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This Swede is the world’s smartest driver

Anders Lindstrom

Anders Lindstrom can claim to be one of the best drivers in the world. The Swede has won the inaugural FIA Smart Driving Challenge (SDC).

The first season of the FIA SDC started earlier this year, with motorists from around the world invited to take part in 14 week-long heats.

Competitors saw their driving patterns assessed in real time thanks to an AI-based smartphone app powered by Enerfy.

The eight best drivers were invited to compete in the FIA SDC grand final in Paris. 

Lindstrom lined up alongside competitors from France, Great Britain, Qatar, Sweden and Singapore, with each driver given four attempts to complete a 4km route around Paris.

The driver who completed the route in the most efficient manner would be declared the winner. In the end, Lindstrom was announced as the smartest and safest driver.

FIA Smart Driver Challenge trophy

Lindstrom said: “It’s been great to refine my skills on the road all year long, being a smarter, safer and more efficient driver. I have learned a lot, not only from the Enerfy app, but from my fellow competitors and my team leader.

”I’ve really enjoyed the challenge and look forward to continuing to be a smart driver. I’ve got to live up to my title now!”

FIA deputy president Thierry Willemarck, added: “Congratulations to our first FIA Smart Driving Challenge winner who is today rewarded for his safe and eco-friendly driving skills. We believe such initiatives can improve driver behaviour and invite more FIA Clubs to join the challenge and lead that change.”

The 2020 season of the FIA Smart Driving Challenge gets underway in February, and applications are already open for new competitors.

FIA Smart Driver Challenge final

To compete, drivers must sign up via the FIA SDC website. They must then download the app on their smartphone and connect the OBD plug-in to their car. 

For more information, visit the FIA Smart Driving Challenge website.

Revealed: the biggest fears of new drivers

the biggest fears of new drivers

Ghosts, ghouls and things that go bump in the night. But enough about Halloween, as we reveal the biggest fears of new drivers.

A new survey of 1,501 UK adults shows that driving on a motorway is a chilling prospect for many drivers. Around a third said they were scared of venturing onto the three-lane highway.

This is followed by crashing, driving in bad weather (e.g. rain or snow), and that perennial nightmare – parallel parking.

When considering a gender split, the women who took part in the survey put motorway driving at the top of the fright list (35 percent). On the other hand, crashing is most likely to result in men waking up in a cold sweat.

A spokesperson from Car Parts 4 Less, the company behind the data, said: “Whether you take your test as a teenager or adult, we all crave the freedom that driving can bring us. However, passing your test isn’t the end of your driving education.

“We’re constantly learning how to be better and safer drivers on the roads and its natural to feel scared or anxious when you first drive alone on the roads.”

Women scared of motorway driving

In June 2018, the rules changed to allow learner drivers to practice driving on motorways, with a driving instructor.

The changes were introduced to give learner drivers the opportunity to get a broader driving experience before taking their test. The overall aim – to reduce the number of motorway accidents involving a novice driver.

Learner drivers are advised to put the horror novel to one side and familiar themselves with the rules of motorway driving. Sections 253 to 273 of the Highway Code cover everything from joining a motorway to overtaking.

Top 10 biggest fears of new drivers

  1. Motorway driving: 31 percent
  2. Crashing: 28 percent
  3. Driving in bad weather: 26 percent
  4. Parallel parking: 26 percent
  5. Stalling: 22 percent
  6. Reverse parking: 20 percent
  7. Night driving: 19 percent
  8. New or unknown roads: 14 percent
  9. Driving alone: 14 percent
  10. Car maintenance: 13 percent

Useful advice:

A quarter of drivers pass their test first time

Citroen C1 learner

Around a quarter (26 percent) of new drivers pass their test first time. This is according to figures from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).

A Freedom of Information Request (FOI) shows that, of the 1,692,782 drivers who took a practical test in 2018, just 447,442 passed first time. A total of 13,155 candidates required 6-10 attempts, 328 needed 11-15, while ten passed after 15 or more practical tests.

The FOI suggests learner drivers are taking longer to get behind the wheel. In 2016, three drivers required 15 or more attempts to pass the theory test. In 2017, this went up to seven, with 10 requiring a mammoth effort last year.

The DVSA introduced changes to the practical driving test in 2017, and this is seen as the primary reason behind the number of failures.

Learner drivers pay less up North

In September, we revealed the most likely reasons for failing the driving test. Pulling out of junctions topped the list, followed by inadequate use of mirrors, turning right at junctions, steering control and traffic light responses.

Learner drivers in London and the South East are the most likely to require 15+ theory attempts, followed by the Midlands, North of England, Wales, South West and Scotland.

‘Rite of passage’

Is this why more learner drivers are failing their test?

Tom Preston, managing director of Hippo Leasing, the company behind the research, said: “For almost a century, the driving test has been a rite of passage for many young adults in the UK. But while safety principles have remained the same, the test has frequently adapted to the country’s changing roads. Driving tests are designed to be challenging and you’re more likely to fail on your first attempt than pass.

“It’s important that learners feel 100 percent ready before signing up to take a theory or practical driving test. Multiple failures can leave learners with huge additional costs and knock their confidence at a vital time in their driving careers.”

A theory test costs £23, while the practical driving test costs £62 on weekdays or £75 on weekends and Bank Holidays. The costs are different for lorries, minibuses, buses, coaches, motorcycles and mopeds.

How to drive safely in the rain

How to drive in the rain

Heavy rain and flooding have hit parts of Britain over recent weeks, resulting in hazardous driving conditions.

In wet weather, stopping distances are at least DOUBLE those required on dry roads. This is because your tyres have less grip on the road.

The ‘two-second rule’ no longer applies, with the Highway Code advising drivers to allow at least twice the distance on wet roads. Further advice includes:

  • If the steering becomes unresponsive, it probably means that water is preventing the tyres from gripping the road. This is called aquaplaning. Ease off the accelerator and slow down gradually, maintaining a good grip of the steering wheel. The car will regain its grip as the water clears.
  • Rain and spray from vehicles may make it difficult to see and be seen.
  • Spilt diesel may make the surface very slippery, especially after a prolonged period of dry weather.
  • Take extra care around pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders.

Richard Gladman, head of driving and riding standards at IAM RoadSmart, said: “With the British weather the way it is, we should all be well practised at driving in the rain. Keeping your car maintained and the rubber (wipers and tyres) in good condition will help you stay safe.

“In the recent extremes, we have seen that standing water and floods are becoming more commonplace, so take extra care and if possible, avoid driving through standing water. If you’re in any doubt about the depth or surface underneath a flood, then it’s best not to take any chances.”

Further advice for driving in rain

How to drive in floods

IAM RoadSmart has the following additional advice for driving in the rain, including what to do in a flood.

  • If you need windscreen wipers, you need your headlights. Automatic lights may not activate in bad weather, so make a sensible decision as to whether these need to be turned on. Daytime running lights are not suitable in heavy rain, especially as your rear lights may not be illuminated.
  • Keep your windscreen clean, the wipers in good condition, and the washer jets positioned correctly.
  • If you approach a flood, ask yourself some questions, for example:
    • Can you find an alternative route? If the standing water is more than six inches deep, avoid driving through it. If in doubt, stay out.
    • What caused the flood? If it was a burst water main, the road surface may be completely broken up.
    • Are other vehicles able to get through? If not, find an alternative route.
    • Is the water fast flowing? If it is, DO NOT drive through the flood – there’s a danger your car could be swept away.
  • If you drive through standing water, do it slowly. Press lightly on your clutch and add gentle pressure on the accelerate to increase engine revs. Do so without increasing your speed to precent water from entering the exhaust. When you have passed through the flood, test your brakes to make sure they are dry and operating correctly.
  • Remember, you could receive a fixed penalty and three points on your licence for accidentally splashing pedestrians. Do it deliberately and you could receive a court order and a fine.

Click here for tips on how to drive in summer rain.

Men far more likely than women to commit driving offences

Car cloning problems for second-hand buyers

Men are nearly twice as likely to receive a motoring conviction than woman, new research shows.

Using insurance quotation data, the study found that 65 percent of convictions were from men, while 35 percent were from women.

Men are also two and a half times more likely to have a drink-driving conviction than women.

But drink-driving isn’t the most common conviction. That ‘honour’ belongs to speeding, accounting for 65 percent of all declarations. Driving uninsured is next on seven percent, while drink-drivers are responsible for five percent of offences.

Dan Hutson, head of motor insurance at CompareTheMarket, the company behind the research, said: “During 2012, the rules were changed by the EU so that insurance premiums could not be based on gender.

“However, this clearly shows that many male drivers are not doing themselves any favours and goes someway to demonstrate why men could still be paying more for insurance than women on average. Convictions on your driving record could have a serious impact on the premium you could be quoted. Poor and unsafe driving practices are rightly having a punishing impact on the cost of running a car.”

‘Surrey’ seems to be the hardest word

 

Drivers with a motoring conviction are most likely to be found in Surrey. Last year, 83,230 people (seven percent of the county’s population) reported a driving conviction when arranging insurance cover.

It’s a similar story in Lancashire, where seven percent of the population hold a motoring conviction, followed by Cheshire (6.7 percent), West Yorkshire (6.5 percent) and Rutland (6.4 percent).

Revealed: the shocking ways drink drivers avoid the police

Looking at drink-driving convictions – which is about to become topical during the lead up to Christmas – Lancashire’s drivers are the worst offenders, with the county accounting for six percent of the country’s convictions.

Lancashire is followed by Cheshire, Cornwall, Shropshire and Northumberland.

Don’t hide your motoring conviction

According to Moneysupermarket, a speeding offence adds around £72 to the cost of car insurance, making it tempting for drivers to ‘forget’ previous convictions.

A conviction doesn’t need to be a driving offence – statistically, convicted drivers are more likely to be involved in an accident. Some insurers will consider such drivers too high-risk to insure.

Moneysupermarket says: ”Don’t be tempted to hide your conviction just to get a cheaper quote. If you don’t reveal convictions, you could invalidate your policy, meaning that any claims would be refused and you would essentially be driving while uninsured.”

 

 

More than half want driving age raised to 18

Driving test age

A new survey indicates that 53 percent want the minimum driving age raised from 17 to 18. That compares with just five percent who want it lowered to 16.

Meanwhile, 42 percent said the legal driving age should stay as it is. 

The survey of 2,000 British people by Veygo made up part of the Learner Drivers Report. It also found that learners between 16 and 25 usually pass on their third attempt. For older age groups from 26 upwards, most past pass first-time.

Should drivers be re-tested?

Driving test age

Another point of contention was whether drivers should retake the test later in their driving career. Overall, a retake was favoured, with 47 percent saying there shouldn’t be retests.

One in five said drivers should be re-tested every 10 years, while the same percentage favoured every 20 years. Perhaps surprisingly, just 15 percent said a retest should take place when drivers reach retirement age.

The 16-24 age group has by far the fewest qualified drivers, at less than 2.8 million. Compare that to 45-54 and 65-plus, both with more than eight million. 

Is it getting tougher to pass the test?

Driving test age

Popular opinion says that the driving test is getting more difficult. Indeed, recent years have seen the introduction of new areas of examination.

Pass rates, however, have stayed more or less the same. From a low pass rate of 44 percent in 2007-2008, it has fluctuated in recent years, going from 47 percent in 2016-17, through 46 percent in 2017-18, to 45 percent in 2018-19.

Compare that to the number of passes with zero faults, which has increased markedly since 2007-2008. A lowly 0.19 percent rose to 1.04 percent in 2016-2017, although there aren’t figures for the recent (and ‘more difficult’) years. 

75 percent of our EU traffic prosecutions are from France

Driving in France

New data has revealed where British motorists are running into trouble. It may not surprise you to read that 75 percent of our European driving infractions appear to occur in neighbouring France.

Since May 2017, Britain has been a part of the Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement, which allows the European authorities to ask for the details of UK drivers. The French account for three-quarters of detail requests, or 246,000 of the 325,145 requests made between February and June this year.

The Germans came second, though it’s second by some margin, requesting details from the DVLA on 22,845 occasions. Meanwhile, Italy, Spain and Austria made 16,993, 13,442 and 6,875 requests respectively.

Driving in France

“British drivers clearly need to be extra vigilant when driving in France,” said Hunter Abbott, managing director of AlcoSense Laboratories, the company behind the survey.

“They must take care not to exceed the speed limit – and carry a high viz jacket for every passenger, a warning triangle, spare bulbs, headlamp beam deflectors, a GB sticker and a single-use ‘NF approved’ breathalyser.”

Top tips for driving in France

French speed camera tolerances

Ease up on the speed

We know it’s exciting to drive in a new place, but patience is a virtue, especially when it comes to staving off fines and keeping points away from your licence.

It’s worth remembering that French speed camera tolerances are lower than ours, allowing for just five percent over the prescribed speed limit. Make sure you know your key kilometre per-hour figures, too. 

KM/H to MPH

  • 130km/h = 80mph (French motorway speed limit unless otherwise indicated)
  • 120km/h = 75mph
  • 110km/h = 68mph (French motorway speed limit in the rain)
  • 100km/h = 60mph
  • 80km/h = 50mph

Driving in France

Steady on the ferry

If you’re taking the ferry, it’s wise to leave the miniature wines to your passengers (unless they’re sharing the drive) and get some rest. The drink-drive limit is lower in France, at 0.5mg of alcohol per mL of blood, compared with 0.8mg per mL of blood in England and Wales.

How to safely drive in summer rain

How to drive in summer rain

Summer rain, particularly after a prolonged dry spell, can create hazardous driving conditions.

The standard advice for driving in heavy rain still applies: slow down, used dipped headlights, turn on your windscreen wipers and keep your distance.

The Highway Code says that in wet weather, stopping distances will be at least DOUBLE those required for stopping on dry roads, because the tyres have less grip.

But, as an American motoring organisation points out, drivers are at greater risk in the moments immediately after it starts raining. Dr Bill Van Tassel, AAA national manager of driving training programmes, said: “Conditions are most dangerous during the first 10 minutes of a heavy downpour as oil and debris first rise to the road’s surface, then wash away.

“Knowing how to handle poor traction reduces the potential for hydroplaning (aquaplaning), skidding or sliding off the road completely.”

Summer driving in the rain

This view is echoed by Howard Robinson, chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA), who said: “Wet roads after a prolonged hot, dry period can become slippery. In addition to ensuring that their tyres are in good condition and properly inflated, motorists should slow down and drive with care.

During periods of prolonged hot weather, the bitumen in asphalt roads ‘bleeds’ through to the surface, reducing the texture depth and wet skidding resistance.

How to prepare your car for summer rain

Skoda Yeti in the rain

The preparation for driving in summer rain begins before you start your journey – it’s too late if you get caught in a sudden downpour on the motorway. The following tips should keep you safe:

  • Check your windscreen wipers and replace them if necessary. Drivers of older vehicles could consider upgrading to newer ‘aero’ wipers.
  • Ensure that you have sufficient washer fluid. Road grime, dead insects and dust can leave a greasy film on the windscreen, which could restrict your vision with the wipers turned on.
  • Check your tyres. Although the legal tyre tread depth is 1.6 mm, you should change your tyres when the depth reaches 3 mm. Also ensure that the tyres are inflated to the correct pressure.
  • Check the weather forecast. If possible, time your journey to coincide with dry weather.

How to drive in summer rain

Ford Fusion in the rain

  • Used dipped headlights – don’t rely on automatic headlights.
  • Don’t rely on your daytime running lights, which could dazzle oncoming drivers in low-light conditions.
  • Don’t use fog lights, which can mask brake lights and dazzle other motorists.
  • Slow down to give yourself more time to react to hazards such as queuing traffic and standing water. The faster you drive, the greater the risk of aquaplaning.
  • Allow at least double the stopping distance between you and the vehicle in front.
  • Do not use cruise control.

For more general advice for driving in heavy rain and floods, check out the RAC’s in-depth guide.

Two-thirds of Brits think you drive ON THE LEFT in France and Spain

Two-thirds of Brits think you drive ON THE LEFT in France and Spain

A staggering 62 percent of British motorists surveyed in a study believe you drive ON THE LEFT in France and Spain.

That’s according to a survey of 1,253 drivers carried out by insurance company By Miles, with two-thirds of motorists blissfully unaware that you drive on the right having left the ferry port or Channel Tunnel. Time to stick a Post-it reminder on the dashboard?

Only a fifth (22 percent) realise that drivers in France must carry a breathalyser with them at all times. The breathalyser must be unused, carry the NF certification mark and be in date.

Meanwhile, 91 percent of drivers are unaware that Spanish authorities can fine you €200 (£180) for driving without a shirt on. Driving with your arm hanging out of the window or with excessively high music could also lead to a chat with the authorities, along with wearing flip flops.

‘Swot up on local driving laws’

Woman driving in flip flops

You might think that driving on the right is obvious, but other country-specific laws might be less apparent. Be sure to research the rules and regulations of each country you’re visiting this summer.

James Blackham, the co-founder of By Miles, said, “Holidaymakers planning on driving to Europe this summer must take the time to swot up on local driving laws or risk facing fines. Little-known rules can often catch drivers out.

“For example, in France, you must carry a breathalyser with you at all times, and in Spain, if caught driving without a top on you can be fined €200!

“However, every road-tripper can protect themselves by following a few simple steps before setting off. Don’t presume your insurer automatically gives you the same full cover you have at home when you’re driving in Europe. Give them a ring to make sure you have the same level of cover – some drop to third party cover only once outside the UK.

“While you’re on the phone, check your annual mileage cap too. While Europe doesn’t seem all that far away, an unusually long road trip means some risk clocking up too many miles on the journey and invalidating their insurance policies as a result.”

Advice for driving abroad this summer

Driving in Spain

By Miles has the following advice for motorists driving abroad this summer:

  • Carry a breathalyser: you must carry a breathalyser, warning triangle and high-visibility vest in France.
  • Keep your shirt on: drivers should avoid taking their shirt off or wearing flip flops behind the wheel in Spain
  • Check your vehicle is covered: make sure you have European insurance cover when travelling abroad.
  • Monitor your mileage: check that you won’t exceed your mileage limit when abroad.
  • Drink-driving: check the country-specific drink-driving laws before consuming any alcohol.

How to safely drive when you take hay fever medicine

Advice for drivers with hay fever

For hay fever sufferers, the forecast for hot and sunny weather is a double-edged sword, because the pollen count is likely to be very high.

At best, hayfever is a summer irritant that sufferers could do without, but it can also mean the difference between staying indoors or going outside. For drivers, the issues extend to more than just sniffing and sneezing behind the wheel.

Which is why road safety and breakdown organisation GEM Motoring Assist is urging motorists who take hay fever remedies to check their medicines carefully before getting driving.

GEM road safety officer Neil Worth said: “Some medicines, including those used to treat hay fever, can have an effect on your ability to drive safely. They could make you tired, dizzy or groggy, and they can compromise your vision and reaction time.

“That’s why it’s so important to check with your GP or pharmacist, and to read any warnings contained on the labels of the medicines you plan to take.

“The same road traffic laws apply to therapeutic drugs as to illicit substances, so if your driving is impaired and you cause a collision, you risk prosecution and the loss of your licence.”

Advice for hay fever sufferers

Hay fever behind the wheel

GEM has issued a safety checklist for drivers who take hay fever medicine, and the advice can be summarised as follows:

  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist if a medicine could affect your ability to drive. Be particularly careful if you are using a medicine for the first time.
  • If you experience potentially dangerous side effects from a medicine, don’t drive. Organise a taxi or a lift from a friend if you need to travel.
  • If you find a particular medicine is making you sleepy, consider asking if there is a non-sedating alternative available.
  • It’s not just prescription medicines that can cause drowsiness and other potentially dangerous side-effects. So, check with your pharmacist if you plan to use an over-the-counter drug.
  • If you’re unsure about the warning given on the medicine you’re using, ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any risks before you drive anywhere.

Last summer, a study by Confused.com found that 58 percent of drivers who suffer from hay fever said they had driven a car shortly after taking medication, even though many remedies can impair performance behind the wheel.

A worrying 10 percent said that had noticed adverse effects of taking prescription drugs.

It is illegal to drive if you’re unfit to do so because you’re on legal or illegal drugs, or you have certain levels of illegal drugs in your blood. 

Over-the-counter medication is covered by the same drug-driving laws as illegal substances such as cocaine and cannabis, so drivers are advised to consult the government website for a list of prescription medicines affected by the legislation.

‘Check the medication thoroughly’

Pollen season ahead for drivers

Richard Gladman, head of driving and riding standards at IAM RoadSmart, warned: “If you are stopped by the police after taking a hay fever remedy and driving whilst impaired you could find yourself falling foul of drug driving regulations.

“Be sure to check the medication thoroughly and see if it is suitable. But most importantly, concentrate on your route to recovery so you can get back onto the road sooner rather than later.”

IAM RoadSmart has the following advice for hay fever sufferers:

  • Ensure your car is clean and dust free and that you operate the air conditioning or ventilation to your advantage. lt’s important that you change your pollen filter regularly.
  • For anyone who hasn’t been diagnosed with hay fever and is feeling under the weather, avoid driving and arrange to see your GP.
  • While over-the-counter medicines will help with a runny nose and sneezing symptoms, they can also blur vision and make you feel drowsy – ask your GP for the best course of action.
  • Your GP may advise you to take anti-histamines, but make sure you take the non-drowsy ones. If you’re unsure, read the leaflet or speak to your pharmacy.
  • If you need to get somewhere but don’t feel well enough to drive, ask somebody else. Whatever you do, don’t take yourself: you may just end up sneezing and travelling up to 50ft with your eyes closed and losing control of your vehicle.

If in doubt, talk to your pharmacist and always read the label.