’re a safe driver? Tackle these 10 common hazards

What is the Highway Code advice for a school crossing patrol?

Roads can be a dangerous environment. Drivers need to have their wits about them and their eyes out on stalks even on the briefest trip. From passing parked cars to negotiating zebra crossings, each obstacle represents a hazard that needs to be approached with a certain mindset and technique to ensure drivers, passengers and fellow road users stay safe at all times.

On longer journeys, there are more hazards and greater speeds, which can call for fast decision making. So it pays to brush up on the rules of the road, whether that’s by sitting down with a mug of tea and revisiting the Highway Code, or seeking more general advice and practical tips from expert organisations, such as the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) or Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).

To help drivers stay on their toes, we’ve compiled 10 common hazards that are encountered on the road, and challenge all to see how well they tackle them.  Continue reading

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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UK road safety: car buyers urged to pick safer cars to cut deaths in at-risk road users

UK Road safety

It’s claimed drivers should buy EuroNCAP 5-star cars such as the Volvo XC90

British car buyers have been urged to choose only top rated cars for safety after new research revealed a worrying trend that could be costing lives. When it comes to sales of new cars that are ranked best for pedestrian protection in crashes, the UK lines up 19th of the 28 European countries. According to the executive director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS), this could be preventing Britain from cutting deaths to vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists.

The UK’s road safety struggle

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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