The country is having a second COVID-19 lockdown from 5 November to 2 December. What does this mean for car owners? Read on to find out about MOTs, what’s happening with petrol stations, and what other motoring services are and aren’t available.
The debate about smart motorways is currently raging, so I wanted to clarify Green Flag’s policy on them, and provide the latest information on what happens if you do break down on one.
explanation of smart motorways
Smart motorways are split into three categories:
Dynamic hard shouldermotorways have a hard
shoulder on the left-hand side; however, it can be opened for traffic to ease
Controlled motorways will have variable speed limits
shown on screens above the lanes themselves.
All lane running motorways don’t have a hard
shoulder, as every lane is used for traffic. You’ll find yellow-painted
‘emergency refuge areas’ every 600m to 1.5 miles. Any driver can use these
areas if there is an emergency or they break down.
If you ever see a red X on the screens above the
lane, that means the lane is closed. There may be a breakdown or people working
on the roadside. Do not drive on this lane until told otherwise (you’ll usually
see the red X replaced with a speed limit).
do if you break down, but can still drive your vehicle
If you know there’s a problem, but you’re still able to
drive safely, try and leave the motorway and then contact us.
If this isn’t possible, then either use an emergency refuge
area or move to the left-hand side of the motorway.
Use an emergency refuge area:
If you’re unable to leave the motorway, aim for one of the emergency areas. As these areas can be up to 1.5 miles apart from each other, it’s worth noting when you last passed one so you can work out how close your next area is.
When you’re in an emergency area, make sure your hazard lights are on (as well as your sidelights if visibility is poor). Also, leave room behind and in front of your vehicle to allow emergency vehicle access.
Every emergency area has a phone that you can use to contact the local highways agency or the police – you’ll be automatically directed to them.
You can also call them from your mobile:
If you’re driving in England, call National Highways on 0300 123 5000.
If you’re driving in Scotland, call Traffic Scotland on 0800 028 1414.
If you’re driving in Wales, call Traffic Wales on 0300 123 1213.
If you’re driving in Northern Ireland, it’s recommended you call the police on 999.
If you’re safely in an emergency area, call the local highways agency before you get in touch with a breakdown cover provider. If you can’t safely leave your vehicle, or if you can’t get to an emergency area, call 999 immediately.
Move to the left-hand side of the motorway:
If an emergency area is not available, but you can still drive, the next best thing is to move to the left-hand side of the motorway. Use a hard shoulder if it’s available, or get your vehicle as close to the left-hand verge, boundary or a slip-road as possible.
If it’s safe to, have everyone leave using the left-hand doors, and if there’s a safety barrier, get behind it. Move away from the vehicle and stay at a safe distance from the motorway.
As your vehicle is not in an emergency area, call 999 as soon as you can. Make sure you call 999 before contacting your breakdown cover provider.
do if you break down on an active lane
What happens here depends on what lane you are in.
If you’re on the left-hand lane (lane one):
If you break down on the left-hand lane (also known as ‘lane one’), we will be able to come to your rescue. However, there are some steps you need to take to stay safe.
Where possible leave the vehicle by the left doors and follow the instructions above.
If this is not possible, and you can’t safely exit the vehicle, then do the following.
First, make sure your seatbelt is left on and that you’ve put on your hazard lights. Second, call the police on 999 immediately. They’ll work with the local highways agency to close the lane (using the red X mentioned before) to help keep you safe.
We will come to your rescue, with the help of a fend-off
vehicle. This vehicle will sit further back on the lane to help shield you from
other vehicles. This fend-off vehicle will come at no extra charge to you.
We will never attempt fix a problem on the lane. We will tow
your vehicle off the motorway to somewhere safe. This minimises the amount of
disruption to other traffic and enables our technician to inspect your vehicle
If you’re on lanes two, three or four:
Breakdowns on these lanes need to be dealt with by the police or the local highways agency, as all lanes will most likely have to be closed.
If you’re unable to move to any of the areas previously mentioned, remain in your vehicle with your seatbelt and hazard lights on, then call the police immediately on 999. If you’re unable to call, stay calm. Smart motorways have control centres that use cameras to monitor the motorways. They will see the problem and will work to get you help as soon as possible. However, always call the police immediately if you are able to.
future of smart motorways
The smart motorway debate is an ongoing one.
At Green Flag, our priority is – and always will be –
customer safety. That’s why we’re an active member of SURVIVE (Safer Use of
Verges In Vehicular Emergencies). This is an industry body made up mainly of
government agencies and breakdown companies.
I personally sit on this, and we regularly discuss all areas
of the breakdown process from the industry’s perspective.
We’re currently debating how well Highways England, which
manages the motorway network on behalf of the Government, can support us in trying
to increase driver awareness about smart motorways.
In the meantime, I’d like to reassure all drivers that we’re
doing all we can to help ensure smart motorways are as safe as possible for everyone.
Drivers shouldn’t just be worried about having their car stolen. They’re actually more likely to have something pinched from their car. And that could include the catalytic converter.
Figures from London’s Metropolitan Police reveal that in the first six months of 2019, thefts of this component, which makes up a part of the exhaust system, were nearly double the same period in 2018. We investigate the problem and give tips on how you can avoid being a victim of car (and CAT) crime.
Some recent research reveals faulty brakes is the most common vehicle defect to end up causing an accident. The study of official figures by brake maker Pagid showed that dodgy brakes caused 15 deaths in 2018. In the last five years it says 64 deaths have been caused by brake trouble.
We should all check our brakes regularly and if you have any doubts about the system working properly, stop driving and have your car seen to by a professional. Here are some of the main symptoms of faulty brakes, what they mean in real terms, and what you should do about them.
One high tech feature of all modern cars that I never hope you see is the airbag. These are designed to inflate milliseconds after an impact and work with the seatbelts to prevent you hitting any hard surfaces in the car.
They can go wrong but thankfully it’s not something we see
very often. But it’s still worth knowing a bit about airbags.
Whatever you think about the government and local authorities clamping down on pollution with exhaust emissions zones, we can’t escape them. And as time goes by, restrictions are only going to become tougher. We’ve already heard of some customers being caught out and fined for driving in London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ). Read on to find out what you need to know.
Do you remember what you were doing 25 years ago? What car you were driving, how much you spent on fuel and how congested the roads were?
Even if you don’t, you may recall signing up for cover from a
new breakdown company. It was called Green Flag and caused a splash by sponsoring
the England football team.
Twenty-five years later and Green Flag is still offering the same great service. Motoring, however, has changed significantly. It might not be quite beyond all recognition but things are certainly very different.
We get a lot of queries from car owners about fuel quality. But the one that keeps on coming back is whether cheap supermarket fuel is as good as big-brand petrol and diesel. It’s an important question because there can be a significant difference in what it costs to fill up at a supermarket compared with at a fuel brand’s station.
We all want to save money where we can. Whether that’s with petrol or diesel that costs less, or apparently more expensive fuel that’s cheaper because it improves economy. But most importantly, we don’t want to do our cars any damage, so how good is supermarket fuel?
Celebrity car fans are a constant feature in the media. But how much attention do you pay to them? Our quiz will reveal how much you know about the automotive obsession of some of the best-known people on the planet. Only household car nut names have made it into our quiz. And we’ve combined celebs who’ve been in the news or on TV recently, such as Paul Hollywood (above), with those you’ll undoubtedly have heard of. So buckle up, celebrity thinking caps on, it’s time to take the test! Continue reading →
Even a basic tool kit can prevent you being stranded roadside. A working mobile phone is an important part of it (Picture: iStock/South_agency)
This might sound very old school but I think carrying a basic tool kit can be one of the most sensible things a driver does. I’m not suggesting here that you go out and buy a full socket set. And I’m not advocating dismantling a conked out car at the roadside. But a simple tool kit might make the difference between a car being repaired roadside and it being recovered to a garage.
Of course, all cars come with a rudimentary tool kit. But buying and checking a used car can be stressful enough. We often don’t have time to find out what tools it does and doesn’t have. Frequently handy tools get lost during a car’s life time and you only find out they’re not there when you need them. Here’s what I suggest you have in your tool kit.
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.
One of the problems contestants for Mud & Motors are going to have is – as the event’s name suggests ‑ driving through mud. Manoeuvring any vehicle other than a tank over a slippery surface is easier said than done.
As a regional operations manager, I have some experience of driving in mud. And I’ll be working with the contestants on Mud & Motors to help them out. Here are my tips for driving in mud.
Rather than just a field with greasy grass, when I say mud I’m thinking more along the lines of muddy tracks here. It’ll have been driven on before, possibly by heavy vehicles such as tractors. Their weight and the tread of their tyres will have broken down the composition of the soil and turned it into mud. There will be puddles, ruts and thick, gloopy mud. Lots of it. Here’s how you get through it.
Do you regularly check your car’s tyre pressures? Maybe you seek out a shady spot in a car park when the temperature is soaring? Or perhaps you have a dedicated key hook or drawer in the kitchen for the car keys?
If any of these rings true, then it’s likely you have a healthy helping of common sense. The good news is drivers who have common sense are more likely to find love and enjoy successful relationships.
According to new research conducted for Green Flag – which is well known for its common-sense prices and outstanding breakdown service – 79 per cent of people value common sense more than having a high IQ.
Putting the wrong type of fuel into a car is easy to do. Known as misfuelling, it tends to happen when drivers are in a hurry or distracted. You’re not in your usual motor, maybe it’s your partner’s, a colleague’s, or a hire or courtesy vehicle. Your mind might be on other things and out of habit you lift the petrol pump from its holder and start filling your diesel vehicle. Hopefully you’ll realise your mistake before you drive away…
The good new is, it’s virtually impossible to put diesel in a petrol-engined car. The neck of the petrol filler is tighter than a diesel pump nozzle. The bad news is the wide neck of a diesel fuel filler easily takes a petrol pump nozzle. The even worse news is that putting petrol into a diesel does far more harm than the other way around. Read on to find out all about misfuelling and how to prevent it.
Breaking down could become a thing of the past with telematics
Technology that only a few years ago would have seemed like a dream is now coming to a car near you. The latest can predict if your car is going to break down. It’s estimated it could save British drivers 38,000 hours waiting for roadside rescue with their conked-out car.
Green Flag Alert Me plugs into the car’s On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) port. From there, the matchbox-sized device monitors the car’s battery and electronic brain. This enables it to record changes such as the battery failing to hold its charge before the driver would ordinarily notice them. If it does see changes, Alert Me reports it to Green Flag over the mobile phone network. Green Flag then notifies the driver via a smartphone app. Continue reading →
Joe Swash has been on a road trip of a lifetime, touring the Scottish Highlands in a vintage Land Rover as part of Green Flag’s Scenic Route series of inspiring drives. But when a car is almost as old as its driver, things will inevitably go wrong under the bonnet.
When cars breakdown, getting to the root of the cause is half the battle to swiftly getting it back on the road. That’s why every Green Flag breakdown van carries hundreds of tools, each with a very specific purpose. It means if a driver’s motor splutters to a halt – as Joe’s Land Rover did several times – the Green Flag technician should be able to fix the problem at the roadside.
The tools vary from the simple to the highly complex, costing from pence to hundreds of pounds. And several of them came to the rescue of Joe Swash, although he wasn’t too sure what many of them were for.
Take our quick quiz and see if you can guess the Green Flag tools and identify more of them than Joe could…
Fans will tell you buying old Land Rovers can be a fun and rewarding experience. Old versions of the model we now know as the Defender were the original ‘go anywhere’ vehicle. Ever since its introduction in 1948, the Land Rover is one of the few cars that can truly lay claim to having a cult following. It’s no surprise then that Joe Swash picked a Land Rover for his epic road trip for Green Flag’s Scenic Route series.
Joe’s is a 1985 Land Rover 90 Soft Top, the short wheelbase version fitted with what appears to be a poorly erected tent covering the back seats and load bay. You need a sense of adventure to own and drive a car like Joe’s. It’s also ideal to have a little mechanical knowledge or, at the least, the enthusiasm to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in, learning to fix faults as they arise. And they will – as any Land Rover owner will tell you. Continue reading →
The Jump and ex-Eastenders star Joe Swash is the first in a series of celebrities to take Green Flag’s Scenic Route. The series of adventures around the UK and Europe has been designed to celebrate the freedom of driving and encourage drivers to take the road less travelled. In this Joe Swash exclusive interview, the London lad talks about his life and how important motoring has been.
Why did you leave it so late to learn to drive?
“I lived in central London and public transport is amazing there. You can get round so much easier and quicker than in a car. Also I started doing Eastenders when I was 20 and we were ferried around by drivers all the time so I got lazy. Then before I knew it, I was in my 30s and still couldn’t drive. But I had my boy and I couldn’t keep on picking him up from school by cab…”
With the Easter holiday around the corner and the summer break on the horizon, millions of us are planning to get away from it all. To fuel inspiration for great adventures in the UK and Europe, Green Flag has hit the road with an exciting new series of road trips. And some of the country’s best-known faces will be sliding into the driving seat and sharing their experiences with you.
Called Scenic Route, the journeys are easy for anyone to take. All you need is a car and a thirst for adventure. In the first Scenic Route road trip, actor and presenter Joe Swash, best known for Eastenders, I’m A Celebrity and, most recently, The Jump, reveals how the Scottish Highlands can take your breath away and get the adrenaline racing.
Hybrid battery problems courtesy of wiring faults are becoming a common cause of breakdowns with the increasingly popular petrol-electric cars. The old cliché is that modern cars have more computing power than the first Apollo moon rockets. It’s true but it also means they have more wiring. And the more complex the electronics, the greater the capacity there is for something to go wrong. Here we look at how battery problems can afflict cars that use electricity to supplement petrol or diesel power.