Category Archives: real life driving

New Year, New Motoring Resolutions

2018 is upon us! The start of the new year means many people across the UK are kickstarting their January with a range of New Year’s resolutions – and motorists are no exception. This year, drivers are looking to reboot their motoring habits in a bid to revamp both their vehicles and their attitudes to driving.

 

A new survey has shown the variety of ways in which motorists want to put more effort into vehicle maintenance and their driving styles – but which of these resolutions will be yours?

 

Checking tyre pressures and oil levels regularly

In the poll, 24 per cent of drivers said they wanted to improve how frequently they check their tyre pressures and oil levels. Both of these areas are hugely important in your vehicle; as maintaining correct tyre pressure ensures good fuel efficiency, better road safety in poor weather conditions and more even wear across the tyre, reducing the likelihood of bald spots on the tyre. Correct tyre pressures should be listed in your vehicle’s owner’s manual and on the pillar when the driver’s door is open. To inflate your tyres to the correct pressure, many garages and petrol stations offer a tyre pressure inflator on site.

tyre checl

Having the correct levels of oil in your engine is also of vital importance for your vehicle. Any engine needs lubrication, and making sure your engine is well oiled will fight against two major engine damagers: friction and heat. Measuring your oil level on the dipstick when your vehicle is cool and on level ground will give you an accurate reading of the amount and an indication of the quality of the oil in your motor.

engine oil check

Learning to park properly

17 per cent of drivers also wanted to learn how to park properly. While many drivers are comfortable driving in to a parking space, some motorists – especially new and/or younger drivers – can feel daunted at the prospect of parallel parking. While practice is the best method for improvement, these tips from the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) can offer some help for understanding how to parallel park safely and effectively.

parking

Conquering motorways

The survey found that 16 per cent of drivers were nervous or unhappy about using the motorway in their vehicle. As part of the expansive road network spanning the UK, motorways provide a fast route to almost any destination up and down the country – but the speed and heavy flow of traffic can be an intimidating prospect for a motorist. The Highway Code provides explicit rules of conduct for using the motorway network, but drivers can also use a ‘Pass Plus’ training course with a registered instructor as a practical application to help get them motoring.

motorway6

Improving reversing ability

15 per cent of respondents also said they would like to improve their ability to reverse their vehicle. While reversing may seem like a common manoeuvre, some drivers can find it difficult. The Highway Code offers some helpful advice for reversing, along with its other general road use guidelines. Rule 202 states:

 

“Look carefully before you start reversing. You should

  • use all your mirrors
  • check the ‘blind spot’ behind you (the part of the road you cannot see easily in the mirrors)
  • check there are no pedestrians (particularly children), cyclists, other road users or obstructions in the road behind you.

Reverse slowly while

  • checking all around
  • looking mainly through the rear window
  • being aware that the front of your vehicle will swing out as you turn.

Get someone to guide you if you cannot see clearly.”

reverse lights

Not getting road rage

14 per cent of drivers in the poll admitted to succumbing to road rage when motoring, with a resolution not to give in to the red mist in 2018. While being a confident driver is a definite positive, motorists should not be over confident, as it can be a killer on the roads. The best method for combatting road rage is simply to let any issues go and not let them affect your journey, however we know how difficult that can be! Rule 147 of The Highway Code states:

“Do not allow yourself to become agitated or involved if someone is behaving badly on the road. This will only make the situation worse. Pull over, calm down and, when you feel relaxed, continue your journey.”

So, sit back, relax, and carry on driving in a calm manner for your own safety and that of other road users.

toy mannequin car

Switching off phones at the wheel

A shocking 13 per cent of drivers admitted to their resolution being to switch off their mobile phone when behind the wheel. The law states that:

“You can only use a handheld phone if you are safely parked or need to call 999 or 112 in an emergency and it’s unsafe or impractical to stop.”

If you’re caught using a mobile in any other motoring circumstance you’ll receive 6 penalty points on your driving licence and a £200 fine.

 

The simplest solution is to turn off your phone or have it in a locked compartment of your car, and if you feel you need to check your phone pull over at a safe point and switch off your car’s engine. If you need to contact someone and you know they are driving, wait until you know they have arrived at their destination to avoid being a distraction to them.

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Keeping your vehicle in top condition

Maintaining your vehicle should be at the top of your New Year’s Resolutions list, so that you can keep motoring happy throughout 2018. With Trust My Garage, you know you can rely on using a nationally recognised brand, with a truly professional service for both you and your vehicle. All the garages in Trust My Garage are members of the Independent Garage Association which is part of the RMI, one of Britain’s oldest motor trade organisations. IGA members are true professionals who have to comply with a strict code of practice.

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For more information about Trust My Garage you can visit www.trustmygarage.co.uk and to find your nearest Trust My Garage member you can use our handy Find a Garage map.

Got any New Year’s resolutions of your own? Let us know in the comments!

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Autumn Budget 2017 – How will it affect motorists?

Wednesday 22nd November saw Chancellor of the Exchequer announce his Autumn budget speech to the House of Commons.

 

The Budget is the Government’s yearly announcement about how it will use nation’s money to fund services such as schools, the NHS, policing, housing and more. Taxpayers provide money for the Government, which then translates into the budget’s funding. Motoring taxes such as VAT, charged at the current rate of 20%, Vehicle Excise Duty (road tax), and fuel duty are some of the types of funding coming from vehicle owners that the budget utilises.

Philip Hammond Budget 2017

Trust My Garage believes that keeping you in the loop as a vehicle owner is of vital importance, so we’ve created a breakdown on how the changes announced in the budget could affect the UK’s motorists and the future of driving.

 

Fuel Duty

After much speculation, fuel duty has remained frozen for another year – meaning drivers of diesel vehicles will not be subject to increased costs for their fuel.

 

Road Tax

However, vehicle excise duty for diesel cars that do not meet the latest emission standards will rise by one band in April 2018 to crack down on the increasing levels of air pollution – so you could be paying anything from £15 to £500 more a year depending on how polluting your diesel vehicle is. As well as this, existing diesel supplements in company car tax will rise by 1%.

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The Chancellor also reassured “white van men, and women” that company taxes on diesel vehicles will not hit them –  The changes to company car tax for diesel vehicles are designed for cars only.

 

Electric Cars

As a benefit to motorists, Mr Hammond unveiled extra funding and tax incentives for electric car drivers in order to initiate further take up of electric vehicles (EVs). An extra £100 million is set to go towards helping people buy battery electric cars. The Government has also pledged to make sure all new homes are built with the right cables for electric car charge points.

In addition to the extra investments, electric cars charged at work will not incur benefit in kind, meaning they aren’t subject to taxation as fossil fuel-run vehicles are. This should encourage businesses to install charging points on their premises for employees – making it easier to charge your car at a convenient time.

EVs

The Government is also investing more funding into a cohesive electric vehicle charging infrastructure, once again ensuring you can stay charged up and ready to go no matter where you are if you choose to run an EV.

 

Driverless Technology

Thinking even further ahead, the Government has pledged to devote funding to driverless cars, considering them as the ‘next step’ after electric vehicles. The Chancellor announced that the UK will set out rules so that self-driving cars can be tested without a safety operator.

 

In Summary

Overall, the latest budget has been of mixed quality for motorists. Fuel duty prices have unexpectedly been frozen again to save you money, and the investment into electric vehicles will make it easier than ever to make the switch to a greener car and reduce air pollution for the next generation. However, the rise in costs for diesel vehicles is still set to affect many thousands of drivers across the UK.

 

No matter what the budget – be it yours or the UK’s – Trust My Garage and the Car Repair Plan are here to help you ensure your car is running at its best! If you’re looking for any kind of  service or repair, you can use our handy Find a Garage map to locate your nearest Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) code of conduct approved member.

For more information about Trust My Garage you can also visit our website at www.TrustMyGarage.co.uk.

Got any thoughts or comments about how the Autumn budget could affect you? Tell us in the comments below!

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Motoring scams – how can you stay safe?

When it comes to motoring, we at Trust My Garage want to make sure drivers stay as safe as possible on the roads. That’s why we’ve created our ever-growing network of trusted independent garages, to keep your vehicle running in optimum condition and keep you as happy as possible.

 

However, there are others who wish to ruin your motoring experience by submitting drivers to a variety of scams, which can damage both your vehicle and your bank account – and we don’t think that’s fair to you. In order to help you stay aware of potential dangers, we’ve put together information about some recent scams that have affected unfortunate motorists.

 

The speeding fine email

As recently as October 2017, scam emails have been circulated to motorists advising them of ‘Notice of Intended Prosecution’ or ‘NIP’ for a speeding offence. These emails have been supposedly sent from the Government or police and can even claim to have ‘photographic evidence’ of the offence, however they are completely false.

fake-speeding-email2

The only way legitimate notices of intended prosecution are sent is via Royal Mail to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) registered address, so anyone who receives this email is advised to report it to Action Fraud, the national Fraud & Cyber Crime Reporting Centre, and delete it without clicking any links or attachments.

 

The whiplash accident

According to ABI figures, the national cost of whiplash claims makes up 20 per cent of the average insurance premium, while insurer Aviva claims that a staggering 94 per cent of all its compensation claims for motor accidents relate to minor whiplash. (source)

whiplash stretcher

Minor whiplash is very hard to prove or disprove, but if you suspect someone is fraudulently claiming whiplash against you after a small collision, seek the advice of a solicitor to see if you can fight it.

There have been recent attempts to clamp down on false whiplash claims, however the difficulty in verifying the claims have led to new legislation, known as the ‘2015 dishonestly laws’, being put into place in order to correctly punish fraudulent claimants.

 

The ‘cash for crash’ scheme

‘Cash for crash’ is the nickname given to schemes where a scammer intentionally crashes into another driver in order to make a fraudulent claim on their insurance. Often tied in with whiplash claims, ‘crash for cash’ costs the UK £340m every year, with profits frequently funding other criminal activities such as firearms and drug dealing. The BBC states:

“Crash for cash scammers choose their victims carefully – they keep an eye out for drivers who look like they would be fully insured but be less likely to cause a fuss. Mothers with children on board and the elderly are favoured victims. If you’ve been a victim, the circumstances are likely to be as follows:

The accident

A car in front of you slams on the brakes for no obvious reason, and you have no time to react and collide with the car in front. Another scenario (known as ‘flash for cash’) happens when a driver flashes their lights at a junction to let you out, then crashes into you deliberately.

The blame

The other driver will insist the accident is your fault. The scammer will then hand over their insurance details – sometimes already prepared and written down.

 The claim

A few weeks after the accident your insurers will write to you with details of the other driver’s claim which will be exaggerated with costs like car hire, recovery and whiplash injuries.” (source)

cash crash

So how can you avoid this scam? It helps to pay attention to the driver and passengers of other cars around you – people frequently looking backwards or driving erratically can be a giveaway of a ‘cash for crash’ scheme in process. Try and keep a safe braking distance away from other vehicles and be sure to watch for cars turning and manoeuvring around you. Fraudsters may even try and disable their brake lights to try and cause an accident, so make sure to pay attention to your surroundings.

 

The online car-buying con

Not content with damaging your existing car, there has even been a scam designed to trap motorists purchasing cars online, via sites such as eBay. Cons like these use cloned cars – which is like automobile identity theft – to sell illegal vehicles under legal details, leaving buyers out of pocket with an illegal vehicle. The stolen vehicle is given the identity of a similar legitimate car, including licence plates, chassis numbers and accompanying documentation. Prospective buyers can run a background check on the car and the details will appear to be correct.

One victim lost £17,000 after paying in cash for a Mercedes later discovered to be cloned and was left with no way to regain their lost money due to no proof of transaction.

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How can you avoid this scam? The best method is to purchase via authorised sellers, like garages and dealerships, but viewing a car in person is always beneficial and ensuring you pay for your purchase via a traceable, secure method means there is evidence of your purchase and the recipient of your money should anything go awry.

 

What should you do if you think you’ve been a scam victim?

The first steps in reporting a scam, especially one where you have lost money, should be to report it to Action Fraud. If you wish to get in contact with your local authorities for a crime number, you can also call or visit your local police station. For further information and for other types of scam advice, Citizens Advice can provide more information, viewable here.

Action Fraud

Telephone: 0300 123 2040

Textphone: 0300 123 2050

Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm

Website: www.actionfraud.police.uk

 

About Trust My Garage

Trust My Garage is a collection of Britain’s best local garages – every one different and every one dedicated to the highest standards of skill and personal service.

 

All the garages in Trust My Garage are members of the Independent Garage Association which is part of the RMI, one of Britain’s oldest motor trade organisations. IGA members are true professionals who have to comply with a strict code of practice.

 

Each and every customer of all Trust My Garage members can rely on using a nationally recognised brand. If there’s a problem that can’t be sorted out between you and your garage, the IGA takes over and helps to achieve a happy outcome.

 

For more information about Trust My Garage or to locate your nearest TMG member visit www.trustmygarage.co.uk.tmg_ctsi_long

Behind the wheel: top tips for older drivers

How old were you when you first got your driving licence? How many years have you been on the road – and do you think you could still pass your test now? With age comes experience, as they say, but is there a point where age can become a deteriorating factor in your driving? Figures show that a record 100,000 people number of people aged over 90 holding a driving licence in Britain, so ensuring that you’re a sound and competent driver is a priority for staying safe on the roads. 

At Trust My Garage, we want to ensure drivers of all ages have a safe and happy driving experience, so we’ve put together some advice to help older drivers stay at the top of their game when it comes to getting behind the wheel. 

older_drivers

Eyesight

It’s paramount for all motorists to ensure their eyesight is good enough to operate a vehicle on the road, but for older drivers it can be difficult to determine if there’s an issue with your sight. DVLA standards of vision for driving rules state: “You must be able to read (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) a car number plate made after 1 September 2001 from 20 metres.” If a driver needs glasses or contact lenses in order to read a number plate at this distance, then they “must wear glasses or contact lenses every time you drive if you need them to meet the ‘standards of vision for driving’.”

The best way to make sure you’re still safe to drive is with regular eye tests. If you already wear glasses, your optician will advise you on how frequently an eye test is needed, depending on the severity of your visual impairment. If you don’t wear glasses, you can visit a local optician and ask for an appointment. If you’re aged 60 or over and a UK resident, you should qualify for an NHS funded eye test. You can enquire at your optician about redeeming this free test. 

If you find yourself struggling to read traffic signs when out on the road, along with number plates or other important road details such as potential hazards, you should book an eye test with your optician as soon as possible. Eyesight deterioration can sometimes be a symptom of other effects of ill health, so any issues should be checked by a professional.

Not only can poor eye health affect you, it can also affect other drivers if you’re involved in an accident. If you don’t see a hazard until it’s too late, it will affect your reaction time to the hazard and potentially cause a dangerous accident – which could also involve other drivers! For the safety of yourself and other drivers, it’s better to be cautious and check that your eyes are working as best they can. 

glasses metal

Tiredness and rest periods

As you age, it’s important to let your body rest and catch up with your mind. After all, we aren’t all lucky enough to stay 16 forever! In many older people, they are often “only as old as they feel”, but when it comes to driving, older motorists must acknowledge that their bodies change with age. 

Tiredness plays a key factor for any driver, but it can be especially prevalent among older motorists. Giving yourself a break on longer drives is imperative to letting your brain rest, as concentrating for long periods of time can really cause your driving to suffer. Even younger drivers can fall prey to tiredness! It’s often a mistake that drivers overlook, but one that can cause real issues. If you’re driving for over two hours you should break for at least fifteen minutes, and as you get older you can increase the amount of your rest stops to suit your needs. If you aren’t used to driving long distances you should also factor in more rest stops, and take time to have a break and stretch your legs or get some refreshments where you can. 

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Medication management

Did you know that it’s illegal to drive with legal drugs in your body if it impairs your driving? From hayfever to headaches, it’s important to check packaging for any potential side effects and issues, as often many motorists don’t realise how significantly medication can affect your driving. This is especially true for prescribed medication, as it is usually stronger than anything purchased over-the-counter. If you’re unsure about the effects of any medications you take, you can check with your GP for their professional opinion.

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Refresh your driving

If you find that you’re struggling with driving as you get older, it’s possible that some refresher driving lessons may help. It’s important that you know the rules of the road, and in some cases a piece of forgotten knowledge could come in handy! Many driving schools offer refresher lessons on areas of motoring that you feel less certain about, and you can take as many lessons as you need – even if it’s only one!

If you’d like more of a theoretical refresher, you can also re-read The Highway Code, either in print or online via the .Gov website. It’s easily divided into different sections so you can clearly see which sort of information is relevant to you. As well as rules for the road, it also contains road user etiquette tips to make being on the road easier for everybody, including pedestrians and cyclists. 

driving test tech

Equip your vehicle

Sometimes, as our bodies change, we suffer from issues that can affect our driving. If you’re struggling with any part of your body it can prohibit your ability to drive – especially issues with your eyes, as stated above. However, if your arms and/or legs are affected, it can take longer for you to manoeuver a vehicle and also react to hazards. If necessary – and within your costs – you can have your car outfitted with extra aids in order to make driving easier, or you can see what other kind of help is available in order to ensure you remain safe if you stay on the roads.  

It’s also the case that you may want to stick to routes you find easier to drive – but if it any point you begin to feel unsafe, even on familiar roads, you should consider what you need to do in order to best suit your needs. 

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Stay safe

At Trust My Garage, we believe the most important rule of all when it comes to driving – no matter your age – is to stay safe. If everyone uses the road in a safe manner, it should be much easier and more agreeable when it comes to driving.

It’s also paramount that your vehicle is safe too, and if you want to ensure your motor is running in great condition, you can take it to your local Trust My Garage member, operating as part of our Chartered Trading Standards approved consumer code. They can help you keep your car running as smoothly as your driving, and keep you motoring ahead for the future. 

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More about Trust My Garage

Trust My Garage is a collection of Britain’s best local garages – every one different and every one dedicated to the highest standards of skill and personal service.

All the garages in Trust My Garage are members of the Independent Garage Association which is part of the RMI, one of Britain’s oldest motor trade organisations. IGA members are true professionals who have to comply with a strict code of practice.

Each and every customer of all Trust My Garage members can rely on using a nationally recognised brand to help you and your vehicle get the best value service for your money.

Visit www.TRUSTMYGARAGE.co.uk and type in your postcode to find your nearest trusted independent garage.

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Number plate spotting – Can you guess the country of origin?

Over the last few years, traffic on the UK’s roads has been increasing. Drivers of commercial vehicles have become a ubiquitous sight, from delivery vans laden with parcels to heavy goods vehicles (HGVs). These vehicles haul goods and services across the nation, delivering to millions of companies and households every day. Trade across Europe has also developed, creating an influx of foreign goods vehicles on UK roads – but which countries are they coming from?

lorry traffic

Lorries and other goods vehicles are more prevalent than ever on UK roads

 

To help you identify goods vehicles in the future, Trust My Garage has designed a test for all the savvy spotters out there, helping you expand your geographical knowledge by number plate – and even impress a passenger or two in the future! Take our quiz below and let us know how you fare in the comments.

 

The rules are simple – we show you a number plate, with its country identifier, and you guess where that vehicle originated. Simple! So, let’s get started…

 

  1. We’ll start you off with an easy one – where does the ‘F’ on this number plate relate to?

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  1. Ok, this one is a bit tougher – what country is ‘LT’?

Lithuania plate

  1. Try this – where is ‘GBZ’?

Gibraltar-plate

  1. Here’s another to test your knowledge – what country does ‘SK’ refer to?

Slovakia plate

  1. Getting harder – where does ‘LV’ refer to?

Latvia plate

  1. Is your brain working yet? Try this one – where is ‘CZ’?

Czech plate

  1. Time to test you – what country is ‘E’?

Spain plate

  1. Try this one – where is ‘CY’?

Cyprus Plate

  1. How about this – which country does ‘DK’ refer to?

Denmark plate

  1. Ok, last one – what country is ‘HR’?

Croatia plate

You’re all done, so it’s time to look below for the answers!

 

Answers:

  1. France
  2. Lithuania
  3. Gibraltar
  4. Slovakia
  5. Latvia
  6. Czech Republic
  7. Spain
  8. Cyprus
  9. Denmark
  10. Croatia

So, how well did you do? Was it better or worse than you thought? Either way, let us know! Spotting number plates is always a fun way to pass time when travelling, and now you can show off your impressive skills to friends and family alike.

 

Don’t forget, if you’re planning a road trip this summer, you can visit your local Trust My Garage member to ensure your car is running at its best. You can find your nearest member garage by using our handy Find a Garage map and see what services they have on offer, and any reviews left by other customers too! All Trust My Garage members adhere to our Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) approved code of conduct, so you and your vehicle get the best possible service.

 

As well as this fun quiz, if you’re looking for some other tips, check out our post on what to do when driving in summer, or if you’re feeling continental you can take a look at some of the best driving roads in Europe – and remember, happy motoring!

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The best driving roads in Europe

The best driving roads in Europe

Looking for the perfect stretch of road to cruise along this summer? Well prepare to get some serious travel fever with some Trust My Garage favourites, as well as getting prepared with our best foreign driving tips! Don’t forget – if you’re looking for some general summer driving tips you can always check out our What to do when… driving in Summer blog post.

The Stelvio Pass, Italy

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The Stelvio Pass is Italy’s hidden secret in the Alps. Topping out at 2757 metres high, this twisting, hairpin bend-filled route is located just before the Swiss border in the province of Sondrio.

Open to both motorists and cyclists, the pass provides unmatchable views of the surrounding mountainous landscape. The road offers a total of 48 switchback turns along its North face, offering a real challenge for the adventurous driver. The best approach to tackle the pass is from the North West side, allowing you to drive up through the turns and rewarding you with lush Alpine scenery. After heading through the pass’ tight turns, you can also either continue on to the town of Bormio or head North to the Umbrail Pass, which leads back into the Swiss National Park. This tends to be far less busy than the now ultra-popular Stelvio, but we guess that’s what you get when you visit Top Gear’s World’s Best Driving Road (2008)!

 

The Military Road, Isle of Wight

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If you’re looking for a drive somewhere closer to home, the Isle of Wight has some stunning coastal views on offer. As you drive down the A3055, known locally as The Military Road, you curve above Blackgang Chine, and then are suddenly faced with a panorama of the south-west coast of the Island, curving stretching ahead and below you.

As the road is in a protected National Trust area, there are few buildings – but you can still make out the turrets of the famous novelist J.B. Priestley’s former home, if you keep your eyes peeled. The stretch of road is roughly 12 miles long, and is perfect for a cruise in summer when the roadside wildflowers are in bloom.

 

The Cat and Fiddle, Derbyshire

cat and fiddle road

Named after the pub located at the peak of this road, this is a 12 mile journey between Buxton and Macclesfield, using the A54-A537. With Derbyshire often described as the ‘gateway to the Peak District’, this route has been coveted by car and motorbike enthusiasts alike for its challenging corners and enjoyable scenic views. To ensure motorists are kept safe the route is entirely covered with average speed cameras of 50mph, but even at that speed some of the hairpin corners will provide a thrill – mediated with a refreshing lime and soda at the finish!

 

A44, West Wales

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This stretch of A road travels between Aberystwyth and Llangurig, providing 25 miles of untamed Welsh landscape for drivers. Setting out as a simple drive away from the Welsh coast at Aberystwyth, the road rises and transforms into scenery more at home in an Alpine setting than a sleepy corner of Wales. As you travel on to Llangurig the road offers sweeping curves and chicanes, giving motorists a chance to really enjoy the drive as well ads the stunning scenery.

 

The Cheddar Gorge, Cheddar (Somerset)

cheddargorge

Starting on the B3135 east of Cheddar, 14 glorious miles of Somerset countryside lie between you and your destination at Ashwick. As you head East, you visit Priddy, then Plummers Loan, then continue on along the A37 towards your final destination.

The route can be taken in 3 sections. The first area demands full concentration from the driver, working through the twisting corners of the gorge itself.

The second, about four miles in, opens up the road greatly. Hairpins give way to sweeping curves, and the sharp face of the gorge is replaced by trees.

 

The final section provides a few miles of long straights and gentle gradient changes making for a quick conclusion to this short route.

 

The road can become busy as it is a tourist travel route for anyone visiting the Cheddar Gorge caves, but it’s still an excellent drive providing unparalleled close-up views of some unique landscapes.

 

The Romantic Road, Germany

Romantic-Road

Heading back out to Europe, one of the most scenic routes in the Germany is the ‘Romantic Road’ (Romantischen Straße). Running roughly 190 miles from the River Main to the Alps, the road was designed in the 1950’s to provide a sense of being transported back in time to Medieval Europe. With tiny historic villages and grand fairytale castles placed between long stretches of river, forests, meadows and agricultural lands, the Romantic Road offers tourism of a different kind for the keen motorist.

Due to the length of the trip, stopping off in one of the 16 towns along route for a bite to eat and a rest is advised, with many spots offering an authentic German dining experience. We definitely suggest bringing a camera for this one too, as the stunning variety of locations along the road will definitely be a sight to share with friends back home.

 

Trollstigen, Norway

Trollstigen

We’re rounding off our top roads with a good’un. Starting in the town of Andalsnes in Rauma and finishing at the village of Valldal in the Norddal Municipality,  Trollstigen, or Troll’s Ladder/ Troll’s Path in English, is a four mile drive of epic proportions. Taking Country Road 63, drivers’ eyes are spoiled for choice with breathtaking views. Some of the best are actually located in the visitor centre car park, which at 2,300ft high offers a soaring panorama of the route below.

Along the whole route are specifically-designed viewing platform, allowing motorists to stop and enjoy some stunning photo opportunities. One such view is the 1,050ft-high Stigfossen waterfall, which drivers can also traverse via stone bridge. You may not believe it, but within the route lie small houses dotted about the landscape – imagine those views on your daily drive!

Foreign driving tips

Here are some of our best tips for staying on top of your game when it comes to driving in Europe:

Drive on the correct side of the road

In Europe, motorists use the right-hand side of the road. It may seem silly, it’s worth checking before you arrive into a country and cause an accident! There are usually signs upon arrival at the borders letting you know which side of the road to use, but if you’re unsure, ask a member of border staff and of course do some research before you set off.

 

Take regular rest stops

Even though you’re in a car driving for long periods can be exhausting, especially due to concentrating on unfamiliar roads. The Highway Code recommends taking a break (of at least 15 minutes) every two hours – you don’t want to cause an accident due to lack of concentration. If that means a nap at a service station, a nap it is!

 

Stay hydrated

Make sure to bring plenty of water with you for your trip to stay hydrated and help you concentrate when driving on new roads. If you don’t want to buy bottled water, fill up an old bottle or two before you set off. If there’s a group in the vehicle ensure there’s enough to go around, or stop regularly for drinks breaks – you could even combine this with your rest stop.

 

Check what you’re required to have in your car

Did you know that in Spain it’s mandatory for glasses-wearing drivers to carry a spare pair of specs in their vehicle at all times? There are certain rules and regulations for what you need in your car for many countries – do your research and find out what you must and mustn’t carry in your vehicle before setting off.

 

Bring some entertainment

This one’s important – especially if you’ve got kids in the car. Bored children can lead to irritable bickering and loss of concentration, and nobody wants that! Even if you aren’t travelling with a car full of family,  a game of I Spy or some music on the radio keeps you awake and helps you stay focused on your driving – and it can be the difference between a happy or a tantrum-filled journey!

 

If you’re looking to set off on one of these adventures, or even stay somewhere a little closer to home, ensuring your vehicle is in tip-top condition should be a priority. If you want to make sure your motor is running at its best, why not take it to your local Trust My Garage member? If you’re in need of an MOT, service, repair or tune up, our CTSI approved code of conduct means that you and your vehicle both get the service you deserve – ready for the drive of a lifetime!

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Diesel Scrappage: What is it all about?

In recent weeks there has been much talk about diesel emissions and how they are affecting pollution levels around the globe. Diesel engine vehicles are one of the main causes of concern for pollution levels, especially on the back of the Dieselgate scandal, where Volkswagen pleaded guilty in the US to allegations they hid true vehicle emission levels during emissions testing.

Despite the new technology being used in electric and hybrid vehicles, as well as average petrol cars, hundreds of thousands of daily use vehicles are powered by diesel engines, as they are seen to be the most fuel efficient. So, in the face of a potential oncoming vendetta against diesel as a fuel, what can UK motorists do?

diesel ex

Diesel emissions are a real problem when it comes to pollution

 

Government Plans

The British government are currently drafting plans to try and reduce the amount of emissions in cities around the UK. Their ‘Clean Air Plan’ aims to tackle dirty and polluted air, reducing overall pollution. Clean air zones could be set up in dozens of cities and towns, according to the document.

Unsurprisingly, London has the highest levels of air pollution in the UK. According to a 2014 Public Health England report, poor air quality in inner London alone is responsible for 7.2 per cent of deaths in the capital, while previous studies have linked air pollution to 40,000 premature deaths a year in the UK. (Auto Express)

The plans to try and reduce emissions have become necessary as the UK has struggled to keep within EU limits on some pollutants, particularly nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which is produced by diesel engines and is linked to a range of respiratory diseases, including asthma. Some 37 of the 43 regions of the UK are in breach of NO2 limits. (BBC)

 

How would the ‘Clean Air Plan’ affect motorists?

The series of documents on a clean air strategy cover a wide variety of options, the most radical measure being considered is what’s termed a “targeted” car scrappage scheme. In its technical documents supporting the plan, modellers estimate that such a scheme could take 15,000 diesel and older petrol cars off the road.

“Under this scheme, 15,000 Euro 1-5 diesel cars/Euro 1-3 petrol cars are replaced with electric cars. The grant level that has been assumed for this option is £8,000,” the documentation states. (BBC)

The suggestion is that a scheme could be brought in within two years.

In a statement, The Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said: “Local authorities are already responsible for improving air quality in their area, but will now be expected to develop new and creative solutions to reduce emissions as quickly as possible, while avoiding undue impact on the motorist.” (Auto Express)

diesel fuel pump

The Clean Air Plan suggests a grant of up to £8,000 for diesel scrappage

 

The UK Government previously introduced a £300million vehicle scrappage scheme in 2009 that applied to all old vehicles. In return for scrapping their old car or van, owners were given £1,000 from the Government towards a new vehicle. However, it seems the incentive to choose a more eco-friendly car will require a larger grant to get motorists to give up their long-serving diesel vehicles.

While there are benefits to embracing a diesel scrappage scheme, it has been reported that motorists could also face a ‘triple whammy’ when it comes to costs, in order to ensure the grants provided to those taking part in the scheme are cost effective. Parking charges, pollution charges, and a new tax increase are all potential dangers for a driver’s wallet.

 

Is my car eligible for the diesel scrappage scheme?

It’s expected that the scrappage scheme will target the oldest diesel vehicles on the road, which also tend to be the dirtiest. Any diesel car or van that’s more than 10 years old is likely to be eligible for the scheme, while more modern diesels will be exempt.

Initially, it’s believed that the scheme will only apply to the 10 most polluted cities in the UK, with London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool all on the list. However, it’s possible that if the initial trial is a success then the scheme could be rolled out nationwide. (Car Keys)

diesel fuel cap

Diesel has fallen out of favour as other, less polluting, fuels have been utilised

 

At present, the Clean Air Plan has only been through a first draft, and will likely take some time to be completed. If you’d like to read more about the plan and the results of the consultation that inspired it, you can take a look at the .Gov website here.

If you’re looking to check your car or motorcycle’s emissions, book it in for an MOT, service, or just a bit of a tune-up, you can find your nearest CTSI Consumer Code approved Trust My Garage member using our handy ‘Find a Garage’ map. Once your car is ready to hit the road you can also check out our top tips for driving in summer here, too!

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!

dog map

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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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:

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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!

 

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