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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.

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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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What to do when… driving in Summer

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

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

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

car air con

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

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

slippery road

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

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

sun dazzle

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

car tyres

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

 

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

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

 

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

dog car summer

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

 

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

Bad parking and how to avoid it

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

 

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

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

And it also states what you should avoid doing too:

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

You MUST NOT stop or park on:

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

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

bad parking

bad parking block junction

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

DO NOT stop or park:

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

except when forced to do so by stationary traffic.

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

bad parking cycle lane

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

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

 

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

 

Road safety and Cyclists: How everyone can stay safe

Why are there more cyclists using the roads?

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

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

 

THINK!’s basic tips for drivers about cyclist safety

 

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

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

What can I do to stay safe as a driver?

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

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

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

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

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

Rule 211: Look out for motorcyclists and cyclists at junctions

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

What can I do to stay safe as a cyclist?

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

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

Remember: BE SAFE BE SEEN.

source: RoSPA.

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RoSPA diagram for maintaining a safe distance from HGVs.

What’s being done to improve road safety?

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

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

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

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