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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.

15 percent of men think about DIY when driving

distracted driver

Seriously, how boring must your car be if you’re thinking about DIY when driving? Unless your name is ‘Handy Andy’ or Tommy Walsh, DIY should be avoided at the best of times, let alone when you’re behind the wheel.

However, according to a survey of 16,307 AA members, 15 percent of men and 9 percent of women admitted to thinking about home improvements while driving. What’s all the more worrying is the fact that just 11 percent of men were concerned about breaking down.

Worrying about arriving on time is the biggest distraction for men (45 percent) and women (57 percent), followed by work (34 percent overall) and planning for the future (25 percent). Money, life admin and social life are all tied on 22 percent.

And you thought ‘Hello Boys’ billboards and exotic motors were the biggest distractions when behind the wheel… 

Just 30 percent of drivers said they only ever think about driving when behind the wheel, meaning two-thirds admitted to being distracted in the car.

Attention-seeking devices

mobile phone at the wheel

In many ways, it has never been easier to be distracted while driving. Whether it’s a cursory glance at a mobile phone, using an aftermarket sat-nav or changing the setting on a touchscreen, there are many attention-seeking devices vying for the driver’s attention.

Throw into the mix the fact that cars are easier to drive and safer than ever before, and you have a recipe for distraction. Little wonder the government said that in 2017, there were 4,573 injury crashes where distraction was recorded as a contributory factor.

Of these, 774 were serious and a chilling 125 were fatal. 

Edmund King, director of the AA Charitable Trust, said “The AA Trust has run some hard-hitting campaigns in recent years highlighting the dangers of distracted driving mobile phone use.

“But, while we can all make ourselves more aware of steps to take to minimise certain distractions, like putting mobile phones in the glove box, it is harder to switch our minds off day-to-day worries like childcare or work.

“So long as your thoughts aren’t so demanding that they overwhelm your ability to concentrate on the road then there is nothing wrong with a bit of thinking time in the car.

“Drivers can give themselves the best possible chance of keeping their concentration by making sure they are well-rested before they start a journey and take appropriate breaks on longer journeys.”

The AA table in full

DistractionAllMenWomen
Arriving on time49%45%57%
Work34%31%39%
Planning for the future25%23%28%
Money22%21%24%
Life admin22%19%28%
Social life22%21%22%
Relationships18%17%22%
Meal planning17%11%27%
Car admin13%13%13%
DIY13%15%9%
Breaking down12%11%13%
Child(ren’s) social life9%8%12%
Housework7%4%13%
Childcare arrangements4%3%6%
Other5%5%6%
“I only think about driving”30%34%21%

UK drivers will save 25 minutes during the half term commute

half term break commute savings

As the kids disappear for the February half term break, Buyacar is reporting that commuters will save as much as 25 minutes on their morning journey to work. Think of all that extra time in bed… 

Over half of the UK’s commuters will gain five minutes or more as the roads are free from school buses and school-run parents. Overall, UK commuters can expect to save a cumulative 1,365 years of driving time over the course of the week.

Getting on for 22 million of us take a daily drive to work and over half of us will feel the benefits of the schools being closed for the week. This based on a poll of 500 drivers that revealed that 53 percent of drivers notice a significant improvement in journey times during the school holidays.

A five-minute improvement was quoted by 12 percent of respondents, while 14 percent said that it was more like 10 minutes quicker. Around half of those surveyed said they were likely to save more than 20 minutes on their morning commute.

half term break commute savings

“It may seem hard to believe at first that British drivers save more than a thousand years in total over the course of just one week, but with nearly 22 million car commuters on the roads daily it soon adds up,” said Austin Collins, managing director of BuyaCar.co.uk.

“The saving for the country as a whole is spectacular but even for individual travellers a 25-minute reduction or more in journey times over the course of the half term break spells a reduction in stress and maybe even an extra five minutes or so in bed.”

We’re looking forward to a lie-in, Austin.

Couple driving

A fifth of British people HATE their partner’s driving

Couple driving

Is your dearly beloved a danger behind the wheel? Don’t feel bad if you feel that way. According to a survey of 2,000 British motorists, as many as 26 percent are scared to get in a car with their partner.

So, what kind of irksome behaviour behind the wheel could prompt your partner to fear riding shotgun?

The female contingent is accused of everything from hesitancy at junctions and being in the wrong gear, to leaving “you could get a bus in there” kerb-side gaps when parking. Braking too hard and too late is apparently an issue, too.

What about the boys? Gents get grief for having a lead foot on some of the more free-flowing roads the UK has to offer. Guys also allegedly drive a bit close to the car in front and have unsettling bouts of road rage.

Couple driving

On average it takes just 28 minutes of a car journey for tempers to flare between couples; 69 percent say every drive contains a row of some sort. Unfamiliar roads, trips to the supermarket and journeys of more than two hours in general are said to be confrontation black spots. 

More than a fifth said that they hate the way the other person drives, with 40 percent saying they regularly berate their partners for bad driving.

In terms of judging oneself, as many as 74 percent of men say they’re better drivers than their partners. That compares to just 43 percent of women who have similarly high opinions of their driving skill.

Read more: 

Distracted man driving

Male drivers four times more likely to be distracted by attractive pedestrians

Distracted man driving

A survey conducted by The Car People has revealed what millennial drivers get most distracted by – and the disparities between genders. The findings are telling; boys, the jig is up! One in five men admitted to being distracted at the wheel by attractive pedestrians. That compares to just one in 20 women who admitted to wandering eyes when on the road.

What else distracts us when driving?

Both men and women find mobile phones and passengers the most distracting. A massive 37 percent of both men and women admitted to phone-based distractions when driving. A respective 27 and 30 percent said talking to other occupants in the car had their attention diverted.

In third place for distraction for men is adjusting the car radio (25 percent), while children fighting in the car is third for women (26 percent). Vehicle controls and attractive pedestrians come in at fourth and fifth for men. Mirror-watching and sat nav directions came fourth and fifth for women.

While it’s at least interesting – and vaguely amusing – to contemplate what distracts us when driving, it’s important to remember the dangers of not giving the act your full attention. Driving has never, and will never be, a multitasking-compatible activity.

distracted driving

“We all know mobile phones are a massive distraction for both male and female drivers behind the wheel, however, it is concerning to see how many other things distract us when we’re driving along that we can’t consciously switch off from” said Jonathan Allbones, director at The Car People.

“Hopefully our research will encourage people to think about their driving habits and ensure that more people are focussed on what is happening on the road ahead of them, instead of factors inside the car and on pavements.”

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Black Saturday

‘Black Saturday’ – the most dangerous day of the year for driving

Black Saturday

Beware ye who enter the British road network tomorrow (Saturday, 2 July) at 2.30pm. ‘Black Saturday’ is nearly upon us – otherwise known as the most dangerous time to be on Britain’s roads this year.

What dashcam maker SmartWitness calls a ‘perfect storm’ of conditions combine all at once. The summer holidays beginning is a big contributing factor. With many schools breaking up for summer today, the nation’s families will be taking to the highways on the way to airports, beaches and amusement parks across the country. Others are also making a beeline for the airports ready for their annual summer getaway.

The specific date and time results is drawn from various data sources, including the Department for Transport and SmartWitness’ own insurance reports – which show peak times for collisions in past years.

The summer months (July and August) present a 27.5 percent increase in road incidents compared to winter months (January and February), in spite of winter’s more adverse driving conditions. In numbers, that’s 33,312 in July and August, compared to 26,122 in January and February.

Saturday is allegedly the most dangerous day of the week to drive, too, with drivers being 1.7 times as likely to get distracted behind the wheel compared to weekdays, according to SmartWitness.

Black Saturday

“The summer months have the highest number of road collisions and Saturday July 21st is likely to provide the perfect storm for poor driving conditions,” said SmartWitness chief executive Paul Singh.

“We are asking motorists to be extra vigilant when starting out on their summer holidays. The most common cause of road collisions is not poor road conditions or your car, it’s bad driving.

“It will be first day of the summer holidays for many families and there will be extremely large numbers of motorists taking to the roads. Cars will be packed full of children and luggage, which means that drivers will be more stressed and distracted than usual, as they make their way to airports and holiday destinations.

“As a result, this day is expected to have the highest number of incidents for the whole of the year, with our data showing that 2.30pm will be the busiest time.”

Motorists: you have been warned.

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