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The government has made it easier to create a ‘play street’

Play streets are now easier to book

The government has made it a lot easier to get your local road closed to make a ‘play street’.

The phenomenon of making ‘play streets’ out of roads by closing them is a relatively new one, and increasingly popular. Some close-knit communities hold regular events in their streets. With cars temporarily banned, people are free to roam and mingle, and children are free to play.

Play streets can be used for anything from sporting events to community gatherings. It’s a concept being pushed by the government and community organisations alike. 

In an update to existing guidelines, the Department for Transport has now given councils powers to make ’special event’ orders on request. Roads can be closed for ‘play’, without the need for advertising.

Play streets are now easier to book

Councils can also use single consent applications for multiple ‘play’ days over a 12-month period. Individual applications for each closer are no longer necessary.

“Play streets offer wonderful opportunities for children to get outdoors and for families and communities to get together,” said Roads Minister Baroness Vere.

“A generation ago, it was common to see young people playing out in the street but today it can be a rare sight.

“That’s why I’m delighted to be making it easier for those who want to create Play Streets, boosting the health and wellbeing of children, families and communities.”

Play streets are now easier to book

“We are delighted that the government has now issued guidance for councils to support play streets,” said Alice Ferguson, Director of Playing Out.

“Children need the chance to play out freely near home, as was the norm a generation ago. Heavy traffic and other conditions have made this increasingly difficult.”

Speeding drivers ‘most likely to crash’

Speeding drivers 'riskiest'Speeding is the riskiest form of aggressive driving, according to a university in Ontario, Canada.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo studied data from 28 million trips to identify possible links between bad driving and the likelihood of a crash.

The analysis revealed that speeding is a strong predictor of crashes, but links for the other kinds of aggressive driving – hard braking, hard acceleration and hard cornering – couldn’t be established.

Researchers used data from insurance companies in Ontario and Texas to identify 28 crashes based on indicators such as rapid deceleration. Each vehicle was then matched with 20 control vehicles that not been involved in a crash but had similar characteristics, such as location and driving distance.

When the crashes were compared to the control cases, speeding emerged as the key difference between them.

Used effectively, this data could be used to transform the way insurance companies calculate annual premiums. At present, the price is based on a number of factors, including age, location, use and engine size. 

Analysis of telematics data could deliver highly personalised premiums based on actual driving behaviour. If a driver spends a high proportion of their time breaking the speed limit, the following year’s premium could rise.

Slower driving could be rewarded with a reduced premium.

‘Always-on’, always watching

Of course, having an ‘always-on’ telematics device in the car raises privacy concerns. Not only will your insurance company know when a policyholder has driven too fast, they will also know where they have been, the route they take to work and even their choice of radio station.

Telematics are nothing new: the fleet industry uses devices to track drivers and vehicles, while young motorists save an average £151.25 with ‘black box car insurance’.

Research by RAC Business found that 40 percent of businesses faced staff concerns about privacy, which is why it launched a personal key fob to allow workers to turn off telematics when they’re not driving for work.

Speed causes crashes

‘We are super pumped’

From a wider perspective, Allaa Hilal, an adjunct professor of electrical and computer engineering, believes the data could be used to make roads safer by giving drivers tangible evidence that speed is a primary contributor to crashes. 

“Some of the results are no surprise, but prior to this we had a whole industry based on intuition,” said Hilal. “Now it is formulated – we know aggressive driving has an impact.”

“Having this information exposed and understood allows people to wrap their minds around their true risks and improve their driving behaviours. We are super pumped about its potential.”

Stefan Steiner, a statistics professor at Waterloo University, said that the study was “limited by several unknowns” and more research is required to verify the results.

Car crime

Revealed: the worst places in the UK for car crime

Car crime hotspotsLondon, Manchester and Bradford are the worst area in Britain for vandalism, car crime and road safety – with a staggering 1 in 3 Londoners having suffered car vandalism while parked up in their home area.

The figures are from official 2016 police data, claims data and consumer research. More Londoners than any other UK resident have suffered vandalism – 33% of them, in fact. That’s far ahead of Leeds and Glasgow which are placed second. 13% of locals have had a car vandalised there.

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But even this staggering figure doesn’t place the UK capital number one for the highest rate of car crime. That dubious honour goes to Manchester.

A whopping 192 car crimes per 10,000 registered vehicles have been recorded in Manchester – compared to, for example, 48 crimes per 10,000 vehicles in Glasgow, which ranked 10th in the analysis carried out by Rias.

London places ‘only’ third in the car crime rate, with 162 crimes per 10,000 vehicles.

However, while only 7% of residents in Bradford have experienced car vandalism, the roads in the area themselves are far tougher on cars and motorists: 64% think the roads are actually unsafe. More than half of drivers in Bradford say others routinely ignore the speed limits, for example.

Liverpool, in contrast, has the lowest car vandalism rate, and more Liverpudlians perceive their roads to be safe than in any other region of the UK.

Adam Clarke, managing director of Rias (a car insurer for the over 50s) said: “While official data appears to show that some cities have higher vehicle crime rates than others, people should always be mindful of crime in their city and not get complacent even when the crime rate is low.”

His top tops for cutting car crime include:

  • Never leaving valuables on show to tempt ‘smash and grab’ thieves
  • Turn your wheels towards the kerb when parking – it will put thieves off as it will take more time to drive away
  • Make sure your car is actually locked – it’s more common than you think!
  • Add on some anti-theft measures (don’t forget this when ticking the options boxes on a new car too)
Motoring selfie

RAC reveals motoring mobile phone ‘epidemic’

Motoring selfieMobile phone use while driving has reached ‘epidemic’ proportions, says the RAC, as tens of millions of drivers admit they reach for their smartphones while behind the wheel.

A staggering 11 million drivers have taken or received a call on a handheld mobile in the past year; even more worryingly, 5 million have taken photos or videos while driving. Some even admit to making video calls when driving.

1 in 5 drivers feel it is safe to check social media updates while waiting at traffic lights, and 44% of younger drivers aged 17 to 24 admit they have taken photos or videos when stationary behind the wheel.

In 2014, just 8% of motorists admitted they used a handheld mobile phone behind the wheel: this year, it’s shot up to 31%, with the proportion of drivers saying it’s not acceptable to take a quick call at the wheel actually falling by 6% – in other words, more and more drivers think it’s now acceptable to take a use a smartphone while driving.

RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said there is now clear evidence the use of handheld phones behind the wheel is on the increase. “The fact that drivers have little or no confidence that they will be caught when braking these laws is a likely contributor,” he said. “Every day, most road users see other drivers brazenly using their handheld phones – a sight which should be a thing of the past.

“The use of handheld mobile phones is the biggest road safety concern among motorists today: we call on all stakeholders to step up efforts to shift cultural attitudes and make the use of handheld mobile phones as socially unacceptable as drink driving.”

Motoring selfie

RAC reveals motoring mobile phone 'epidemic'

Motoring selfieMobile phone use while driving has reached ‘epidemic’ proportions, says the RAC, as tens of millions of drivers admit they reach for their smartphones while behind the wheel.

A staggering 11 million drivers have taken or received a call on a handheld mobile in the past year; even more worryingly, 5 million have taken photos or videos while driving. Some even admit to making video calls when driving.

1 in 5 drivers feel it is safe to check social media updates while waiting at traffic lights, and 44% of younger drivers aged 17 to 24 admit they have taken photos or videos when stationary behind the wheel.

In 2014, just 8% of motorists admitted they used a handheld mobile phone behind the wheel: this year, it’s shot up to 31%, with the proportion of drivers saying it’s not acceptable to take a quick call at the wheel actually falling by 6% – in other words, more and more drivers think it’s now acceptable to take a use a smartphone while driving.

RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said there is now clear evidence the use of handheld phones behind the wheel is on the increase. “The fact that drivers have little or no confidence that they will be caught when braking these laws is a likely contributor,” he said. “Every day, most road users see other drivers brazenly using their handheld phones – a sight which should be a thing of the past.

“The use of handheld mobile phones is the biggest road safety concern among motorists today: we call on all stakeholders to step up efforts to shift cultural attitudes and make the use of handheld mobile phones as socially unacceptable as drink driving.”

20mph speed limit

Safety group unconvinced about 20mph Edinburgh safety scheme

20mph speed limitRoad safety charity IAM RoadSmart says Edinburgh’s 20mph city-wide speed limit set to come into force on Sunday 31 July is a cheap, blanket approach that doesn’t address specific safety issues.

The Scottish capital will be the first to impose a 20mph speed limit on more than 80% of city streets, an initiative intended to make roads ‘safer and calmer’.

But the IAM says it’s potentially confusing because drivers take their cues from the environment and, on some roads, it “looks and feels safer to go over 20”.

The new Edinburgh speed limit will be policed in the same way as other speed limits: transgressors will be hit with a £100 fine and three penalty points.

Councillor Lesley Hinds leads Edinburgh’s transport division and admitted to the Edinburgh News that it “would take a bit of time for it to become second nature.

“It’s a change of attitude. People used to drink and drive and that attitude changed.”

The IAM believes there’s some way to go: “Covering whole areas in one 20mph limit and putting up some signs is a cheap way to do it,” said policy and research director Neil Greig.

“If you look at the evidence, what seems to work is measures like speed bumps and narrower roads.

“We’d rather see investment made in dealing with the streets where there will be most benefit.”

Driving at night

Overtired drivers admit they have dozed at the wheel

Driving at nightA staggering 4 in 10 British drivers admit they have fallen asleep at the wheel – despite more than a quarter of serious car crashes being tiredness-related.

Indeed, over half of motorists say they ignore official guidance to take a break every two hours on long journeys: 1 in 5 drivers instead carry on even when they know they’re overtired.

More than a third have knowingly put themselves or others in danger because of this.

“Tired drivers are a huge danger to not only themselves but other drivers and passengers on the roads,” said Debbie Kirkley, co-founder of OSV vehicle leasing, who carried out the research.

Drivers “should always plan their journeys carefully to include regular rest breaks. A minimum of 15 minutes every two hours.”

Sadly, in reality, 81% only stop because they need the loo or are hungry: a mere 25% actually stop because they feel they’re tired.

More than three quarter of drivers counter tiredness behind the wheel by other means: drinking coffee or water, turning up the radio or eating. Solutions that are usually ineffective, says Kirkley.

It’s men who are more likely to driver overtired than women – although the research also shows it’s female drivers who are more likely to nod off or fall asleep at the wheel. Luckily, women are more sensible than men and, suggests research, are more likely to take regular breaks.

The world's first car-crash-proof person

Graham: surviving the car crashes that would kill you

The world's first car-crash-proof personMeet Graham: he’s rather ugly but he can do something nobody else in the world can: survive a car crash.

Created by the Victoria Transport Accident Commission in Australia, Graham has been designed to expose human vulnerability in a car accident by showing what’s necessary to survive one.

Graham thus has a flat, flabby face to absorb the energy of an impact against a steering wheel or windscreen. Ears are protected; his nose is tiny and there’s lots of fatty tissue around his cheekbones.

His brain is the same size as ours but his skull is much larger, almost helmet-sized; it’s packed with more fluid and ligaments to support the brain in an impact.

The world's first car-crash-proof person

Graham has ultra-strong ribs, a much larger chest and bizarre airbag-like sacks between each rib. They also provide more protection for his heart and other internal organs.

His skin is much thicker and tougher to protect against abrasions: lacerations in a car crash can strip skin down to the flesh, causing permanent nerve damage and scars. He also has knee joints that move in all directions, making it less likely to break.

Graham even has double-jointed lower legs to reduce the forces in an impact – and they also help him as a pedestrian, allowing him to jump out of the way of an accident altogether.

The world's first car-crash-proof person

Human bodies can only cope with impacts at speeds they can reach on their own. Running at full pace into a wall is survivable: driving a car into a wall is probably not. Hence Graham’s rather unique physique.

Of course, Graham isn’t a real person. He is a life-sized sculpture that’s now going on show in the city before going on a road safety roadshow.

“Graham is an educational tool that will serve the community for years to come as a reminder of why we need to develop a safer road system that will protect us when things go wrong,” said TAC chief executive Joe Calafiore.

Video: meet Graham

Pokemon GO

Pokémon Go: stop exploring when you’re driving

Pokemon Go drivingPokémon Go risks taking the illegal use of hand-held smartphones behind the wheel to a whole new level, the RAC has warned.

The addictive smartphone game has already broken download records but it’s vital not to get hooked into it when driving a car, says the RAC.

“It has to be Pokémon no-go when driving,” says RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams. “It is critical drivers are not tempted to have the app running on their mobile phones while driving” – not least because pedestrians hooked by the game and exploring their locality may create road safety dangers of their own.

Indeed, the RAC is also warning pedestrians “not to get caught into the Pokémon mist and find themselves stepping into the path of danger. The risks are obvious but this feels like a whole new level of gaming addition and another reason for people to be glued to their smartphones instead of looking where they are going.”

And even motorists who resist the lure of using Pokémon GO themselves may still be reeled in by the game – with requests from children to change route, slow down or speed up so they can catch Pokémon characters…

Pokémon GO was launched by Nintendo earlier this month. It is a location-based smartphone game for iOS and Android that uses augmented reality and GPS to locate virtual Pokémon in the real world as they walk.

Its success has seen Nintendo’s share price rise by more than 50% since its launch.

Motorway at night

Motor-no-way: 1 in 5 Brits steer clear

Motorway at nightAlthough they’re statistically Britain’s safest roads, motorways still strike fear into millions of British motorists, with a new survey revealing 22% of the nation’s 38 million drivers rarely use them.

The overwhelming reason, according to the analysis by the RAC? For nearly 7 in 10, it’s the speed at which traffic travels at: over half say this means they feel more at risk of being in an accident.

The statistics disagree: motorways carry 21% of British road traffic, yet account for 5.4% of road fatalities and less than 5% of injured road casualties.

“Despite motorways statistically being some of our safest roads, many people still seem to rely on partners, friends and family when they need to use one,” said the RAC’s Simon Williams.

“The message to them has to be: with the right instruction and advice, plenty of care and practice, confidence in motorway driving can easily grow.”

But there is another significant reason for not using motorways: 32% feel they’re simply too boring…

British motorway facts

  • There are 2,300 miles of motorway in Britain
  • They carry 21% of all traffic in Britain
  • In the year to September 2015, 65.4 billion miles were driven on British motorways
  • That’s an all-time high figure – and 2% up on 2014: yes, motorways are getting busier
  • Of the 1,775 fatalities on British roads in 2014, 96 occurred on a motorway