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Dim and dimmer: why car headlights leave drivers in the dark

headlight stalk

Prepare yourself for one of those ‘old man yells at cloud’ opinion pieces, because I’m about to go off on one regarding the misuse of daytime running lights.

It’s a Bank Holiday weekend, which means we’re being bombarded with advice pieces designed to keep us safe and to ensure we arrive back at work on Tuesday without setting fire to the shed, murdering the mother-in-law with an axe, towing a caravan into a lake or taking somebody’s eye out with a canoe. 

But here’s some additional advice for the unilluminated drivers of Britain: turn your blimmin’ lights on.

It used to be simple: when it got dark, you twisted a stalk on the steering column or a turned a dial on the dashboard to turn on your car’s headlights.

And, aside from those embarrassing occasions when the orange glow of the sodium street lights meant that you forgot to light up after exiting Sainsbury’s car park, you rarely got things wrong. Thankfully, there was always a helpful Rover 200 driver on hand to give you a friendly flash before you reached the suburbs and ended up with a double bend sign inserted in your head.

Today, things are different. Daytime running lights (or DRLs) have been mandatory since February 2011, so modern drivers are never in the dark. What used to be the preserve of Scandi-cool geography teachers and architects is now commonplace, linking everything from low-rent Dacias to high-end Jags.

The problem is, a small number of drivers seem to think that DRLs are a substitute for common sense. Because the dashboard is illuminated, the lights must be on, they think, before turning their attention to the Whatsapp messages on their smartphone-enabled touchscreen.

Last year, a survey of 2,061 motorists found that more than six in 10 (62 percent) of motorists claimed to see other cars and vans driving in dull overcast conditions without any rear lights on, but noted that the DRLs were burning bright.

The dazed and the confused

Peugeot 3008 GT Line

And they certainly burn bright. As the government points out, they are too bright for use at night and will cause “dazzle and discomfort” for other road users.

Some cars, particularly those with fancy-pants light clusters, feature rear lights that are always on, so the chances of going up the back of them are slim. Others are plunged into darkness, which is less than ideal when the sun goes down or the road is draped in a thick layer of fog.

Only last night, I followed a nearly-new Peugeot 3008 (with fancy-pants lights) along the A30 and into that notoriously dark section before Honiton. For a while, I was wondering why the driver was frantically flashing at the road ahead, like the aforementioned old man shouting at clouds.

I soon realised that the DRLs he had been relying on for the past 15 or so miles were no longer up to the task, so he was flashing his lights in a vain attempt to engage main beam. Fat chance when you’re running with a pair of DRLs.

He worked it out – eventually – but not after some erratic driving and, I suspect, a few choice words.

If you’re reading this, the chances are you’re one of the many illuminated drivers who have seen the light. In which case, please pass the message on to your not-so-bright neighbour or that person in finance who drives the Qashqai. If they can’t be trusted with DRLs or a car’s ‘auto’ lights, tell ’em to take the bus.

That way we’ll all get to where we want to be this Bank Holiday weekend, even if that does mean having a barbecue with your mother-in-law. Does anybody have a match?

Electric Nation EV Smart Charging Trial

Extinction Rebellion protests boost interest in electric cars

Electric Nation EV Smart Charging TrialThe Extinction Rebellion environmental protests, the launch of the London ULEZ and the arrival of the Tesla Model 3 have all contributed to a peak in interest for electric cars in the UK.

In the 40-day period from the start of April, online traffic for EVs at car manufacturer and publisher websites was up 56 percent. This period included:

  • 8 April: launch of London ULEZ
  • 15 April: Extinction Rebellion protests
  • 1 May: Tesla Model 3 arrives in the UK

Research by automotive analysis company Sophus3 shows three distinct ‘spikes’ in interest for electric vehicles around these dates. Encouragingly, since the beginning of May, this growth in electric car interest has been maintained.

“It was both reassuring and exciting to see this surge in online traffic to EV websites from April,” said Scott Gairns, MD of Sophus3.

“We believe the combination of environmental campaigning, low-emission legislation and news of the Tesla Model 3’s arrival stimulated a new level of consumer interest in EVs.”

New Vauxhall Corsa-e

He added that for EV sales to grow, confused consumers need both ‘carrots’ and ‘sticks’ to help them make a decision.

“It is not enough for a car brand to launch a new EV alone, nor for new legislation to try and promote low-emission cars by penalising traditional petrol or diesel cars.”

The recent surge in EV interest should help turn around a decline in interest noted in the first quarter of 2019.

While visits to electric car pages grew 43 percent in Germany, 41 percent in Spain, 21 percent in Italy and three percent in France, they actually FELL six percent in the UK.

Early UK figures for April and May suggest that downward trend has now been reversed.

Highways England issues towing advice for drivers

towing advice for drivers

There are around 4,000 incidents a year involving all forms of trailers, leading Highways England to issue towing advice ahead of the Bank Holiday weekend.

Drivers are advised to ensure they have the correct licence and insurance to tow, as well as checking the vehicle is connected correctly and the load is secure.

Many of the towing incidents are caused by preventable mistakes, says Highways England, including:

  • Poorly loaded trailer
  • Overloaded trailer
  • Insufficient nose weight
  • Load too heavy for the car’s towing capacity
  • Driving too fast for the conditions
  • Serious crosswinds

Highways England’s strategic road safety lead, Stuart Lovatt said: “Thankfully incidents are very rare but now is the time to remind motorists of the need to make sure you have carried out proper checks and have loaded the trailer or vehicle correctly.

“We have all sorts travelling on our network including horse boxes, trailer tents and leisure vehicles such as boats and caravans. Our message is really simple, check it before towing it. So that everyone gets home, safe and well.”

Towing advice for drivers

Highways England issues towing advice

  • Reduce the risk of inherent instability by making sure the outfit is correctly matched (car suitable for the caravan or trailer load) and that it’s correctly loaded, including that the nose weight is sufficient.
  • Choose a car and caravan/trailer with stability aids, but don’t rely on them to correct an inherently unstable outfit. They will, however, make a safe outfit safer still.
  • Drive within the speed limits for towing – 60mph on a motorway unless signage states slower. Take particular care when going downhill and/or overtaking to ensure that speed does not build up excessively.
  • Reduce speed if conditions are not favourable (e.g. crosswind).
  • When passing or being passed by large vehicles, maximise the separation between themselves and the caravan/trailer by using the available lane width (with due regard for vehicles in other lanes).
  • If instability still occurs, do not brake, but instead ease off the accelerator and allow the speed to drop. Let the steering wheel twitch; do not try to steer against the motion of the car. Do not try to accelerate, to ‘pull the outfit straight’. This is likely to result in the return of instability at an even greater speed.
  • Following an instability scare, check all possible contributory factors, and address any which are not optimum to ensure no re-occurrence.

Highways England has removed 700 miles of roadworks from major A-roads and motorways, with 22 million leisure trips planned over the Bank Holiday weekend.

Keyless car theft soars, with luxury SUVs the prime target

Keyless theft

Keyless car theft appears to be reaching epidemic proportions. New data from vehicle tracking company Tracker reveals 92 percent of the cars it recovered in Essex were stolen this way. 

The theft of cars with keyless entry systems has hit headlines, as thieves use technology to hijack remote entry and start systems.

SUVs get the most unwanted attention, in Essex at least. The top three most-stolen vehicles last year, according to Tracker, were the Range Rover Sport, BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE.

Keyless theft

Essex isn’t unusual, either. Nationally, keyless theft has increased by 22 percent over the past few years, now accounting for 88 percent of cars taken.

Over the course of the last three years, London, Essex and the West Midlands have been hotspots of theft and recovery for Tracker.

London tops the list for 2016, 2017 and 2018. Essex was second in 2016 and 2017, and third in 2018 (behind the West Midlands). Manchester also consistently features in the top 10.

Keyless theft

Overall, Tracker helped recover £12 million of stolen cars last year. The 78 suspected thieves arrested in relation to those thefts represent a 66 percent increase on 2017.

Tracker systems also indirectly led to the recovery of 79 vehicles that didn’t have them fitted, but were located close to cars that did.

These are the times to avoid the roads this weekend

bank holiday weekend traffic

Around 22 million leisure trips are planned for this Bank Holiday weekend – the highest in six years years, according to the RAC.

That’s eight million MORE than last year, as motorists take to the road to make the most of the last holiday weekend before the end of August. Top tip: you might want to stay at home to paint the downstairs cloakroom, or something.

Fortunately, the RAC has also revealed the busiest periods over the weekend, so with some canny forward planning, you can avoid the jams. The roads are likely to be particularly busy at the following times:

  • Friday 24 May (5.6 million leisure trips): busiest between 4pm and 7pm
  • Saturday 25 May (6.6 million leisure trips): busiest between 10am and 3pm
  • Sunday 26 May (5 million leisure trips): busiest between 10am and 3pm
  • Monday 27 May (5.3 million leisure trips): busiest between 12pm and 4pm

For its part, Highways England is removing 97 percent of roadworks on motorways and A-roads over the weekend, so you have a fighting chance of reaching your in-laws in time for tea. This may or may not be a good thing.

RAC patrol of the year Ben Aldous said: “Our research suggests a lot of drivers are planning on taking to the road over this weekend, with routes leading to the coasts, national parks and highlands like the Lake District likely to see significant volumes of traffic – and some extensive jams.”

The Bank Holiday weekend weather forecast

M6 Cumbria favourite driving route

Met Office deputy chief meteorologist, Chris Bulmer said: “This upcoming Bank Holiday weekend will start off fine and warm with sunny spells in the south, but for northern parts of the UK it’ll be cooler, cloudier and breezy with some rain at times. 

“At the moment Saturday looks to be one of the better days of the weekend with the promise of sunshine for most, whereas Sunday will be cloudier with outbreaks of rain moving in from the west.

“By Monday this rain and cloud should clear with a return to sunny spells and the odd shower in places, feeling cooler across the country in the fresh westerly breeze.”

Revealed: the reasons why we argue in the car

reasons why we argue in the car

British drivers love to argue, according to new research by Privilege Car Insurance.

The study of 2,000 motorists found that drivers come to blows every 23 minutes. No they don’t. Yes they do. No they don’t. Repeat to fade…

Predictably, navigation is the number one cause of friction, with 26 percent of motorists falling out over the decision to turn left or head right.

You’d have thought that sat-nav would have all but eradicated this traditional source of tension. Maybe drivers enjoy arguing with electronic devices?

breaking wind in the car

One in three respondents named the car as the most stress-filled spot outside of the home, while 10 percent of millennials and six percent of men have parted company with the person they were arguing with in the car.

Traffic, the temperature of the climate control, the choice of music and even passing wind were also named as common reasons for a quarrel. If in doubt, don’t let it out.

The research also appears to suggest that we’re a touchy bunch, with 54 percent of drivers getting annoyed by passengers touching the handbrake or gearstick, 53 percent by pressing the horn, and 37 percent by rummaging thought the glovebox.

‘Easy to get irritated’

man and woman arguing

Charlotte Fielding, head of Privilege Car Insurance, said: “The car can be a high-pressured place for many as tensions overflow during a journey, especially over what can seem to be the more trivial things.

“At Privilege, we want our drivers to have a stress-free journey so that they themselves, their passengers and others on the road are as safe as possible.

“It takes high levels of concentration to drive safely which can make it easy to get irritated, so please think twice before rummaging in the glove compartment or offering driving tips from the back seat of the car!”

Top reasons for arguments

  1. Directions (26 percent)
  2. Back seat drivers (22 percent) 
  3. Other people’s driving (21 percent)
  4. Traffic (20 percent)
  5. Forgetting something and needing to turn back (14 percent)
  6. Kids misbehaving (13 percent)
  7. Passengers distracting the driver (12 percent)
  8. Other people’s speed (10 percent)
  9. Temperature (9 percent)
  10. Music (9 percent)
  11. People making a mess (9 percent)
  12. Other people’s bad parking (9 percent)
  13. Driving speed (9 percent)
  14. Needing to stop for the toilet (7 percent)
  15. Passing wind (7 percent) 

Video: Classics and hypercars inside ‘Aston Martin heaven’

Nicholas Mee and Company has specialised in selling, maintaining and restoring Aston Martins for 25 years. We went along for a taste of Aston Martin heaven.

Video: The ultimate Aston Martin showroom

It might seem an exaggeration to call anywhere other than Gaydon ‘Aston Martin heaven’, but bear with us.

Inside the Nicholas Mee showroom in Hertfordshire are very finest, rarest and most curious machines from the marque’s history from DB4 GT to One-77, and everything in-between.

It just so happened that the oldest and one of the newest cars both cost well into seven figures. At the more affordable end of the Aston Martin spectrum were machines such as the outgoing V8 Vantage, DB9, a rare manual DBS V12 and the original V12 Vanquish.

60 years of Astons under one roof

The company specialises in everything from classic Astons of the 1950s, all the way through to the V8- and V12-powered supercars of the last 20 years.

Officially, that’s from 1950 all the way up to the very last Rapide S – a car that’s still in production. New-generation Aston Martins like the DB11, new Vantage and DBS Superleggera have a few years under the official dealer umbrella yet.

A cathedral to Aston Martin

The cars are only half the story, though. Having moved from London around this time last year, everything here is absolutely pristine.

From the farmhouse aesthetic of the service shops, with old-school supercharged Vantages in for work, to the immaculate showroom – architecturally, this place is as beautiful as the cars.

Zagato Astons old and new

Yes, the cars – we already mentioned the DB4 and the One-77. Add to that a smattering of Zagato-bodied and styled cars, from an 80s Vantage to the very latest Vanquish Volante. They’ve just got a lovely DB7 GT Zagato in stock, too.

On the 80s Vantage Zagato, they actually had several. One was a race-prepared car with a road-friendly interior put back in. A Vantage Zagato ‘GT3 RS’, if you will.

An Aston Martin Vantage with a racing V12

Then there’s the really special stuff. Flying under the radar (until we were made aware), was the Vantage RS Concept of 2007 – a one-off designed to show the world how cool a V12-powered ‘new’ Vantage would be.

Needless to say, it went down a treat, given the V12 Vantage went into production two years later.

The RS is an altogether different beast to the production car, however. Hundreds of kilos lighter, thanks to a numerous carbon components, its V12 (based on the racing DBRS9 unit) packs 600hp. That’s 90hp more than the production version.

It wouldn’t be until 2015’s Vantage GT12 that power would near those numbers in a Vantage, or indeed any naturally-aspirated Aston.

One-77: the original Aston Martin hypercar

Well, that is if you don’t include the 750hp 7.3-litre V12 in the One-77. It’s one of the most fascinating, beautiful and stunningly engineered hypercars ever conceived, and it’s almost entirely forgotten about.

Want to know more about the One-77? Watch our video above as we take an in-depth look at some of the cars mentioned.

Anyway, that’s Nicholas Mee, proprietor of some of the finest Aston Martins ever made. Unlike many exotic car dealerships, they welcome people in to see and learn about their rarefied stock. As if you needed an excuse…

In pictures:

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Roadworks removed for football fans on their way to Wembley

no roadworks for Wembley play-off finals

Football fans on their way to Wembley for the play-off finals should find their path to glory free of roadworks, if not drama.

That’s because Highways England is removing 700 miles of roadworks from England’s major A-road and motorway network, which should reduce congestion for supporters converging on north-west London.

The play-off action kicks off on Saturday 25 May when Newport County take on Tranmere Rovers at 3pm, with Charlton Athletic playing Sunderland 24 hours later.

On Monday, Aston Villa and Derby County will battle it out for a place in the Premier League, with the match getting underway at 3pm.

In all cases, the M1, M4, M25 and A40 are likely to be particularly busy, so non-footballists are advised to avoid the area during the afternoon and early evening.

The road(works) to Wembley

fans at Wembley Stadium

Tom Legg, The Football Association’s head of transport, said: “The FA is delighted to be partnering with Highways England for the benefit of our mutual customers.  

“We’re working together to ensure that spectator journeys to and from Wembley Stadium are as hassle-free as possible and Highways England’s efforts to remove hundreds of miles of roadworks over the play-off finals Bank Holiday weekend is a great example of a positive intervention to improve the overall spectator experience.” 

Highways England’s customer service director, Melanie Clarke, added: “We’re doing everything we can to make journeys as smooth as possible for those travelling and that’s why we’re keeping around 97 per cent of the road network we manage free from roadworks. 

“Safety is our top priority and we know from experience that almost half of breakdowns can easily be avoided if motorists carry out simple vehicle checks before setting off over this period.” 

For the latest traffic information, follow the BBC London Travel Twitter account.

21 cars will break down every minute this Bank Holiday

Car breakdownThe late May Bank Holiday is upon us and a mass exodus of the British public is already underway. Not everyone will have an easy journey, however. Recovery provider Green Flag expects more than 153,000 cars to break down this weekend.

That number equates to 21 breakdowns every minute between Friday and Tuesday. An increase in accidents is also expected, with more than 84,000 forecast. In total a 25 percent increase in road incidents is expected over the coming days.

“The late May Bank Holiday always sees a surge in the number of cars on the road, as drivers take advantage of warmer weather and the last three-day weekend for three months,” said Simon Henrick at Green Flag.

“Green Flag, is encouraging drivers to reconsider travelling outside the peak hours on Friday and Monday, and to stay tuned-in to weather and traffic forecasts ahead of hitting the road. If you’re planning a longer journey, check your vehicle thoroughly and get plenty of rest beforehand. Likewise, stay safe while driving and make regular stops along the way.”

Check your car before driving

Car and tow truck

Before setting out this weekend, check around your car –  including its fluid levels, tyre tread and light bulbs. Make sure you’ve got breakdown cover and keep your mobile phone charged up, with the number of your recovery provider programmed in. Take a map as back-up, too – not everywhere in the UK has phone reception.

If a breakdown does happen, you’ll be thankful for a red warning triangle and plenty of snacks. Given it’s due to be a hot weekend, pack plenty of water, as well as a good supply of sun cream.

2019 Goodwood Festival of Speed to celebrate Aston Martin’s racing history

Aston Martin Goodwood

Aston Martin has been announced as the featured marque at the 2019 Goodwood Festival of Speed. Cars from the British brand will be displayed on the event’s huge central feature for the first time.

A couple of notable Aston Martin anniversaries helped sway the decision. Firstly, it’s 60 years since Aston Martin’s celebrated win in the World Sports Car Championship (think WEC, but in 1959). It’s also 70 years since an Aston first raced at Goodwood circuit.

The WSCC feat is also being celebrated by Aston Martin itself, with the introduction of a special DBS ’59’ edition.

Aston Martin Goodwood

“2019 is a perfect time for us to celebrate Aston Martin’s past, present and future success,” said the Duke of Richmond.

“The central feature looks set to be one of the most dramatic yet, and a fitting landmark to the past century of Aston Martin success.”

Aston Martin Goodwood

Winning the RAC TT at Goodwood with the DBR1 clinched the championship for Aston Martin in 1959. It wasn’t all plain sailing, mind. After the lead car, driven by Stirling Moss, caught fire in the pits, Mr Motor Racing jumped in the sister car of Carroll Shelby and Jack Fairman to finish the race. The result, a win with a lap to spare, which secured the championship.

More recently, Aston’s DBR9 GT1 car of the early 2000s was very successful, and inspired subsequent GT race programmes with the Vantage as a basis. Aston even used its V12 in a Lola LMP1 car back in 2009, though that didn’t go quite so swimmingly.

Aston Martin Goodwood

Aston is a marque hardened in the racing arena. We look forward to celebrating its track endeavours – successful and otherwise – when we head to the Festival of Speed later this summer.