What to do when… driving with pets

It’s that time of year again! Everyone in the UK is gearing up for their summer holiday. You wouldn’t leave the kids at home, but what about your furry, four-legged friends? If you decide you want to take your animal companion along with you to your holiday destination, what are the best ways to make their trip as comfortable as yours? Well fear not, Trust My Garage is here with some top tips for driving with pets.

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Safety

First things first, you’ll need to know the law about driving with your animals in the vehicle. The Highway Code’s Rule 57 states:

“When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.”

So you’re in the clear to take your animal with you! The Code is very clear about what to do for both animals and drivers, as it’s the best way to ensure that everyone makes the safest possible journeys. While a carrier or caged boot is probably the safest option, if your dog is well behaved and clipped to a seat harness you’re okay to let them feel the fresh air through your windows. If you don’t want to restrain your pet in any way, take this advice from Rachael Kilroy, Senior Veterinary Surgeon at Vets for Life:

“If a dog is not secured safely then sharp braking or a collision could result in them being catapulted sharply forwards, potentially causing life-threatening internal injuries, as well as trauma to people in the car.”

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If your dog is in the car, they should be wearing a seat belt harness or be in a carrier.

 

Animal Happiness

If your pet isn’t used to being in a car, then a long journey shouldn’t be their first real experience. Prior to travelling, you should slowly let your animal into the vehicle to help them get used to their surroundings. Starting out with a very short trip – nipping to the shop, for example – and the building up the length of time in the vehicle is a great way to do this. Even if the first couple of times in the car are when it’s stationary, a good sniff and look around can go a long way to making your pet happier when travelling.

 

Planning

It’s always important to plan a trip, but our furry friends require a little extra attention when it comes to longer journeys!

You should take a regular break every 1-2 hours, depending on how restless your animal is, and pack plenty of water and treats – If you’re feeling thirsty or hungry, your pet probably is too! For longer journeys, you may want to think about planning a route that includes a stop near a park or wooded area to let your animal – especially dogs – stretch their legs and have a run around. When it comes to animals like cats, you might want to bring some toilet training pads too – accidents happen!

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Make sure you plan your drive with your furry pal in mind! (image source)

Your Destination

This might seem silly, but check your destination’s rules on pets! If you’re off to see family or friends, make sure they know in advance that you’re bringing your pet, and if you’re going to a hotel, camp site or similar location, check if – and which – animals are allowed. A quick internet search or phone call to your desired venue should do the trick, as many hotels etc. clearly state their pet policy. It’s no good getting all the way to your lovely summer holiday, only to be turned away at the sight of a wagging tail!

dog at house

Check your destination’s rules about pets before booking to avoid disappointment!

As well at your venue, many people research the area they go to stay at beforehand to see if it appeals to them. With a pet, you may want to take into consideration if the surrounding area is also animal friendly. Some beaches in the UK require dogs to be kept on leads for the duration of their walk, and some allow them to run free, whereas some don’t allow dogs at all. Some quick internet browsing should help you locate the best pet-friendly activities to fill up your holiday and keep your pets involved too.

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If you’re headed to the seaside check the local beaches are animal-friendly.

Car checks

Long journeys can take their toll on a vehicle, so if you’re planning a road trip then you don’t want to create stress for your family and pets with a breakdown – or worse, broken air con! If you visit your local Trust My Garage approved member, you can check your car is running at its best and take away any concerns before you travel, and make sure you, your family and your pets get the best possible summer holiday.

If you’ve got any other top tips, feel free to leave them in the comments! If you’re looking for some more general summer driving tips, check out our post on What to do when…driving in Summer!

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What to do when… driving in Summer

The Sun is shining, the sky is clear and the roads are open! It’s nearly summertime here in the UK, so what can you do to help your car and driving be at their best?

We’ve arranged some top tips to combat the summer sun, with some help from The Highway Code, so take a look and see how you can make the most of driving in the British summer.

Keep your vehicle well ventilated to avoid drowsiness. When you get warm, you get sleepy – and that’s not what you want behind the wheel! Your passengers might not like it, but it’s better to be safe and a little bit chilly than be in an accident due to drowsiness.

car air con

Don’t be afraid to push that A/C button if it’s warm out!

Be aware that the road surface may become soft or if it rains after a dry spell it may become slippery. We all know that the British summertime can never happen without a good amount of rain – it’s why we appreciate the sun so much! However, even if you don’t venture out until it’s dry, roads can still hold water and be slippery until much later after a rainy spell. These conditions can affect your steering and braking, so try to be as careful as if it was still chucking it down.

slippery road

Be cautious on slippery roads, even if the sun is shining

If you are dazzled by bright sunlight, slow down and if necessary, stop. Although chasing those hours of sunshine is important, being dazzled by sunlight while driving can cause an accident as many drivers will avert their eyes or squint – impairing their vision. Sun visors and sunglasses can help to remedy this, but if you’re finding it too much it’s ok to pull over and wait a little while until the sun’s position has changed.

sun dazzle

Sun through the trees can impair a driver’s vision, just like bright headlights

 

As well as The Highway Code, we’ve also got some more general tips which may come in handy this summer.

 

Beer Gardens – Don’t be tempted! There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a drink in the sunshine, but if you’re driving, don’t have any alcohol. Many groups now use a prearranged ‘designated driver’, but if you take your car to the pub and decide to drink while there, get a taxi or a lift home  – it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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If you’re heading to a beer garden, don’t take your car

 

Don’t leave your pet in your car. Although you can open a window, the temperature inside a car can soar compared to that of the air outside. Animals can become dehyrated and suffer greatly, even if you think they haven’t been there for a long time. Check out the video below to see how being locked in a vehicle on a hot day affects a person – imagine this being your dog!

 

As well as looking after yourself, look after your car! Here’s some handy maintenance info to keep your car in tip-top shape.

Check your fluids. Make sure your car’s oil, water and screenwash are at the levels they should be, and that you have plenty of engine coolant – you don’t want to overheat your engine and leave yourself stranded.

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Checking your engine’s fluids could save you a lot of stress this summer

 

Maintain your tyres. If you’re doing extra miles to make the most of the summer, that means extra wear and tear. Check your tread depth is above the legal limit of 1.6mm and there aren’t any bald spots, bulges, or tears around the circumference of the tyre or in the tyre walls.

car tyres

If your tyres are looking like this, it might be time for a fresh set!

 

Test your brakes. In the summer there tends to be more people on the road, and that means more hazards. Caravans, cyclists, bikers and horse riders make the most of the nicer weather, so be prepared for the unexpected! Cautious driving might mean an extra 5 minutes to your destination, but it’s much safer for you and other road users.

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Make sure your brakes are working – if there’s a hazard, you’ll need them!

 

Finally, if you really want to make the most of this summer, then we’ve got one final piece of advice for you – HAVE FUN!

dog car summer

Most importantly; get ready to have some fun this summer!

 

Don’t forget that if you want to get your car ready for some summer driving, you can use our handy map to find your local Trust My Garage member, operating under a Chartered Trading Standards Association approved consumer code. They’ll help to ensure your car is safe and ready to hit the road to catch some sun.tmg_ctsi_long

Bad parking and how to avoid it

It’s inevitable – sometimes there are people that are bad at parking. Often there isn’t much you can do in a situation where other people have parked improperly or illegally, but how can you avoid doing it yourself? Take a look at our handy tips on how to be good at parking – and some examples of what not to do!

 

The Highway Code has some clear rules about what a motorist can and can’t do when it comes to parking. For example, Rule 239 advises that motorists should:

  • Use off-street parking areas, or bays marked out with white lines on the road as parking places, wherever possible.
  • You MUST switch off the engine, headlights and fog lights
  • You MUST apply the handbrake before leaving the vehicle
  • You MUST ensure you do not hit anyone when you open your door. Check for cyclists or other traffic
  • it is safer for your passengers (especially children) to get out of the vehicle on the side next to the kerb
  • put all valuables out of sight and make sure your vehicle is secure
  • lock your vehicle.

And it also states what you should avoid doing too:

  • Do not park facing against the traffic flow
  • Stop as close as you can to the side
  • Do not stop too close to a vehicle displaying a Blue Badge: remember, the occupant may need more room to get in or out

You MUST NOT stop or park on:

  • the carriageway or the hard shoulder of a motorway except in an emergency (see Rule 270)
  • a pedestrian crossing, including the area marked by the zig-zag lines (see Rule 191)
  • taxi bays as indicated by upright signs and markings
  • an Urban Clearway within its hours of operation, except to pick up or set down passengers (see ‘Traffic signs’)
  • a road marked with double white lines, even when a broken white line is on your side of the road, except to pick up or set down passengers, or to load or unload goods
  • a tram or cycle lane during its period of operation
  • a cycle track

So when you see cars parked like this, you know they aren’t complying with the Highway Code:

bad parking

bad parking block junction

Both of these vehicles are in violation – the top car is too far from the kerb and the bottom car is completely blocking a junction! (sources: top, bottom)

 

As well as following the instructions laid out by Rule 239, motorists are also subject to other parking rules, like these:

  • You MUST NOT park in parking spaces reserved for specific users, such as Blue Badge holders, residents or motorcycles, unless entitled to do so. (Rule 241)
  • You MUST NOT leave your vehicle or trailer in a dangerous position or where it causes any unnecessary obstruction of the road. (Rule 242)

Here’s an example – can you guess what this driver did?

Yep, you guessed it – the car was parked in a space reserved for Blue Badge holders. While we aren’t suggesting that this is how to deal with bad parking, we have to admit it’s quite funny (and artistic!)

 

That isn’t all when it comes to avoiding bad parking. Drivers must also remember the details of Rule 243, listed below:

DO NOT stop or park:

  • near a school entrance
  • anywhere you would prevent access for Emergency Services
  • at or near a bus or tram stop or taxi rank
  • on the approach to a level crossing/tramway crossing
  • opposite or within 10 metres (32 feet) of a junction, except in an authorised parking space
  • near the brow of a hill or hump bridge
  • opposite a traffic island or (if this would cause an obstruction) another parked vehicle
  • where you would force other traffic to enter a tram lane
  • where the kerb has been lowered to help wheelchair users and powered mobility vehicles
  • in front of an entrance to a property
  • on a bend
  • where you would obstruct cyclists’ use of cycle facilities

except when forced to do so by stationary traffic.

So, if there are any of those obstructions around you need to try and avoid them – unlike the Nissan Micra below!

bad parking cycle lane

Parking in a cycle lane is a no-no. (source)

Of course, if traffic is stationary then, as the rule explains, it’s ok to stop in these places because there isn’t anywhere for your car to go! Rule 243 applies to when your car is parked -that means that the vehicle is stationary, with the handbrake applied, and no key in the ignition.

 

We all park every day of our motoring lives, so we should be considerate to other drivers and road users, as we expect them to be towards us. If you want a garage to treat your car with the same consideration, head to the Trust My Garage website to find your nearest TMG independent garage, operating under our Chartered Trading Standards (CTSI) approved code of conduct, and see how they can help your car run at its best!

 

The Trust My Garage £1,000 Guarantee – How does it help?

If you take your vehicle for an MOT, service or repair at your local garage, how can you be sure of the quality of its work? At Trust My Garage, we truly believe that our members are the best independent garages in the UK, each one unique but all skilled professionals who are dedicated to providing top quality work with a friendly, personal service.

Don’t just let us tell you how good our members are – you can see the evidence from other consumers too. Based on results from TMG’s online feedback system over the course of 2015, the overall satisfaction rate for TMG members over the last year was 88%, with 98% of consumers satisfied that the member only carried out necessary or quoted work, and 97% of customers were likely to use the member again. You can’t argue with happy customers!

To show how confident we are that you’ll be happy with your next visit to your local TMG member, we’ve launched the Trust My Garage £1,000 Guarantee: a first of its kind financial reassurance scheme backed by the Independent Garage Association (IGA). This means that as well as approval from Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) for the quality of our members, you have the added benefit of financial backing from the IGA.

 

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Need to get your motor fixed? Take it to one of our thousands of Trust My Garage members!

 

It’s very unlikely that you’re ever going to need the TMG £1,000 Guarantee, but it’s there to show that we stand behind our members to underwrite any financial award made following a dispute with one of our members.

But what terms and conditions make up The TMG £1,000 Guarantee, we hear you ask? Well, let’s break it down.

 

How It Works

If you have a problem with one of our members, please contact them and give them a chance to resolve the matter. If you can’t come to a solution, you must follow the complaints procedure as outlined in the Trust My Garage Code of Practice Appendix 2 (full document here).

You will need to file an official complaint with the National Conciliation Service (NCS), our independent Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) provider, at www.nationalconciliationservice.co.uk.

If you are judged to be in the right after completing the ADR process, the IGA will underwrite the payment of any financial award up to £1,000 in the event that the garage is unable to make the payment.

 

The Application Process

Under normal circumstances where the ADR process finds in your favour, any financial award will be paid to you by the garage promptly. It is only if this payment is not made after 14 days have elapsed that a claim may be made under the TMG £1,000 Guarantee.

You MUST follow the process as set out in the Trust My Garage Code of Practice for your claim to be eligible under the guarantee. To make a claim, call the TMG helpline on 0845 305 4230 and have your NCS claim reference to hand.

If you want to know more details, you can take a look at our TMG £1,000 Guarantee full terms and conditions.

 

We’re certain that our independent garages will make a great job of any work on your vehicle – so if you need a service, MOT, repair, or just a once-over, head to the Trust My Garage website to find your local TMG member, or for more information about The Trust My Garage £1,000 Guarantee you can click here.

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Why is the MOT so important for vehicles?

Every year from the age of three your car should, by law, go in for an MOT test. But what exactly does the MOT do and why are they so important?

 

What even is an MOT?

During an MOT, the most important parts of your vehicle are “checked to make sure they meet the legal standards” (Gov). By having an MOT, you’re making sure that your car is safe to drive on UK roads. It’s called an MOT because it was originally named after the original Ministry of Transport (MoT). (source)

 

But I’ve had my car serviced, isn’t that the same?

Simply put, no. The MOT does not cover the condition of the engine, clutch or gearbox, which are the parts of your car that will be looked at during a service. The MOT looks at mechanical parts of your car and emissions as well. 

 

Ok, so what parts of my car does the MOT look at?

The MOT provides you with an evaluation on the condition of most of your car, such as bodywork, fuel, seats, brakes and tyres. For a more in-depth breakdown of all the parts of your car looked at during the MOT, you can have a look at the full government list here, or take a look at the photo below.

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Car parts looked at during the MOT (source)

So why is the MOT so important for my car?

Under the current system, 27.48 million vehicles took the MOT test last year and 4 out of 10 of them were found to be unroadworthy when examined. (DVSA, 2015) Even with a regular test every year, that’s still just under 11 million vehicles that aren’t fit to drive on UK roads.

With the Government opening their new consultation about extending the time before a car’s first MOT, it’s important to think about how many more dangerous vehicles – which could be over 3 and a half million! – that could be around in just one extra year’s time. 

 

 

Wait, the government want to do what?

Yes, you read that right. The government have opened a public consultation asking for opinions on whether a car should be able to wait 4 years for its first MOT, instead of 3. It’s being called the 4-1-1 system, and while it might seem like a good idea, the facts say otherwise. There is a belief that because modern cars are more reliable, they do not need to be tested so strictly. In practice this is incorrect. Not only is the current MOT failure rate higher than it was in 2008 (when vehicles were less reliable), components designed to wear out – like tyres and brakes – are far more likely to have become dangerous by the time the vehicle is four years old. 

 

But an extra year with no MOT would save me money, right?

Well, that isn’t exactly the case. Extending the time allowed before the first MOT of a car or motorcycle’s life from three years to four would likely prove more expensive for motorists, as it would raise the likelihood that minor problems become more serious defects – which then triggers in turn further defects which require more significant and more costly repairs later. It may also be the case that defects associated with one component due to excessive wear could then result in defects in different but associated components which would otherwise have remained serviceable. The defects are therefore cumulative – which could cost you even more money. 

 

But my car looks fine, so why would it even need an MOT?

While it’s true that your car may look fine at a glance, when was the last time you checked the tread on your tyres? Do you know the proper depth it needs to be at to be road safe? Do you think your brakes are as responsive as when you first got your car? Are the electrics still safe and functioning properly? The MOT is designed to ensure your vehicle is as safe as possible when you drive it, and lets you know if there are any problems before they become a real danger to you and other road users. 

rusty-car

 

Surely it can’t be that much of a problem though?

That’s where you’re wrong. In 2013/14 there were more than 770,000 vehicles discovered during MOT tests with a dangerous defect. Nearly 2,200 EVERY day. The problems ranged from brakes, steering, tyres, suspension, seatbelts, lights and signalling equipment (DfT, ‘MOT Scheme Evidence base’, 2008). Now, when you go out on to the roads, do you want over 2,000 chances of being in an accident due to a dangerous car?

 

You’re right, that’s bad! But what can I do to stop it happening?

For a start, you can take your vehicle for its yearly MOT, to make sure it’s in the best possible condition. If you’re looking for a garage that will carry out a thorough, DVSA standard MOT you can find your nearest trusted independent garage on the Trust My Garage website. All the garages are Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) approved and are ready to do the best work for you and your vehicle. 

You can also head over proMOTe’s website if you’re looking for some more facts, or you can to the Government website and take a look at the MOT consultation yourself. It’s open for response from all members of the public, so if you think it’s a bad idea, like we do, let the government know!

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Proposed MOT changes: Why the 4-1-1 system is dangerous

The Government has announced a proposal to consult on extending the time allowed before the first MOT of a vehicle’s life from three years to four – known as the 4-1-1 system (Summer Budget, 2015).

While many motorists may think this is a good idea, there is ever-growing evidence that the increase of faulty and potentially dangerous cars on UK roads would result in extra injuries and possibly even deaths. 

The Department for transport (DfT) released a report that stated that the addition of an extra year before a car’s first MOT could mean injuries rise by 2,000 a year, with an estimated 71 of those injuries being fatal.

Evidently any move to extend the time allowed before the first MOT of a car or motorcycle’s life from three years to four years would seriously endanger road safety for all road users.

Not only would the changes be dangerous, but they mean that there would also be an increase in repair costs for drivers and an inevitable increase in harmful emissions due to the additional time that vehicles had been active on the roads without the essential checks carried out during an MOT. 

 There have been previous attempts in government to introduce an extended first MOT period – in 2008 and 2011 – both of which considered the 4-1-1 as a structure for MOT frequency, and both at both of these times the government decided that no changes should take place. There have been no changes in the MOT design or car safety that would then mean that the 4-1-1 structure is now viable. 

Under the current system, 27.48 million vehicles took the MOT test in 2015 and 4 out of 10 of them were found to be unroadworthy when examined.(DVSA, 2015)  Along with this, more than 770,000 vehicles were discovered to have a dangerous defect in 2013/14, equating to nearly 2,200 every day. The problems ranged from brakes, steering, tyres, suspension, seatbelts, lights and signalling equipment.(DfT, ‘MOT Scheme Evidence base’, 2008)

 Currently many vehicles are found to be unroadworthy at three years old; therefore it stands to reason that extending the MOT to four years will mean there are even more vehicles on the roads in a potentially dangerous condition. There is a belief that because modern cars are more reliable, they do not need to be tested so strictly. In practice this is incorrect. Not only is the current MOT failure rate higher than it was in 2008 (when vehicles were less reliable), components designed to wear out – like tyres and brakes – are likely to have become dangerous by the time the vehicle is four years old.

If a vehicle has a defect by its third year of use, then extending the MOT for a further year will also have the effect of increasing the number of defects the vehicle carries, because defects associated with one component due to excessive wear could then snowball and cause defects with the related components in the vehicle. Not only is this dangerous for motorists, but it could also be costly as minor repairs that could be fixed in the third year could become major defects by the fourth. 

Not only is the proposed system dangerous to vehicle safety and public safety, it is also dangerous for the environment. Air quality and reducing emissions is a high Government priority, but extending the time allowed before a vehicle’s first MOT allows polluting vehicles (which would have been detected when they were three years old) to go undetected for a further year. This makes them far more likely to increase their polluting emissions as the engine condition further deteriorates. 

The 4-1-1 system paves the way for vehicles to be a source of danger on the roads. You can have your say about it by visiting the government consultation, designed to give people a platform for their opinions before any changes are debated by the government . It is open until Sunday 16th April, 11:45pm. To get have your say click here.

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To find out more about why the proposed changes to MOT frequency are a danger to both vehicles and road users, take a look at the ProMOTe website here.

If you think that your vehicle is due for an MOT or you feel it needs a bit of maintenance, why not visit the Trust My Garage website and find a trusted independent garage in your area? Click here to find your nearest garage

Road safety and Cyclists: How everyone can stay safe

Why are there more cyclists using the roads?

The numbers of people choosing to cycle for fun, fitness or to get to work has increased by more than a quarter in twenty years and an incredible 3.2 billion miles are cycled on our roads every year. (Think!) Add this to the ever-increasing amount of cars on UK roads and all of a sudden, there isn’t much space to share.

Although cycling-related deaths are at an all-time-low since 2010, there were still 3,337 cyclists killed on the road in 2015 (source), and figures released by the Department for Transport last year suggested cyclists are 17 times more likely to be killed on the road than those travelling in vehicles. While charities such as THINK! are helping to raise awareness and remind motorists about the safest ways to travel, there is still a lot that can be done to ensure that drivers and cyclists can use our roads in harmony.

 

THINK!’s basic tips for drivers about cyclist safety

 

We are Cycling states that cycling is essentially a safe activity, causing little risk either to cyclists themselves or to other road users. Moreover, there is good evidence that cyclists gain from ‘safety in numbers’, with cycling becoming safer as cycle use increases. However, fear of road traffic is a major deterrent, despite the health, environmental and other benefits of cycling.

They also say that cycle safety in the UK lags behind many of our continental neighbours, because of poorly designed roads and junctions, traffic volumes and speeds, irresponsible driving, and a legal system that fails to respond adequately to road danger. National and local government should therefore aim for more as well as safer cycling. These two aims can and should go hand-in-hand.

What can I do to stay safe as a driver?

Sustrans are a charity that is trying to encourage the UK to use more sustainable methods of transport, in order to help ease congestion and other problems on the roads. Their top tips for drivers are:

To make roads as safe as they can be, motorists need to be aware of cyclists too.

  • When turning left watch for cyclists coming up on your near side and don’t cut them up;
  • Give cyclists a wide berth when overtaking;
  • At night, dip your headlights when approaching cyclists;
  • In wet weather, allow cyclists extra room as surfaces may be slippery.

Remember, cyclists and motorists are equally entitled to use and share the same road space. Respecting all road users helps everyone to benefit from travelling by road. (source)

The Highway Code also has specific information for both cyclists and drivers about how to safely and properly use the roads.

Rule 211: Look out for motorcyclists and cyclists at junctions

Highway Code rule 211: Look out for motorcyclists and cyclists at junctions

What can I do to stay safe as a cyclist?

When cycling, there are also rules listed in the Highway Code that road users must obey, just like motorists. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) have also created a handy PDF that outlines some of the easy things that cyclists and motorists can do in order to work better together on the roads. Some of their best tips are:

  • Sometimes motorists can find it difficult to predict what a cyclist is going to do, so try and clearly signal any movements that could be seen as unusual to a driver.
  • When driving large vehicles, motorists can find it very difficult to see cyclists on their nearside, even with all their extra mirrors, so maintain a safe distance.
  • Failing to look properly is also a common mistake made by cyclists, and contributes to 42% of cyclist collisions at junctions.
  • NEVER be tempted to ride down the inside of any vehicle (especially a bus or lorry) that is waiting at a junction. Hold back and stay behind where the driver can see you in their mirrors. Be patient and don’t squeeze down the inside by the gutter.
  • If a vehicle overtakes you close to a left turn junction, keep a safe gap behind the vehicle in case the driver cuts in front of you to turn left.
  • When overtaking a parked car, remember to leave enough room in case a door opens (‘leave a door and a bit more’) and be ready for someone to open a door as you pass.
  • In normal conditions, ride in the ‘secondary position’, approximately 1/3 into the carriageway – avoiding debris and grid covers in the gutter. If you need to improve your visibility in poor conditions you can ride in the ‘primary position’, in the middle of the road. However, try not to hold drivers up unnecessarily.
  • When riding together never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends.
  • The Highway Code says: At night your cycle MUST have white front and red rear lights lit. It MUST also be fitted with a red rear reflector (and amber pedal reflectors, if manufactured after 1/10/85). White front reflectors and spoke reflectors will also help you to be seen.

Remember: BE SAFE BE SEEN.

source: RoSPA.

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RoSPA diagram for maintaining a safe distance from HGVs.

What’s being done to improve road safety?

It isn’t only the public that are noticing the importance of safety for both drivers and cyclists. In June 2016 the government proposed implementing a fine of £5,000 for motorists that drove carelessly or too close around cyclists.

The idea was discussed after similar rules were created in Australia and Europe to help keep cyclists safe from dangerous driving. At the time, the Transport Minister Robert Goodwill stated: “As with other changes of this type introduced overseas, we remain interested in the change and are keeping it under review.”

While it’s true that nobody wants to get into an accident, they still happen. If your car hasn’t been running as smoothly as you like why not book it into your local Trust My Garage approved independent garage and get it back to tip-top condition?

If you’d like to learn more about staying safe on the road with cyclists – whether you’re a driver or a cyclist – you can find plenty advice on websites such as Highway Code, Brake & Think!.

 

What to do when… Driving home for Christmas

It’s that time of year again. Christmas is right around the corner! Some of us may be a bit more excited than others, but with all the festive cheer in the air, have you thought about the practicalities of driving this Christmastime? If not, then buckle up! We’re about to tell you just how you can make the most when you’re driving this Christmas. (Song optional, but very festive.)

When you’re driving your top priority should always be your safety. Regardless of the destination or the time it takes you to get there, your number one thought should be about your own safety, and that of any passengers in the vehicle with you.

Plan your route

The further the distance you’re travelling, the more chance there is for issues like traffic to occur. Christmas is a peak time for driving, as many people visit their families over the festive period, so try and ensure you give yourself adequate travelling time.

Here are some of the routes identified by motoring organisations as traffic hotspots over Christmas:

  • The M1, A1 and A1(M) northboundcar-map
  • The M4 westbound to Wales and around Heathrow
  • The M3, A303 and M5 heading to the West Country
  • The M23 to Gatwick and the M11 to Stansted
  • The M62 over the Pennines is often affected by snow, as is the A1079 between Hull and York.

(Telegraph)

It’s also worth noting that many main roads and motorways will be gritted in the case of snow and ice, but this won’t necessarily happen in areas that don’t see as much traffic. It’s worth taking some extra time by using main roads to get to your destination instead of taking shortcuts that often require drivers to travel on country lanes, as these may be more dangerous in poor weather.

snowy-road-tracks

Try not to get caught out driving in dangerous conditions

If you’re interested in more ways to ensure you’re driving in a safe and responsible manner, you can look at the charity Brake’s ABC pledge. Drivers can promise to follow the rules Brake have set out for being as safe as possible in winter conditions, to help both themselves and other motorists on the roads.

 

Prepare your car

The UK suffers from a yearly big freeze, so we’re sure you’ve got some great tips on how to help get started in the cold. However, if you’re looking for some ideas about how to get the wheels rolling, here are some of the best we’ve found:

  • Tyres: If possible, considering buying winter tyres. If this is not an option, ensure your standard tyres are inflated correctly and that you have a minimum of 3mm of tread on your tyres to cope with wet and slippery conditions.
  • Battery: In winter, the battery will run down quicker than in warmer weather. Make sure you do a regular long journey to top it up or trickle-charge the battery.
  • Engine: Modern engines are more robust than older ones. All the same, depress the clutch when starting as this will reduce drag on the engine when starting, and preserve the battery.
  • Screen wash: Keep this topped up and use a proper additive at the right concentration to prevent it freezing.
  • Fuel: Keep your tank topped up – that way if you are caught out, you’ll have enough fuel to make it home or run the engine to keep warm. However, it’s essential to keep snow from blocking the exhaust as noxious fumes can leak into the vehicle.
  • Windows: Clear all snow and ice from the windscreen and the roof of the car before driving off. Do not use water to de-ice windscreens. Hot water can crack the glass, and the water will only freeze again on the screen or on the ground where you are standing.
  • Locks: A squirt of WD-40 will prevent your door locks freezing up. If they do, apply a heat source to your car key to melt the ice.
  • Warm clothing: Your car may be warm on the inside but if you have to step outside, you could be in trouble if you have not got any warm clothing with you.
wheels-snow

Try to avoid being stuck in bad weather!

Breakdown Essentials 

If you do suffer the unfortunate experience of a breakdown it’s important to keep some essentials in the car – a fully charged mobile phone, a torch, warm clothes, comfortable and waterproof shoes, hot drinks and snacks (Telegraph). That way, when you’re waiting for some roadside assistance or a recovery vehicle you can stay warm, full and safe while trying to stave off the boredom.

Emergency snow kit

  • Warning triangle – let other drivers know your situation to avoid stress and confusion
  • Cat litter or sand
  • Snow shovel or spade
  • Ice scraper
  • Warm clothes and footwear
  • Snacks and water
  • Torch
  • Mobile phone
  • Blanket or sleeping bag
  • Jump leads
  • High visibility jacket
  • First aid kit
  • Heat pad – If you are stranded in the snow and the exhaust pipe is covered, it can be dangerous to run the engine. These help you stay warm.

Remember, you’re never far from a Trust My Garage member who can help you out with any problems that you might experience on the road. All of our members are Trading Standards approved, and are here to get you back on track quickly & safely. Garages are located all over the UK, so no matter where you are, we’re here to help you. If you want to see where your nearest garage is, you can search with your post code on the Trust My Garage map.

Getting Home Safely

Don’t Drink Drive.

This is the most important advice we can offer if you want to stay safe. There’s often more alcohol offered at Christmas and New Year’s than any other time, so the temptation can be strong.

The golden rule is that if you plan to have a drink, don’t drive.

drink-driving.jpgCarbuyer suggest that you leave your car parked up, get a cab home or let someone who’s sober drive – as long as they’re insured to drive your car, of course.

The effect of alcohol on driving is profound and so are the penalties if you’re caught doing so. Anyone convicted in the UK of ‘driving or attempting to drive through drink or drugs’ faces anything up to the maximum possible of penalty  of a £5,000 fine, a six month prison sentence and up to 11 points on their driving licence, as well as an obligatory 12 month disqualification from driving (Drinkdriving.org). There’s no defence for being caught over the drink-drive limit the following morning, either.

FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)

This year, THINK! have launched a new anti drink-driving campaign for December – FOMO.

fomo think.jpg

The FOMO campaign runs through December

The campaign is specifically targeting young males, as figures show they account for almost two thirds of drink drivers killed on our roads.

It will target young men through Facebook, Twitter and Spotify, with 5.4 million British males aged 25 to 34 on Facebook alone – the highest single demographic.

The campaign involves adverts that aim to make it clear to young men that they have plenty to live for the following day, which they may not see if they choose to have a second drink.

Research carried out for the Department for Transport found 20% of young men have had 2 or more drinks before driving and an extra 11% say they have considered it – with a third of adults telling researchers they felt it wouldn’t impact on their driving. However, research from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) shows a second drink doubles a driver’s chances of being involved in a fatality. (Gov.uk)

So let’s be safe, and don’t drink and drive.

Most importantly – Have a Merry Christmas!

We at Trust My Garage all hope you have a wonderful and safe Christmas, and spend lots of time doing whatever you like. If you’re worried that your car isn’t up to the challenge of the British winter, don’t forget you can pop in to your local Trust My Garage member and get booked in for a service. That way we can all motor happy!

If you found this post helpful, why not take a look at our ways to make your Christmas commute better, or leave us a comment with your best winter driving tips!

Driving on smart motorways: What are they and how do you use them?

There has been a takeover: The Internet of Things has arrived. We now live our lives operating with smart phones, smart televisions, smart watches, and even the smart doorbell. Now comes the hour of smart travel and even the smart motorway. But what exactly is a smart motorway, and how do they work?

smart-motorways

A ‘smart’ section of the M25 motorway

Smart motorways are the latest innovation in traffic flow technology – they’re made to help motorists get around as efficiently as possible. Congestion on the motorway and major road network in England costs an estimated £2 billion every year, with 25 per cent of this resulting from incidents (Highways England), so it has become imperative that there needs to be measures to help drivers fight these issues.

These problems, luckily, have not gone unnoticed. Since 2006, Highways England have been working on integrating smart motorways into the existing UK road system as an alternative method helping to relieve traffic problems.

There are four different types of smart motorway that now traverse the English landscape. Highways England – who are responsible for the smart motorway programme in England – construct, maintain and operate them. They are:

  • Controlled motorway: Variable speed limits without hard-shoulder running.
  • Dynamic hard shoulder: Variable speed limits with part-time hard shoulder running.
  • All lane running: Variable speed limits with the hard shoulder converted to a permanent running lane.
  • Through junction running: All lane running through junctions.

(source)

By creating and using these differing types of smart motorway it has become possible to determine the effects that traffic flow experiences when controlled differently, compared to normal, not smart-controlled UK roads.

So, with all the additional technology installed, what benefits do motorists see from smart motorways?

Well, one of the benefits is the moveable lanes. Often, when traffic flow is noticeably heavier than it should be, it is possible for remote lane adjustments to be made – such as opening the hard shoulder – in order to help ease the congestion and get motorists back on track with their travels. With the addition of benefits such as an extra lane for traffic flow, it becomes much easier for drivers to travel along otherwise slow or even standing motorways at busy times.

In regard to accidents, as well as helping to greatly reduce the number of incidents, smart motorways are also good at helping people travel safely even when there may be an obstruction in the road because of the option of move, open and close lanes for drivers to work around the problem.

motorway jam night.jpg

Congestion could be a thing of the past with smart motorways

The advantages of having smart motorways have been analysed since their inception, as it is important to prove that the changes really make a difference to drivers. Since the opening of the M42 as a managed motorway (as it was originally named) in 2006, analysis of its smart data has found that:

  • journey reliability improved by 22 per cent
  • personal injury accidents reduced by more than half
  • where accidents did occur, severity was much lower overall with zero fatalities and fewer seriously injured

(Highways England)

So it is clearly evident that smart motorways are helping to cut congestion and travel times for motorway users. But how safe are they for users?

Highways England have said they are “committed to safety in every aspect of [their] work. All lane running smart motorway design is based on robust analysis by experienced professionals using tested methodologies.” (source) They also say that their analysis “demonstrates that our safety objectives were likely to be achieved with road user safety no worse than before all lane running is implemented,” citing the results of the M25 smart sections as evidence.

Smart motorways also include the extra safety of emergency refuge areas, which are designed to provide a relatively safe area following a breakdown or problem for drivers on smart motorways. Their frequency is such that “if you are driving at 60mph you will reach a place you can stop in an emergency every 75 seconds on average.” (source) Each of these areas has a telephone that can connect you to a control centre in order to pinpoint your position and get you the assistance you require.

If you’re still unsure about smart motorways, here are some quick tips to help you with driving on them.

On a smart motorway:

  • never drive in a lane closed by a red “X”
  • keep to the speed limit shown on the gantries
  • a solid white line indicates the hard shoulder – don’t drive in it unless directed.
  • a broken white line indicates a normal running lane
  • if your vehicle experiences difficulties, eg warning light, exit the smart motorway immediately if possible
  • use the refuge areas for emergencies if there’s no hard shoulder
  • put your hazard lights on if you break down

If you need some more help, this gov.uk page offers additional help and guidance, such as this video:

There are, however, some bodies that have stepped forward to voice concerns about smart motorways and their impact on both motorists and the environment.  An AA survey of more than 20,000 motorists found that “79 per cent think the loss of hard shoulders has made motorways less safe,” (source) and Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), said: “Using the hard shoulder as a running lane may make it more difficult for drivers to find somewhere safe to stop if they break down, as the emergency refuges are only spaced at intervals along the motorway.” (source)

Alongside concerns for motorists, there are also issues being raised regarding the environmental impact of smart motorways. Tony Bosworth, from Friends of the Earth (FoE), disagreed there were environmental benefits: “It’s effectively motorway widening on the cheap. We believe it’s simply going to encourage more drivers and cause an increase in carbon dioxide.” (source)

 

Remember, if you do break down or suffer from car troubles when driving on a smart motorway, a Trust My Garage member is never far away and can provide you with quality, trustworthy help. For a map of your nearest members click here.

It looks like the future of the smart motorway is set for them to become the ubiquitous format for major road construction and control across the UK. Despite this, it seems as though the jury is still out on the pros and cons of smart motorways. Only time will tell.

The Car Repair Plan: Shielding you from unexpected costs

Have you ever wanted to have a little bit of money put aside in a pot, just in case something goes wrong? A ‘rainy day fund’, if you will? Most people now probably have some sort of savings fund in case of an emergency to help them out with unplanned costs and problems.

Well, have you thought about doing the same for your car? As a driver, you need to be able to budget for the costs of regular maintenance and perhaps even a little extra for those unexpected costs.

With one in seven UK motorists putting off essential repairs due to financial issues, it might be time to start thinking about looking out for your money and your motor.

Provided by the Independent Garage Association, The Car Repair Plan is the answer. It allows you to shield yourself from unexpected repair costs by providing a free, easy and flexible way to budget for car servicing and repairs. You can even set up a family fund, so more than one person can put in money, and you can use it on more than one vehicle. With the Car Repair Plan, a little bit of saving goes a long way!

rmicrp-long

Trusty, the Car Repair Plan mascot

So, what does the Car Repair Plan do?

The plan allows you to save as much or as little as you want on a regular basis to ensure that you always have the funds available to pay for the service and repair of your car – and other vehicles in your family.

 

Where can I use it?

You can use your Car Repair Plan fund at any participating Trust My Garage member. You can choose to use all or some of your account balance when settling the bill. The process is simple and straightforward, and there are no extra costs or hidden charges. If you want to find your nearest participating garage, take a look at the handy map on the Trust My Garage website.

crpmap

The Trust My Garage map of participating Car Repair Plan garages 

 

How will it help me?

You can choose to use all or some of your account balance when settling a repair or service bill. The process is simple and straightforward, so you won’t have to worry about paying out more to get yourself back on the road.

 

What about making payments into the account?

You add a set amount into your account every month. You can alter the payment or take a break at any time, or when you feel you have built up enough of a fund. The scheme is entirely flexible.

 

How can I check my fund’s balance?

You can view your balance online at any time. Just log in to the website.  It’s as easy as that to access!

 

 

If you’d like to find out any more information about Car Repair Plan or sign up for the scheme, click this link to head over to the website.

What do you think about the Car Repair Plan? Leave us some thoughts in the comments!