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Motorway at night

Opinion: Motorways are smart. Pity drivers aren’t

Motorway at nightAs a regular user of the M6 and M1, it happens almost every time I drive on them: someone cruises up the hard shoulder and drives past me.

Quite apart from the obvious rules-flouting undertake, this is also illegal because, well, it’s the hard shoulder, not a live running lane. So why do they do it?

Because it’s a smart motorway section and they clearly think it’s within their right. Indeed, the undertake is probably a badge of honour because I’m in the wrong and they’re teaching me a lesson. (Such is the logic of many road rage-infused motorists.)

Only I’m not. And they’re not so smart. Because although it’s a smart motorway, the ‘smart’ hard shoulder bit isn’t actually live. The overhead gantries, shorn of illuminated speed limit indicators, confirm this.

And if they then do come across someone stopped on the side of the motorway, poking about under their bonnet or struggling to change a wheel – well, it doesn’t bear thinking about, does it?

This is the conundrum of smart motorways: they’re an excellent idea, and the stepchange in available road space really does help manage congestion. I’m all in favour of them – but people need to be taught how to use them, and this is where the Department for Transport has failed.

Because now, it’s almost an assumption that if a motorway is smart, the hard shoulder can be used all the time. And, sooner or later, I fear this is going to cause a big accident. If, indeed, it hasn’t already.

The simple solution is obvious: if the lane is closed, permanently display a big red ‘X’ in that lane. This would make it blindingly obvious to all road users. Oh, and maybe set the speed cameras to capture motorists who drive past a red ‘X’ (or at least tell people that’s what you’re planning to do).

Motorists are still getting used to smart motorways, and an apparent lack of information means many just don’t understand it. So, DfT, until you get your education campaign fully into gear, turn on the crosses. It may just save lives.

Motorway at night

Opinion: Motorways are smart. Pity drivers aren't

Motorway at nightAs a regular user of the M6 and M1, it happens almost every time I drive on them: someone cruises up the hard shoulder and drives past me.

Quite apart from the obvious rules-flouting undertake, this is also illegal because, well, it’s the hard shoulder, not a live running lane. So why do they do it?

Because it’s a smart motorway section and they clearly think it’s within their right. Indeed, the undertake is probably a badge of honour because I’m in the wrong and they’re teaching me a lesson. (Such is the logic of many road rage-infused motorists.)

Only I’m not. And they’re not so smart. Because although it’s a smart motorway, the ‘smart’ hard shoulder bit isn’t actually live. The overhead gantries, shorn of illuminated speed limit indicators, confirm this.

And if they then do come across someone stopped on the side of the motorway, poking about under their bonnet or struggling to change a wheel – well, it doesn’t bear thinking about, does it?

This is the conundrum of smart motorways: they’re an excellent idea, and the stepchange in available road space really does help manage congestion. I’m all in favour of them – but people need to be taught how to use them, and this is where the Department for Transport has failed.

Because now, it’s almost an assumption that if a motorway is smart, the hard shoulder can be used all the time. And, sooner or later, I fear this is going to cause a big accident. If, indeed, it hasn’t already.

The simple solution is obvious: if the lane is closed, permanently display a big red ‘X’ in that lane. This would make it blindingly obvious to all road users. Oh, and maybe set the speed cameras to capture motorists who drive past a red ‘X’ (or at least tell people that’s what you’re planning to do).

Motorists are still getting used to smart motorways, and an apparent lack of information means many just don’t understand it. So, DfT, until you get your education campaign fully into gear, turn on the crosses. It may just save lives.

Volkswagen Beetle

Day trips ruined by the car journey say 8 in 10

Volkswagen BeetleThe vast majority of Brits say they’ve had a day trip ruined before it’s even begun by a terrible car journey – with heavy traffic being the biggest reason why.

81% of respondents to an Automyze survey admit the whole trip has been spoiled by the actual journey to it, with 52% of them blaming heavy traffic.

Even if they get there without trouble, 34% have suffered a ruined day trip because they couldn’t find anywhere to park, while almost 1 in 10 barely made it to their destination in the first place because they got lost en route.

“Brits are great opportunists and often take advantage of the UK’s sporadic days of heat to go on mini-breaks or drive to the coast,” said Automyze director Lucy Burnford.

“While images of knotted handkerchiefs and fish and chips may conjure up the British summer of old, perhaps lines of traffic backed up in seaside downs is today’s more accurate depiction.”

Motorists also revealed the things most likely to wind them up when on the road in summer: topping the table here was people who throw rubbish out of the window – a particular gripe of those aged 45-54.

Groups of cyclists and inconsiderate parking wind up millennials, while slow-moving caravans irritate those aged 35-44.

If you’re 65 or older, other cars playing loud music with the windows open is the thing guaranteed to get your blood boiling.

“The holiday season can mean warmish temperatures but even hotter heads,” said Burnford. Be careful out there…

Family car trip

Most stressful minute into a long journey revealed

Family car tripFamilies travelling on a staycation will reach peak stress 1 hour 16 minutes into the journey, new research has revealed.

Insurance comparison site comparethemarket.com questioned more than 1,000 adults with children about staycations and discovered breaking point thus comes relatively early into the journey: more than 6 in 10 UK car holiday trips take three hours or more.

Topping the list of stress inducers is boredom, which beats arguments between siblings and the need for loo breaks; perhaps this is why 16% of parents admit they keep their children up late the night before a holiday drive in the hope they’ll sleep through the trip.

5% will even turn to (over-the-counter) drugs: Calpol is cited by some as a solution to induce sleep and reduce stress.

Note, Calpol for the children, not the parents.

A more sanguine 46% will load the car with tablet computers, smartphone chargers and video games to keep children entertained – meaning technology is a more populate cure for boredom than traditional games such as I-spy.

1 in 5 also say they still play the number plate game, although since the advent of the new-stye number plate in 2001, the threat of arguments over the exact rules is a risk many parents may wish to steer clear of.

New car finance

Car finance: 3 in 4 Brits use it but 2 in 3 can't explain it

New car financeBritish car buyers do not understand common car finance terms such as personal contract hire, personal contract purchase and gap insurance – despite 77% of new car sales now using car dealer finance.

New car finance actually grew once again last month, by more than 10%, but two in three Brits do not feel confident explaining commonly-used car finance jargon.

Vauxhall: ‘most Corsa VXR buyers are under 30’

The survey of more than 1,000 car buyers, by BMW Group Financial Services, discovered that just 18% of car buyers can explain personal contract hire (PCH) and less than 20% can explain personal contract purchase (PCP).

This is despite some brands claiming nearly 9 in 10 sales are made via PCP.

Indeed, 28% of new car buyers admit they can’t explain any car dealer jargon.

“These results go a long way to illustrating the state of the nation’s knowledge about finance,” said BMW Group Financial Services’ general manager Suzanne Gray.

That, she says, is why the financial firm has simplified all its car finance terms – and Gray hopes other providers will now do the same.

“Simplified motor finance is long overdue and we are responding to a public need for clear terms.”

Last month, new car sales grew once again – and they’re up 7% thus far in 2015 compared to the same period last year. Nearly 40 consecutive months of growth in new car sales has now been achieved.

The five most commonly misunderstood new car finance terms

  1. PCH (personal contract hire): An upfront payment scheme with regular monthly hire payments: you rent the car rather than buy it outright
  2. GAP insurance: covers you for any shortfall if your car is written off while you’re still paying the loan
  3. PCP (personal contract purchase): Similar to PCH but monthly payments are only the car’s depreciation rather than the full amount (see below); At the end, you can buy the car, give it back, or use the equity towards a new car
  4. GMFV (guaranteed minimum future value): How much the car will be worth at the end of a PCP; monthly payments are the difference between the purchase price and the GMFV
  5. Deposit contribution: A dealer incentive offered for those who take out dealer finance
New car finance

Car finance: 3 in 4 Brits use it but 2 in 3 can’t explain it

New car financeBritish car buyers do not understand common car finance terms such as personal contract hire, personal contract purchase and gap insurance – despite 77% of new car sales now using car dealer finance.

New car finance actually grew once again last month, by more than 10%, but two in three Brits do not feel confident explaining commonly-used car finance jargon.

Vauxhall: ‘most Corsa VXR buyers are under 30’

The survey of more than 1,000 car buyers, by BMW Group Financial Services, discovered that just 18% of car buyers can explain personal contract hire (PCH) and less than 20% can explain personal contract purchase (PCP).

This is despite some brands claiming nearly 9 in 10 sales are made via PCP.

Indeed, 28% of new car buyers admit they can’t explain any car dealer jargon.

“These results go a long way to illustrating the state of the nation’s knowledge about finance,” said BMW Group Financial Services’ general manager Suzanne Gray.

That, she says, is why the financial firm has simplified all its car finance terms – and Gray hopes other providers will now do the same.

“Simplified motor finance is long overdue and we are responding to a public need for clear terms.”

Last month, new car sales grew once again – and they’re up 7% thus far in 2015 compared to the same period last year. Nearly 40 consecutive months of growth in new car sales has now been achieved.

The five most commonly misunderstood new car finance terms

  1. PCH (personal contract hire): An upfront payment scheme with regular monthly hire payments: you rent the car rather than buy it outright
  2. GAP insurance: covers you for any shortfall if your car is written off while you’re still paying the loan
  3. PCP (personal contract purchase): Similar to PCH but monthly payments are only the car’s depreciation rather than the full amount (see below); At the end, you can buy the car, give it back, or use the equity towards a new car
  4. GMFV (guaranteed minimum future value): How much the car will be worth at the end of a PCP; monthly payments are the difference between the purchase price and the GMFV
  5. Deposit contribution: A dealer incentive offered for those who take out dealer finance
MINI TLC

1 in 4 MINI owners waste TLC one-off cost servicing pack

MINI TLC26% of MINI owners who pay for the TLC servicing pack are wasting money, the firm has revealed – because they pay for servicing outside the MINI network when there’s still credit left on their TLC pack. Read more

Lotus rolls out three-year free servicing incentive

Jean-Marc-Gales_CEO-of-Group-Lotus-and-Aslam-FarikullahLotus has introduced a three-year free servicing deal on the Elise, Evora and Exige S range in what is hoped will give a big boost in buyer confidence. Read more

'i-sapping' car breakdown risk for unwary motorists

'i-sapping' car breakdown risk for unwary motorists

'i-sapping' car breakdown risk for unwary motorists

Motorists charging sat navs, smartphones and iPods from their car’s 12v socket are at increased risk of battery-related breakdowns this winter, warns Kwik-Fit.

The automotive repair firm has dubbed the problem ‘i-sapping’.

More than three in five drivers are charging devices in their car using the 12v socket, with nearly four in 10 charging sat navs and over a third topping up their smartphones.

However, because batteries have to work so much harder in the winter, this extra drain is putting motorists at risk of breakdowns and non-starting issues.

The fact more than half of drivers do not get their batteries checked during winter is not helping, says the firm.

Communications director Roger Griggs said: “Many motorists don’t realise the effect devices plugged into their cars can have on a battery.

“Sat navs, tablets and other gadgets that are designed to make our lives more comfortable can actually have the opposite effect, by cutting short the life of even a new battery and leaving us stuck with a car that won’t start.

“At Kwik Fit, we often see an increase in vehicles coming in with battery issues when the temperatures drop, normally to the surprise of the customer.”

The firm advises anyone with a battery more than five years old to get it checked – that’s “a usual turning point in a battery’s life”.

'i-sapping' car breakdown risk for unwary motorists

‘i-sapping’ car breakdown risk for unwary motorists

'i-sapping' car breakdown risk for unwary motorists

Motorists charging sat navs, smartphones and iPods from their car’s 12v socket are at increased risk of battery-related breakdowns this winter, warns Kwik-Fit.

The automotive repair firm has dubbed the problem ‘i-sapping’.

More than three in five drivers are charging devices in their car using the 12v socket, with nearly four in 10 charging sat navs and over a third topping up their smartphones.

However, because batteries have to work so much harder in the winter, this extra drain is putting motorists at risk of breakdowns and non-starting issues.

The fact more than half of drivers do not get their batteries checked during winter is not helping, says the firm.

Communications director Roger Griggs said: “Many motorists don’t realise the effect devices plugged into their cars can have on a battery.

“Sat navs, tablets and other gadgets that are designed to make our lives more comfortable can actually have the opposite effect, by cutting short the life of even a new battery and leaving us stuck with a car that won’t start.

“At Kwik Fit, we often see an increase in vehicles coming in with battery issues when the temperatures drop, normally to the surprise of the customer.”

The firm advises anyone with a battery more than five years old to get it checked – that’s “a usual turning point in a battery’s life”.