Author Archives: Pete Barden

Don’t be driven to distraction…

Attention munching smartphones to bickering kids, we’re being driven to distraction by a multi-tasking modern-day world – making it ever more important to keep our eyes and brain fixed on the road ahead. Read the Crawley Down Group’s safe driving guide to ensure you’re not driven to distraction…

Have you got a child seat in the back of your car? Then the bad news is you’re at serious risk of being distracted while driving. Research by the Institute of Advanced Motorists has revealed kids top the list of reasons most likely to disturb your driving – but it’s not just unruly offspring causing problems.

Diversion to danger

There were 195,723 accidents in the UK during 2012, with a staggering 80% of them attributable to some form of driver distraction. A sobering fact from the police also reveals that becoming sidetracked behind the wheel contributes to around 105 deaths each year on UK roads.

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Here are the facts you need to know when getting behind the wheel – and why you should always be vigilant…

Children: Travelling with kids in the car is 12 times more distracting than talking on a mobile phone. Research by the Monash University research centre in Melbourne revealed that during a 16-minute car journey with children in the car, a driver will take their eyes off the road to check or speak to the kids for an average of three minutes and 22 seconds – equivalent to driving more than 1.5 miles with your eyes shut.

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Mobile phones: We all know the dangers, but it’s worth repeating that using a mobile phone while driving is illegal – and leaves you four times more likely to have an accident. Using a hands-free set is just as distracting, too. Long jail sentences await those who crash and injure people while on the phone.

Texting: Sending an sms message while driving? Don’t count on being around to receive the reply! Texting behind the wheel slows reaction times by an average of 35% for young drivers and drastically more for older motorists. This makes sending a text message more dangerous than drink- and drug-driving – leaving drivers 23 times more likely to have an accident.

Voice-to-text apps: Despite being designed to make driving safer, using voice-to-text apps to read and send messages etc, can double drivers’ reaction times. The false sense of security – and manually correcting dubious translations – is blamed.

Eating and drinking: More than 60% of drivers admitting eating behind the wheel in a recent survey by safety charity Brake – prompting it to call for increased fines for those caught dining as they drive. Not surprising, when research reveals eating at the wheel can slow reaction times by 44%.

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Daydreaming: Musing how you’d rather be glugging gluhwein in the French Alps than chugging up the M23 on a rainy Monday morning? Chances are you could soon be enjoying a break alright – in the local hospital… A survey of drivers involved in a road accident found 52% admitted they’d been daydreaming prior to having the smash.

Tiredness: Driving while tired will make you more susceptible to distractions, which is why one in five deaths on major roads can be attributed to it.

Pets: Research suggests that less than 20% of drivers restrain their pets while driving – and giving a large dog free roam of your car will hugely increase your odds of becoming distracted and causing an accident. Don’t let your best friend drive without a seatbelt, buy a pet restraint and everyone will be a lot safer while you’re on the road.

Passengers: Driving with passengers can vastly increase your risk of being involved in a distraction-related accident. Keeping conversation to a minimum can help cut the risk that suggests you’re 60% more likely to have a bump if you’re carrying passengers.

Exterior distractions: This can cover anything from road traffic accidents to billboards adorned with semi-clad models advertising their wares. Be wary of getting in cars with male drivers, too; nearly 25% of men admit to being distracted by attractive pedestrians – compared with just 3% of women at the wheel.

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Music: Yes, even listening to music can end in disaster. Drivers playing ‘fast’ music of 120 beats per minute (bpm) or more are twice as likely to crash as those with more sedate tastes. Try swapping your DJ shrapnel CD for something by Celine Dion, perhaps?

Most distracting apps

Young drivers are particularly at risk from attention-munching apps. Here’s a list from insurer Ingenie outlining the most distracting apps that drivers should disable while driving.

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Types of distraction

Technology, tight schedules and making more car journeys mean there are myriad distractions constantly trying to tempt our eyes and attention from the road ahead. Understanding the different types of distraction will help keep us on the straight and narrow.

Visual distraction: This occurs when objects or events impair the driver’s concentration – encouraging it to wander from the road ahead. Visual distractions are usually most serious in complex areas, such as cities and motorways, where there’s lots of fast-moving information for the brain to process – leaving the driver less able to identify serious hazards. Less demanding situations also pose risks, with drivers’ minds 50% more likely to wander from the road to surrounding objects or scenery

Beat it by… Reducing speed, concentrating on the road – and giving your brain more time to do its job.

Cognitive distraction: This is where motorists think of something not related to driving the vehicle… that’s daydreaming to me and you. Studies reveal that a driver’s visual field narrows while behind the wheel, so thinking about other subjects results in more time staring straight ahead. This ‘tunnel vision’ means the driver spends less time looking in mirrors and scanning for hazards.

Beat it by… Leaving your daydreaming or problems at home. It’s a safe bet that crashing your car will spoil your plans, or make problems even worse – so poke your head out of that tunnel and take a look around.

Biomechanical distraction: This is boffin-like speak for doing something physical behind the wheel that’s not related to driving the car – such as reaching for something, or holding an object such as a cup of coffee. This will leave the driver less able to anticipate hazards – or react to them.

Beat it by… Keeping your hands on the wheel and waiting until you stop to drink that latte, or reattach the sat-nav that’s just fallen off your windscreen.

Auditory distraction This is when sound stops the driver from making the best use of their hearing. From warring kids on the backseat to your favourite CD, you’re more at risk of having – or causing an accident.

Beat it by… Keeping the volume turned down on noise in your car is essential for your wellbeing. In a test, with two children in the back of car, arguing over who gets to play with an iPad, we found the commotion hit a peak of 99dB – equivalent to having a motorcycle revving on the back seat. Not the recommended soundtrack for safe driving.

Did you know… Concerns about driving distractions were raised when windscreen wipers were first introduced – nervous drivers were worried they’d be hypnotised by the rhythmic, repetitive movement as the blades swept back and forth across the screen.

While you were away…
Just a brief glance to the kids on the backseat can leave you driving ‘blind’ for terrifying distances. Here’s how far you’ll have travelled while you were ‘away’ from the screen in just two seconds.

Speed Time distracted Distance travelled Equivalent to…
25mph 2.0 seconds 22.2 metres 5.5 Skoda Fabias in a row
30mph 2.0 seconds 27.8 metres 7 Skoda Fabias in a row
38mph 2.0 seconds 33.3 metres 8 Skoda Fabias in a row
62mph 2.0 seconds 56.0 metres 14 Skoda Fabias in a row

Technology to beat distraction

Avoid using all apps or internet-connected in-car technology altogether while driving, but there are some great safety systems to help counter the risk of distraction for drivers. Here are just a few you should consider…

Head-up display: Next time you’re browsing the forecourt, look out for a model with head-up technology. This projects data such as speed onto the lower-reaches of the car’s windscreen – cutting the amount of time your eyes are diverted from the road.

Attention assist systems: This tech uses sensors to monitor your driving behaviour and will detect if you are becoming drowsy or distracted – triggering alarms if it becomes concerned. Look out for it on the options list.

Lane departure warning systems: Using a small camera – usually mounted on the rear-view mirror – this system warns drivers if they become distracted and start to veer out of the lane they’re travelling in.

Blind-spot detection: Changing lanes while distracted can have tragic consequences, but this system can help prevent accidents by warning drivers of vehicles hiding in the car’s blind-spot. Find it on the options list.

Collision avoidance: Systems, such as Skoda’s Front Assist, use radar technology to detect if a collision with a vehicle or large object is likely. If the driver’s distracted, this will issue a warning, then automatically apply the brakes if no action is taken and a collision deemed imminent.

Speak to the Crawley Down Group for more information on speccing your new car with the best safety kit.

So, next time you’re heading out for a drive… give the kids a large gobstopper, buckle up the dog, turn off the mobile and put something very slow (and possibly a little dull) on the stereo. You should be just fine.

Be safe  out there…

pothole-picture

Reporting potholes and claiming compensation!

Torrential rainstorms, severe flooding and the prospect of freezing weather mean that 2014 is threatening to create the perfect storm to deliver the UK’s most damaging pothole season yet. Read The Crawley Down Group’s guide to find out all you’ll need to know about the motorists’ blight we all love to hate.

We’ll look at just how dangerous and damaging these Tarmac terrors can be for you and your vehicle. We’ll also explain what to do if your car falls victim to one of the many potholes scarring the streets of Sussex, Surrey and Kent.

Pothole

Pothole

Reporting a pothole

If you spot a pothole, you should always take time to report it. This will force the responsible council to deal with it and you could save vulnerable road users – such as cyclists and motorcyclists – from far worse than a dented alloy wheel. Simply head to Google and type in ‘report’ pothole’, or download a smartphone app such as the Government backed application Fill That Hole.

Possible damage: Striking a pothole is most likely to damage wheels and tyres. The impact can cause tears, bumps and blowouts in the tyre, while the wheel can be left buckled, cracked or completely shattered. Other issues include damage to suspension, tracking and wheel balancing.

Trip to the garage: If you hit a pothole and think your car might be damaged, keep calm and pull over as soon as it’s safe to do so. Then, check tyres for bulges, cuts and signs of puncture. Also look for damage to the wheel itself – a cracked or buckled wheel could lead to loss of control or sudden deflation of the tyre.

Inspect the underside of the car for any escaping fluids. Striking a deep pothole could result in oil, brake fluid, or hydraulic leaks – all of which make it dangerous to continue driving.

Closeup of an experienced mechanic servicing a car at his workshop

Closeup of an experienced mechanic servicing a car at his workshop

If you’ve lost any parts – such as wheel covers – only recover them from the road if it’s safe to do so.

If your wheels, tyres and fluids look okay, it should be safe to proceed and check whether the car’s steering and suspension systems have been damaged. If the car’s handling seems ‘different’ than before, then it’s likely you’ve damaged part of the suspension system. Ask yourself; do you feel an increased amount of swaying whenever you make simple turns? Does the car plunge forward during braking? Also, check for changes to the steering; does it pull to one side, fail to centre properly, or feel heavier than before? Are there vibrations through the steering wheel. If you answer yes to any of these questions, park your vehicle in a safe place and call your garage or breakdown service for further advice.

Additionally, many months of driving on pothole-scarred roads can result in cumulative damage to your car’s steering and suspension. You might not notice this gradual deterioration, but it doesn’t make it any less dangerous. Regular checks at your local dealer of tyre centre will help to pick up any problems.

Car Inspections

Car Inspections

Can you claim for pothole damage?

Yes, but there’s no guarantee that your claim will be successful. The amount of payments made to motorists in 2012 ranged from £8 million in North West England to a paltry £0.1 million in the East Midlands. Councils in the South East paid out £2.7m, which equates to an average of £207,692 for each of the region’s 13 councils – a mid-table figure on a national basis.

Making a claim

Here’s what to do if your car is damaged by a pothole…

Supporting evidence: It’s important to record as much supporting evidence as possible. Along with basics such as time, date and location, use your smartphone to take video and photos of the pothole – if it’s safe to do so – and visible damage to your car. Take a wider photo of the general scene showing the pothole and surrounding area. Note the approximate depth and width of the crater, too.

You might be in an unfamiliar location, or on an unmarked rural road when a pothole strikes, so download a smartphone app such as GPS Data, which will let you record the exact location of the pothole – you can then enter this in sites such as Google maps to find the address.

Also collect names and addresses of any witnesses if the pothole caused more serious damage.

Who to claim from: Next, find out who’s responsible for the road where damage occurred. To find out which council maintains the road, you can head to this council finder.

However, there are exceptions where the local authority (LA) will not be responsible for the road. Motorways and major trunk roads are maintained by the Highways Agency, while red routes in  London are looked after by Transport for London. Contact the relevant body for your claim.

Contact the local authority or responsible body: Now, it’s time to make the claim. Compile a dossier – including all your additional evidence – and send it via post or email to the body responsible for the pothole. Don’t forget to include reports, quotes, or bills for any damage.

Expect the claim to be rejected by the LA or responsible body, this will be a standard procedure for many councils. They will usually cite the statutory defence that it was unaware of the pothole and that it had regularly inspected the road in question.

However, if you believe this to be untrue, cite the Freedom of Information Act 2000, to obtain details of the Council’s road inspection reports for the road where the pothole was located. This will detail inspections, works carried out and reports of defects – such as potholes. This will reveal if the council was aware of the pothole, or had breached its own regulations for regular inspections of the road in question. If so – repeat your claim.

Top tip: Find out how to submit a freedom of information request by opening Google and typing in ‘West Sussex County Council freedom of information request’ (replace WSCC with the appropriate council) and you’ll be provided with a direct link to all the information you need.

Wait for a response from and be prepared to negotiate a settlement – avoiding expensive legal battles.

Send us your pothole pics

Shame your council into action by sending us photos of the worst potholes in your area. Send them via facebook.com/crawleydowngroup or Tweet them on @cdgcars.

PS. If you’re driving around the South East, it’s worth avoiding Holly Lane in Banstead, Surrey – it’s been revealed as one of UK’s worst roads for potholes.

All you need to know about potholes – facts and figures, avoiding them and driving them!

It's pothole season...

It’s pothole season…

Most drivers won’t need convincing that potholes pose a problem on the region’s roads, but many might not realise just how big that problem is. Here are the latest facts and figures you need to know.

Read The Crawley Down Group’s guide to find out all you’ll need to know about the motorists’ blight we all love to hate.

Pothole latest: Updated January 2015

Where you’re most likely to make a claim: Here are the top five counties for pothole claims. Surrey is the where it seems you’re most likely to suffer damage, with the rest of south eastern counties following on. Councils are also paying out less in most cases – despite the huge rise in claims.

Where you're most likely to make a claim for pothole damage

Where you’re most likely to make a claim for pothole damage

Car damaged every 11 minutes

A car is maimed by a pothole every 11 minutes, according to shocking new data from UK councils – yet the authorities are refusing more compensation claims than ever.

The Freedom of Information request revealed that during the last financial year, local authorities dealt with almost 50,000 damage claims – an increase of 2,500 over the previous period.

This equates to roughly one claim being lodged every 11 minutes day and night, 365 days a year. However, the bad news for drivers is councils refused to pay out for damage in 77% cases of damage caused.

Councils also slashed the amount of compensation paid, with the average payout for a successful claim in the 2013/14 financial period falling to just £286 from £357 the previous year.

The average administration cost of each claim – successful or not – was £147, a cut of £2.00 from the 2012/13 financial year.

Facts and figures

Potholes filled: More than 2 million potholes were fixed in England during 2013.

Per local authority: The average number of potholes filled by each local authority in 2013 was 16,041.

Cost per pothole: The average cost to fill a pothole was £52 in 2013

Total spend: Around £100 million was spent repairing potholes.

Frequency: It’s claimed Britain has a pothole for every mile of road.

Most common car damage: Tyre damage (43%), damaged suspension (34%) and damaged wheels (26%).

How to avoid potholes

Avoiding potholes is often an impossible task, but there are ways to cut the risk of hitting one in the first place – or reducing damage if you do. Here are our tips…

Check tyre pressure: Under- or over inflated tyres can increase damage and hit your car’s handling in the event of a pothole strike.
Stay aware: Drop back from the traffic flow – leaving more time to react if you see a pothole, or notice traffic swerving to avoid one.

Beware of puddles: An innocuous-looking puddle could be concealing a cavernous pothole below its dark surface.

Reduce your speed: Sounds obvious, but this is the best way to beat potholes. Slower strikes will cut repair bills.

 How to ‘drive’ a pothole

If there’s no way of avoiding a pothole, how you drive through it could reduce damage, or even avoid an accident.

Braking: If you spot a pothole but it’s too late to avoid it, you should brake progressively as you approach it, but release the brakes before you hit the crater. Entering a pothole with brakes slammed on will compress the suspension and force the front of the car into a dive – worsening any damage and increasing your chance of losing control.

Roll: Take your foot of the throttle prior to impact. This is so you ‘roll’ over the pothole and cut the chances of damage.

Avoid the urge to swerve: A violent last-minute swerve could increase damage due to the wheel’s angle as you turn – suspension systems and alloy wheels handle straight on impacts better than bangs from the side – while also risking collisions with other vehicles or road architecture.

10 to 2 rule: Always hold your car’s steering wheel at the correct ‘10 t0 2’ position, but this is especially important when riding a pothole.

Diary of a pothole strike

What happens to your car when you hit a pothole? From potential damage to assessing if your vehicle is safe to drive – here’s our diary of pothole strike.

When: Potholes can strike at any time, but you’re most likely to come across scarred Tarmac during winter months. Rain and freezing conditions provide the perfect breeding ground.

Possible damage: Striking a pothole is most likely to damage wheels and tyres. The impact can cause tears, bumps and blowouts in the tyre, while the wheel can be left buckled, cracked or completely shattered. Other issues include damage to suspension, tracking and wheel balancing.

Send us your pothole pics

Shame your council into action by sending us photos of the worst potholes in your area. Send them via facebook.com/crawleydowngroup or Tweet them on @cdgcars.

PS. If you’re driving around the South East, it’s worth avoiding Holly Lane in Banstead, Surrey – it’s been revealed as one of UK’s worst roads for potholes.

Driving in floods and heavy rain

Heavy rain has left much of the South East subject to a Highways Agency flood warning or alert, so it’s essential that you and your car are prepared for driving in heavy rain and on flooded roads. Follow our guide and stay safe on the streets this winter.

Don’t underestimate the dangers posed by wet roads – driving in heavy rain or floods is hazardous and should be avoided as much as possible, but if you have no alternative, follow these tips to help ensure you remain safe.

Long Ques

While many vehicles – such as four-wheel-drive SUVs – are designed to negotiate relatively severe flooding, the water holds dangers that can leave even the largest car stranded and the occupants at risk.

Water and your car’s electrics don’t mix, which is especially bad news for petrol-powered vehicles with their complicated electronics. Moisture in your car’s wiring can result in a complete breakdown, or loss of essential systems such as lights, windscreen wipers and air-conditioning.

Driving through floods can also cause water to be sucked into the car’s engine – resulting in smashed pistons, damaged crankshafts and a written-off  engine. Merely an egg cup of water can destroy your car’s engine. All types of motors are affected by this, but turbo-charged and diesel units are most at risk.

Of course, these are just some of the risks to your car, but flooding can have far more dangerous consequences for the driver and passengers. Driving into flood water of just 12-inches can pick up your car and float it away.

So – avoid damage to yourself and your car – by following our guide to staying safe on sodden roads.

Don’t drive

This is the best advice for staying safe. If there’s any way of leaving your car at home in extreme conditions, then take it. Using public transport can be safer in times of extreme weather, with bus and rail companies having well-planned systems in place for just such times. However, ensure that trains and buses are operating before you pull on your wellies.

Driving in heavy rain

If you have to take the car, here are our tips for driving in heavy rain, and staying as safe a possible.

1) Plan your route: Choose a route avoiding areas that are prone to flooding. You’ll also need to drive at slower speeds, so allow more time for the journey. Tune into a local radio station, which will keep you up to date with weather conditions, flooding and road closures where you are. Use this website to find local broadcasters on your route. Avoid using smartphone apps, because they can be distracting while you’re driving.

Rain and roads

2) Check your tyres: Make sure your rubber boots are inflated to the correct pressure, before you leave home. This figure will be listed on the car and in the manual. Also check your tyre’s tread-depth – the deeper it is, the more water it can displace and help prevent skids and aquaplaning (where your car is essentially floating on a film of water – leaving you without any steering control). The minimum legal tread-depth is 2mm, but the AA recommends at least 3mm for winter driving.

3) Charge up and fill up: Don’t leave home without a fully charged phone and plenty of fuel to facilitate unplanned diversions around floods.

4) Inspect your windscreen wipers: Brittle or greasy wiper blades can leave you driving blind in heavy rain. Replacing them is quick and inexpensive, just contact the Crawley Down Group’s service centre now to make sure you’ve always got a clear view of the road ahead. Don’t forget to check your rear wiper at the same time. Also, make sure your air-conditioning is working properly, because wet weather will promote vision-sapping condensation on your windows.

5) Skids: Wet weather makes skidding much more likely, so slowing down is the best way to avoid one, but if it does happen, here’s how to regain control. If you experience a front-wheel skid, keep the wheels in the direction of the skid, while a rear-wheel skid requires you to steer into it – i.e if the rear wheels slide out to the right, you’ll also need to steer to the right. If possible, remove your feet from the pedals and allow engine braking to slow you, but if you need to brake, make it gentle.

6) Aquaplaning: Effectively, this is where your car is floating on a layer of water, leaving you with no steering control. If you find yourself heading for a large area of standing water, you should prepare to aquaplane. Do not slam on your brakes – ease off the accelerator and de-clutch the car if it’s a manual or gently feather the throttle for automatics. Keep the car as straight as possible as your enter the water – your tyres will need to be straight when they reach the other side and regain grip. Aquaplaning is caused by going too fast for the road conditions, so reducing your speed is the best way to prevent it occurring.

7) Turn on your headlights: This will help other motorists see you through the wall of spray that heavy rain creates. However, this does not mean illuminate your foglights – they will blind drivers and mask your brake lights. These are for periods of dense fog – the clue’s in the name.

8) Stopping distances: These increase dramatically in heavy rain, so make sure you’re aware of this while driving. See how distances increase by trying the Royal Society of Preventing Accidents’ wet weather stopping distance simulator.

9) Drop back: Always increase the distance to the car in front during rainy conditions, but especially so when it’s heavy and lying on the road surface. Keep at least five car-lengths back from the vehicle you’re following.

10) Look out for large or fast-moving vehicles: These can create large and blinding showers of spray as they pass you. Always be prepared to slow down or stop.

Driving through a flood

If you’re driving in extreme wet weather, make sure you travel at an appropriate speed – and that you’re able to stop quickly if you come across a flood. If this happens, park in a safe position and consider if you can turn around and avoid it. When this isn’t possible, make sure the water is no more than six inches deep of standing water, or four inches if it’s flowing. Don’t try wading through it to find out, watch as passing trucks or 4x4s negotiate it – looking for invisible dips in the road where the water could be even deeper.

Don’t attempt to drive over flooded bridges, the flowing water can easily float your vehicle and wash it into the river or stream – causing risk to life.

If you decide to proceed, stay in the middle of the road, where the camber will ensure the water is at its shallowest. Only do this if you have clear forward vision to spot oncoming cars. Keep your speed to a crawl, in a low gear with high revs – slipping the clutch will help keep the rpm high, but the speed low. This should stop the engine stalling – and prevent water being pushed into the engine’s air intake.

Driving in floods and heavy rain

Enter the water at 1-2mph, then speed up to no more than 3-4mph once in. Look out for pedestrians and other traffic while driving through the flooded section of road. Drive too fast and your tyres can lose contact with the road – this is known as aquaplaning. If this happens, hold the steering wheel straight and lift off the accelerator until your tyres regain grip.

Once out, make sure you gently test your brakes as soon as possible – stopping can be severely impaired while they’re wet.

Driving across a flooded Ford

A ford is where a road crosses a river or stream – and should not be underestimated in times of heavy rainfall or flooding. There are more than 2000 fords in the UK, but you shouldn’t assume the saying ‘safety in numbers’ applies.

Flooding and heavy rain can cause normally docile fords to become raging rapids. Don’t blindly follow your sat-nav if it directs you through one – the device has little road sense in times of adverse weather. You might be able to see the road emerge on the far side, but you have no idea how deep the ford is – or what else lies beneath the dark water.

First thing to do is look for a depth gauge – most fords have them – which will reveal how deep the water is. A visual inspection will show how fast the flow rate is. Only a few of the UK’s fords have warning gates or lights, so don’t assume it’s safe to cross just because there are no warnings or closures in place.

If you’re at all concerned, turn around and take another route. People have died while attempting to cross flooded fords, so a 20-minute detour is a small price to pay for you and your passengers’ safety.

However, if you decide to proceed, here are our tips for crossing fords in times of heavy rain…

1) Depth: Make sure the water is no deeper than 20cm if it’s fast flowing… just one foot of rapid water is enough to lift the average family car, while 60cm of standing water will do the same.

2) Slowly: Remain in a low gear and keep the engine revs high. Proceed at no more than 1-2mph and.

3) Be prepared: Always be prepared to stop and reverse out if the water deepens unexpectedly – don’t push on regardless.

4) Engine: Don’t speed up once in the water – this could cause water to be sucked into your engine and destroy it.

5) Stay safe: If you breakdown in mid-ford, gauge the depth and flow of water before leaving your vehicle. Just 15cm (six inches) of fast-flowing water can knock you off your feet – and much less for a child or elderly passenger.

Fords can be dangerous even when there’s a low risk of flooding, so check out wetroads.co.uk for advice on any crossings you may need to use.

How to get out of a sinking car

Here’s the AA’s advice for how to get out of a sinking car.

If you breakdown in a flood

In the event of a breakdown in flood water, don’t prop open your bonnet; this will make things worse. If the water isn’t too deep or fast-flowing, get out of your car, lock it and head to a safe location away from the flood and highway until assistance arrives.

If you’re stuck in fast-flowing water, call the emergency services immediately on 999. However, if it’s safe to leave the car, use a warning triangle to alert other drivers.

Avoid contact with the water if possible, it could be contaminated with sewage and fuel.

Wet weather Kit

  • Stay safe in wet weather by making sure you don’t leave home without this kit in your car
  • Mobile phone
  • In-car mobile phone charger
  • Warning triangle
  • Torch/flashlight
  • Light waterproof jacket
  • High visibility vest
  • Foil blanket
  • Spare clothing
  • Snacks
  • Fresh water
  • Wellies

Flood facts

Using common sense is another great way to help motorists stay safe while driving in wet weather and floods. A 2013 survey by the AA and Environment Agency suggests this isn’t always the case, though. Here’s what the research revealed…

More than 50% of UK drivers were happy to endanger themselves and their vehicles by  driving through floods.

The survey of 21,165 AA members also found that 27% of motorists would drive through flowing flood water deeper than 30cm – the depth at which moving water can lift a car.

The AA says that a third of flood-related deaths involve vehicles, because drivers don’t take the risk of flooding seriously.

The motoring organisation also revealed it rescued almost 9000 vehicles that were stuck in floods during 2013 – with the insurance bill totalling more than £34 million.

And finally…

As well as keeping yourself safe, make sure you do the same for other vulnerable road users, such as cyclists and pedestrians. Always slow down and give them a wide berth while passing.

It’s also worth remembering that splashing pedestrians is illegal and can result in prosecution.

Stay safe and dry on the roads.

Dashboard

New vehicles agency launched

Driver & Vehicle Standard Agency

A new agency with responsibility for maintaining vehicle standards has been launched as the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), Transport Minister Robert Goodwill announced recently.

The new agency, which employs 4,600 people all over the UK, replaces the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) and the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) with responsibilities for setting, testing and enforcing driver and vehicle standards in Great Britain.

Robert Goodwill said:  “In June the department announced that DSA and VOSA would merge to form a new agency. This decision was made after the motoring services strategy consultation, and is a demonstration of the government’s commitment to put customers and businesses at the heart of its services.

“The two organisations have a history of working closely together and the merger is an opportunity for the DVSA to provide even better and more efficient customer service to motorists and commercial operators. I fully support the new agency and look forward to seeing the DVSA take shape from April 2014.”

There will be a gradual introduction of the new agency name ahead of the formal launch in April 2014, with no change to the level or quality of services during the transition period.

DSA and VOSA will be incorporated within the new agency and the new branding will reflect this until their services and trading funds are brought together over the next financial year.

DSA improves road safety in Great Britain by setting standards for driving and motorcycling, and for the education and training of drivers and riders. The agency also carries out driving and riding tests.

VOSA provides a range of licensing, testing and enforcement services with the aim of improving the roadworthiness standards of vehicles, ensuring the compliance of operators and drivers with road traffic legislation, and supporting the independent Traffic Commissioners.

Ministers announced the merger of the Driving Standards Agency and Vehicle and Operating Services Agency on 20 June 2013 following a three-month consultation.

The chief executive of both agencies is Alastair Peoples, who will become the chief executive of the single agency.

The DVSA will have a broad range of responsibilities, including processing applications for licences to operate lorries and buses, operating testing schemes for all vehicles, and enforcing the law to ensure vehicles comply with legal standards and regulations.

The agency will also enforce drivers’ hours and licensing requirements, provide training and advice for commercial operators, investigate vehicle accidents, defects and recalls, and run tests for instructors of large goods vehicles, as well as driver trainers.

To ensure costs are kept as low as possible there will be a phased approach to the introduction of the new branding over the next financial year, where items will be replaced when stocks run out.

6 Top Tips for Winter Driving from the IAM

Road safety charity the IAM’s top advanced driver, Peter Rodger has offered his expert advice on what drivers can do to keep safe and well in the winter.

He said: “It can take a bit longer to get yourself going on a cold, dark winter morning, and getting the car going is no different. Give yourself the time to deal with the extra things involved in getting on the road.”

Winter Car Check

Rodger offers six tips to avoid seasonal car problems:

  1. A modern car doesn’t need to warm the engine up before being driven, so you can avoid wasting fuel by not switching on the engine until you are ready to drive away. However, he does advise that if you need to use the heater/demister before you move off, run the engine for a while so you can start with a nice clear screen.
  2. When you get in the car, make sure all extras – like lighting, heaters, radio and the like, are turned off before you try to start the engine. This is because starting puts a heavy load on your battery.
  3. Clean your windows inside and out (don’t merely remove the ice) as a dirty screen will mist up quicker than a clean one.
  4. Using aircon helps keep the car’s air more dry, and avoid misting up. It seems counter-intuitive using aircon in the cold – but it does work! Just remember to set the temperature up, too.
  5. Carefully consider where you park at night. Some places will be less impacted on by ice on the windows because of shelter from buildings or trees.
  6. Rodger said: “Now is the time to check the battery is in good condition that your screen wash has a freeze-resistant additive, and do any other preparation for winter your car needs.

Now is the perfect time to start putting the above points into action to ensure a stress-free winter with your vehicle.

Don’t forget, you can get a winter check at Crawley Down group for just £19.99 to ensure your car is in the best condition possible to face the cold. Find out more here http://www.cdg-cars.com/aftersales/winter-check

Petrol Prices

Fuel Duty Freeze

During the Conservative Party Conference, chancellor George Osborne pledged that he would freeze fuel duty until 2015.

He said, in part: “Provided we can find the savings to pay for it, I want to freeze fuel duty for the rest of this Parliament… Conservatives don’t just talk about being on the side of hard-working people. We show it day in day out in the policies we deliver.”

Petrol Prices

The Petrol Retailers’ Association (PRA) welcomes the announcement that Chancellor George Osborne MP pledged to freeze fuel duty until the next election in May 2015, meaning that the planned duty rise of 2 pence per litre in September 2014 is unlikely to go ahead.

Brian Madderson, Chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association said: “The PRA has been lobbying Government and the Treasury to make an early announcement about their intentions on freezing fuel duty, so it is welcoming news to hear the Chancellor’s commitment. It will be the longest period of duty freeze (4 years, 4 months), in over 40 years if the announcement goes ahead as planned.”

“Although this is a step in the right direction, it is disappointing that the announcement was dampened with a comment by George Osborne saying, ‘provided we can find the savings to pay for it’. The PRA will continue to liaise with government and we hope to see further developments in due course”

The Road Haulage Association has weighed in with its own perspective on the matter. A spokesman said: “The Road Haulage Association acknowledges the Chancellor’s commitment to freeze the level of fuel duty for the duration of this Parliament, provided that the available money could be found.

The first point made by the RHA in its pre-Budget submission in February this year was to request “a commitment to no further increase in diesel duty this Parliament. The Chancellor’s speech will be seen as all-but granting that request.”

RHA policy director Jack Semple added: “Haulage firms will take on board the Chancellor’s pledge not to increase on this tax on the UK supply chain and will develop their business plans accordingly,” said RHA director of policy Jack Semple.

“We should remember that UK fuel duty is still by far the highest anywhere in the EU. The Chancellor should take the bold step to cut duty, which, as has been demonstrated by independent research commissioned by the RHA for the FairFuelUK Campaign, would boost growth and create jobs.”

And as one would expect other motoring organisations added their thoughts to the news, including the RAC, who want the chancellor to go even further to help Britain’s hard-working and hard-pressed motorists.

RAC technical director David Bizley said: “The Chancellor’s intention to extend the freeze on fuel duty is welcome, but it’s time for the Government to consider a more radical overhaul of the motoring taxation regime so that fuel poverty becomes a distant memory for those in our society with low income but still have a high dependence on their vehicles.”

“There is, in fact, good evidence that the Treasury coffers would benefit more if he were to reverse the trend and cut fuel duty for struggling motorists.

“Year on year, receipts from petrol and diesel have begun to slowly decline since 2010 when the coalition was formed. Combined petrol and diesel consumption has fallen 6.6% from 48.3bn litres in 2008 to 45.1bn litres in 2012 while fuel duty revenue actually increased by £2bn (£24.1bn to £26.1bn – an 8% increase) due to duty increases of more than 7p a litre in that period.”

“The numbers are a clear illustration of the dilemma in which the Government finds itself. The recession has taken its toll over the last five years and this, combined with motorists driving more fuel efficient, environmentally-friendly vehicles means that Government would need to increase fuel duty at above the rate of inflation, just to maintain tax revenues from fuel.

“Many motorists are suffering genuine hardship as a result of the cost of fuel for essential journeys to the shops, to work and to support their families so fuel duty can no longer be treated by the Treasury as a cash cow.”

Of course, the announcement of the freeze does rely on some government spending savings being effected, so only time will tell if he can pull the prize freeze off. But from the motorist’s perspective, let’s hope he can!

winter car care

How to drive safer in the winter

You’ll notice that I titled this article “How to driver safer in the winter” and not “how to driver safely in the winter” and there’s a good reason for that. Because, with the best will in the world, there’s always a chance that something utterly unexpected might come along. But if you are properly prepared, you can drive safer.

In countries that have snow and ice for months on end, preparing for winter driving is easy. You just have snow chains or perhaps snow socks fitted to your vehicle’s wheels (or the drive wheels in the case of snow socks) and leave them there until the thaw, many months hence.

But for those of us living in the UK snow chains and snow tyres really aren’t an option. If the weather is bitingly cold and it is a pitch-black winter’s night, how will the average motorist fit snow chains or snow socks?

And you can’t use snow chains on non-snowy roads and must also take tyre socks off on non-snowy roads, difficult in the UK as our weather which can be very patchy, even over relatively small areas.

Wintre Tyres

Wintre Tyres

Doubtless you’ll have seen videos on the Internet of happy, smiling people quickly and easily putting snow chains or snow socks onto their car wheels. However, these videos never show someone with fingers feeling as if they are only minutes away from frostbite, struggling in bitter weather, with a rapidly dimming torch clamped between their teeth as, on a cold, dark night, they struggle to fit snow chains or snow socks to a stubborn vehicle, when they have fractious children in the car.

Also, as mentioned above, as soon as you’d left the snowy area (as can happen in Britain) you’d be expected to immediately remove the snow chains or the snow socks, so both of these solutions seem to be less practicable than you might think.

The best option, as any competent tyre technician will tell you, are properwinter tyres. Have these fitted to your car throughout the winter months and that’s really all you need do.

They do not only help your drive better in snowy conditions, they are also designed to work better at the kind of temperatures we face in the UK from October until the end of winter. They also help when driving on wet roads or on ice. This is in part due to the design of the tread but also due to the special formulation for the rubber that is used.

Winter tyres are designed to remain flexible in extremely cold conditions, whereas standard tyres would be damaged, and their special tread patterns reduce the risk of aquaplaning when driving on wet or slushy roads, improving performance even on snow and ice.

Lee Taylor, of Allianz Global Assistance in the UK says: “We understand motorists can be put off by the cost of winter tyres, but it’s important to remember they are a long-term investment. Also, our increasingly harsh winters have increased demand for winter tyres, which of course creates greater competition and reduces the price, so they are more affordable than ever.

“Most drivers will have to replace the full set of tyres on their vehicle at some point during ownership. Swapping to winter tyres for a few months each year not only means they last many years, but it saves wear and tear on a car’s standard tyres and helps them to last much longer too. This means the standard tyres need replacing less frequently, making the cost of the winter tyres much less prohibitive over the ownership cycle.

“If and when the promised snow does hit, we would expect to see what have become all-too-familiar scenes in the media of vehicles stuck in gridlocked traffic or having collided with other vehicles or skidded off slippery roads and into snowdrifts. Too many UK drivers and their cars are simply not prepared to cope with these extreme conditions as they have not been the norm up until very recently.

“Our European neighbours, who expect extreme winters every year, take time to prepare their cars fully which means they are not only safer but also more able to continue as normal even when ice and snow does hit. Unfortunately UK drivers often seem to put perceived additional cost above safety in this respect, but as our winters become harsher and the roads more dangerous, we must all do what we can to protect ourselves and other road users. Fitting winter tyres can help motorists stay on the road and stay safe.”

All you need do is arrange to see the nice tyre technicians at Crawley Down Group (www.cdg-cars.com) and ask them to fit some winter tyres for you. According to the experts, you’ll soon notice an improvement in your winter driving.

Be ready for the winter!

Winter Car Check

Winter Check

There is always an increase in road traffic accidents in the dark and cold winter months. Obviously driving conditions are worse but one of the major problems is that, despite the fact that winter comes every year, many drivers just don’t seem to have prepared either their car or themselves for the poorer and more dangerous weather.

While no one knows what the weather is going to do exactly, if there’s heavy snow there’s a high chance that much of the country will come to a standstill!

Mark Bower-Dyke, Chairman of Be Wiser Insurance advises: “It’s as simple as having a few extra bits in your car so that if you do get caught out in bad weather you’re either able to deal with the problem, or comfortably wait it out!”

We’ve compiled a checklist of the items to have in your car to stay prepared for the bad weather this coming winter…

  • A Shovel: Ex-army folding shovels are easy to fit in the boot.
  • Blankets or Warm Coats: having a nice warm winter coat in the back of the car, or warm blankets, can be a lifesaver when it comes to being stuck in traffic because of adverse weather.
  • Torches and Hi-Vis Tabbard: Being seen and seeing can be useful if you’re dealing with a breakdown situation or similar in poor visibility.
  • Large Bottle of Water: Can keep you feeling fresh and focused – especially if caught in a jam for a long period of time.
  • Sunglasses: Will help avoid bright light reflecting of snow and puddles
  • Glass Cleaner: Your heater is often on the de-mist setting, blowing traffic fumes, suspended oil and smoke onto the inside of the screen which quickly builds up a film of grime which is a major cause of glare. Clean your screen inside and out with glass cleaner at least once a week.

Don’t forget your car itself should be checked over too to ensure it runs smoothly during the winter months. Find out about our £19.99 Winter Check here: http://www.cdg-cars.com/aftersales/winter-check