Thursday, September 23, 2021
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Clean Air Zones – are you ready?

With Birmingham launching its Clean Air Zone (CAZ) on Tuesday 1 June, road users are being reminded to assess the impact on their journeys and explore options for upgrading non-compliant vehicles.

Vehicles are not banned in the Birmingham CAZ, but older and more polluting ones (pre-Euro 6 (VI) diesel and pre-Euro 4 petrol) will need to pay a daily charge to enter. Studies have suggested that around 60% of the 200,000 vehicles that enter the city centre each day could be affected.

Birmingham is the second CAZ to be launched this year, following Bath, but zones are also imminent in Bristol, Bradford, Portsmouth, Greater Manchester, Newcastle, Gateshead and North Tyneside.

London operates a more stringent Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and this will be extended to an area 18-times larger than the original Low Emission Zone by 25 October 2021.

The BVRLA, the trade body for the vehicle rental and leasing industry, has launched a new web guide at www.cleanairzones.co.uk. It provides useful information for fleets and individuals, outlining where the CAZs are coming, how they work, what administrative support is available for business fleets and what options are available if people need to upgrade their car, van or truck.

BVRLA Chief Executive Gerry Keaney said; “Our rental and leasing members are a good option for someone who regularly travels through a Clean Air Zone. They have a huge variety of CAZ-compliant vehicles that are available on a flexible and fixed-cost basis.

“They are already helping tens of thousands of businesses and individuals make the leap to fully zero-emission motoring and can provide electric vehicles and charging solutions to meet every need.”

One in five car owners never check their oil

New research today reveals that one in five (19%) UK car owners never check the oil in their vehicle. 8% of owners, some 3 million people, admit to not knowing how to check their oil level, while 11% say they know how to do it, but never do so.

The research has been carried out for Kwik Fit, which today announces that it has signed an agreement to offer Mobil oil products to all Kwik Fit customers. The deal will see the appropriate product from the Mobil Super™ range used in all of Kwik Fit’s service packages and oil changes at its 600-plus centres across the UK.

Ideally, drivers should check their engine oil every week, as recommended by most car manufacturers yet the Kwik Fit study found that even if that interval is doubled to once a fortnight, just 8% of owners meet the recommendation. Over three fifths of drivers (62%) say that at least three months go by between their oil checks, while shockingly 8% let at least a year pass before checking their dipstick again.

The research found a clear difference between the sexes. 2% of male car owners said they did not know how to check their oil, but this figure rose to one in seven (14%) among female owners. There was also a difference between younger and older drivers – 6% of drivers aged over 55 are unsure how to check their oil level on their vehicle, compared to 10% of those aged 18-34.

While drivers may have understandably lost the habit of making maintenance checks during the pandemic as they used their car less, Kwik Fit are encouraging owners to get back in the routine as checking and topping up a vehicle’s oil is important in helping prevent excess engine wear and damage.

Roger Griggs, communications director at Kwik Fit, says: “Good quality oil is vital for maintaining a smooth running car and regularly checking the oil level is a very easy way of monitoring an engine’s health. If the oil level drops from the highest to lowest mark on the dipstick in under 1000 miles, we would recommend getting the engine checked over.”

For those drivers who are unsure how to check their oil, Kwik Fit have provided a step by step guide.

1 – Park on a level surface, switch off the engine and wait for 3-4 minutes while the oil drains into the sump at the bottom of the engine.

2 – Once the engine is cool, pull out the dipstick, wipe the oil off with a clean cloth then slowly push the dipstick fully back into its tube.

3 – Remove the dipstick once more and check the oil level. It should be between the upper and lower marks – if it is closer to the lower one the oil will need topping up.

4 – If more oil is needed, it must be the right oil for the vehicle. Replace the dipstick and remove the oil filler cap. Slowly pour some oil in, using a funnel if needed and replace the cap. It’s better to add a small amount at a time rather than risk overfilling, so wait a minute for the oil to drain through the engine, insert the dipstick and check the level again. Add further oil if needed and replace the oil filler cap.

Roger Griggs says: “One of the most important things owners can do to keep their car running in the best condition possible is to regularly change their vehicle’s engine oil and filter which is why it is vital to keep to the manufacturer specified service intervals. We are delighted to have signed an agreement to offer Mobil oil in all our services and oil changes. Mobil is a sector leading brand with immense heritage in innovation and the development of lubricants and will provide our customers with proven levels of protection to help keep their engines running smoothy and extend their life.”

RoseMarie Egglesfield, Consumer Manager – Europe, ExxonMobil, said: “Mobil is excited that its premium Mobil Super engine oils are being offered at Kwik Fit service centres. Mobil Super engine oils provide proven protection to help extend engine life and are formulated to fight sludge, protect against wear and keep drivers on the road for longer.”

Kwik Fit offers manufacturer standard servicing packages which will maintain a vehicle’s warranty and keep it running efficiently. Car owners wishing to book a service or find more information can do so at kwik-fit.com

Drivers support plans to fine motorists for tailgating on motorways reveals Motorpoint poll

The new Motorpoint Stockton branch. Picture by Tom Banks

Almost 90 per cent of motorists support plans to fine fellow drivers for tailgating on the motorway according to a new poll by Motorpoint.

The new Motorpoint Stockton branch. Picture by Tom Banks

The online survey on the Motorpoint website – www.motorpoint.co.uk – revealed that 87 per cent of drivers back proposals that would see other drivers fined £100 if found to be tailgating on the motorway. Some 1,665 people took part in the study by Motorpoint, the UK’s largest independent car retailer, with a network of branches across England, Scotland and Wales.

The Government has recently been trialling new technology on parts of the M1 in Northamptonshire that detects whether drivers are maintaining a minimum of a two-second gap between the vehicle in front. During the trail late last year some 26,000 people were caught out. Tailgating has been listed as the cause in almost 600 serious accidents last year, 28 of which resulted in someone being killed.

Mark Carpenter, Chief Executive Officer of Motorpoint, said: “Tailgating has become commonplace on our roads in recent years and we are delighted to see the Government finally taking action to address something that can quite literally cost people their lives. The issue of tailgating extends far beyond just motorways, and this step won’t solve the problem overnight, but at least it is a move in the right direction.”

Motorpoint currently has over 6,000 low mileage, nearly new cars and light commercial vehicles available from over 30 different manufacturers. Every vehicle comes with the balance of manufacturer’s warranty backed by the Motorpoint Price Promise. This means Motorpoint will refund the difference to any customer within seven days of their order if they find the same car cheaper from a competitor. As a bonus, it will also give the customer £50 worth of Amazon vouchers to spend.

Plus, as part of the company’s on-going COVID-19 safeguarding processes, all vehicle collections in England, Scotland and Wales will be completed in specially designated areas to always guarantee social distancing while an online portal means the car buying experience is completely paperless with customers able to sign for their new car using their mobile phone. Test drives in England and Wales will continue to be unaccompanied for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, every purchase, whether it is instore or online, is backed by a 14-day money back guarantee.

For further information about Motorpoint’s visit www.motorpoint.co.uk

Penalty points for seatbelt offences are long overdue, says GEM

Road safety and breakdown organisation GEM Motoring Assist is calling on the UK Government to honour the commitment made in its most recent road safety action plan and increase the penalty for drivers and passengers who do not wear a seatbelt on road journeys.

In the plan, launched in July 2019, the Government said it would make seatbelt offences endorsable in, meaning people caught not wearing a seatbelt would face penalty points on their licence as well as a fine.

The offence has long been endorsable in Northern Ireland, where drivers who fail to ensure a child in a front or rear seat is not wearing a seatbelt also face points on their licence. However, these tougher sanctions do not apply in England, Scotland or Wales.

GEM chief executive Neil Worth commented: “Official figures show that despite compliance rates of 98.6 per cent among car drivers, 27% of those killed in cars were not wearing a seat belt – amounting to more than 200 deaths.

“Seatbelts reduce the risk of death by 45 per cent for drivers and front seat occupants. They also reduce the risk of serious injury by 50 per cent.

“Research shows time and again that seatbelt laws increase seatbelt use, and therefore reduce deaths and serious injuries*.

“We have seen mobile phone penalties for drivers rise in recent years, and if seatbelt offences were dealt with in a similar way, we believe would see a significant and immediate reduction in the number of drivers and vehicle occupants killed and seriously injured on our roads.”

GEM supports the forthcoming national seatbelt operation organised by the national Police Chiefs’ Council, which starts on 24 May.

Follow GEM on Twitter @MotoringAssist for the latest industry news.

Only three in ten drivers have had trouble free motoring

Despite the increasing reliability of vehicles, new research reveals that over a third of drivers (36%) have broken down in their current car. A further 34% have experienced a breakdown in a previous car, meaning that only 30% of drivers have never suffered a vehicle failure.

The study for Kwik Fit, the UK’s largest automotive servicing and repair company, suggests that car problems will still be fresh in the mind of many drivers, as more than a quarter (26%) of those who broke down in their current car did so in the last six months – some 3.8million drivers. Londoners appear to have the most unreliable cars, with 66% of drivers in the capital having broken down in their current car, almost twice the national average of 36%. Either through good luck, or good car care, the least likely to have broken down in their current car are drivers in the East of England and Wales (21% of drivers in both regions).

As the nation moves back towards more normal travel patterns with easing of lockdown restrictions, the Kwik Fit research provides a timely warning to those commuting by car. Almost a third of drivers (31%) experienced their most recent breakdown on a journey relating to work – either driving to or from work (22%) or travelling as part of their job (9%).

Concerns about cost

Despite almost exactly the same proportion of male and female drivers having suffered car breakdowns (71% and 70% respectively), men are a lot more likely to be blasé about breaking down. One in five (20%) of men say they have no concerns about breaking down – compared to 13% of women.

The greatest concern to drivers about breaking down is the cost of repairs, cited by 43% of women and 35% of men. However, the research shows that it is male drivers who should be most concerned about a potential repair bill as on average they paid £304.90 for their most recent repair, nearly £20 more than the £285.40 paid by the average female driver.

As well as being most likely to have suffered a breakdown in their current car, Londoners have paid the highest price for their most recent repair – on average facing a bill of £437.60. This is £100 more than drivers in the second most costly region, the South East (average repair cost £335.10) and almost twice as much as drivers in Wales, the area with the lowest average cost at £221.90.

Bothered about brakes but blindsided by batteries

The study found that when it comes to trying to prevent breakdowns, many drivers are focusing on the wrong parts of their car. The biggest cause of drivers’ most recent breakdowns was battery failure (17%), yet only 4% are most worried about their own battery failing. Conversely, the component most car owners are concerned about are their brakes (15%), yet brake failure was the cause of only 3% of drivers’ most recent breakdowns.

Kwik Fit is certainly not advising drivers to neglect their brakes but suggests that motorists could put an equal focus on ensuring their batteries are up to scratch. Roger Griggs, communications director at Kwik Fit says: “It’s clearly vital that drivers keep their brakes in good condition, but this new research bears out what we have seen for many years – that one of the most common causes of motoring headaches is a battery problem. Sometimes batteries will fail out of the blue, but usually there are warning signs in advance, such as a car taking longer to start on a morning. It makes sense for drivers to get their battery checked regularly, that way any problems can be detected before they’re left stranded.

“Although some breakdowns cannot be foreseen, regular maintenance, servicing and health checks can identify potential problems in advance and keep a car running smoothly and safely, as well as avoiding costly bills. As many people start to head out further afield as restrictions ease, we encourage all drivers to ensure their cars are in peak condition after months of little use. Any driver who needs advice can come and visit any of our centres where our teams will be happy to help.”

Further advice and details of their nearest Kwik Fit centre is available to drivers at the company’s website at kwik-fit.com

Pandemic exposes underlying hardships faced by working drivers

A new study by IAM RoadSmart, the UK’s largest independent road safety charity, has exposed the underlying hardships faced by working drivers that were already prevalent before the pandemic and are now likely to worsen.

The newly-released whitepaper paints a worrying picture for workers who drive for a living. Delivery drivers, taxi and private hire drivers, the gig-economy and even company car drivers face constant pressure to keep up with demand and this, along with resultant fatigue, has a negative impact on their mental and physical health.

The paper also highlights the effect of weak employer strategies, lack of policies and prosecution for health and safety lapses, together with the ever-present strain from doubts over the economy, job security, redundancy and reduction in pay due to furlough.

IAM RoadSmart is therefore calling for urgent changes to be made to support working drivers through a raft of solutions such as driver training, policies, advice and procedures.

These include education and guidance on avoiding driver fatigue and an evaluation of policies and procedures such as the length of the driving day and shifts.

Tony Greenidge, chief executive officer at IAM RoadSmart, said: “What COVID did was expose what in many cases was already there.

“Individuals involved in driving for work were already rushed and under pressure. Post-COVID they probably will be more so because there’s more fear about job security and more pressure on employers to recover lost ground. But at least now we are discussing it.”

IAM RoadSmart also believes further change needs to happen through increased prosecution of liable companies, especially SMEs, as one-third of road safety deaths are people driving for business, while there should also be a review on the resources available to drivers, such as motorway services and roadside facilities, as many drivers are deterred from stopping for essential rest due to prices.

Tony added: “People long for everything to go back to normal. The problem is, for many drivers normal wasn’t such a good place.

“The facts cannot be ignored and now is the time for CEOs and leaders to act. COVID-19 has significantly impacted an area already under immense strain. Drivers’ and riders’ safety cannot continue to slip through the net unnoticed.”

Business leaders or fleet managers can download a full copy of this report by visiting https://www.iamroadsmart.com/business/whitepapers

Calls for new initiatives to reduce vehicle speeds and make roads safer

Road safety
Cambridge, UK - Circa September 2019: Terraced street showing a 20mph speed limit sign. The historic, old houses are seen together with parked vehicles. often used as a busy commuter road.

ROAD SAFETY and breakdown organisation GEM Motoring Assist is using the UN Global Road Safety Week as an opportunity to call for smart new policies and initiatives to reduce vehicle speeds.

Road safety
Cambridge, UK – Circa September 2019: Terraced street showing a 20mph speed limit sign. The historic, old houses are seen together with parked vehicles. often used as a busy commuter road.

Central to this latest Global Road Safety Week (17 to 23 May 2021) is the assertion that low speeds save lives.

A recent study from Bristol1 showed that the introduction of 20mph limits was associated with a 63 per cent reduction in fatal injuries between 2008 and 2016.

There is widespread support for lower speeds, too. In UK surveys, 70 per cent of motorists in a Department for Transport2 survey said they agreed that 20 mph was the right limit for streets where people live. Meanwhile, a poll in Scotland3 suggested that 65 per cent were in favour, and one in four people thought it would make them more likely to walk or cycle in their everyday life.

Neil Worth, chief executive of GEM Motoring Assist, said: “Low speed on roads can help save lives and are the heart of any community. 20mph speed limits where people and traffic mix make for streets that are healthy, green and liveable. That’s why the UN is calling them ‘streets for life.”

“So we are joining safety organisations around the world to make policymakers aware of the benefits of lower speed. We want o persuade them to act for low speed streets worldwide, limiting speeds to 20 mph where people walk, live and play.”

Follow GEM on Twitter @MotoringAssist for the latest industry news.

Eight top tips to boost the confidence of a learner driver after lockdown

Learner driver

As driving lessons have been unable to take place for much of the past year, hundreds of thousands of teens have had their learning to drive journey put on hold.

Learner driver

A survey of 150 driving instructors by the UK’s largest pre-17 driving school, Young Driver, revealed that getting lessons booked in now restrictions are lifted may not be that easy. Eight out of 10 instructors said they had a waiting list of, on average, 10 learners they can’t currently fit in the diary. Half (47 per cent) said they would struggle to provide as many lessons as learners wanted and one in three (36 per cent) said learners who haven’t started learning yet may have to wait months for their first lesson.

That means it is likely that more learning will have to be done away from professional tuition – falling to parents and technology to fill the gaps. Sue Waterfield, head of marketing at Young Driver, said: “We could see this was going to be a big problem post-lockdown, so we wanted to do something to help. We have created and launched the first set of 360° virtual driving lessons, accessible via an app. These can be invaluable for learners looking to keep their skills fresh in between lessons – and for parents who might want to make sure they’re teaching the right way when they take youngsters out to practice.”

The Young Driver App takes learners from first lesson to driving test, providing lesson practice via 360° videos which can be watched on a smartphone or VR headset. The videos, which are rotatable so they can be seen from every angle, are filmed with Approved Driving Instructors, with a voiceover written and narrated by driver’s champion Quentin Willson. The videos cover everything from tackling junctions and roundabouts to manoeuvres such as parking or reversing. This is alongside theory test practice modules, hazard perception videos and top tips – everything needed to complement in car tuition.

Sue Waterfield continues: “Of course in car practice is the key, but if there’s a way to reinforce those skills at home using technology, it makes sense to do that. Parents can also help by taking youngsters out to practice – but our research shows that only a third of parents (33 per cent*) would feel confident teaching their child to drive, even alongside professional tuition.”

Young Driver has worked with teen expert, award-winning author and international speaker Nicola Morgan, to pull together some advice to help parents cultivate their learner driver’s confidence:

  1. Show you trust your child with responsibility. Showing you trust them behind the wheel of your car is a confidence boost in its own right, especially in a world where we are so often not allowed to take ‘risks’ because of safety concerns.
  2. Offer genuine and specific praise – but only for something they really did. Saying “You did really well” when they didn’t will not help as they’ll see through it. Young people almost always need the approval of their significant adults, even if they may not say so! Pinpoint specific things they did well or any good questions they ask.
  3. Praise effort not talent. You might think that saying “You’re really good at this” would be confidence-boosting but comparing them against other people will engender competition. Also, the positive feeling wears off as they start to think they are good at it by luck – they lose ownership. “Well done – you listened really well/ worked really hard/ really got the hang of that” all work better as motivators.
  4. Speak to them like an adult. Although you don’t have to be all matey and fun and jokey! You know driving is serious and you want them to think it’s serious, too.
  5. Listen to them when they express an emotion, fear or worry. Validate it: “Lots of people worry about that”, “I used to worry about that,” “It’s actually good that you’re nervous about that because it means you’ll concentrate”. Never dismiss it.
  6. Emphasise that everyone has good and bad days. If they are tired or stressed encourage them to leave their worries at the door and treat the driving lesson as a positive, energising experience. Driving is an activity which occupies enough of their concentration that they cannot simultaneously be dwelling on whatever other worries they have.
  7. Help them realise that struggling with something is still helping them learn. Praise them for keeping trying even when they were struggling. It all helps – in fact during overnight sleep, we improve the physical skills practised during the day.
  8. Practice makes perfect – even if it’s on the screen. There’s a theory that mirror neurons in our brain fire when we watch someone do something and that this may help us later perform that action ourselves. So, watching a driving instructor perform an action in a 360° video might well improve speed and efficacy of acquiring driving expertise.

Young Driver is the UK’s largest provide of driving lessons for 10-17 year olds and has delivered over 900,000 lessons at 70 private venues across the UK. For more information go to www.youngdriver.com or to download the app search ‘Young Driver App’ on Google Play or the App Store.

Nicola Morgan is an internationally-acclaimed author and authority on teenage wellbeing often referred to as ‘The Teenage Brain Woman’. Her books include Blame My Brain, which was shortlisted for the Aventis Prize, the Teenage Guide to Stress, Teenage Guide to Friends, Positively Teenage, Life Online, Body Brilliant, The Awesome Power of Sleep and Be Resilient.

New labelling for tyres seeks to highlight efficiency and performance

European tyre label

On 1 May 2021, motorists will benefit from the introduction of a new label and innovative system to help them understand how well tyres perform, especially for fuel efficiency and grip in the wet.

European tyre label

This follows concerns that vehicle owners are not aware of the significant differences between the highest and lowest rated tyres displayed on the outgoing label. According to a survey of the European Tyre and Rubber Manufacturers’ Association and Lizeo Group, just 1% of tyres in the market are ‘A’ rated for both efficiency and wet grip.

While other factors influence the low number of the best performing tyres being sold, awareness of the ratings is a primary concern.

Previously, the label was fixed to each tyre. However, the customer visiting an outlet rarely saw it because the tyres were typically taken from the stock room and fitted straight to the vehicle while the customer waits in reception. If the label and the tyre options weren’t discussed before the customer made their selection, there’s a high probability they would have left without seeing a label at all.

Equally, retailers may not have had easy access on their computers to the labels to pass on this information.

The new digital solution addresses this issue. As of 1 May, tyre label ratings will be made available to retailers through their computers and they will be obliged to provide the information to customers. This information is drawn from a European database holding the ratings of every tyre on sale, which will be made accessible to the public.

Inevitably, there will be an ‘interim’ period before the old label completely disappears. All tyres in stockrooms will have the old label applied to them and until these have been sold and replaced customers may still see the old label.

In fact, customers are likely to see the new tyre labelling information digitally via the retailer or online.

Stuart Jackson, TyreSafe Chair, said: “The key point of tyre labelling is to help those choosing a tyre to make an informed decision. There is concern that owners typically only consider cost and don’t appreciate there may be tyres that are more suitable and offer better value but perhaps at a higher price. It’s in the interest of vehicle owners to make themselves aware of the information contained on the new tyre label to cut costs in fuel, as well as improve their safety.”

What’s the same as the previous tyre label?

  • A tyre’s fuel efficiency, braking performance in the wet and the amount of road noise it generates remain the core information of the label
  • A rating is provided for each performance measure

What’s different about the new tyre label?

  • The number of ratings has dropped to five, in-line with other consumer products such as domestic appliances: ‘A’ being the best, ‘E’ being the worst
  • If the tyre is classified as suitable for use on snow, it will have the Alpine peaks symbol. A symbol for tyres classified as suitable for ice (known as ‘Nordic tyres’) is also available

92,000 motorists at imminent risk of losing their licence

92,000 motorists are at risk of losing their driving licence with just one more motoring offence resulting in a ban, a Freedom of Information request to DVLA* by IAM RoadSmart, the UK’s largest independent road safety charity, reveals.

There are some 92,000 drivers currently with 9, 10 or 11 points on their licence who face the real risk of losing their licence with another 3 points pushing them on or over the 12-point ban threshold.

This could be through everyday driving habits, ignorance or judgement errors – such as speeding, overtaking on a double white line, parking in a dangerous place, not stopping at a school crossing, carrying too many passengers or overloading the vehicle.

Many drivers may also be unaware that a lack of basic vehicle maintenance could also land you with points – such as defective tyres, blown headlight or brake light bulbs, cracked light covers, smeary windscreen wipers or worn suspension components.

Specifically, at present there are 80,484 motorists in the UK with 9 points on their licence, 7,804 with 10 points and 4,313 with 11 points.

Meanwhile, there are nearly 8,800 motorists still driving with 12 points or more on their driving licence, with IAM RoadSmart once again renewing its call for a full review to ensure that drivers with multiple points are always treated in the same way. Until these anomalies are removed confidence in the simple “12 points and you are out” system will continue to be undermined.

Reasons that these drivers can keep their licence include exceptional hardship, such as loss of employment.

Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart Director of Policy & Research, said: “The number of motorists still driving on UK roads with more than 12 points, or just under the driving ban threshold, is alarming.

“It is also an opportune occasion to educate motorists on some motoring laws that they might be unaware can result in licence points, so that motorists can change their driving habits and carry out regular basic checks of their vehicle to help make the roads safer for all users.”

Further data revealed by IAM RoadSmart’s Freedom of Information request also highlighted the postcode areas with the highest number of drivers with penalty points. These include Birmingham with 74,397, Sheffield with 56,876 and Nottingham with 56,245.

For advice on driving and motorcycle riding best practice, including details of IAM RoadSmart’s training courses on effective speed management and practical tips on vehicle checks, visit www.iamroadsmart.com.

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