New driver nerves

After hours of driving lessons in Brighton and the surrounding areas of Sussex you might think you’re getting to be a bit of an expert on the roads. But according to a recent poll of 2900 new drivers under the age of 25 taken by insurance brokers Swinton, it takes around 3 and a half years after passing the practical test for new young drivers feel they have got the hang of driving.

 

Two thirds of the young drivers who took part in the poll said they lack confidence on the road with roundabouts, motorways and driving in the dark jangling their nerves the most. Weather conditions such as snow and ice can also have an affect on a new driver’s confidence behind the wheel.

 

Young new drivers also reported being nervous about unfamiliar roads, busy roads, city centres and country roads. Narrow streets are also tough for young drivers to negotiate as well as overtaking lorries. Those polled also feared parallel parking and parking in car parks.

 

Half of those surveyed said they believed young drivers had a reputation for being reckless on the roads. 1000 young drivers thought many people imagine boy racers when discussing young drivers and 10% believe this is an accurate impression. 67% admitted to playing loud music in their cars and 44% drive aimlessly around their local area. Swinton also found that on average a new driver has around 3 near misses post test that could have been avoided if they had driven more carefully.

 

A third of new drivers with access to a vehicle meet up in car parks and the same number modify their vehicles. Lowering the car suspension or recovering the seats in new material.

 

While opinions may differ over car interior décor choices; far more concerning was the fact that 26% of new drivers don’t bother to wear a seatbelt. This has been illegal [https://www.gov.uk/seat-belts-law/overview ] in the UK and has been since 1983. In 1991 it became compulsory for those sitting in the back seats to also wear seatbelts.

 

Another dangerous practise 42% of the young drivers surveyed confessed to was talking on their mobile phone while driving. This is also illegal [http://think.direct.gov.uk/mobile-phones.html]. Other bad driving habits were driving in bare feet, eating at the wheel and exceeding the speed limit.

 

90% said they believed driving enabled their independence, but 73% of young drivers told Swinton that their social lives were being spoiled due to high insurance costs. Of those who simply cannot afford the cost of car insurance 27.10% admitted to driving their parents’ car without their own insurance. Recently Insurance costs for 17-25 year olds have sharply increased, with average premiums often reaching £4,000 per year for young men and £2,000 for young women drivers.

 

Steve Chelton, Insurance Development Manager at Swinton commented: “We are all aware of the rising costs of insurance for young drivers, but the impact that this is having on their social lives is often overlooked…The results from this survey clearly highlight that young car owners feel they are being exploited. It is costing them a fortune to enjoy the lifestyle that previous generations took for granted.”

Do you think young drivers are being exploited by insurance brokers? Or is their reputation for being reckless on the roads justified?

Brighton is the latest city to adopt a 20mph zone

After 3 years of discord and negotiating Brighton came to an end in January and drivers in Brighton and Hove are starting to notice the outcome. The Transport Committee has approved a phased introduction of 20mph speed limits for residential and shopping streets in the city.

Local taxi drivers feared passengers would think they were deliberately increasing fares by driving at a slow pace and lobbied the Transport Committee. The GMB professional drivers also have some reservations about the scheme. Mick Hidreth, the GMB’s national organising secretary said that while they supported any attempts to improve road safety: “To put in a total 20mph limit on the whole city 24 hours a day will have an adverse effect on our members especially in the evening when there is no traffic about.”

The minority Green Party-led council scheme will cost up to 1.5 million pounds and, once completed, will be one of the most comprehensive road schemes in the UK. Only major roads that lead in or out of the city will be exempt from the scheme and keep their 30mph speed limit.

Other cities beginning to introduce a limit of 20mph in their centres are Bristol, Liverpool, Oxford, York, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. Some boroughs of London will also participate in plans of lowering the speed limit.

Driving around Brighton and Hove you will have noticed the new lower speed limit starting to be enforced around Sackville Road and Old Shoreham Road and spreading out from there in the Phase 1 area [http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/downloads/bhcc/transport/2012.11.27_-_20mph_-_Phase_1.pdf]. Signs, road markings and poles will be popping up over a period of 4 to 6 weeks although the new limit will not become legally enforceable in that time period.

Brighton and Hove Council hope the programme will improve the street environment for all road users and reduce the number and severity of collisions and casualties on the road. The hope is that safer roads will encourage more cycling and walking for shorter trips in the city centre. Thereby reducing congestion and fumes.

Green Councillor and chair of the Transport Committee Ian Davey commented that: “We are delighted this important scheme has been given the green light. I am mindful of taxi drivers’ concerns but in reality any increase in journey times is likely to be minimal and we need to balance them against the significant road safety benefits we hope this will bring across the city.”

Driving as such a pace gives new learners more time to make decisions as they approach any complicated or unfamiliar situations on the road. Low speeds also mean smaller fuel consumption so the 20mph limit will also be more economical.

The council plan to make the new lower speed limit enforceable in April 2013.

Potholes

During your driving lessons in Brighton you might have noticed you are getting a crash course in steering as you try to avoid potholes in the road. Or perhaps lessons have just become an extra bumpy ride. East Sussex County Council has reported a huge increase in potholes in the Sussex area following the recent bout of winter weather.

Recently motorists using the A259 South Coast road were caught up in a 6 mile traffic jam [http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/10237917.Six_mile_traffic_jam_hits_south_coast___caused_by__dangerous_potholes_/?ref=mr] that reportedly lasted for hours.

An East Sussex County Council spokesperson said: “We have been carrying out urgent works today on the A259 to fix dangerous potholes.” The county are planning to sent out addition work gangs to fix the worst holes and resurfacing works are scheduled in order to improve roads across the county. The Council stated: “We understand that roadworks can be frustrating for motorists but hope people will bear with us whilst this essential work is being carried out.”

According to the Institute of Advanced Motorists a third of drivers have damaged their car driving over a pothole and 16% told the institute they had witnessed or been in an accident caused by a vehicle hitting a pothole. Driving over a pothole can cause axle and suspension failure, which makes up a third of mechanical issues in the UK.

If you do hit a pothole you should check your tyre pressure over the next few days. A hairline fracture in the alloy wheel from a pothole can allow air to escape and make your tyres unsafe for driving. Handling is affected by low pressure in tyres, it also makes the tyres more likely to overheat and rapidly deflate. This could be extremely dangerous if it happens at high speed.

If you are unsure after driving over a pothole you can have your tyres checked at your nearest tyre retailer. They can inspect your tyres for any signs of misalignment or loss of pressure.

How the robot cars are on the rise

Any learner driver struggling with parking manoeuvres dreams of a car that can park itself. For learners living in the US states of Nevada, Florida and California this futuristic dream could soon become a reality. The Google driverless car [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_driverless_car] has recently undergone thousands of hours of testing on the roads in busy city traffic in America to pass the legal requirements for road vehicles.

The robot car, which is a modified Toyota Prius, is the result of a project led by Google engineer Sebastian Thrun, who was also involved in Google Street View. The self-driving car’s brakes and accelerators are connected to computers.

Using a GPS system the car can keep to the recorded speed limits in any area and maintains a safe distance from other road users with a system of sensors. The car uses a laser radar system called Lidar which detects any obstacles the car may encounter on the road. Rather like with cruise control the human driver can take control of the car at any time simply by taking the steering wheel or touching the brakes.

Here in the UK, Professor Paul Newman is leading a team in modifying the Nissan LEAF electric car into a driverless car. The technology differs from the Google modified Toyota Prius; it does not rely on GPS. The reasoning behind this decision is that while GPS can tell you what road and route the car is on, it cannot tell what side of the road the car is driving on. A safety measure you don’t need to have a license to know is necessary to avoid accidents.

The modified Nissan Leaf also doesn’t use the sensor laser system Lidar. Instead the Oxford project uses cameras and lasers for scene recognition. The live scenery is linked to a pre-existing database which works out where the car is, where it needs to go and helps it avoid any collisions. This means the car would only be able to go on routes it has been on before and you use regularly, such as the daily work commute.

The people behind the self-driving car projects claim that a future of driverless cars is a safer one on the roads. With distractions such as mobile phone use or sleepiness causing, in some cases, severe crashes the possibility of a car that can respond immediately to any unexpected obstacle rather than wait for a human driver to react could reduce car accidents. Another case for the driverless car is the independence they could provide for people with disabilities or only partial sight.

Are electric cars the future?

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, continuing his championing of the electric car, has announced that 37 million pounds of government money will be invested in the installation of plug in chargers for electric vehicles in homes, streets and railway stations. The 37 million comes from 400 million pounds already allocated to promote the take up of “ultra low emission” vehicles and can be claimed up until April 2015.

The government will cover up to 75% of the cost of installing plug in points. It has been estimated by the Department of Transport that it costs up to to £10,000 to install a power point on a residential street capable of charging two electric vehicles. Earlier this year Mcloughlin said that he and his fellow ministers were enthusiastic for councils to install on-street charging points and committed to making the UK a “world leader in the electric car industry.”

Brighton and Hove already have 8 electric vehicle charging points for early adopters to use, [http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/index.cfm?request=c1217855] they can be found in Withdean, The Level, Bartholomew Square and Madeira Drive. Brighton and Hove Council plan to monitor whether the installation of on-street charging points encourages more drivers in the South East to invest in electric vehicles. This is part of the council’s endeavour to achieve an energy efficient transport system, the council also hopes it will contribute to the national 10:10 campaign [http://www.1010global.org/uk] aimed at cutting carbon emissions.

Therein lies some of the issues on whether or not the UK should wholeheartedly adopt the electric car as its preferred mode of transport in a bid to cut emissions. There is some suggestion that rather than reducing carbon emissions, the production of electric cars simply moves the emissions else where. According to a report by Norwegian university of Science published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology electric car factories emit more toxic waste than conventional car factories.

Co-author of the report Professor Anders Hammer Stromman explained that: “The global warming potential from electric vehicle production is about twice that of conventional vehicles.” The production of batteries and electric motors involves toxic minerals such as nickle, copper and aluminium. This means the potential impact of acidification is greater than it is in the manufacture of conventional cars.

Once the electric car are on the roads however, provided they are powered by energy drawn from low-carbon energy sources, they do have the potential to help reduce emissions and noise pollution. Car companies such as Nissan, Renault and Toyota have invested in the development and production of electric cars.

The Nissan Leaf and Toyota Hybrid are already available to buy. Learner drivers struggling with gear changes in a conventional manual car might be pleased to note that if the future is electric, the future is also certainly automatic.

Office Of Fair Trading Looks At Car Insurance Premiums

Over the past year motor insurance premiums have increased by 40%.

This is having a huge impact on motoring costs especially for young drivers who are expected to pay an average premium of £1,533.

Insurers claim that in UK there is a spread of a compensation culture, leading to higher premiums even though roads were getting safer.

The Office of Fair Trading ( OFT ) has said it will look into recent reports and will gather evidence over the next five weeks and publish its findings in December. Read the BBC article

Hindhead Tunnel Opens

The Hindhead Tunnel under the Devil’s Punch Bowl in Surrey has been officially opened after four-and-a-half years work. The estimated cost of the project is £371m.

It is now Britain’s longest under-land tunnel, forming part of the A3 it will vastly improve journey times on the main route between London and Portsmouth.

Ashford Rewrites Road Safety

Town planners in Kent have swept away road markings, kerb stones and traffic lights, to give all road users equal priority.

Pedestrians in Ashford who want to cross the road are being encouraged to make eye contact with drivers before stepping out.

Read more here: BBC News