10 top reasons for failing the driving test

Driving in the UK seems to be in constant flux- it is changing all the time. There is so much more technology at our fingertips, the roads are much more congested, the cars we drive are much more powerful and there is a never ending bevy of new laws to keep up with. But amongst all of those changes one thing seems to remain constant: the reasons why people fail their driving test.

This is probably because there will always be fundamental skills and knowledge we need to attain an accepted standard. So let’s take a look at the top ten:

 

1.Keeping to the speed limit for those who are confident on the roads is often difficult.  There is often a desire to use the engine power to the full. Hence the term “boy racer”. For those who are a little more nervous with their skills there may be a tendency to drive too slow. Either way, failing to keep to the speed limit remains a very common reason for failing to pass the driving test.

 

2. That three-point-turn or “turn in the road” continues to frustrate many on their driving tests.  The key to this manoeuvre is good control of the car and good all round observation  throughout the process.

 

3. Interestingly, lack of adequate steering control is third on the list. This is more about adapting steering to the speed of the car (i.e. the tighter the turn, the slower the speed).

 

4. It may sound simple but reversing around a corner can cause all kinds of issues. For success here, the examiner will be looking out for good observations and keeping the car close to the kerb.

 

5. Car positioning on the road: At all times you need to be positioning the car correctly on the road. This also includes using road markings and signposts to get into the correct lane at the right time.

 

6. The most obvious and the most easily forgotten: proper use of signals. You need to be signalling in time so other road users are aware of your intentions.

 

7. Moving away safely: the driver needs to show that he/she is aware of other road users and goes through the correct procedure when pulling away. You need to be using mirrors and indicators appropriately as well as keeping the car under control as you move out. If you cause another car to brake or change direction this would be a reason for failing the test.

 

8. And yes, you should be using your mirrors appropriately throughout the whole of your journey. You need to show to the examiner that you are using your mirrors when you change speed, are changing direction and that you are acting appropriately on what you see.

 

9. Reverse parking is a well-known bug-bear. It is one of those manoeuvres that is a terrible trial until one day without warning it suddenly clicks.

 

10. Observation at junctions:  This is a real biggy and boils down to a lack of sufficient observations at junctions to enable them to emerge or turn into a new road safely. You must give priority where necessary and not cause anyone to change speed or direction. You must stop at stop signs to allow proper observations.

 

At Brighton Marina Driving Lessons we keep up to date with what you need to be safe on UK roads. We also offer a unique in car video system to help you with your training and a training package which can be customised to your individual style of learning. To learn more contact us on 01273 921906, fill in our website form

As the UK Driving Test reaches 80 we look back at 1935 and possible changes in the future

anniversarioThe driving test is an intrinsic part of our culture in the UK. Whereas it may not be loved (especially for those about to take it and just want it over) it is regarded with a certain amount of fondness by all of us who can now drive and can look back at those challenging times with a laugh and a chuckle.

The good old UK driving test seems as English as fish and chips, warm pub beer, pork pies and obsessive queuing. This year it celebrates its 80th birthday and we have to say it has certainly a lot to be proud of looking back over the last 8 decades. But there is always room for improvement and many want to see the test make alterations to keep up with the major changes we see on a regular basis in this technological age.

The driving test family album

So let’s take a quick look back at driving in the thirties:

• In 1935 there were just 1.5 million cars on the road. Now there are a whopping 30 million
• In March 1935 the first voluntary testing was introduced
• In June 1935 compulsory testing was introduced. This may sound a little ironic but the   first person to pass his
test was a Mister Beene (no relation we hope!) and it would have cost him 37.5 pence.
• The test now costs £90.
• There were no test centres in 1935 so drivers used to meet the examiners in pre-arranged places.
• The pass rate in 1935 was 63%. Today it is around 50%.
• The test very much resembled the test of today. Minor changes such as the introduction of bay parking have been introduced over the years. The biggest change was the introduction of the theory test in 1996.

The great thing about the test is changes are still being made to keep up with the culture of the 21st century and the innovations in technology that are now sitting on our dashboards. In a previous article we reported the fact that Sat Navs will be taken into consideration in the driving test because they are now a fundamental tool for direction finding.

So what of the future?

The RAC has stated that they want the UK driving test to put more focus on experience after the initial driving test has been taken. In other words there would be gradations on your licence to signify you have had experience in certain scenarios such as driving in winter or driving in darkness. It also recommends restrictions in the first year of passing the test such as the amount of passengers that can be carried or late night driving. The RAC is putting forward that a full driving licence should only be awarded after 2 years of driving.

The IAM (Institute for Advanced Driving) seems to be in agreement but would also suggest a lower drink drive limit for new drivers, and the introduction of motorway driving into the test.

All of these proposed changes are due to the fact that road accidents remain the biggest killer of young people in the UK. Statistics suggest that nearly one in eight (11.9 per cent) of all road casualties are hurt or killed in collisions involving a car driver aged 17 to 19, despite the fact that this age group makes up only 1.5 per cent of licensed drivers.

If tightening up the driving test is likely to lower these figures then it has to be a good thing.

At Brighton Marina Driving Lessons we keep ahead of the news and new laws so our teaching ultimately keeps you safe on the roads. To find out more about booking driving lessons in Brighton call us on 01273 921906 or fill in our online form

End of UK paper driving license

Young woman showing her driver's licenseThe UK driving licence is made up of two elements. The photocard you carry around in your wallet or handbag and a paper component which is usually kept in the home somewhere safe. Somewhere safe is probably the optimum phrase here, as no doubt we have all been in the situation when we suddenly have to bring it to light for official reasons and…well…that extra safe place is irritatingly hard to find. Now the DVLA (Driving Vehicle and Licencing Agency) have decided to scrap the paper element of the driving licence altogether in an effort to simplify processes and services and save money in administration.  As there will be no further paper component this also has to be good for the green economy.

The new online system is called “MyLicence” and is a joint venture between the DVLA and the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) and it is estimated it will save the government around £8 million.

For many this will be great news but it did have relevance to hiring a car, recording penalty points and other factors – so what will this change mean to the everyday driver? In this short article we want to cover how you will be able to still access all the records you had before and affect all functions as from June 8th 2015when the changes come into effect.

 

When can I get rid of the paper component of my driving licence?

Before 1998 there was only one type of driving licence – this was the paper driving licence. The new “photocard driving licence” was developed in 1998 but it never been mandatory that you had to change to this format. Therefore there are still drivers who have the old style paper driving licence. If you are in this group you need to keep hold of your licence for the moment – they will remain valid and should not be destroyed.

 
If you have a photocard and paper driving licence (card shows name; date of birth; country; driver number; address; and photo) you can destroy the paper part as soon as the changes come in on June 8th.

 
It ought to be noted that these changes do not affect photocard licences issued by the DVA in Northern Ireland.

 

What will happen when my driving licence needs to be updated or renewed?

If your driving licence needs to be renewed you will just be sent the photocard with the relevant details.  If you change your name or move address you will simply be issued with the photocard.

 

How will penalties be recorded?

Previously if you committed a driving offence, any penalties would be shown on the paper part of the driving licence. In contrast, after June 8th 2015 you can only access this information online or by contacting the DVLA by phone (0300 790 6802) or by post. You can see the page which gives you access to all your driving information by clicking here. Therefore from now on any penalties or endorsements will be automatically be added to your driver records and you will need to pay any fines to the courts directly.

 

What happens when I am hiring a car?

To hire a car you often need to clarify that you do not have any endorsements or convictions on your licence. As your online access is confidential, no third party is allowed to see it. To cover this issue the DVLA are developing a service whereby you can share information with those you trust. In the future you will be able to go online, access the relevant information, download and print it, so it can be shared with the any official bodies.

 

Can anyone else see the information in my online records?

Clearly all of these records need to be private and confidential but they will be accessible by insurance companies who will be able to double check information given to them by their clients. This move is expected to cut down greatly on Fraud.

 

Is this a change for the good?

No-one really welcomes change. For most people it entails getting used to dealing with a whole new system of dealing with functions and so new ideas – however good – are not always welcomed. In this case it also introduces online procedures as a major component for accessing information. Clearly digital communication continues to become central to most people’s everyday lives but there are still those who would prefer to keep it at a distance.

 

And should insurance companies have access to our information? Surely they should trust our word as we trust them? Possibly, but the fact remains that insurance costs are directly related to the amount of fraud insurance companies pay out on. If fraud is reduced we may well see reduced insurance fees.

 

However this change to the driving licence system does appear to have major benefits. As well as saving millions for the government, the whole system is wholly streamlined, it is greener and updates can occur seamlessly without customer participation.

 

Happy driving.

 

At Brighton Marina Driving Lessons we keep ahead of the news and new laws so our teaching ultimately keeps you safe on the roads. To find out more about booking driving lessons in Brighton call us on 01273 921906 or fill in our online form.

Dangers of mobile phone use in cars

Chief Constable recommends higher penalties for mobile use while driving

Female Driver Sending Text Message Whilst DrivingHot after the news that the Police now have powers to test drivers for the influence of drugs, the Chief Constable at Gloucestershire Metropolitan Police has accused the government of failing to facilitate effective measures to prevent or discourage drivers from using their mobile phones while driving.

 

The mobile phone in itself is a tool which allows users to communicate with friends, associates and business colleagues at any time instantly and access a plethora of data, information, entertainment and apps. Since the arrival of social media and texting the daily culture in the western world has been turned upside down. Whereas it used to be a luxury to have a mobile phone, now it is more or less a necessity. Current culture, especially for the younger generation who are  learning to drive , encourages us all to be checking and making contacts every micro second.

 

I in 4 accidents in the US are connected with mobile phone use

 

This clearly adds to the long standing problems caused when drivers are distracted at the wheel of a car. In 2014 the Mail Online reported statistics released by the National Safety Council that reflect the size of the problem in the USA alone:

 

  • About 1.3million accidents, or 26 per cent of all pileups, are blamed on drivers using mobile phones. Just to make that clear – one in four accidents are caused by drivers using mobile phones while driving.
  • At the time statistics were taken it was clear that the number of accidents was rising: the number of accidents had risen by 1%.
  • Only five per cent of all accidents are based on texting while driving so this means in the majority of cases drivers were simply making a telephone call.

 

Clearly hands free devices are an excellent safety measure for dealing with the on-going distraction of using phones while driving but unfortunately most cars do not have that facility and to a certain extent many would argue that the whole process is distracting the driver from concentrating on the road in front of them.

 

Is the government holding back because of the May election?

 

Chief constable Suzette Davenport believes that motorists who have been caught for a second time using their mobile phone while driving should be banned from driving for a substantial period of time. She also made plain on the BBC Radio 5 Live’s Breakfast Show that the reason the government were not taking action was because they did not wish to present new unpopular laws which may hamper their chance of winning the next election in May.

 

She said “There are lots of things I talk about with government, lots of different interest groups. They listen to those people and an election is not too far away, so I am sure they will not want to pick up and run with anything they feel is not likely to be helpful to them in the next election.”

 

In answer to her remarks, Robert Goodwill, the roads minister, has stated that the government is not refraining from enforcing new regulations because of the election at all. He stated that they are already contemplating the possibility of increasing the penalty from three points to six if you are found driving while using a phone.

 

At Brighton Marina Driving Lessons we keep ahead of the news and new laws so our teaching ultimately keeps you safe on the roads. To find out more about booking driving lessons in Brighton call us on 01273 921906 or fill in our online form.

New drug test for drivers hits UK roads

piatto di farmaci e drogaThere was good news this week when it was reported that the Police will now have the powers to test drivers for the influence of drugs. Police officers will no longer have to prove that a driver is impaired to drive, only that they have an illegal level of drugs in their system.

New laws such as these are often met with a mixed amount of approval. For instance, police speeding cameras have often been considered to be an elaborate way for the government to put extra funds in the budget. Although drivers on the whole welcomed the new law against “hogging the middle lane on a motorway” it has also been recognised that it is very hard to police. Usually it is those who subvert the law who kick up the fuss when as far as we can see if it goes some way in making the roads safer it has to be a good thing and should be welcomed.

At times there is a thin line between laws and guidance. Whereas it is not unlawful to eat while you are driving or manipulate a mobile phone we often see graphic adverts on our screens highlighting how foolish it is to do either.

60% unaware they are under the influence of drugs

Driving while under the influence of drugs has been due been under revision by the Metropolitan Police for some time. At the end of the day alcohol use on our roads is greatly restricted yet it is nothing more than a drug. The main difference between alcohol and such drugs as cannabis and cocaine is alcohol is legal and widely accepted for recreational use. But the new law will take prescribed drugs into account as well.

Research conducted by THINK! found that over 50% of those people who admitted to driving under the influence of drugs said they felt safe behind the wheel. 60% said they had driven a car when they were unsure whether they were said still under the influence.

“Illegal drugs impair skills required to drive”
Dr Kim Wolf, advisor for the government drug drive policy at King’s College London said “It is worrying to note that so many drug drivers said they felt safe to drive after taking illegal drugs. Illegal drugs seriously impair skills required to drive safely, such as reaction time and decision making. In many cases those who take certain illegal drugs believe that they are safe to drive, but are in fact putting themselves and others at risk.”
As well as tackling illegal drugs the police officers will also be able to test for prescription drugs which are often misused or have warnings not to be taken when operating machinery. These include lorazepam, temazepam, diazepam, clonazepam, and oxazepam.
Police officers will be able to take swabs from driver’s mouths and get a reading back within 10 minutes using DrugWipe Testing Kits. By swabbing the inside of the driver’s cheek they can test for cannabis and cocaine. They will also be able to test for the presence of ketamine, LSD, ecstasy and heroin.
Penalties could range from a year in prison to up to a £5000 fine.
Driving lessons in Brighton
At Brighton Marina Driving Lessons we will always welcome new laws to make our new drivers safer on the roads. To find out more about booking driving lessons in Brighton call us on 01273 921906 or fill in our online form.

How Are Lower Fuel Prices Affecting UK Drivers?

Hand holding fuel pump and refilling car at petrol stationThe best news in recent months for UK drivers has been the massive fall in petrol prices. Over the last two years we have seen the price of petrol rocket to almost £1.50 a litre and the economists have always had a very bleak view about future rises. But late last year we all held our breath as remarkably, the cost of fuel began to fall – to the point where we wait with baited breath as to whether it will actually break the £1 barrier.

The price fall has been good news for all businesses

The fuel cost reduction has hit the UK economy on all levels, in all industries and across the UK – not to mention learning to drive and actually affording to offer well-priced driving lessons here in Brighton. During the period when fuel prices were high (and also for other related reasons pertaining to the recession) the amount of people taking driving lessons fell. Now reduced fuel prices will undoubtedly lead to a situation where candidates can enjoy excellent prices for their driving instruction.

However, we want to make our drivers financially safe, as well as road-safe and as much as the overriding feeling is good, drivers need to be aware of all aspects of how the reduction in the fall in fuel prices will affect the UK driver.

More drivers on the roads

Where fuel prices have fallen it is important to note that insurance prices have increased according to The Telegraph. This link at first seems odd, but it relates to how the general public have responded to the price fall. Now drivers are feeling more financially secure they are making more journeys by car. They are taking longer journeys by car instead of alternative travel options as cost is more viable. They are also taking shorter journeys more. In order to cut down on fuel costs when prices were high people were likely to walk short distances rather than get the car out.

This all leads to the fact that there are more vehicles on the road and the natural progression from this is there are also more accidents. Because there are more accidents the insurance companies are paying out more and the cost of insurance has consequently increased.

But insurance is a little on its own in the overall scenario. It is quite clear, in the majority of cases, that the fall in fuel prices is definitely good news for the UK driver. As with all basic general marketing principals, when there is a need for a certain product, the cost will fall to meet the demand for that product (i.e. related car costs).

In the same way we are seeing a rise in the amount of customers coming to us for driving lessons here in Brighton simply because of the healthy economic outlook for UK drivers at the moment. Most of all we are happy to be able to continue our special offer for beginners: 6 hours for just £90!

Possible changes to the UK driving test

Driving tests see the end of three point turns and the introduction of sat nav training

driving test changesIn an effort to bring the UK driving test up to date the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has announced possible changes to the UK driving test which could see candidates required to learn how to drive while using a Sat Nav. It is also expected that the “turn in the road” – most commonly known as “the three point turn” and the “reverse around the corner” will be dropped from the test due to its lack of relevance modern driving.

Satellite navigation systems have become very popular over the last few years. A decade ago they were popular as devices which were plugged into the cigarette lighter of a car. They are so relevant to today’s driver that they are often likely to be inbuilt into the cars dashboard in more luxury models.

Driving test relevant to modern driving issues

As they are becoming so common place it only seems natural, if not necessary, to ensure they are used safely and effectively while manipulating all the controls of the car. Introducing this element to the UK driving test will take another factor of the modern day driving test one stage further. Currently the “independent driving” element of the test expects the candidate to find their way to a destination using conventional road signposts. In order to incorporate the new trial the DVSA is considering extending the “independent driving” section by up to 20 minutes.

The UK driving test has remained more or less the same for the past 20 years so this will be quite a major change to take on board for examiners and learners alike, but has been welcomed by the Driving Instructors Agency (DIA). Carol Brookfield, the Chief Executive at DIA, said in an interview with the Guardian “The DIA and its members will play a key role in the project as it is critical customers of the test, such as instructors and candidates have their input in making the test more fit for purpose and reflective of modern driving”.

Do we need the three-point turn in the exam?

The “three point turn” test and the “reverse around the corner” test both offer an excellent measure of drivers capabilities in manoeuvring the car, but these specific manoeuvres are not considered so relevant to today’s driver.  They will be dropped in favour of enhanced independent driving training.

As this will be a major change in the UK driving test, the DVSA will need to trial the proposed changes first. So in the first instance, over 1000 learners will be invited to join a trial of new practical exam measures designed to better reflect real-life driving. Eventually if results from the trial are good the new system will be cascaded down to all approved driving test centres and approved driving instructors

However, responses to the proposed changes haven’t all been positive. Specifically, the director of the RAC Foundation, Professor Steven Glaister welcomed changes which helped learners with the new dynamics involved in modern day driving but questioned whether removing elements such as the “three point turn” was taking away fundamental learning which is still essential.

As we enter the digital age computers are not just found on our desktops and mobile phones, they are becoming common in our cars too. This brings the opportunity to add new computerised driving aids such as the Sat Nav to the driver. As well as Sat Navs there are also tools such as hands free telephone sets and reversing cameras to name but a few. Should these also be taken into account in a driving test? Clearly the way we drive, and the assets we have at our finger-tips are changing every day.  To keep all motorists safe on the roads the driving tests needs to take on board those changes.

At Brighton Marina Driving Lessons we keep up to date with what you need to be safe on UK roads. We also offer a unique in car video system to help you with your training and a training package which can be customised to your individual style of learning. To learn more contact us on 01273 921906, fill in our website form

 

Choosing A Driving Instructor

Choosing a driving instructor is not as easy or straightforward as it first seems and as driving lessons are a significant investment, making the decision of which driving school to train with is not a decision to be rushed. After all, if you were buying an alarm system for your home, for instance, you would not necessarily opt for the cheapest option. You want to make sure that what you learn will keep you and your loved ones safe forever after.
Choosing the right driving instructor to suit your personal needs and priorities means you need to put some thinking time into your decision and it is worth doing some research before booking your first driving lesson. Make a list on a piece of paper of what is important to you prior to telephoning any, so that you can really compare driving schools.
You will be potentially spending a lot of money, so start by seeking some reliable advice on how to choose a good driving instructor. By all means ask friends and relatives for recommendations, but only ask those people whom you would trust as safe drivers. Then it is worth also making a list of what is important to you as a checklist to refer to when shopping around.
For instance, some people would feel more at ease choosing from a local or a woman driving instructor, or you may have an automatic car you want to learn to drive. Another consideration is that not all independent driving instructors offer disabled driving lessons, in spite of the Disability Discrimination Act, in which case you may want to book your driving lesson with an approved driving school.
PRICING
The cheap driving instructor is not always your best option. If you are looking to save money, then consider block driving lessons, where discounts may be available. Similarly, if you book driving lessons online, or in advance, some driving schools will offer vouchers or discounts. Check out a few different websites, as most good driving schools should be open and up-front about what they offer.
Price is always a primary consideration; this is natural. As a general rule, in the U.K. driving lessons cost anywhere from £19-£25 per lesson. If you book more than an hour, your instructor is saving money, so may offer a discount for your second hour. It is worth adding this to your checklist when you compare driving instructors online or over the phone. Of course, if your concentration is not so good during your first few lessons you may wish to stick to one hour lessons. Paying double for two hours, however, is not good business sense, so if the instructor is not prepared to be flexible, find someone who is.
If you can stretch to two or three hours, however, you will benefit, as part of your lesson time will be spent in getting to a local driving test area and part of your lesson has to be learning new skills. Block bookings will work out cheaper as a rule.
EXPERTISE AND PASS RATES
If they want your business, a reputable driving school will tell you about their pricing structures, their qualifications, or if they are on a register of approved driving instructors with a professional body too. This information will be on their website. If you are looking in the telephone directory, approved driving instructors, will advertise this fact. This is important, because it will give an indication of their competence and professionalism.
When you book your first driving lesson, you should feel confident that you are not wasting your money and you will get the best possible driving tuition available for the price. If you choose a cheap driving instructor, chances are their pass rate is not as good as it could be, which means you risk having to spend more money on lessons elsewhere and pay for further tests. This is a false economy and as a rule ‘you get what you pay for’.
Be aware, however, that even if an instructor claims a 100% pass rate, they may be calculating based on students who have passed, not counting how many times those same students may have previously failed. Ask the driving instructor about their pass rate!
Another indicator of expertise, will be that approved driving instructors in the U.K. will be on the Driving Standards Agency, either as an Approved Driving Instructor, or as a Trainee Instructor (PDI).
Fully qualified instructors have a green badge in the window of their vehicle. This is proof that they can teach reasonably well. Trainee instructors have a pink badge in the window. They may be good, and they can offer a great learning experience, but they have not been assessed on their teaching ability. If they don’t pass their final exam within 6 months of starting to teach on the trainee licence they will have to stop teaching you, which can be disruptive when you are learning to drive.
If you know a trainee instructor and want to learn with them, that can of course mean that you will be comfortable learning with them and possibly get more from your lessons. If you are looking to save money, this is an option for you. Be aware, however, that according to the statistics, trainees have substantially lower pass rates than qualified instructors.
If you are looking for disabled driving lessons, or have other special needs, check with the Institute of Advanced Motorists. Its members will have passed an advanced driving test! There are lots of instructors with alternative qualifications which help them in their area of specialism, you may want to investigate these.
Choosing a driving instructor or driving school that suits your particular needs, as you can see, requires thinking through. Do your research and talk to different driving instructors on the phone when you are looking at booking your first lesson. If it is still difficult to decide having gone through your checklist, it may just be your nerves getting the better of you. If so, call on a friend or someone in the family to help you go through your options until you are ready to book your driving lessons.

Dealing with a traffic jam

With the Christmas and New Year holidays well behind and the schools back in full flow, we quickly notice a sense of normality as we see our days beginning once again with traffic jams.  It is a very sad fact that we can already predict our road networks and their inabilities to cope with the dreaded morning rush hour which leaves millions of drivers all over the UK stuck in one of many traffic jams on our mains roads and motorways.

OK the recent floods play a significant part but heavy rain is hardly an unusual start to the beginning of the year so our roads should be resilient enough to manage the many weather conditions that face us in the United Kingdom.

Another factor that contributes to heavy traffic jams is that our infrastructure is seriously lagging behind with the growth of the population.  Twenty years ago we would drive down our road to see one car per household but due to strains on the property market, increases in disposable income and other factors, each household has at least two cars.

A typical day:  Driving in a hurry

OK so you set out for your daily commute or maybe you have a doctor’s appointment, believing that you have left plenty of time to spare, but did you take time into consideration for that traffic jam?  As the road in front of you fills with bright lights as the cars in front of you are slamming their brakes on this can only mean one thing, the minutes are ticking away as your car grinds to a halt leaving you feeling more and more anxious.  If you are lucky you are able to run into work just in time or worse still you arrive at your doctors over half an hour late.

Car drivers all over the country have all been there, it can be highly frustrating especially when the roads are clogged with bumper to bumper traffic.  Have sympathy for those having driving lessons.  Unfortunately this daily tribulation that is experienced by millions of drivers is showing no signs of disappearing.

Solutions available to ease the pain

There are some simple solutions you can carry out that will help ease the burden of being stuck in a traffic jam when driving as well as using some of the skills you gained from your driving lessons.  Some of these need more preparation than others.

LISTEN TO AN AUDIO BOOK – If you have never tried listening to audio books, you might surprise yourself and love it.  The most popular novels are usually the best audio books too.  On a more practical side you can try and learn a new language.

CATCH UP WITH YOUR FRIENDS – While we don’t encourage you to use your mobile phone while on the move, if you have a hands free and are sitting for a long period of time then it is permissible.

LISTEN TO YOUR FAVOURITE RADIO STATION – Alternate between a music station and a all-talk station to stop you from being bored.  There is nothing better than listening to your favourite DJ on your morning commute to work.

Have a thought however for those carrying out driving lessons, Brighton and surrounding areas that face traffic jams day in, day out. To avoid being stuck in a traffic jam yourself, look for alternative routes if you can.  Otherwise be prepared.

 

 

Winter driving tips

 Winter brings with it snow, cold and Christmas but it also brings a higher rate of breakdowns. Most breakdown services put on extra patrols during cold snaps because the number of breakdowns double. Ice and snow can make roads extra challenging, even for the most experienced driver.

 

But with some easy preparation you can drive safely on the roads even when snow and ice strikes. The Highway Agency [http://www.highways.gov.uk/traffic-information/seasonal-advice/make-time-for-winter/be-prepared/] suggests you use the POWDERY check list to make sure you are ready to drive in wintry weather:

 

·      PETROL (or diesel). Have you got enough? Do you know where to fillup?

·      OIL- check levels once a month

·      WATER – check radiator and screen-wash regularly

·      DAMAGE- check wipers, lights etc for signs of wear and tear or damage, and make sure windscreens, windows and lights are clear of ice and snow.

·      ELECTRICS – check lights, indicators and controls are working properly

·      RUBBER TYRES – are they well inflated, legal, with good tread and free from damage?

·      YOU – are you fit to drive? Have you slept well? Are you taking any medication(s) that could make it unsafe for you to drive?

You should also check the weather forecast in case any change in the conditions have been predicted.

 

The Highway Agency also recommend you pack an emergency kit consisting of:

 

·         Ice scraper and de-icer

·      Warm clothes and blankets — for you and all passengers

·      Torch and spare batteries – or a wind-up torch

·      Boots

·      First aid kit

·      Jump leads

·      A shovel

·      Road atlas

·      Sunglasses (in case the glare from the snow is too dazzling)

·      Food and a thermos with a hot drink

·      Any medication you, or other people travelling with you, need to take regularly.

But what should you do once you’re in the car and ready to go?! Those who have been studying their driving theory will know that the stopping distance is 10 times longer when the roads are icy or covered in snow, what is there to know about driving in snow and ice?

 

For better control you should select and stay in a higher gear, if possible consider moving away in second gear rather than first. This gives you better control. To avoid wheel-spin move away as gently as possible.

 

Once on the road it is important to get your speed right, not so fast you risk losing control but not too slow that you lose momentum on hills or in traffic. Going down hill avoid using your brakes too much and select a low gear. Braking, steering and acceleration need to be done as smoothly as possible.

 

It is also a good idea to plan your route going through busy roads as these are more likely to have been gritted. Should you skid remember to take your feet off the pedals and steer! Only use the brake if you cannot steer out of danger.

 

Motorway advices

Motorway Advices.

During your driving lessons you can drive with your instructor on twisty country lanes, congested city centre roads, quiet residential streets and busy dual carriageways. But until you have taken and passed your practical driving test driving on the motorway is illegal.

Which is probably why so many learner drivers and new drivers are nervous about the idea of driving on the motorway for the first time. In actual fact 2pass.co.uk says that they have little to worry about: “Motorways are safer, than normal roads…there are no sharp bends, no oncoming traffic, no right turn, and no roundabouts. The lanes are always wide, and well marked, and are usually straight for long distances.”

SmartDriving.co.uk also has some words of reassurance: “Motorways are designed to help you get your destination as quickly and safely as possible.” But because they are much faster they require a lot of concentration due to any changes in traffic occurring quicker than they would on roads a new driver might be more used to.

Be Prepared!

There are lots of things you can do to make yourself feel more prepared to go on the motorway for the first time. As always make sure your vehicle is in good condition for a long journey. A long journey will put you and your car to the test, so both need to be ready. Make sure you are well rested so you can keep up a good level of alertness. You should also make sure you have familiarised yourself with the route so you are aware of any exit numbers or diversions you might need to take.

Joining

Just as when you join dual carriageways you can join motorways via slip roads, roundabouts or even from a dual carriageway. Remember it is important to build up your speed quickly and if you are joining from a slip road signal right to alert drivers that you are joining the motorway. You will also need to check all of your mirrors, for people following behind you and to check in your right mirror, as well as quickly glancing over your shoulder, so you know it is still safe for you to enter.

Lane Discipline

Once you are on the motorway you need to stay alert not just to other drivers on the road but to the electronic signal systems that are used to warn motorists of any accidents or traffic jams ahead. As usual keep to the left hand lane unless you are overtaking, unless otherwise road signs tell you otherwise.

Keep a good amount of space between you and other vehicles on the road, this means you have time to check your mirrors and signal to make others aware of any manoeuvre you might plan to make. It is recommended that you leave 2 chevrons between you and the next car.

Overtaking

This is a question of good judgement and no different from overtaking on the dual carriageway. Leave enough space from the vehicle you intend to overtake to both give them a chance to see you and you a chance to speed up once you have begun the manoeuvre. Be sure to alert other drivers of your intention by signalling in good time and don’t forget to cancel your signal once you are in the next lane so as not to confuse other drivers. Once you are at a safe distance from the vehicle you overtook signal that you intend to move back into their lane.

Leaving

You will most likely leave the motorway via a slip road. If you have prepared yourself you will know when to start looking for your slip road by checking for the exit number, this is on the bottom left-hand corner of the direction signs in a black square with white numbers. When you see the second sign indicating that your exit is coming up you should move into the left hand lane (if you aren’t already in it) and look out for the countdown markers.

You can indicate to show your fellow motorway users of your intention to leave the motorway once you have passed the first marker and then be sure to check you speedometer and use the deceleration lane. Some slip roads can have bends and if you have been driving at high speed for a long time it can take a while to get used to a slower speed.

You can also book a lesson with your instructor after your test so you can go on the motorway and learn more about the complex system in a familiar car with dual control.

Speeding

Until you master the art of finding the biting point and changing up and down the gears as you learn to drive you might think speeding doesn’t apply to you. Particularly if you are a bit of a nervous driver and are anxious about going above a certain speed.

However as you build confidence you will also probably build you speed. Which is good, provided you stay within the speed limit! There will be situations where you may feel under pressure to speed up a little too much, you’re late, keep being overtaken or a car is following very close behind you for instance. You might just think you know the route well enough to go a little faster.

Whatever reason you might think you have to speed, it is important that you stay within the limit. Allow other road users to over take you if they wish to go faster than the imposed speed limit for that road. In around 30% of fatal road accidents it is the speed at which a vehicle was going that caused the fatalities. Yet Safespeedforlife.co.uk estimates that that around two thirds of drivers often exceed the 30mph speed limit.

The higher the speed the faster you need to react in time to prevent an accident happening. Essentially, by driving too fast you dramatically reduce the amount of time you can take to notice and then react to an unexpected situation. A collision at high speed causes a far greater impact than colliding at a lower speed would. If you remember your physics lessons you will know that the faster an object is going the more energy will be released on impact.

The vehicle and human body driving and/or hit will absorb this energy. SafeDriving.co.uk shared these statistics regarding car speeds and survival rates in the event of a collision with a pedestrian:

• Hit by a car at 20 mph, 3% of pedestrians will be killed – 97% will survive
• Hit by a car at 35 mph, 50% of pedestrians will be killed – 50% will survive
• Hit by a car at 40 mph, 90% of pedestrians will be killed – 10% will survive
• Hit by a car at 50 mph, greater than 99% of pedestrians will be killed – fewer than 1% will survive
The Transport Research Laboratory has demonstrated that even a 1mph reduction in average speed results, on average, in a 5% reduction in collisions. So remember – those speed limits are there for a reason and sticking to them can make the difference between life and death.

Every car online

Every car online by 2014

Almost everyone carries a small and very powerful computer in their pocket. The smart phone is now seen as a necessity for modern life. With an ever growing amount of gadgetry cars can also now be thought of as large computers we use as transport.

The BBC’s technology programme Click thinks it is a very real possibility that all new cars will be online by next year, using similar technology to that used in smart phones. Click is referring to it as the: “app-culture infiltrating the dashboard – from a parking space finder to a way to get coupons for local restaurants, or directions that can pop up on the windscreen.”

For such an app-culture to really be successful in a car the vehicle needs to be connected to the internet. It needs to be able to receive the required information without too much button pushing or searching from the driver. Therefore much as been invested in voice command technology for the connected car.

But this is not just so you can tweet on the move, or update your Spotify playlist as you zoom down the motorway. The connected car can use applications that allow it to show you where local petrol stations are and what their current prices are. City drivers might appreciate the app that can find them a parking space – it does this by analysing an aerial view of local street spaces. Currently being trialled is a system that can make a countdown pop up on the dashboard so the driver knows how long there is to wait at a traffic light before the lights change.

Within this decade Machina Research predicts that connectivity in vehicles will become ‘the norm’. [http://connectedlife.gsma.com/wpcontent/uploads/2012/02/Global_Impact_2012.pdf]: “Today the automotive sector is dominated by after-market devices such as satellite navigation or stolen vehicle recovery devices. Between now and 2020, however, the focus will shift as the number of vehicles with built-in platforms grows…Between now and 2020 built-in connectivity will increasingly become a must-have in vehicles. It will become an integral part of the driving experience.”

However the idea of more technology in a car has raised concerns that this will provide more distractions for drivers. Hand held mobile phone use has been banned in cars since 2003 but a high proportion of driving incidents are caused by drivers being distracted by their phone.

John Ellis, global technologist for connected services and solutions at Ford commented: “You could get caught up in your experience and forget that you’re driving. Better, faster cheaper is what consumers want – but with safety.” Which is why there are plans in EU law to make it mandatory by 2015 for cars to be fitted with e-call, a device which automatically calls the emergency services in the event of an accident.

There is also the worry that a connected car is an hackable car and easy to unlock. But MotoringResearch.com reports that experts have been quick to reassure that: “there will be no safety concerns from the new technology – certainly, hackers won’t be able to ‘break into’ moving cars and risk accidents. Infotainment technology is installed on a completely separate system to cars’ safety systems, meaning there should be no risk to how a car drives.”

Do you think a car with apps just like your smart phone will be an improvement or a distraction from driving?

Emergency vehicles

Emergency Vehicles

The sound of a siren can be unnerving for motorists and pedestrians alike, but it can be especially alarming for learner drivers who are unsure of how to react in that situation and panic. There are a few things you can do in order to stop the appearance of emergency vehicles taking you be surprise when you are behind the wheel.

As in all situations; don’t panic! The drivers of emergency vehicles are specially trained, in a manner you are not, to manage these situations. It is simply your job to make it easier for them to carry this out.

Stay calm so you can quickly and sensibly judge what the best action to take is. If the sound of sirens does take you by surprise then according to SmartDriving.co.uk it is a sign that: “you have not been checking your mirrors nearly as often as you should be.” As the Highway Code states in rule 194: Emergency vehicles. You should look and listen for ambulances, fire engines, police or other emergency vehicles flashing blue, red or green lights, headlights or sirens. When one approaches do not panic. Consider the route of the emergency vehicle and take appropriate action to let it pass. If necessary, pull to the side of the road and stop, but do not endanger other road users.

It can also be harder in built up areas or if you are going at speed to hear emergency vehicles over engine noise until they are quite close. Using your mirrors and scanning the horizon for flashing blue lights means you give yourself every chance to spot emergency vehicle approaching. Then you are more prepared to create space for the emergency vehicle to pass. Of course you should be constantly assessing the road situation anyway! So this should be no problem.

Once you have worked out the route of the emergency vehicle be aware of other vehicles around you also planning to slow down or move out of the way around you. You need to be sure you won’t create an obstacle for the emergency vehicle.

As the Highway Code suggests, it is preferable to pull in to the side of the road and stop, make sure you signal so the emergency vehicle and surrounding traffic knows what you are planning. However in some cases this is not possible and you should always remain within the law. If you are on a one way street with no option to move in you should continue – keeping within the speed limit – until you have the opportunity to allow the emergency vehicle to pass. You cannot enter a bus lane or stop in a box junction in order to make room for an emergency vehicle and nor should you run a red light.

Keeping calm and making a good decision means the situation will be dealt with quickly. Once the emergency vehicle has gone by and you have checked there are none following you can continue safely with your journey.

Service and car maintenance

Why service and maintenance of your car is important

Think passing your practical test and buying a car (or convincing someone else to insure you on theirs) is all there is to responsible driving? Turns out you’re not alone. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has found that many young drivers are failing to have their car serviced and maintained properly.

In a survey asking 2000 motorists about their attitudes on car maintenance SMMT found that of those surveyed 10% aged 18-24 claimed their vehicle wasn’t ever serviced. Among 25-34 year olds the percentage rose to 12%, with that age bracket failing to have basic services or repairs carried out. Those in the over 55 age group had a better record of keeping their vehicle services up to date, with 95% saying they regularly kept to their vehicle’s recommended service schedule.

Not taking your car to be regularly serviced can be dangerous, both for the driver and other road users. If you don’t have your car serviced you aren’t ensuring the brakes, the steering, the suspension, the tyres, the tyre pressure, lighting, windscreen wipers and so on are in proper working order. This greatly increases your car’s risk of breakdown and general wear and tear.

A service also checks and replaces oil, oil filters, air filters, spark plugs, fuel filters, as required by the manufacturer’s schedule. A car that is regularly serviced to its manufacturer’s schedule will be more efficient, have fewer fuel consumption issues and will, therefore, be more environmentally friendly.

The survey also found that the majority of 18-24 year olds polled were unaware that they needed to keep up with vehicle software upgrades. With the computing power of cars growing at a fast rate the 57% who don’t have regular software upgrades on their vehicle are missing out on security and safety upgrades can bring.

There is also a question of keeping the car’s warranty valid. If if becomes apparent after an engine or transmission failure that the car has not been serviced to schedule then warranty payments are at risk of being declined.

SMMT Chief Executive Paul Everitt commented that: “Putting off service and repair work is a false economy with risks and costs outweighing short-term gains. To stay safe and keep costs down, motorists should stick to servicing schedules and have repairs carried out promptly at a manufacturer main dealer.”

You can find out from your car manufacturer about when to service your car and other requirements to keep your car efficient and safe.

Driving Phobias

It is believed that 1 in 10 people suffer from a phobia at some point in their life. They can strike at any time and can be highly debilitating. While a low level anxiety regarding likely dangers can be attributed to a healthy ‘fight or flight’ instinct; living with a phobia can be a problem that can have an increasingly interfering impact on the phobic person’s life. One very common phobia is a phobia of driving.

A phobia of driving can develop even in the most experienced of motorists. This can be triggered by any number of incidents, such as being involved in or seeing a road accident. However a phobia can simply develop for no clear reason over time. Smart Driving says: “There are the hidden stresses that build gradually each time we drive – and the more obvious stresses that result from involvement in an accident or road-rage incident. then there are stresses that arise simply from getting lost or having a bad day at the wheel.”

Symptoms of phobia are very unpleasant and can include; heart palpitations, sickness, chest pains, difficulty breathing, dizziness, ‘jelly legs’, intense sweating, faintness, dryness of throat and restricted of fuzzy vision or hearing.

If you experience any of these symptoms it is important to first acknowledge you are not in the minority. A lot of people experience these symptoms when driving. Anxiety Care  have some suggestions for those who wish to overcome their phobia, such as building up from sitting in the car with the engine running to driving short distances until you feel ready to drive on a ‘trapping’ road such as the motorway with a companion. Employing relaxation techniques before driving can also help overcome any feelings of anxiety. However it is important to visit your doctor if you believe this anxiety could be linked depression.

AnxietyCare.org.uk don’t recommend simply trying to avoid driving in future: “avoidance brings a reduction of the tension, and rapidly becomes a habit, so that the next attempt becomes more difficult, and so on until the attempts to face the problem stop altogether. Avoiding the situations that make us feel frightened makes us more sensitive to those situations, and ‘conditions’ us to fear them even more.”

You can also help lower your anxiety levels by making sure you are prepared for certain possibilities that you have concerns about. Planning your route beforehand, learning about breakdowns and how to avoid them and finding out how you can make your journey safer can help make you feel more relaxed about any driving you may need to do.

It is common when first learning to drive to feel nervous behind the wheel. During your lesson you will only be pushed beyond your comfort levels as necessary in order to progress further in your lessons.

Government to be more strict about young drivers

Insurance brokers GoCompare have released research that shows motorists in Britain would like the Government to be more strict about young drivers. They believe stronger road discipline for those aged between 17 to 24, such as driving curfews, would improve road safety.

GoCompare commissioned the research which questioned 2000 motorists and found that 50% believed the Government should introduce a zero drink-drive policy for young drivers. 49% said they would like to see newly-qualified drivers choice in a car restricted to vehicles with smaller engines. 40% also indicated they liked the idea of behaviour-based car insurance policies for young drivers.

A curfew to prevent young drivers from driving at high risk times, such as after dark and late at night, was backed by 28% of those surveyed. 34% believe the police should have powers to issue and enforce an instant short-term ban on young motorists caught driving recklessly and 28% agree that young drivers should be barred from carrying passengers in their cars until they have gained a specific amount of driving experience.

Young, newly qualified drivers are a vulnerable group of motorists. Young male drivers aged between 17 and 20 are 10 times more likely to be killed or seriously injured on the roads than their older counterparts. Statistics like these drive their claims costs up to 3 times higher than the average. 29% of the younger drivers questioned by GoCompare.com admitted the often broke the speed limit.

GoCompare.com’s Head of Motor Services Scott Kelly commented that: “The results of this study suggest that UK drivers feel it’s time to consider radical new measures to try to curb the number of accidents caused by young drivers, and that perhaps as a group they should be more restricted in how, when or what they can drive.”

Car manufacturer Ford is way ahead of GoCompare.com it seems. The company has designed the MyKey system that can be used in their Ford Fiesta model [http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21483160] which allows the parent or guardian of a young driver to impose speed limits and even volume control on the car stereo system.

Using a master ignition key to set a number of electronic restrictions and instructions in the car the young driver uses a key that identifies them as the secondary driver. Their key is unable to override any instruction given by the master ignition key, instead warnings are flashed up on the screen if the driver is getting close to the imposed speed limit and the volume won’t go any higher than the master key settings allow.

Systems can be disabled until all the seatbelts are fastened using the Beltminder and parents can check the car data to see how many miles have been covered, speeds reached and fuel consumed. The system is a no-cost option on the Fiesta and a new key (up to 8 can be provided for a car) will cost between £30 and £50.

The system was first introduced in the USA in 2009 with the speed limit of 80mph and the option for parents to decide if warning tones should sound when speeds of 45, 55 or 65mph are reached. But it has only been made available in Britain late last year. Now with the recent addition of the option to have an automatic connection to the emergency services in the event of an accident. The driver without the master ignition key is also prevented from deactivating any safety technologies such as the Electronic Stability Control and Active City Stop – these help prevent low speed collisions.

Ford’s European MyKey system architect, Peter Patzelt said: “All parents know that if teenagers are experts at one thing, it’s finding ways of getting into trouble, MyKey allows Fiesta owners to set sensible restrictions for young drivers, and delivers peace-of-mind for parents.”

MyKey also reminds young drivers of low fuel levels sooner than usual car systems, the driver gets a warning sound 125km before fuel is likely to run out, this is instead of the more usual 80km before that point.

The hope is the MyKey technology will help instil better driving discipline and habits in young drivers who use it. Pim van der Jagt, the Managing Director at Ford’s Aachen research centre said that the system gives parents the option to provide a young driver with extra safety precautions without impinging on their independence: “It also encourages safety values.”

In the USA Ford conducted its own survey about how MyKey technology appeals: “MyKey is appealing to parents of teen drivers, including 75 percent who like the speed-limiting feature, 72 percent who like the more insistent safety-belt reminder, and 63 percent who like the audio limiting feature, according to a Harris Interactive Survey conducted for Ford.”

According to the Harris Interactive Survey 50% would be more inclined to allow their teenage driver to use their car more if it were fitted with MyKey technology.

GoCompare Scott Kelly: “perhaps some tighter control of young motorists would encourage responsible driving from the outset and could help to make the UK’s roads safer for everyone.”

Do you think MyKey will have much of an impact on the road safety of young drivers? Or would a Government crackdown help?

Driving test nerves

Whether it has taken you hours or months of driving lessons in Brighton and Hove, it’s what every learner driver is working towards, getting their driving up to and beyond test standard. Passing your driving theory test demonstrates you knowledge of road signs, the Highway code and perception – your practical test is just that, putting all that knowledge in to practice.

However we all suffer from exam nerves and many people worry their nerves will get the better of them on the day of their driving test. This particular form of anxiety has been coined Performance Related Stress and can affect some people more than others. If you feel you are suffering from performance related stress you certainly aren’t the only one and your examiner will be aware you are likely to be experiencing nerves.

There are a few things you can do to combat performance related stress. Being prepared and knowing what to expect is one way to avoid stress. At Brighton Marina Driving Lessons you can undergo mock tests so you have experiences driving without the usual input from your driving instructor. It also means you can develop a better understanding of the marking methods used during the exam and what constitutes a major or minor fault.

On the day you will need your driving theory test pass certificate and both parts of your provisional licence – paper and plastic. Once at the test centre you will be required to fill in some paperwork to confirm you are providing a properly insured vehicle for the driving test and that you have been a resident of this country for the necessary amount of time. You will also be given the option of being accompanied by your instructor on your test.

Once you are ready your examiner will ask you to take a quick eye test, all this involves is reading a car number plate from around 20 metres. Your examiner will then ask you two show me, tell me questions regarding a vehicle safety check. Once you have done this you can proceed to the driving portion of the test which should last around 40 minutes. It will include a reverse manoeuvre, an angle start and possibly an emergency stop.

With regard to manoeuvres if you believe you need to correct your point of turn pull forward and explain to your examiner you need to try again. If you realise your tyre is touching the kerb remember there is a difference between hitting the kerb and touching it. If you only touched it then it does not necessarily constitute a fail.

Likewise if you stall your car don’t worry. Your examiner is aware you will be nervous. Keep calm and restart the car to continue as normal, unless you stalled the car in a dangerous situation it does not mean you have failed. Your driving examiner isn’t looking for perfect driving (although that would be nice!) but safe and accurate driving.

You will also be asked to drive independently for 10 minutes. If you forget the directions or request your examiner made don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat it. The DSA states: “Driving independently means making your own decisions – this includes deciding when it’s safe and appropriate to ask for confirmation about where you’re going.” Going the wrong way won’t affect your test, unless you make a driving fault, and your examiner will guide you back to your correct route.

If this is not your first time taking the practical driving test then don’t forget the national driving test pass rate is 45%, meaning more people fail than pass it. If nerves got the better of you last time there is no need for this to happen again with the help of relaxation methods.

You can use breathing exercises to calm yourself down. Breathing exercises are recognised as a very effective calming method – actors use them before going on stage and it’s also thought to be very important in sport. DrivingTestSuccess.com suggests the 4-7-8 breathing exercise. Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4. Hold that breath and count to 7. Then slowly exhale through your mouth for the count of 8. As you exhale make a soft ‘whoosh’ sound by holding the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth. Repeat this exercise 3 more times and you should feel more relaxed.

It also helps if you can get a good night’s sleep before your driving test. If you can’t sleep just make sure you are well rested the night before.

Try to book the test around a time you are used to driving. This means the road conditions will be familiar to you even if the route you take isn’t. A morning test might be a good idea if you are concerned your nerves will only increase throughout the day. If you’re worried about disappointing people or embarrassed about the idea of having to tell people if you fail Squidoo.com suggests you simply don’t tell them about the exam! This takes a lot of pressure off.

Remember, a little bit of stress is good for you as it gets your adrenalin going which makes your more alert and ready to react quickly. if you make a mistake during the test, try not to worry and continue as normal, if it was not serious it does not necessarily mean you have failed.

And most importantly don’t forget, if you weren’t ready, your instructor would not put you forward for the test!

Veteran driving

Driving lessons in Brighton during rush hour might feel like driving in a war zone, especially if you are passing a school and looking out for young people darting out into the middle of the road while trying to negotiate passing the school bus and not holding up the family 4X4 behind you. But the conditions are, of course, very different.

Those who join the American Army undergo hours of combat driver’s training. They are trained to be hyper-vigilant and scan the roadside. Doesn’t sound that different from your driving lessons? They are also taught to speed, ignore traffic rules and change lanes erratically. While this would undoubtedly be highly dangerous on civilian roads in the UK or US, in the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan these methods could help soldiers avoid gun fire and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Former Army captain Will Coulter, who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan told Nasdaq.com: “In the beginning of the war, we just drove as fast and as crazy as we could to stay safe without getting blown up by IEDs or small arms fire…When I was there in 2005 we would scan all around the vehicle to make sure there was nothing out of place, and we also had to look for snipers, vehicle-borne IEDs and a huge spectrum of unknown threats that could exist out there…You had a gunner stand in the middle of the vehicle through a turret with a weapon to deal with any threats you may encounter.”

It seems many of those veterans returning from war zones are finding it difficult to dial down the high reflexes they have honed while driving at home. A US car insurance company USAA, who provides insurance for those who serve in the military and their families, has found accidents where service members were at fault increased by 13% post deployment.

There is historical data that demonstrates this is not new, Eric Kuhn, a research health science specialist at the National Center for PTSD Dissemination and Training Division said: “We have epidemiological data showing that, after a deployment in Vietnam, Gulf War 1 and the recent wars, there is a spike in motor vehicle accident-related deaths.” The repercussions of driving in a war zone seem to linger for around 7 years. “I think a lot of it may be a post-deployment natural readjustment that needs to take place. So in the first few weeks — few months when you return, you’re still kind of keyed up — you’re still operating as if you’re in the war zone, but overtime you relearn and reestablish your sense of safety on civilian roadways.”

According to a study at the University of Minnesota 35% of veterans said comments had been made about their dangerous driving. However it is arguable many veterans return simply with improved attentiveness and defensiveness to their driving. As veteran Coulter explains: “I do scan the road, not in a bad way, but in my mind I’m always looking at the habits of drivers around me.”

Coulter also believes the stress management he learned in the Army improves his driving: “Stress management is another good thing you learn in driving in combat…Just because someone cuts me off or flips me a bird…I’m not going to get upset about it. I’ve learned to maintain a calm, cool, collected appearance…if a car cuts in front of you or a bomb goes off on the side of the road or you get attacked, hollering and stressing out is just going to worsen the situation.”

It has been suggested that a change in warfare, coming up against more guerilla tactics mean more trauma is experienced when in vehicles, which could be linked to some veteran’s PTSD and difficulties adjusting their driving style.

Child safety around cars

It is true that reducing your speed and keeping within the speed limit while you drive can save lives. However when it comes to saving the lives of children on the roads it is not just speeding down the streets that can put children at risk.

Whether or not you are taking driving lessons in Brighton because you want the convenience of being able to drive your children to school or nursery it is worth learning when you might need to be extra vigilant for small children around cars.

When The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) was approached by the family of a toddler who had been killed after being struck by a car in a driveway it was prompted to look at the safety of children in and around cars. “Between the ages of one and two years, infants mobility increases at a terrific, but irregular rate, so they can easily escape a parent‟s supervision for a short time and get into difficulties before the parent realises they have moved. It is not until the age of four or five that children begin to understand the concept of danger, and begin to heed warnings given to them.”

The RoSPA found that, as expected, most accidents involving both children and cars happen when a child is travelling in a car that is in a collision or hit by a car as a pedestrian or cyclist. It also found many cases where children have been injured or killed in or around a car but not due to a road accident. The RoSPA found incidents where a vehicle had reversed over a child in a driveway, or injury caused by something inside the vehicle, for instance an electric window.

The statistics of these tragic events are hard to come by because they often go unreported in the Road Accident Recording System. You can find the numbers RoSPA managed to come by here [http://www.rospa.com/roadsafety/info/children_in_and_around_cars_report.pdf]

Using the answers from 285 questionnaires RoSPA sent out to parents and guardians they found that 22% of respondents said they had begin a manoeuvre on the driveway only to notice their child was unexpectedly near the vehicle when they thought they had been elsewhere. 12% said they had seen their child run into the driveway to pick up a toy when a car was manoeuvring out of the driveway. 95% had left their child unattended in the car while they “dashed back in the house” to retrieve something. 6% of the respondents said they could recall a time when their child had ‘accidentally’ released the handbrake when alone in the car.

26% of parents never reverse into their driveway in order to leave facing forward, which would mean they could easily see if a child suddenly dashed into their car’s path. 83% of parents believed it was unlikely or very unlikely that their child would be injured by a vehicle in the driveway, “Only eight parents (3%) out of 282 who responded said that their children had been injured on a home driveway by the family car.”

Even if you consider the risk small, extra vigilance for small children and precautions such as reversing into the driveway in order to leave facing the road can bring peace of mind to parents.