Driver eye test ‘not fit for purpose’, says safety group

Driver eye test not fir for purpose

The current eye test for drivers is ‘out of date’ and ‘not fit for purpose’, according to a road safety group.

Drivers must be able to read – with glasses or contact lenses if necessary – a car number plate made after 1 September 2001 from 20 metres.

An eye test is part of the practical driving test, with the driver asked to read a number plate on a parked vehicle.

If the driver fails the eye test, the driving test stops, the DVLA is informed and the licence is revoked. Re-applicants will be required to have an eye at a DVSA driving test centre, along with the standard eye test as part of the practical driving test.

Drivers must also have a visual acuity of at least decimal 0.5 (6/12) measured on the Snellen scale, along with an adequate field of vision.

An eye test every 10 years

GEM Motoring Assist says this isn’t enough and is calling for a detailed eye test to form part of the driver photocard licence renewal process, every 10 years.

Road safety officer, Neil Worth, said: “If you can’t see properly, you shouldn’t be driving. Poor eyesight is linked to more than 3,000 fatal and serious injury collisions every year. We are worried that there are just too many people driving whose eyesight has deteriorated to an unacceptable level.

“We believe it is entirely practical and sensible to require a test of visual acuity and field of view every 10 years, something that would fit in with licence renewal.

“Tests of this kind would not only make our roads safer, saving lives, disability and many millions of pounds through the reduction in the number of crashes, but they would also play a vital role valuable tool in the early diagnosis of many other costly medical conditions, irrespective of driving.”

The 20 metres test

Eye test for older people

Rule 92 of the Highway Code states the following:

Vision. You MUST be able to read a vehicle number plate, in good daylight, from a distance of 20 metres (or 20.5 metres where the old style number plate is used). If you need to wear glasses (or contact lenses) to do this, you MUST wear them at all times while driving. The police have the power to require a driver to undertake an eyesight test.

In 2018, the DVLA launched a campaign to remind drivers that they can check their vision by taking the 20 metres test. Five car lengths or eight parking bays is an easy way to measure the distance.

Dr Wyn Parry, DVLA’s senior doctor, said: “The number plate test is a simple and effective way for people to check their eyesight meets the required standards for driving.

“Having good eyesight is essential for safe driving, so it’s really important for drivers to have regular eye tests. Eyesight can naturally deteriorate over time so anyone concerned about their eyesight should visit their optician – don’t wait for your next check-up.”

As part of its Older Drivers Campaign, RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents), advises motorists to keep a spare set of glasses in the glovebox.

Opinion: Too few of us care about mobile phone use

Opinion on mobile phone use at the wheel

Around a quarter of all drivers said that they have made or received a call on a handheld phone at the wheel. That’s one of many depressing findings of the RAC’s study of UK drivers.

This year’s Report on Motoring found that this is the most commonly cited concern among drivers, with 12 percent of those surveyed (the equivalent of five million people), saying it’s their biggest worry.

Just 12 percent? It needs to be higher, especially when 17 percent of drivers admitted to checking texts, emails or social media while driving. I suspect the percentage would be greater if drivers were prepared to confess their sins.

Predictably, younger drivers appear to be the worst culprits. Just 49 percent of 17 to 24 year olds said they never make or receive calls, with 62 percent claiming they never text, email or use social media at the wheel. That leaves far too many drivers who have.

New drivers have grown up with smartphones and find it harder to leave their phones alone for any length of time. The government urges drivers to place their phones in the glovebox, but the likes of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto encourage us to plug in and place the device in the centre console.

When the traffic slows and the journey becomes tedious, grabbing the phone becomes all too tempting. 

Just 15 percent of drivers put their phone in the glovebox, 45 percent use a pocket or bag, with a quarter placing it on the passenger seat. Not out of sight and not out of mind.

Anecdotal evidence would suggest the problem is far worse than the figures suggest. Go for a drive and it won’t be long before you see a driver flouting the law.

Only last week, during the WLTP Challenge, I witnessed the driver of an all-terrain crane driving along the M6 with a phone pressed to his ear. The crane in question is fitted with a hands-free kit, so why did the driver choose to break the law? One can only imagine the devastating effects of a 50-tonne crane ploughing into the back of a family hatchback.

Is the driver unaware of the risk? Does he believe that the left-hand-drive crane allows him to ‘hide’ from onlookers as he crawls along in the slow lane? Does he feel that he’s above the law?

Maybe the penalties aren’t strict enough: the threat of six penalties points and a £200 fine isn’t a sufficient deterrent. Discuss.

Nodding donkeys and two-fingered salutes

Driver using a handheld mobile phone

Some drivers do little to hide the fact that they’re on the phone. A phone up to the ear is a blatant ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude to other drivers – a kind of two-fingered salute to the law and the obvious risks.

Others are more discreet. You’ll have seen the ‘nodding donkeys’ parked at traffic lights, as drivers glance up and down from their phone while they wait for the lights to change.

Some will hold their phone at steering wheel height, in an attempt to maintain some degree of control of the vehicle. Then there are those who place the phone on their lap, oblivious to the length of time they’re spending with their eyes diverted from the road.

Last year, a study revealed that young people check their phones every 8.6 minutes, more frequently than any other age group. Little wonder that so many drivers are finding it hard to resist the lure of their smartphone, even on the shortest of commutes.

Around a third of drivers felt stressed and “cut off” without their phone and 29 percent “felt lost” without it. With such a strong reliance on our devices, how can we expect motorists to turn them off and chuck them in the glovebox?

As the RAC report highlights, mobile phone use is just one of a number of ‘menaces’ on Britain’s roads. Road rage, drink-driving, drug-driving and dangerous driving are just a few of the other risks of the road.

Rover and out

Drivers flouting mobile phone use laws

What’s the common thread? The motorist.

Our cars are safer than ever, to the point that they will do their upmost to keep us out of trouble. Maybe that’s part of the problem – we feel safely cocooned in our Euro NCAP-approved boxes, oblivious to the dangers and with little sense of the speed of travel.

Perhaps drivers should be forced to spend six months driving a Rover 100 or G-Wiz before being allowed to drive a safe car or travel with a mobile phone. 

Or maybe all cars should be fitted with an orange flashing light that illuminates when a handheld phone is in use. A kind of Dom Joly ‘I’m on the mobile’ approach to the legislation.

That ought to stop drivers from being too trigger happy with their mobiles.

Smart motorways should be banned, says road safety group

Rex X smart motorways

A road safety organisation has joined the calls to put the brakes on the rollout of smart motorways.

Some argue the absence of a hard shoulder makes smart motorways more dangerous than conventional motorways – a claim disputed by Highways England.

It says journey reliability has improved by 22 percent and personal injury accidents have reduced by more than a half since the introduction of the first smart motorway in 2006.

But Gem Motoring Assist is calling for smart motorways to be banned until a proper safety review has been carried out. It’s also demanding more refuge areas to provide a safe haven for stranded motorists.

‘Proper safety review’ is required

Smart motorways dangerous

Gem road safety officer Neil Worth said: “Motorways may be the fastest roads we use, but they are statistically also the safest; and there are fewer collisions on motorways than on other roads.

“However, the high speeds used on motorways mean that when there is a crash, it is likely to be more serious. That’s why, on average, around one in 50 motorway collisions is fatal, compared with one in 70 on all other roads.

“We are also asking ministers and highways authorities specifically to call a halt to their rollout of smart motorways across the country until a proper review of safety has been completed and adequate refuge areas provided for drivers.

“In order to maximise safety, we also urge drivers to ensure they know the rules and signs relating to smart motorways, which are becoming more commonplace.”

‘Safest in the world’

Red X closed lanes smart motorway fines

Highways England insists smart motorways are safe and is investing around £3 billion in their rollout until 2020.

The agency faced criticism last month after a lorry ploughed into the back of a broken down vehicle in a stretch of hard shoulder being used as a live lane of the M1 near Chesterfield. 

When asked about the dangers of smart motorways, a spokesperson for Highways England told Derbyshire Live that it would “never carry out a major improvement scheme” without being confident in maintaining its roads as “among the very safest in the world”.

“Smart motorways are good for drivers, adding vital extra lanes to some of our busiest motorways and making journeys safer and more reliable. As with other roads, we monitor the safety performance of smart motorways and are rolling out enhancements to improve the road user experience.“

Click here for our guide to driving on a smart motorway.

Highways England responds

Highways England has responded, saying its own assessment shows that accident and injury figures are falling. Collisions and casualties are, it says, 4.3 and 5.9 percent lower respectively than in 2017.Motorway speed limit 80

Emergency areas, slip-road hard shoulders and other places to stop in emergencies are located at least every 1.5 miles on all-lane running stretches of motorway. Highways England reiterated its commitment to reducing that distance to one mile from 2020.

“Safety is the top priority for Highways England and we urge everyone who uses our roads to make it theirs, too,” said Highways England head of road safety, Richard Leonard.

“Any death, on any type of road, is one too many. We’re working hard to improve England’s motorways and A-roads and we need your help. We all have a role to play to make sure we all get home, safe and well and we’re asking all drivers to make their own safety, and that of other people, the most important thing to think about when they travel. Remember to check your vehicle, obey all signs and think about other drivers.”

A dangerous false economy: why you should avoid fake car parts

Warnings against fake car parts

“The parts market is rife with counterfeits.” That was the warning from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) last year as it reported on the dangers of fake car parts.

The production of fake parts is often seen as a victimless crime. After all, if a motorist is able to purchase a car part of equal quality to OEM (original equipment manufacturer) but for a cheaper price, what’s the harm?

Unfortunately, while the fake parts might look the same, the quality is likely to be very different. At best, the motorist could be left with an expensive repair bill. At worst, the consequences of fitting a part with a safety defect could be catastrophic.

Counterfeiting is also linked to other criminal activities such as organised crime, drugs, child exploitation and prostitution. Not so victimless after all.

Sparked by Australian discovery

Fake spark plugs in Australia

The problem of fake car parts recently hit the headlines in Australia following the discovery of a large batch of counterfeit spark plugs purchased online. As many as 60 percent of spark plugs for sale over the internet have been verified as fraudulent parts being sold as genuine parts.

Drivers who have used the fake spark plugs will notice a major drop in engine power, particularly under heavy acceleration or load. If the plugs overheat, they will melt and cause extreme engine damage, costing the driver thousands in engine repair costs.

Tony Weber, chief executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) in Australia, said: “The best way to avoid a fake? Make certain your parts are purchased from the authorised dealer network.

“We have experts examining the packaging and spark plugs and even they can barely tell the difference. You won’t know it’s a fake until it’s too late.”

Fake airbags are common

That’s the key: many parts are indistinguishable from the original. The most common fake vehicle parts worldwide include filters, brake pads, alloy wheels and airbags.

The FCAI has found oil filters that don’t filter oil, alloy wheels that shatter when they come into contact with potholes, brake components containing asbestos and, in one case, brake pads made of compressed grass clippings.

Closer to home, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) estimates that more than €2 billion is lost every year due to counterfeit tyres and batteries alone.

According to the IPO, an estimated 90 percent of counterfeit crime is unreported, while as many as one in six online purchases are fake goods. Around 10 percent of consumers are deceived into buying counterfeits, while seven percent of consumers intentionally seek them out.

As this video showing a BMW 5 Series demonstrates, saving money by using fake car parts is a false economy.

Last year, Porsche confiscated 33,000 fake car parts worth an estimated $2.2 million and believes 80 percent of the counterfeit items came from China. The vast majority are sold via online platforms like Amazon and eBay.

Thomas Fischer, a Porsche brand protector, said: “This is where things get dangerous. These spare parts are neither tested nor approved. It goes without saying that we want to prevent products like this ending up in our cars.”

How to reduce the risk of buying fake car parts

  • No such thing as a free lunch: if a spare part is too cheap, it may well be fake. If in doubt, research the seller and the product – improved product verification means that spare parts are now uniquely identified.
  • Prove the provenance: thanks to Manufacturers Against Product Piracy (MAPP), all spare parts have a unique barcode. In conjunction with holograms and digital fingerprints, all OEM parts can be verified.
  • Original equipment: vehicle manufacturers and legitimate parts producers provide original or approved spares. If in doubt, check with a reputable garage, dealership or parts distributor.
  • Too good to be true: vehicle design improves incrementally, meaning manufacturers will make ongoing adjustments to components. Counterfeiters are more likely to adopt a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

Dr. Daniel Dünnebacke of vehicle authenticity specialists OneIdentity+ said: “With the increasing networking of entire vehicles or individual components, the originality of the involved sender/receiver is of elementary importance. In addition to ‘classic’ mechanical defects, there is the risk of faulty sensor technology and IT.

“Trust in the supply chain, and thus in the dealer and workshop, is vital. The members of the Manufacturers Against Product Piracy (MAPP) initiative, well-known, trusted suppliers such as Bosch, Continental or Schaeffler, offer easily verifiable MAPP codes on their products and/or packaging. A real aid against counterfeiting.”

Knowingly purchasing fake car parts is a fool’s game, but unwittingly buying counterfeit goods could be an expensive mistake. Do your homework, and if it seems too good to be true, it most probably is.

Cycling and walking group backs pavement parking ban

Pavement parking ban

A leading group of cycling and walking organisations has backed calls for the government to introduce a ban on pavement parking.

Last month, the Transport Committee criticised the Department for Transport (DfT) for failing to take action on pavement parking, which, it says, is having a “detrimental effect on people’s lives and can lead to social isolation”.

The Walking and Cycling Alliance (WACA) – made up of the Bicycle Association, Cycling UK, The Ramblers, British Cycling, Living Streets and Sustrans – has lent its support to the MPs calling for a pavement parking ban.

“The Government needs to act urgently on the findings of the Transport Select Committee report, which is founded on thorough investigation and input from the general public,“ said John Irvin, chief executive of Living Streets.

“Cars parked on pavements force people with wheelchairs, parents with buggies and those living with sight loss into the carriageway and oncoming traffic.”

In 2015, the government promised to look into the issue of pavement parking in England, which has been illegal in London since 1974. Drivers can be fined up to £100, but boroughs can designate areas that are exempt from the pavement ban.

Pavement parking ban: background

Rule 244 of the Highway Code states:

‘You MUST NOT park partially or wholly on the pavement in London, and should not do so elsewhere unless signs permit it. Parking on the pavement can obstruct and seriously inconvenience pedestrians, people in wheelchairs or with visual impairments and people with prams or pushchairs.’

Note the use of ‘MUST NOT’ and ’should not’. One is an order backed by legislation, the other is a statement of advice. 

However, Rule 242 states:

‘You MUST NOT leave your vehicle or trailer in a dangerous position or where it causes any unnecessary obstruction of the road.’

In other words, you could be issued with a fixed penalty notice (FPN) if your vehicle is deemed to be causing an obstruction. Research conducted by Guide Dogs found that justfive  percent of drivers understand all aspects of the law on pavement parking.

Opponents to the ban argue that the UK’s narrow streets make it difficult for householders to find a parking space when there is no off-street parking nearby. 

‘Deeply concerned‘

Pavement parking ban

Lilian Greenwood, chair of the Transport Committee, said: “Pavement parking has a huge impact on people’s lives and their ability get around their communities.  Motorists may feel they have no choice but to park on the pavement and many try to do so in a considerate way, but evidence to our inquiry revealed the impact on those with visual and mobility impairments and people with children.

“We are deeply concerned that the Government has failed to act on this issue, despite long-standing promises to do so. This is a thorny problem that may be difficult to resolve to the satisfaction of all, but the Government’s inaction has left communities blighted by unsightly and obstructive pavement parking and individuals afraid or unable to leave their homes or safely navigate the streets.“

The Transport Committee says local authorities could create exemptions if they choose to do so, but drivers would be left in no doubt that they would be committing an offence unless parking was expressly permitted.

‘Bureaucratic burdens‘

Pavement parking ban

It wants the government to remove the ‘bureaucratic burdens’ imposed on local authorities to make it easier to put in place parking restrictions.

WACA says that people are being put at risk of injury and isolation by the government’s inactivity. It’s demanding urgent action, which includes the reversal of the recent rule-change allowing drivers to park on cycle lanes.

John Irvin added: “The Government recently changed the rules on parking on cycle lanes so that it is no longer an offence to park on those marked with solid white lines during their hours of operation.

“This change, made without notifying councils or the public, needs to be reversed. Until it is, it runs the risk of undermining the review into the Highway Code to improve cycle safety.”

London’s Direct Vision Standard: everything you need to know

Direct Vision Standard for London

From 26 October 2020, HGVs over 12 tonnes will be BANNED from entering or operating in Greater London unless they pass a new Direct Vision Standard (DVS).

The date coincides with the new London-wide Low Emission Zone (LEZ) standards for heavy goods vehicles.

The Direct Vision Standard is being rolled out to protect and improve the safety of all road users, particularly pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. It includes a new star rating based on how much a lorry driver can see through their cab windows.

Lorries are rated from 0 to 5, with any 0-star vehicles over 12 tonnes banned unless they incorporate a series of safety measures (Safe System) to reduce the risk to vulnerable road users. The Safe System includes the following:

  • Blind spot elimination and minimisation, i.e. a fully operational camera, Class V and VI mirrors and a sensor with driver alerts.
  • Warning of intended manoeuvres, i.e. audible left-turning warning system and pictorial stickers.
  • Physical impact minimisation, i.e. side-underrun protection.

Operators and drivers are also advised to take part in appropriate training, although this is not a requirement for the Safe System permit.

Fitting a Safe System will not change a vehicle’s Direct Vision Standard star rating, but will bring the safety standard of the vehicle up to a level required for a permit.

The Direct Vision Standard will affect 188,000 HGVs operating in London, with some 35,000 expected to be banned in 2020 and 94,000 by 2024 if standards aren’t improved.

From 26 October 2024, all 0 to 2-star HGVs will be banned unless they prove a Progressive Safe System. Transport for London (TfL) will review the system in 2022, taking into account new technology not currently available.

HGVs account for just 4 percent of London’s traffic but are disproportionately represented in fatal collisions. From 2015 to 2017, HGVs were involved in 63 percent of cyclist fatalities and 25 percent of pedestrians.

‘Vital for saving lives’

Direct Vision Standard information

Christina Calderato, head of transport strategy and planning at TfL, said: “Our Direct Vision Standard and its associated HGV Safety Permit is vital for saving lives on London’s streets and achieving Vision Zero.

“We thank the freight industry for their input and support throughout the stages of development. We are just three months away from the first permits being issued and encourage all operators to check the star rating of their vehicle, so they are prepared and compliant.”

Permits will be issued from 28 October 2019, with enforcement beginning on 26 October 2020. The Direct Vision Standard will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week and will be enforced on ALL ROADS within the Greater London Boundary.

Non-compliant HGVs will be issued with a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) of £550 per day, which will be reduced by 50 percent if paid within 14 days.

Direct Vision Standard ratings for Euro IV, V and VI vehicles are available from vehicle manufacturers. The contact details for each manufacturer can be found here.

Brigade Electronics has provided this handy infographic, which provides a useful overview for HGV drivers and operators. For more detailed information, download TfL’s guide, which includes details of how to obtain a Safe System permit.

Direct Vision Standard: summary

  • Star rating system for HGVs over 12 tonnes.
  • Based on how much a driver can see directly through their cab windows.
  • Zero rated vehicles will need to be improved by fitting Safe System measures.
  • Free Safety Permit available from 28 October 2019.
  • Direct Vehicle Standard enforcement begins 26 October 2020.
  • Minimum star rating increases from 1 to 3 from October 2024.

91% of parents unhappy with the school run

Parents unhappy with the school run

Ninety-one percent of parents claim there isn’t an effective traffic management plan in place to deal with the ‘chaos’ of the school run

But few are prepared to ditch the car in favour of encouraging their children to walk or cycle to school.

In England, around a third of all children aged five to 16 travel to school by car, with 56 percent of parents reporting “traffic chaos” at dropping off and picking up times.

Parents arrive at the same time and try to park as close to the school as possible, causing congestion and localised air quality issues. However, just 40 percent of UK schools encourage walking to school, and only 20 percent encourage cycling.

How to beat school run traffic

Stay safe on the school run

The AA, the organisation behind the survey, has the following advice for parents hoping to take the stress out of the school run.

  • Walk or cycle: could your children walk or cycle part of the way to school?
  • Walking bus: a minimum of two adults are required for a ‘walking bus’, where parents or teachers lead children to school
  • Find a parking space further away from school
  • Does anyone you know have space on their driveway? It could be possible for you to use it twice a day
  • Park considerately – delays are caused by drivers blocking the road
  • Don’t block driveways or double park
  • Share lifts – take turns doing the school run

Edmund King, AA president, said: “The best travel plans are made by the pupils themselves as they can convince their parents what is best for them and the school. 

“Just banning drop-off areas in cars means the problem shifts into the next street. Asking both kids and parents when and how they might get to school without the car might produce solutions that work for that community.”

Inconsiderate parents are to blame

Steve Horton, Road Safety GB’s director of communications, added: “Congestion outside many schools at peak times is nothing new, although with the general trend for increased traffic the challenges it causes seem to increase annually. 

“This congestion adds to the complexity of the situation which makes it more obvious to drivers that they are in a higher risk area. 

“This clear complexity means most road users negotiate the area with an enhanced level of concentration and hence the amount of serious crashes around schools is thankfully low. 

Stay safe on the school run

“However, a product of reducing congestion and traffic flows outside schools is increased perceptions of safety and creating a nicer, calmer environment that encourages more people to walk and cycle. 

“Of course most of the difficulties outside schools caused by inconsiderate drivers is actually caused by the very group that has to deal with the complex situation: parents. 

“So parents can influence greatly the risk to children that many of them create, as well as do their own children the huge benefit of letting them walk or cycle to school in a supervised way so that they can gain vital experience in dealing with a range of road traffic.”

How to report a lorry, bus or coach driver

How to report lorry bus or coach driver

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has issued guidance for reporting lorry, bus or coach drivers for breaking safety rules.

Members of the public can choose to remain anonymous, but are encouraged to report drivers or operators in breach of safety rules, or for breaking the conditions of their licence.

Causes for complaint could include one of the following issues:

  • Breaking drivers’ hours rules
  • Overloading vehicles
  • Using vehicles that are unsafe or unroadworthy
  • Using emission cheat devices
  • Carrying dangerous or hazardous goods without permission
  • Driving an excessively smoky lorry, bus or coach

Information required

The DVSA will need to know who is involved (the driver or company name), the registration number of the vehicle(s) in question, the cause for complaint, plus when and where the incident took place.

There are three ways to submit the information:

  • Email:
  • Telephone: 0800 030 4103 (lines are open Monday to Friday, 7.30am to 6pm)
  • Post: Intelligence Unit, DVSA, The Ellipse, Padley Road, Swansea, SA1 8AN

Reporting anonymously

Reporting a lorry driver

The DVSA warns that it might be possible for the driver or company to work out that you reported the incident.

However, the DVSA will never ask for names or contact details, calls will not be traced and statements will not be required. Furthermore, anyone who wishes to remain anonymous will not be called as a witness and will not have to appear in court.

Anyone who supplied contact details might be contacted for more information, be asked to provide a statement or asked to act as a witness in court.

What happens next?

The DVSA will review the information before deciding whether or not to examine the case. Other government departments, agencies or the police might be involved, depending on the severity of the case.

Feedback will be given following an investigation and after official proceedings have ended. The DVSA cannot give feedback on an ongoing case.

How to report other crimes

The process is different for other, non-safety related offences, such as drink-driving, speeding and driving while disqualified. In such cases, members of the public should contact the police.

To complain about bus driver rudeness or buses not arriving on time, contact Bus Users.

For more motoring advice, check out our advice section.

Autonomous alert: the 12 obstacles for self-driving cars

Thatcham Research automated driving

Drivers are most at risk of an accident when taking back control of an autonomous vehicle. That’s the warning from a leading automotive safety research group. 

Thatcham Research says full automation, when a driver can ‘safely take a nap at the wheel’, won’t be possible until 2025. Even then, the transition between automation and the driver taking control must be managed carefully, it warns.

The organisation has outlined a dozen principles required for the safe introduction of automated driving systems. These include collision protection, user monitoring, collision data and location specific data.

‘Guardian angel’ role

automated driving mode

Although the UK government is predicting the arrival of autonomous cars in 2021, Thatcham Research believes this is premature.

“To avoid introducing a new hazard, the vehicle needs to have an effective driver monitoring system to ensure safe handover of control between driver and vehicle, and that the driver is available to take back control when needed,” Matthew Avery, director of research, has warned.

“The vehicle needs to play a guardian angel role. This is important because if the system can’t handle a scenario, it can bring the driver back into the loop.

“If the driver does not respond, the system should be able to assess the road conditions, just as a human would, and decide on the safest action to keep the car’s occupants and those around them safe.”

automated driving on track

While automated driving systems could allow drivers to text, surf the internet or watch a movie while on the move, such activities must be linked to the car’s infotainment system.

“It’s paramount that initial automated driving systems can identify if the driver has become too far removed from the task of driving. This is especially important if the vehicle cannot deal with unplanned situations or when the vehicle is about to transition from the motorway to roads where automated driving will no longer be supported.

“Full automation, where the driver is essentially redundant and can safely take a nap at the wheel, won’t be possible until near 2025 and beyond, even on the motorway,” Avery said.

The 12 principles

12 steps to automated driving

The 12 principles, as outlined by Thatcham Research, can be summarised as follows:

  • User support: manufacturers must eliminate consumer confusion. Systems must be simple to use with clear and concise interfaces
  • Location specific: autonomous driving should be available only when the dynamic conditions allow
  • Safe driving: autonomous must interact safely with other road users
  • User monitoring: active user monitoring is essential and must not rely on ‘hands on wheel’ detection alone
  • Secondary tasks: must be limited to those available via the infotainment screen
  • Starting automation: will be possible when certain conditions are met and the driver is in a fit state
  • Using automation: must manage the user attentiveness to ensure an effective handover
  • Ending automation: must be prepared for planned, unplanned and user-initiated handovers, as well as system failures
  • Collision protection: vehicles must be equipped with emergency collision avoidance technology
  • Cyber resilience: systems must be designed and maintained to minimise the risks of hacking.
  • Collision data: must be available to insurers to confirm whether the system or user was in charge at the time of an accident.
  • Sustainability: the emergency collision avoidance technology must maintain functionality for at least a decade.

James Dalton, director of general insurance policy at the Association of British Insurers (ABI), said: “To fully realise the benefits of automation, it is absolutely vital that there is a clear definition of what constitutes an automated vehicle. These latest guidelines will enable the safe introduction of automation on motorways from 2021 onwards.

“There must be robust rules regulating automated vehicles, to ensure that users are aware of their responsibilities. While we expect automated cars to improve road safety, some accidents will still occur. All collisions must trigger data to help authorities and insurers to understand what went wrong and so that passengers can get the help and support they need.”

Recovery workers offered smart motorway training

Smart motorway training for recovery operators

Roadside rescue and recovery operators are to be offered smart motorway training in a bid to improve safety. 

The new course – the Smart Motorways Awareness For The Roadside Rescue & Recovery Industry – is the first of its kind and has been developed by Highways England and the Network Training Partnership.

Operators will receive guidance on how to attend breakdowns or collisions on the smart motorway network.

In August, Highways England data revealed that breaking down in a live lane on an all-lane-running smart motorway is 216 percent more dangerous than doing so on a conventional motorway with a hard shoulder.

Earlier this month, we reported that the widow of a man killed on the M1 is suing Highways England, claiming the smart motorway is directly responsible for his death.

The one-day course will cover the working methods that enable recovery operatives to carry out their roles safely. Key principles include:

  • Operators are NEVER expected to recover a vehicle in a live lane on a smart motorway.
  • Highways England can close lanes and set speed limits to support recovery operators.
  • Highways England can allocate traffic officers or call the emergency services to maintain safety.

‘Developed specifically for roadside rescue and recovery drivers’

car breakdown

Colin Stevenson, strategic partnership manager at Highways England, said: “The course has been developed specifically for roadside rescue and recovery drivers who use the motorway network and has been designed to aid practical, relevant training.

“Those completing the course will have a better understanding of the different types of smart motorways and how to formulate a recovery plan incorporating safe working practices when dealing with incidents on smart motorways.”

Chris Hoare, chairman of the Institute of Vehicle Recovery, added: “The Institute of Vehicle Recovery (IVR) has given its backing to the new smart motorways recovery vehicle awareness course, which gives all in the recovery industry a greater awareness of some of the additional considerations when working on a smart motorway.

“IVR’s previous collaborations with HE and other agencies produced the Life on the Edge 7 film and the SURVIVE Safety Rules, both of which are incorporated in the course. This collaborative approach of sharing best practice to deliver clear consistent messages, raises standards and ultimately provides a safer working environment for those operating in the vehicle recovery sector.”

Anyone wishing to enrol on the course should email Highways England.