With the change in seasons throughout the year and the continued increase of motor vehicle traffic in the UK, it is likely that you will encounter bad weather when driving. In the winter months, a driver is at increased risk of visual impairment, such as heavy rain, snow or hail. The road surface is different due to ice, leaves and surface water. Statistically, a driver is 20% more likely to have an accident when driving in poor weather conditions.
Preparation for bad weather
Bad weather can sneak up on us, but it is safe to say that it is more likely during the winter months. We can definitely expect more rain and wind. These alone can make driving hazardous with reduced visibility and increased risk of losing control of the car. There are a few simple steps that car owners can take as winter approaches to reduce the risk. One very low-cost tip is to make sure that the windscreen wipers are fit for purpose – this will be invaluable when an unexpected downpour hits when on a long motorway journey. Also, check that the tyre tread is within legal thresholds – this is especially important when expecting higher levels of surface water on the roads. A tyre with higher tread depth will have greater grip on the road and be much safer.
The first thing that you should ask yourself when setting out on a journey when the weather is bad is “do I really have to make this trip?”. Of course, the safest answer is no – if you don’t go out then there is no danger. If the answer is yes, then make sure both the driver and vehicle are ready for the trip. If your car is covered with snow or ice, it is very tempting to just clear enough to be able to see out of the driver’s window. However, please take the time to remove the visual obstructions from all windows and lights. Any restriction could cause a hazard to be missed, including other vehicles not seeing you due to your headlights being blurred.
If the trip is important and cannot be delayed until weather conditions improve, try to schedule the majority of the driving to be during daylight hours. This will improve visibility and reduce risk. Even when heading out in the daylight, it is very important to check the headlights before starting out. If visibility is slightly reduced, it is highly advisable to turn on your headlights, even during the daytime. Dense fog will need fog lights to be turned on at short notice, so make sure you know how to turn these on before you start the car!
When making that unavoidable journey in bad weather, adjust your driving style to suit the conditions. This can just mean going a little slower than usual to give you a fraction longer to react if something should happen on the road ahead. It is also a good idea to be weary should there be standing water (aka a big puddle) ahead – if needs be stop to assess the depth of the puddle before entering. You don’t want to get halfway through to find out that the puddle is too deep for the car only for the engine to cut out!
Recent figures from the DVLA show that the number of people in the UK aged over 90 with a driving licence topped the 100,000 figure for the first time since records started. In addition, the figures also reveal that 4.5 million people over the age of 70 also hold a driving licence.
We all undergo physical and mental changes as we grow older. Recognising and understanding these changes is important if you are the driver of a motor vehicle. In addition to the physical and mental changes, as we grow older there are a number of medical conditions that may impact our ability to drive a vehicle. One, in particular, can have a significant impact, cataract surgery. It is estimated that 330,000 operations per year in England alone are performed and 10% of people aged over 65 have already had cataract surgery.
Has age caught you up?
Growing old is just a natural part of our lifecycle and the changes our bodies go through with the advancement of time is beyond our control. Many drivers continue to use their vehicles well beyond the age of 70. The Automobile Association (AA) estimate that by 2030 over 90% of men over the age of 70 will be behind the wheel.
It is sensible to stop and re-evaluate your own ability to continue driving as you get older. Self-awareness is important, if you feel uncomfortable driving, you should stop and discuss it through with your family and your GP.
Types of changes – physical and mental
Physical changes are the more obvious to notice, although some of these can be gradual over a long period of time. This makes acknowledgement of these changes more difficult to accept. Changes to your vision. Even if you do not wear prescribed glasses you may experience problems in low light or at night; glare from approaching vehicles; locating objects in your peripheral vision; and judgement of distances.
Changes to your hearing. Will make it difficult to detect sirens from approaching emergency vehicles; other car users horns; and warning sounds from inside your own vehicle. Decreased strength and flexibility. This may manifest itself as joint pain or inflammation that restricts movement; checking your blind spot, and making steering more difficult.
Mental changes that may impact senior drivers include: decreased reaction time may impact your ability to process lots of information quickly; reduced attention span that may cause loss of concentration; and, a cognitive ability that may reduce the ability to remember such things as your destination or the meaning of road signs.
The Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) suggests that older drivers may benefit from a refresher driving course. This can reassure older drivers who may have concerns about their driving abilities.
Medical Reasons – cataract surgery
There are a number of medical conditions that can impact our ability to operate a vehicle including: dementia, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Cataracts in one or both eyes can impact your ability to drive.
There is plenty of statistical evidence that confirms a vast improvement in eyesight for cataract patients. However, there are a number of drivers who are unable or limited to in their nighttime driving following cataract surgery. The problem is linked to the type of lens used to replace the natural lens. Intraocular lenses Lens (IOL) are smaller than the natural lens in the eye. Following surgery, this can lead to glare or a halo effect. This is because light entering the eye is picked up by the edge of the IOL.
This halo effect can make it almost impossible to drive a vehicle at night. The problem is compounded by the other possible health and mental changes that some older drivers experience.
If you have had cataract surgery and are experiencing glare or halo issues these should be discussed with your GP or healthcare professional.
At some point, we all must stop and consider our own safety and the safety of other road users. This may be due to one single event like cataract surgery or more likely, it will be as a result of a number of different factors. The important thing to remember is that you are the best person to make that important judgement call.
Any seasoned driver will know that your first car is something you never forget. There are numerous factors that go into making the right choice, and while aspects such as purchase and insurance costs are, of course, important, it is also essential to look at considerations relating to reliability and safety, particularly given the unfortunate risk profile of young drivers. Here, we take a look at some of the main considerations to bear in mind when choosing a first car.
Price and Value
Let’s not hide from the facts – the purchase price is always going to be a defining factor, but look deeper than the numbers. Some cars depreciate more than others, and if you are planning on trading the car in after a year or two, it is well worth taking a close look at used car resale values before you make your choice.
For example, while a BMW 1-series might seem broadly similar to a Ford Fiesta but with a higher price tag, it will also hold its value better. If you plan on keeping the car for years and running it into the ground, by all means go with the blue oval, but if you want something that you can look after and sell on, Bavaria’s finest is a compelling option.
If you are buying a brand new car, the latest NCAP safety ratings are there for all to see, but most first cars are by no means in the first flush of youth. The Daily Mirror recently ran an article which singled out some of the safest used cars on the market in the sub-£5,000 bracket, and singled out three vehicles from the Volkswagen stable, the VW Up, Seat Mii and Skoda Citigo, for special commendation.
Something a little different?
There is a common perception that today’s cars, with their electronic management systems and smart virtual intelligence almost drive themselves. It’s handy, but does not provide new drivers with the experience that former generations gained. An increasingly popular idea is to choose a classic as a first car. Vehicles like the Morris Minor, VW Beetle and Mini never go out of fashion, are simple yet involving to drive and are inexpensive to buy, run and insure.
A First Car to Remember
BMW 1-series, Skoda Citigo or Morris Minor, you will never forget your first car, so make sure you weigh up all the options and choose the right set of wheels for the right reason.
Some of the biggest dangers that learner drivers face on the road are lorries and commercial vehicles. Brake revealed that in 2013 there were over 6,000 crashes involving heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) in England and Wales, equal to 17 a day, which is a large number considering that they only make up 10% of all traffic. In this post we look at why lorries can be hazardous, driving tips that will you increase your safety when driving behind or next to lorries, and look at how a new mandate in the USA that will reduce the number of commercial vehicle accidents.
Keeping a Good Distance From Lorries
Commercial vehicles come with the potential hazard of objects falling off the vehicle. The Yorkshire Post reported that out of 41 lorries stopped by the West Yorkshire Police, 8 vehicles were charged for insecure loads. Car drivers aren’t aware that just by being in the same vicinity of a lorry could be potentially life ending. In the same report, Sergeant Steve Suggitt of the West Yorkshire Police’s Safer Roads and Neighbourhood Support Team paints a picture of what lorries could potentially mean to other vehicles: “At 30mph, a vehicle travels 100ft in 2.3 seconds—that’s equivalent to the length of a Boeing 737 aircraft. HGVs are potential killing machines.” In our post ‘How to Prevent Becoming a Car Accident Statistic’ we recommend that parents teach their children defensive driving. This means being aware of the vehicles around them by maintaining a large following distance and recognising potential escape routes. This is especially true of commercial vehicles.
Overtake Quickly but Safely
Driving beside a lorry is one the most dangerous positions a car can be in on the road. Country Living spoke to a commercial driver with many years experience who called the space right next to any lorry the “kill zone” and emphasised that it is the one space every driver should stay away from: “If the truck loses control or has to change lanes quickly, you’re going to get crushed because the truck has nowhere else to go.” When overtaking a lorry do it as quickly as possible, and if on a motorway don’t remain next to lorry.
U.S. ELD Ruling
According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, drowsy driving has caused up to 72,000 crashes, with 6,000 fatal crashes, annually in America. Additionally, the reports indicate that commercial drivers who manoeuvre tow trucks, tractor trailers, and other massive vehicles of the same category, are more susceptible to falling asleep behind the wheel.
To monitor safety and improve the trucking industry, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is enforcing a law that will require commercial transport vehicles to have Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs). These ELDs will not only implement a cloud-based monitoring system that will digitally-document every aspect of the journey, but they will also help supervise a driver’s workload. Fleetmatics points out that ELDs will be able to log the Hours of Service (HoS), which will prevent drivers from overdriving and therefore being unsafe on the road Fleet operators, road safety agencies, and truck drivers will have access to the data recorded by the ELDs, which helps all parties to recognise ways to better overall operations.
Unfortunately, in UK, a similar law has yet to be administered. Learner drivers need to be aware of the danger that lorries can present. Being aware of the potential danger is key to being safe on the road.
Exclusively written for lincsdrivingsolutions.uk
Young drivers between the ages of 17 and 24 are at a much higher risk of being involved in a car accident than older drivers. Young drivers that fall into this age group only accounts for up to 1.5% of all licensed drivers in the United Kingdom yet they account for as many as 9% of serious and fatal car accidents. In 2013, 234 teen passengers were seriously injured or killed in the UK when their young driver aged 17 to 19 was involved in a car accident. The emotional and financial trauma associated with teen motor vehicle accidents underline the importance of instilling good habits in drivers from a very early age.
Young drivers are faced with countless distractions on the road and making sure they are road-savvy can prevent the occurrence of a lot of anguish and worry. One of the greatest gifts a parent or mentor can give to a young driver is the know-how of how to keep safe on the road. The majority of bad habits teen drivers display were picked up from their parents and peers, making it vitally important to always set a good example when driving with impressionable youngsters in the car.
Tips to keep safe on the road
Keep your eye on the weather
Due to their inexperience in handling a car, under those circumstances, it is even more dangerous for a young driver to be behind the wheel of a car in inclement weather. It is of vital importance that young drivers be taught how to confidently handle a variety of bad-weather challenges. Sending a teenager for an advanced driver’s course to learn control techniques in a safe environment may end up saving their lives as well as the lives of other road users.
Practice defensive driving
It is important to teach children to always be aware of the traffic behind, ahead and next to them and to always have possible escape routes in mind. Stay at least one car length away from the car in front of you when driving at a slower speed and maintain a larger following distance when driving faster. A defensive driving course will teach a teenage driver a lot of valuable and possibly life-saving skills to enforce when driving on the UK’s busy roads.
Do not be tempted to eat, drink, scan through radio stations or even play music too loudly while driving as these can all cause your attention to drift. A wandering mind, even if only for a few seconds, can have fatal consequences. An inexperienced teen driver is more likely to lose control of a vehicle with distractions significantly increasing your chances of not noticing impending danger and not being able to control the vehicle when danger strikes.
Texting, on average, accounts for a loss of attention on the road for 4.6 seconds – enough time to drive the full length of a football field. A great deal of things can go wrong in that seemingly short space of time. Don’t even attempt to text while at a stop street as you won’t notice any vital developments that may occur when you have your head down. Rather send your text messages before you leave home or after you have safely reached your destination.
Teen drivers may, in general, very well be a higher risk on the road than more experienced drivers but it is important to realise that not all young drivers are irresponsible by nature. With proper instruction and continuous guidance, teenage drivers have the potential to turn into well-adjusted and accountable adult drivers.