Category Archives: Motorway driving

Using the UK’s motorway network – The Trust My Garage guide to driving safely

With approximately 2,173 miles of motorway network spanning the UK, it’s vital for motorists to understand the requirements for travelling these roads safely. If you’re looking to learn how best to utilise the system in a safe and legal manner, look no further – the Trust My Garage blog is here to help.

What are the motorway basics?

Motorways and dual carriageways allow traffic to travel faster and in greater safety than on ordinary roads, but it’s very important for motorists to know the rules that apply on them.

To enter, drivers use a slip road system, enabling them to filter into the existing flow of traffic already using the road, accelerating to match the traffic flow. You must give priority to traffic already on the carriageway, and not force your way into the traffic stream as this could cause other drivers to perform evasive manoeuvres, leading to an accident.

Slip roads also allow you to leave a motorway or dual carriageway, but you’ll need to be in the left-hand lane so that you can drive onto the slip road when you reach it. Move into the left-hand lane in good time to make sure you don’t have to cut in front of other vehicles or miss your exit. Motorway junctions typically have information signs at 1 mile prior to a junction and another at half a mile, to provide drivers travelling at high motorway speeds sufficient time to move to the left.

At no point – unless directed by the police, Highways England traffic officers or DVSA officers – should you stop on the motorway. If you have to slow right down or stop because there’s serious congestion ahead, you can use your hazard warning lights briefly to alert drivers behind you. Remember to turn them off when the driver behind you has slowed down.

The default speed limit on the UK’s motorway network is 70mph. However, some motorways operate as “smart motorways” or “managed motorways”, where variable speed limits and lane closures are displayed on signs on gantries above the road at regular intervals.

There are two kinds of motorway speed sign:

  • If the speed limit is in a red ring, that’s a mandatory speed limit.
  • If the speed limit is surrounded by flashing amber lights, it’s an advisory speed limit based on traffic and weather conditions.

To learn more about how smart motorways work, check out our blog post Driving on smart motorways – what are they and how do you use them?

What do I need to know when driving on the motorway?

Drivers should utilise the left lane wherever possible when using the motorway, and only venture to the central and right-hand lanes to overtake slower traffic before returning to the left lane after the manoeuvre is completed safely. You should never use the left-hand lane to pass a slower vehicle –known as “undertaking” – unless all lanes of traffic are moving slowly, but the left lane is moving slightly faster. Drivers should also use their indicators as normal to alert other motorists of their intention and allow them to act accordingly.

Rule 264 of the Highway Code states:

  • You should always drive in the left-hand lane when the road ahead is clear.
  • If you are overtaking a number of slower-moving vehicles, you should return to the left-hand lane as soon as you are safely past.
  • Slow-moving or speed-restricted vehicles should always remain in the left-hand lane of the carriageway unless overtaking.

If you’re driving at night or in low-light conditions, the reflective studs in the road, commonly known as “cat’s eyes”, can also help you to determine the position of your vehicle on the road. Here’s what each coloured stud means:

  • Red – Hard shoulder division
  • Amber – Central reservation division
  • White – Mid-lane division
  • Green – Slip road division

Average speed cameras – what are they?

Average speed cameras have been installed over 250 miles on British roads, in areas around the country. They work by tracking the speed of your car between two points – so slowing down to go past the camera and then speeding up afterwards will not fool it!

The cameras will record your number plate when you pass the first camera, then again at the second, and perform a quick calculation based on the current time to work out how long it took you to travel between the two points. If the time it took you to travel is quicker than could be done at the speed limit, you’ll get a fine and penalty points on your licence.

The cameras can also operate across multiple lanes of traffic, so changing lanes won’t help you – only driving at or under the posted speed limit will.

The best method to avoid a speeding ticket is, of course, not to speed.

How can I make sure my vehicle is safe and roadworthy?

Prior to setting out on any journey, particularly longer trips, you should always check your vehicle for any visible issues or potential problems. Drivers should check:

  • Engine oil, coolant and screen wash are within their respective required levels
  • Tyre pressures and treads – Tyres should meet the legal minimum requirement of 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the tyre in a continuous band around the whole of the tyre with no bulges, bubbles, cuts or tears, or you risk a £2500 fine and three penalty points per tyre – or worse! Tyre pressures should match the BAR/PSI indicated in your vehicle’s Owners’ Manual.
  • Fuel level – Running out of fuel is one of the most common causes of breakdown on the UK’s motorway network, so check you’ve got enough fuel for your trip and take note of any available fuel stations en-route to fill up as necessary.

It’s also recommended that you check your lights and wipers to make sure they too are in working order and good condition.

If your car is due its MOT or a service, make sure to take it in to a garage to get it ready for the road. If you’re looking for a reputable, local, independent garage you can head to the Trust My Garage website and use our handy ‘Find a Garage’ map to locate your nearest TMG member, operating to a Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI)-approved code of conduct.

Simply pop in your postcode and our ‘Find a Garage’ map will show you all the TMG members in your area – and you can even read reviews from other customers if you’re unsure which garage is right for your needs.

What happens if I break down on the motorway?

In the event of your vehicle developing a problem the Highway Code says to leave the motorway at the next exit or pull into a service area. If you can’t do so, you should pull onto the hard shoulder and stop as far to the left as possible, with your vehicle’s wheels turned to the left.

If possible, try to stop near an emergency telephone (situated at approximately one-mile intervals along the hard shoulder).

Once you have safely pulled over, switched off the engine and removed the key from the vehicle, exit it as soon as possible. You should leave the vehicle by the passenger side door so that you’re not at risk of oncoming traffic. Make sure all passengers do the same, and that they keep well away from the carriageway.

Put the hazard lights on, and, if it’s dark, put your side lights on too. If it’s foggy, put the fog lights on if you can do so with the vehicle switched off. Generally, if you can’t see for more than 100 metres, the visibility is poor and that’s when your fog lights should be used.

The Highway Code advises that any pets travelling with you be left in the vehicle – unless you consider it to be an emergency situation. If that’s the case, take them out of the vehicle but make sure they are kept under control at all times.

You should then call for breakdown help. If you have breakdown cover and an available mobile phone, contact your provider, then try to stay calm and wait for help and support to arrive.

If you don’t have access to a mobile phone – or the battery has drained – then you need to use an emergency telephone. These are located at one-mile intervals along the hard shoulder and are easy to identify because they’re in bright orange boxes.

If you’ve broken down, you’ll need to walk to an emergency phone. Face the oncoming traffic and follow the arrows on the posts at the back of the hard shoulder. The emergency telephone is free of charge and connects directly to the Highways Agency or the police.

While on the phone, give as many details as you can – including your location – and inform the Highways Agency or police if you are a vulnerable motorist such as disabled, travelling alone, older, or with small children.

Your breakdown support will be able to assess if the vehicle requires towing away or if it can be repaired and can re-join the flow of traffic. If you can once again enter the road, be patient and wait for a safe gap in the traffic. If possible, use the hard shoulder to build up speed so you’re entering the carriageway with some momentum rather than slowly, with as little traffic as possible.

Don’t forget, weather in the UK can be unpredictable. If you’re planning a long journey, it is always a good idea to keep warm, weatherproof clothing in your vehicle as motorways offer little shelter from the elements. For an additional safety measure, you may also want to keep high-visibility clothing in your vehicle – wearing a hi-vis vest helps alert other drivers to your presence and could help prevent a potentially fatal accident.

If you’re looking for more information or would like to contact Trust My Garage, please visit TrustMyGarage.co.uk or Contact Us here.

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?

france plate.png

  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!

tmg_ctsi_long

 

UK speeding law changes: How do they affect you?

As of Monday 24th April 2017, the UK speeding sentencing guidelines have undergone some changes, increasing the severity of penalties for anyone caught committing a speeding offence.

The Sentencing Council have published their revised guidelines for 2017 onward in a report, which you can have a look at here. We’ve broken down the most important parts of the report for you below.

 

How the fines are calculated

Fines will be calculated using the Band system. Offences are broken down into categories, known as bands, based on their severity. This is then used to gauge an approximate fine. Bands A, B, and C are shown here with their penalties:

Sentencing range 

Band C fine
150% of relevant weekly income

Band B fine
100% of relevant weekly income

Band A fine
50% of relevant weekly income

 Disqualification

Points

Disqualification for 7-56 days OR
6 points on your licence

Disqualification for 7-28 days OR
4-6 points on your licence

3 points on your licence

  • Must endorse and may disqualify. If no disqualification impose 3 – 6 points
  • Where an offender is driving grossly in excess of the speed limit the court should consider a disqualification in excess of 56 days.

 

What happens if someone commits a speeding offence?

The penalty received for speeding depends on the speed the offence was committed at and the speed limit of the road used. The table below shows which speeds fall under which bands comparative to the speed limit.

Speed limit (mph)  Recorded speed (mph)
20 41 and above 31 – 40 21 – 30
30 51 and above 41 – 50 31 – 40
40 66 and above 56 – 65 41 – 55
50 76 and above 66 – 75 51 – 65
60 91 and above 81 – 90 61 – 80
70 101 and above 91 – 100 71 – 90
Sentencing Range Band C Band B Band A

For example, if you were driving at 42mph in a 20mph speed limit area your offence would fall into Band C, but doing the same speed in a 30mph speed limit area would mean your offence falls into Band B.

 

Is there any real change from the previous rules?

The Band system has changed how drivers are fined, as this is now worked out on a percentage of weekly income and the severity of the offence. There has also been an increase in severity of penalty when speeding in low-speed limit areas. The maximum fines for speeding have not changed. These are:

  • £1,000 on a normal UK road
  • £2,500 on a UK motorway.

 

Remember, the easiest way to avoid being caught speeding is by not speeding! If you want to make sure your car is running smoothly you can pop into your nearest Chartered Trading Standards approved Trust My Garage member for all your motoring needs. You can find your closest garage with our handy Find a Garage map. If you want to know more about why Trust My Garage members are the best, take a look at our blog post explaining the benefits of visiting a TMG member.

tmg_ctsi_long

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.

Boost your child car seat knowledge with Trust My Garage

baby seats in the car seat

When purchasing a car seat for your child or baby, ensuring you have the correct size can be something of a complicated process, especially in light of changing regulations. The rules around car seats are set to change over the next two to three years as a result of both UK and EU legislation. With this in mind, Trust My Garage take a closer look at everything you need to know in order to keep your child safe and to ensure you’re not breaking the law.

Booster seats

The current laws in place stipulates that a child travelling in a car must use a child car seat until the age of 12 years old or until they reach the height of 135 cm. Under new rules which are set to come into force later this year, backless booster seats are set to be restricted, resulting in them only to  be used for children who are taller than 125cm and weighing more than 22kgs. The results have come about due to concerns regarding the safety of the booster seats, especially in regards to younger children. Experts are recommending that parents should instead high backed booster seats, as they provide a greater level of protection, guiding the seatbelt across a child’s body properly. In addition, tests have shown they offer a greater level of protection in the event of side on crashes in comparison to their backless counterparts. The new rules are expected to come into force by the end of the year, meaning the rules will be applied to all new products released from 2017.

Making it simpler

In addition to UK regulations in regards to booster seats, the EU has also announced the introduction of the the European standard i-Size car seats. The new seat plans were announced in 2013, with the aim of making the process of buying a car seat simpler and safer, with the changes in legislation set to come in force in the UK by 2018.

The i-Size seats are to be fitted into cars using a system referred to as Isofix, a system whereby metal bar connectors built into the chassis of the car are used to connect the child car seat, making the connection much more secure. Additional security is provided either a support leg which will be built into the seat or a top tether, which will ensure the car seat does not move forward in the event of an accident. All cars manufactured today will be Isofix equipped, however you should bear in mind that not every car comes with Isofix, it was first introduced in 1997 in the Volkswagen Golf IV and more widely introduced from 2004 onwards.

The other significant change we will see as a result of i-Size car seats, will be that the correct seat will be identified by a child’s height, rather than weight, making it much easier for parents to identify the right seat for their child.

The perfect fit

The importance of fitting a child seat correctly cannot be overstated, with worrying statistics from RoSPA revealing that an estimated two thirds of all child seats are fitted incorrectly. As such an important factor in keeping children safe on the road, parents need to get the right advice and support during their purchase and installation.

Currently legislation in the UK requires the following seats to be fitted:

From birth to fifteen months, with a height of 40 to 80 cm, a rear facing seat should be fitted, with a five point harness.

Aged fifteen months to four years, with a height of 80cm to 105cm, either a rear or forward facing seat can be installed, also with a five point harness.

Aged four plus and with a height of 105cm to 135cm, a forward facing seat with a three point seatbelt should be installed.

Once you have purchased your car seat, especially if this is your first one, it is recommended that you get it fitted by an expert. You can make an appointment with a qualified fitter at your store of purchase who will guide you through the process or alternatively, local council may sometimes run a car seat fitting clinic, so it’s always a good idea to contact your local council for more information and advice.

Booster seat for a car

For additional peace of mind, get to know your car seat really well, study the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and keep them somewhere safe, so you can refer to it should you need to switch the seat to a new vehicle.

When installing a seat for a baby, the ideal position should be in a rear facing position on the back seat, ideally in the middle rear.  Once a child is fifteen months old or they can hold their head up on their own, then this can be exchanged for a forward facing seat.

The car’s headrest should not cause interference with the seat when installed, allowing the seat to be flush against the back of the car. The head rest shouldn’t touch the seat and it shouldn’t stop the car seat touching the car fabric.

When the seat has been fitted it should firmly in place and should have minimal movement with plenty of resistance. Before setting off, ensure that the buckle is secure and locked into place, making sure the material part of the belt is touching the car seat frame.

Trust My Garage

If you need additional advice on support in regards to child seats and restraints to ensure you remain safe on the roads, your local Trust My Garage member will be more than happy to advise. Find your local trusted garage by entering your postcode into our search finder to locate your nearest member.

Or, by downloading the free Trust My Garage App, you can find services in your local area at the click of a button. Trust My Garage is the only government backed code solely for independent garages.

Carry on caravanning with Trust My Garage

The popularity of staycations shows no signs of diminishing, as latest research from Mintel suggests that 2016 will be a record year for people choosing to holiday in the UK rather than abroad. The figures are expected to be the highest for a decade. Of all the staycation options available, the popularity of the caravan continues to grow. According to the UK motor home trade body the NCC, more than £1.8 billion is currently being spent annually on caravan holidays in the UK; equating to around 2 million holiday makers.

It is not much of a surprise that caravanning continues to be so popular. With the prospect of owning a holiday home out of reach for many of us, the option of a caravan is a great alternative, giving the freedom to set off on the road at a moment’s notice.

If you’re new to the caravan owner’s club, you’re probably excitedly planning your first trip for this summer, but before you do, let Trust My Garage guide you through the necessary requirements before setting off.

Caravan lifestyle road and landscape in vintage old style.

Trust My Garage can help you prepare for a caravan holiday

Licence requirements

First things first, when did you pass your driving test? Knowing if your driver’s licence enables you to tow a caravan can often be a source of confusion. However it is thankfully relatively simple. If you passed your driving test before the 1st January 1997, the conditions of your licence mean you are automatically entitled to tow a trailer and this is indicated by a B+E on your driving license. In practice, the conditions allow you to drive a vehicle and trailer with a total combined weight of 8.25 tonnes. The rules for pre-1997 drivers means there are few restrictions for drivers in terms of car and trailer or caravan combination, although you should always be careful to ensure that the car and caravan are correctly matched and that the caravan is not too heavy for the towing car.

Drivers who passed their test after the 1st January 1997 are subject to a few more restrictions. You can tow a vehicle and trailer combination weighing up to 3.5 tonnes, provided that the unladen weight of the towing vehicle is greater than the maximum permissible weight of the trailer.

Keeping in trim

To keep your vehicle safe, it’s recommended that the total weight of your caravan is no more than 85% of the kerb weight of your car, this is the weight minus any passengers or goods. Information can be found in the manufacturer’s handbook. Packing for your journey is an important consideration, not just what you bring along but how you pack it. Heavier items should be placed above the axis, to keep it stable, and ensuring a smoother journey.

Noseweight

The next item on your checklist is to check your caravan’s nose weight. The nose weight is the weight or force which is exerted on the car’s tow ball when your caravan is attached.

This is an important check, as it can have a significant impact on the stability of your caravan. Too light and this could cause the rear of the towcar to lift. Conversely, if it’s too heavy, this will have an adverse impact on steering, increasing your risk of having an accident.

As a simple guide in measuring this, your caravan’s nose weight should be approximately 7% of its laden weight. To measure the nose weight is straightforward if using a nose weight gauge. Simply make sure the caravan is on an even, level surface and any heavy items are in the middle of the caravan above the axis, ensuring heavy items are loaded low down in the unit.

Speed limits

If towing a caravan in the UK, the maximum speed limit is 50mph on a single carriageway and 60mph on a dual carriageways or motorways. If the combination weight of your car and caravan exceeds 7500kg, then a restriction of 50mph also applies on dual carriageways. If you need any further clarification regarding speed limits, always check the Highway Code.

Extra practice

If you’re new to the world of caravanning, maneuvering a caravan can take time to get used to. As a good way of developing your skills and confidence, it may be a good idea to enrol on a towing course. Courses can be arranged through organisations such as the Caravan Club.  And the good news is there is no formal exam at the end. Full details regarding the range of courses available can be found on the Caravan club website. (www.caravanclub.co.uk)

Trust My Garage

Whether you’re a first time caravanner or have years of experience behind you, Trust My Garage can provide expert help and advice to ensure you and your vehicle remains safe on the road this summer. If you need any help and advice regarding your caravan, your local Trust My Garage member will be more than happy to advise. Find your local trusted garage by entering your postcode into our search finder to locate your nearest member.

Or, by downloading the free Trust My Garage App, you can find services in your local area at the click of a button. Trust My Garage is the only government backed code solely for independent garages.

It’s all white for UK car sales, but what does your car say about you?

The new car market in the UK is growing, with an 8.4% increase in purchases of new models during February, the biggest increase for more than a decade. In fact, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has revealed that once again the colour white has retained its position as the most popular car colour in the UK for the third year running, a rise of 2.2% from the previous year.

So why has white become the colour of choice for British motorists? Could it be that despite a rise in car sales, as a result of the recession, the public still remains economically cautious, with white cars tending to hold their value for longer than other colours? Is this trend a reflection of the public’s financial prudence?

To discover what your car colour may say about you, Trust My Garage has teamed up with colour psychologist Lucy Curtis to look at the top ten car colours in the UK and what this could reveal about the type of driver you might be.

Top 10 car colours in the UK

Car on white

White is the most popular colour car, but what does this say about UK drivers?

White – The number of white cars on Britain’s roads have surged over the last decade, with white cars accounting for almost a quarter of cars on Britain’s roads. If you choose to purchase a white car you are most likely to be someone who is extremely focused, not wishing to be distracted by external factors and with a penchant for order and cleanliness, your car will be sparkling inside and out.

Black – if you’re an owner of a black car, you’re not likely to be someone who fades into the background. You probably carry an air of mystery and sophistication and perhaps give off the impression of being slightly ‘untouchable’.  Not keen on being a laid back driver, you won’t be reckless, but you’re someone who wants to get noticed. You’ll want to make sure your vehicle is well looked after with regular servicing from your local Trust My Garage member.

Grey – Perhaps surprisingly, grey takes the bronze position for colour popularity. In stark opposition to drivers of black cars, if you have a grey car you probably want to remain in the background, not wanting to be noticed by others. You’re unlikely to break the speed limit or creep through amber lights when you should be remaining still.

Blue – Once frequently the most popular car colour in Britain, blue has now slipped to fourth position. As an owner of a blue car it is all about the mind and intellect. Inquisitive by nature, you’ll be keen to learn about the inner workings of your car, meaning you’re not intimidated when it comes to understanding why there is a strange noise coming from your bonnet. Confident of your own abilities you’re not afraid to push your car to its limits, but that doesn’t mean you need to avoid regular servicing. On the contrary, you’re likely to be fascinated by your local Trust My Garage technician and will do all you can to learn from them.

Red – It is unsurprising that red is a popular choice when it comes to racing cars, with their highly energised and fast past nature, owners of red cars are likely to want to be noticed. This could lead to an increase in taking risks. Red car drivers are unafraid to queue jump, and typically, accelerator pedals may need a bit more attention than others as your forceful nature may lead to you being heavy footed on the pedals.

Silver – If you’re behind the wheel of a silver car, you likely to be a calm individual, not easily fazed by those around you. Keen to be seen as forward thinking and innovative, whether it’s the latest satnav or tyre pressure monitor, you’ll have all the latest gadgets and gizmos to keep you safe on the road. You’re certainly not someone who is likely to neglect regular car servicing.

Green – As a driver of a green car, it’s all about balance. You’re generally an even paced driver, on the whole, and you’ll be reluctant to take risks, but on occasion you may find yourself going against the norm.

Brown – A practical and down to earth driver, you’ll be reluctant to take risks. Any passenger jumping into your car can rest assured they’re in the hands of a safe and trustworthy driver. Your practical nature means you’re likely to ensure your car is well maintained, with regular car checks and servicing.

Orange – A vibrant outgoing personality is what you can expect of drivers of orange cars. If this is you, you’re likely to be a fun and sociable driver, who loves listening to music as you travel. For you, driving is an experience, not just a case of getting from A to B.

Purple – If purple is your colour of choice, you’ll be reluctant to fit in with the crowd. You’re an individual who likes to do things on their own terms, a trait which translates into your driving style. You have an inner confidence which means you won’t worry about fitting in.

Whatever your style, TMG are here to help

Whatever your driving traits or colour preference, regular car servicing is the key to keeping you and others safe on the road. If you need any help and advice regarding car maintenance, your local Trust My Garage member will be happy to advise. If you need to find your local trusted garage for a service, it’s now easier than ever. Enter your postcode into our search finder to locate your nearest member.

Alternatively you can now download the free Trust My Garage App, allowing you to find services in your local area. Trust My Garage is the only government backed code solely for independent garages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Driving in the changes for learner drivers in 2016

The UK driving test looks set to witness the biggest changes in almost 20 years as the government plans to update the test in mid-2016 to reflect changes that have taken place in regards to both driving habits and driving technology. The plans are being introduced to help increase pass rates, which currently stand at just under 50 percent. Future driving tests will include more real life situations and conditions, it is hoped this will not only increase success rates but also prepare drivers more comprehensively for the reality of independent driving, creating more confident, proficient drivers. Trust My Garage takes a look at some of the changes learner drivers will be expected to face before they can rip up those L plates for good.

The use of satnav

One of the biggest changes to the driving test will be the inclusion of the satnav, now a commonplace navigation tool for drivers. Drivers will soon be expected to use a satnav for the first part of their test and be required to navigate their way to a specified location.

Woman Having Driving Lesson With Instructor

Driving lessons are set to change

Removal of the three point turn

The three point turn, more properly called the ‘turn in the road’, and a staple of the UK driving test, could be about to disappear. According to the DVSA, it is no longer a common procedure, and will be replaced with more challenging, everyday skills instead. In addition to the removal of the three point turn, reversing around corners could also be a thing of the past under new plans.

Additional moves

With the removal of two manoeuvres comes the inclusion of two additional moves, including the requirement to drive forwards into a car parking space and stopping, and then reversing back out to the left or right when leaving a car park. This will replace the traditional reverse bay park and is being introduced due to the increase of trolley lanes in supermarket car parks, for drivers to take their shopping to their vehicle to store in the boot. It is thought that reversing into bays makes it difficult to open the boot when a driver reverse parks in the bay opposite. Another new manoeuvre is pulling up on the right side of the road in a convenient place, and then reversing back two car lengths, and then driving on when you are ready.

Driving safely

Those who have already passed their test will be familiar with the current use of show and tell questions before the test begins, however under plans to make this more realistic, drivers will be required to answer questions on the move, including describing how they would perform basic maintenance checks, with the aim to create the feel of real life situations drivers will have to face.

happy elderly drivingRaising the age limit

Currently once a driver reaches the age of 70 they are asked to re-apply every 3 years to renew their licence. Plans are now underway to increase this to 75. Reaching 75 does not mean you should stop driving, it simply means you will have to decide if you are fit to drive by renewing your licence and every three years after that.

Tips for older drivers

Being an older driver certainly doesn’t make you an unsafe driver, in fact with the experience and knowledge that comes with many years of driving, older drivers are well equipped to face the challenges of the road. However with ageing, inevitably there does come a time when our reactions may become slower and health conditions may have an impact on our ability to drive as we once did. Monitoring your health and being realistic about how this may impact on your driving, making changes when needed, will ensure you keep yourself and others safe on the roads.

Health checks should include regular hearing and sight tests. Be aware of possible side effects of any medications you may be taking and the impact this could have on your driving abilities, if you are unsure, always seek the advice of your doctor.

If you believe your reactions are slower than they previously were, plan your routes in advance, you may also decide to avoid driving at night or during times of high congestion, such as rush hour. You may also need to change your vehicle as you get older, and opt for a car with larger mirrors and windows to improve visibility. Knowing your limitations and making changes as a result is the sign of responsible driving and will ensure you remain a safe driver.

Tips for newly qualified drivers

Research from RoSPA has reported that drivers are more likely to have an accident during the first two years after qualifying than at any other time. Passing your test is just the start of your journey, a journey which will see you build up confidence, knowledge and experience. Passing your test is an exciting time but it doesn’t mean you now know all there is to know about driving; there will still be plenty of scenarios and situations you’ll have to face for the first time. Once you’ve passed your test taking an additional qualification such as Pass Plus, while not compulsory, is a great way to build on your newly acquired skills and knowledge in a safe and controlled way. There are a total of six modules covering topics including driving at night and on the motorway.

Driving requires a huge amount of concentration, regardless of experience. As a new driver, maintaining concentration and focus is a skill that needs honing, so reducing distractions is a must. Avoid carrying other passengers if you can, as you build up your confidence, as they can be the biggest source of distraction. Leave your car stereo and mobile phone switched off, eliminating the risk of interruption from a call or your favourite song.

Whether you’re an experienced driver or newly qualified, Trust My Garage can provide expert help and support to ensure your vehicle is in its best possible condition.

 

Keeping you on the move this Easter

With only days to go until the Easter holidays, many of you will be already thinking ahead, planning a short getaway to make the most of the long weekend. Latest statistics from Visit England have revealed that short trips are the fastest growing area of domestic holidays, with nearly 30 million one to three day breaks taken during 2013; a 17 percent increase from 2008, meaning more and more of us are choosing a staycation.

This is great news, but with the number of cars on Britain’s roads increasing over this period and with forecasters predicting that the uncertain British weather looks set to surpass itself with the risk of flash flooding and even snow showers well into April, there promises to be a number of challenges for motorists to face. With this in mind what do you need to consider to ensure you keep on the move?

Breaking down

Whether it’s your own car which breaks down or you’re stranded on a motorway as a result of an incident, the motorway can be an overwhelming prospect. Just recently, drivers on the M6 were stranded for more than 24 hours after a crash whilst maintenance workers repaired sections of the road.

If you find yourself stuck on the motorway it can be tempting to keep your engine running, especially during cold weather as a means to heat your car. However, by doing this you run the risk of running out of fuel. If you find yourself stuck on the motorway with no end in sight, turn off your engine, turning it back on for ten minutes every hour, to keep your car warm. Before going on a long journey make sure you’ve packed blankets and extra clothes as well as water and food supplies, keeping you warm and hydrated in the event that you get stuck on a motorway.

TMG Tired Driver bridge

If your car shows signs of breaking down, such as making spluttering noises or the engine failing, the first thing to remember is not to panic. If possible, carry on until you come to the next exit and find a safe place to park. If this isn’t possible, move onto the hard shoulder, making sure your hazard lights are on. Once you’ve parked safely, get yourself and other passengers out of the car by the left hand doors; don’t be tempted to stay in your car as there is still a danger that your car could still be hit by passing traffic. Remove emergency items from your car and make your way to the safety barrier. Don’t be tempted to carry out repairs on a motorway, regardless of how simple or straight forward you believe them to be. Wait in a safe place and call your breakdown company. Alternatively, if you have downloaded the Trust My Garage app on your smartphone, you may be able to find a local trusted garage nearby which offers a recovery service.

It is not only the motorway than can present problems if your car breaks down, side roads and isolated areas, can also be frightening places to suffer a break down. If it does happen, if safe to do so, place a warning triangle at least 45 metres away from your car, letting any other drivers that may be passing of your presence. Get back in your car, ensuring your doors and your windows are locked and your hazard lights are on. Keep your phone well charged and call for help remaining in your car until help arrives.

Stranded

The risk of flash floods as seen across the country in recent weeks is likely to pose a threat well into April according to forecasters. In the West Midlands alone, a number of weather warnings recently resulted in drivers being stranded in flood hit roads. If you are faced with floods and heavy rain and are considering driving you should first check the depth of the water. In most vehicles you should never attempt to drive through water that is up to the centre of your wheels.

When driving through water, keep your speed to a minimum to avoid creating a large bow wave. If you find yourself stranded in flood water and your engine cuts out, don’t try to restart the engine as this could result in further damage. If possible make it safely to dry land, get out of your car and ensure all the windows and doors are locked to reduce the risk of further damage and wait for the emergency services.

Preparing ahead

There are currently an estimated 7,000 breakdowns happening every day on Britain’s roads, and many of these could be avoided as the biggest cause of car breakdowns in the UK, according to breakdown providers, is car maintenance issues. This is easy to prevent if drivers are prepared for their journey. Punctured tyres, running out of fuel and a flat battery top the list as the most common causes of vehicle breakdowns. Keeping your vehicle well looked after, not only with regular checks yourself but with regular servicing at your local Trust My Garage workshop, will keep your vehicle in good condition, reducing the risk of your vehicle breaking down.

How TMG can help

Trust My Garage has a free app which not only allows drivers to locate their nearest Trust My Garage member, but during a breakdown or an emergency, drivers can instantly find out which garage provides a recovery service, meaning you’re only a click away from getting help.

To find your local trusted garage just put your postcode in our garage finder and we will show you where your nearest Trust My Garage members can be found. And you can even submit feedback on the service you receive via the Trust My Garage website! To find details about your nearest Trust My Garage Member and the services they provide, or for more information regarding the Trust My Garage App, visit us here.