Posts

How to stay awake behind the wheel

How to stay awake behind the wheel

Figures show that 20 percent of road accidents are caused by driver fatigue. Little wonder, then, that a third of UK drivers are scared of driving in the dark.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) also says that tiredness and drowsiness are factors in up to 25 percent of fatal and serious accidents.

Just as worrying is the fact that these types of crashes are 50 percent more likely to result in death or serious injury. The reason: because a driver who has fallen asleep cannot take action to reduce the impact.

RoSPA says accidents caused by tired drivers are most likely to happen:

  • On long journeys and on monotonous roads, such as motorways
  • Between 2am and 6am
  • Between 2pm and 4pm (especially after eating or drinking just one alcoholic drink)
  • After a night of interrupted or less sleep
  • After drinking alcohol
  • If taking medicines that can cause drowsiness
  • After working long hours or a night shift

How to spot the signs

Half of van drivers falling asleep at the wheel

It’s important to recognise the signs of tiredness. Failure to do so could result in an accident caused by reduced reaction times, decreased attention levels and an inability to judge risks.

Symptoms include:

  • Yawning or rubbing your eyes
  • Frequent blinking
  • Daydreaming
  • Trouble remembering the last few miles driven
  • Missing exits or traffic signs
  • Drifting from your lane

How to stay awake when driving

Why sleep is the best prevention for drowsy driving

Not getting behind the wheel when tired is a good place to start, but Moneybarn has the following tips for staying awake when driving.

  • Prevent tiredness: make sure you get 7-8 hours of sleep the night before you drive. If you’re regularly feeling tired, even after a full night’s sleep, arrange to see your doctor.
  • Plan ahead: design your journey to allow you to take regular rest breaks, especially if you’re driving during peak tiredness times.
  • Minimise the risk: plan to stop at a motorway services for a quick rest. Arrange to share the driving with a friend or family member. Coffee will help, but it’s NOT a solution to tired driving.
  • Stay cool: excessive use of in-car heating will make you feel sleepy. Keep the car comfortably cool and open the windows to get some fresh air.

Moneybarn also points to Highway Code rule number 91, which says that a minimum break of at least 15 minutes after every two hours of driving is recommended.

For more information on a driver’s fitness to drive, visit the Highways Code website.

clock change

Does turning the clocks back cause road traffic accidents?

clock change

It’s daylight saving time this weekend, with the clocks going back one hour to give us lighter mornings.

With it comes the bi-annual debate about whether there is a need to change the clocks. And, indeed, if doing so puts motorists at risk during suddenly much darker commutes home.

In response to this, the European Commission has proposed cancelling seasonal clock changes, and it will shortly be discussed in the House of Lords. 

The result, if the changes go ahead? British Summer Time throughout the year. Practically speaking, that means it’s darker for longer in the morning in winter, in exchange for lighter evenings.

Why is this being debated? RoSPA, the national accident prevention charity, believes the darker evenings that result from the clock change are a risk to motorists on their way home from work.

Proof for this comes in the numbers, it says. September last year had a pedestrian death number of 37, compared to 46 in October, 63 in November and 50 in December. From September to November, casualties per billion miles driven went up from 520 to 580.

“A move to British Summer Time (GMT+1) all year round, which is one of the options to be considered, could save many lives by providing an extra hour of daylight throughout the autumn and winter” said Errol Taylor, RoSPA’s chief executive.

clock change

RoSPA has actaully been keen to run a trial where the clocks are in fact put forward, yielding more light in the evenings when the number of casualties is the highest.

Our take

Any action to an end of reducing accidents ought to at least be considered, but there are obvious alternate points of view. Daylight gained in the evening is daylight lost in the morning. Is it possible any accidents attributed to darker nights could simply start happening of a morning? What’s more, we need to consider extraneous variables in reasoning why accident rates increase in the winter months.

The obvious thing to consider is road conditions, with November usually being a rainy and frosty season. It’s the unofficial start of winter, more often than not, and could be attributed to at least some of the increase in accidents and casualties.

Perhaps a trial is indeed in order.

Read more:

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.

How to use emergency refuge areas on smart motorways

Do you know how to use emergency refuge areas on smart motorways?

Emergency refuge areas are a safe haven for stranded vehicles on busy smart motorways – but an alarming 52 percent of motorists don’t know what they are or how to use them.

That’s according to research by the RAC, which surveyed 2,000 drivers and discovered that only 1.5 percent of respondents have ever used an emergency refuge area.

If you’re not familiar with emergency refuge areas, they’re similar to laybys and are located on stretches where the hard shoulder is sometimes open as a live lane on smart motorways.

They’re only meant to be used in an emergency – something 98 percent of motorists realise, according to the RAC’s research.

What many drivers didn’t realise, however, is that you’re supposed to contact Highways England before rejoining the motorway if the hard shoulder is acting as a running lane. If you didn’t know this, you’re not alone – just one respondent to the RAC’s survey did.

“It is essential that motorists understand how and when to use an emergency refuge area so they do not put their own safety and that of other road users at risk,” said the RAC’s chief engineer, David Bizley.

More smart motorways on Motoring Research: 

“Vehicles should pull up to the indicated mark on the tarmac or the emergency telephone and then the occupants should leave the vehicle from the passenger side.

“Everyone should stand behind the barriers and should use the emergency roadside telephone provided to speak to a Highways England representative.”

What is a smart motorway?

Smart motorways are increasingly widespread – including sections of the M6, M25 and M1. They open up the hard shoulder as a live lane during busy periods to ease congestion, and control traffic flow using variable speed limits displayed on overhead gantries.

Emergency refuge areas are located on smart motorways and positioned every 1.5 miles with an emergency roadside phone available to request assistance. Cameras monitor the motorways and lanes can be remotely closed if required, for example if a vehicle breaks down.

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.

Police fail to investigate 30,000 car thefts a year

Police chief fined £586 for driving police car with bald tyres

Meet the Alfa Romeo Giulia cop car

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.