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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.

So, should you bring your car to uni?

heading fr uni.jpg

So, you’re flying the nest and heading for uni? For most, it’s been a hard slog getting to this point – staying up all night to revise for your exams, skipping social plans to perfect your coursework – and now you have to come to terms with the fact that you’re leaving home.

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to leaving your parents behind: what will your new roomies be like? What will you eat every day? How do you stop your laundry from changing colour?

But there’s one consideration that you should probably give some greater thought into: should you bring your car with you?

It seems like the perfect idea, allowing you to have even more freedom now that you’re adjusting to independent life. Bringing your car along to your new city means you don’t have to worry about how you’ll get from A to B, especially if you find yourself living some distance from your university campus. It’ll also allow you greater opportunity to explore your new surroundings, and perhaps find some cool spots that aren’t on any bus route.

What’s more, uni digs can be a little bit cramped sometimes, and you will struggle to find space to store all of your belongings. Let’s be honest, you’ve probably brought everything you own with you, knowing full well you absolutely don’t need most of it! So, maybe having your car around could provide an extra little bit of storage – keeping your spare jackets and shoes in your boot could free up a lot essential dorm space.

Not only that, for some courses, having your car with you is almost essential to carry out your work. For example, you may need to visit patients or film on location, so your car will be handy for any extra specialist equipment you may have in tow.

Of course, there’s always the all-important fact that having your car with you will make it so much easier for you to run your dirty laundry home to your mum, because carrying bags full of dirty underwear, and dirty-pint-ridden t-shirts on a train probably isn’t the most ideal situation.

Sound good? Well, there’s slightly more to it than that.

As well as coming to terms with the fact that you almost certainly will end up becoming a personal taxi service for the rest of your flatmates, there are some other important considerations you really ought to think about:

Will you actually need it?

This is the biggest question you should ask yourself. Cars require a great deal of maintenance and upkeep, not to mention all the costs that are associated with keeping it on the roads, so, it is important to ask yourself if the extra hassle is really worth it.

Generally, most students opt to live in university halls during their first year. Typically, this accommodation is located either directly on, or extremely close to the campus. What’s more, most university’s benefit from being within a stone throw away from the life and heart of your new city, so considering everything you could possibly need will be within spitting distance of your shoebox bedroom, will you actually get the chance to give your motor a spin?

Perhaps consider all of the places you will need to get to, and have a look at the public transport links. You may find that everything you could possibly need is available an arms-width away.

Where can you park it?

It’s all well and good deciding that you need your motor with you, so you don’t have to lug bags and bags of groceries around town after a supermarket trip, but have you considered where you’ll keep your car?

Owing to their commonly centralised locations, many universities have extremely few parking facilities on campus, and the same applies for halls of residence. In most cases, parking facilities are only available for members of staff, meaning that you will probably be pushed to park your motor a few streets away. This leaves you in a difficult predicament regarding safety – can you actually trust it’ll be safe parked up on a street a mile away from where you’re living? And will you feel safe getting to your car, during the night, when you fancy a late drive to Maccies?

Why not take a day trip to your new city, before you move in, to scope out the area? Be sure to find out your hall of residence’s parking procedure (you may have to pay if they have an on-site car park), and take a wander around to find the nearest on-road parking.

Can you afford to run it?

Many Freshers light up at the prospect of their bank accounts being lined with a student loan. For most of you, this sum of money is more than your bank account has ever seen, so naturally, you’ll be inclined to splurge.

However, many forget that this ‘free’ money isn’t an excuse to buy all the latest gear that you otherwise couldn’t have afforded – it is, in fact, supposed to facilitate the extra expenses needed to live! We know, that doesn’t sound exciting, but many new students underestimate the actual cost of living.

It was recently announced that the government would be scrapping the maintenance grant, which provided an extra bit of income for students from poorer backgrounds. This means that students will now have to rely solely on their maintenance loan to fund their housing, utilities, food and books, as well as the extra bit of dollar needed to fund the nights out that you absolutely won’t want to miss.

Annoyingly, all of these add up – adulting can be cruel on the bank account-  and actually, many will find that the loan just won’t be able to cover all of your outgoings.

So, how will you manage to keep your car taxed, insured, MOT’d, serviced and fuelled too? Will your weekend job cover it, as well as leaving you with enough to keep your allocated cupboard and fridge shelf full(ish)?

It sounds tedious, but it’d be wise to devise some sort of list of all your expected outgoings, and compare this to your income. This way you can weigh up how far out of pocket your car could leave you.

Insurance

The bane of most motorists lives, but possibly more so for younger people, is insurance. It’s no secret that the younger generations can be hit with the highest of insurance premiums, and sometimes these figures can leave you wondering whether it’s worth being road-independent at all.

Now, different cities and areas around the country have increasing or decreasing effects on insurance premiums, mostly based on their affluence. As a general rule of thumb, ‘nicer’ more suburban areas tend to encourage ‘nicer’ lower premiums. City centres and less affluent areas tend to encourage pretty eye-watering figures. So, it’s definitely worth considering how your new address will affect your insurance costs. Could you afford to pay an increased premium? Be sure to get a quote before you make your decisionuni.png

Will it be safe?

Now, we’re not trying to scare you here, but it is not unknown for student areas to be targeted for burglaries. It’s an unusual case, as most students agree that they do not keep many valuables in their university home – but it does happen, and it is worth considering.

Since you may not be able to park your car where you can keep an eye on it, you do want to be able to rest easily (albeit in a bed that won’t be as comfy as your one back home), knowing that it will be safe. For this reason, it is worth checking your alarm system is intact and investing in some sort of immobiliser or steering lock.

It probably goes without saying that, should you be forced to park some distance from your front door, avoid leaving anything valuable inside your vehicle.

What happens when something does go wrong?

We bet many of you leave it to your parents to sort out your car upkeep. Many young people like to enjoy the leisure of driving a car, without having to worry about the nuisance maintenance it needs. So, what will you do when you’re too far away from the nest for your mum and dad to sort your MOT or service?

 Yotmgu head to Trust My Garage!

Trust My Garage is a garage approval scheme that gives you the peace of mind that your car will be in safe hands. All Trust My Garage members abide by a strict code of conduct, meaning that your service will always be second to none.

Luckily, finding your nearest one is easy. Head to www.trustmygarage.co.uk or download the Trust My Garage app in the App store or Google Play store. From here, you can simply type in your postcode, and you’ll be directed to a selection of your nearest trusted garages.

It’s as simple as that.

We have over 2,600 members across the country, meaning that you’ll never be too far away from a Trust My Garage member.

But how will you afford to pay for your garage services?crp TRUSTY

We’ve already established that your outgoings at university will wind up being much more than you expect. So, you’re probably getting sweaty palmed at the idea of having to fork out more money in the case of an unexpected car service or repair.

But, you need not worry!

Our Car Repair Plan scheme allows you to deposit a small amount of money into an online account every month. This fund can be built up to ‘shield yourself from unexpected car repair costs’ as some Trust My Garage members around the country will allow you to pay for their services using this plan. When searching for a garage via the Trust My Garage website, you are able to refine the search filter to only show those who accept the Car Repair Plan.

Although it may be tempting, when you fancy a greasy kebab at 5am after a heavy night, you cannot withdraw any savings from your Car Repair Plan account, meaning that all the money that you do save up, can be used to pay off those annoying, but completely necessary, car services.

It gets better! The Car Repair Plan allows you to add more than one car to your account. This means you don’t personally have to be an account holder in order to take advantage of this scheme – your parents can be.

Mum and dad can deposit their chosen amount into their account every month, and, if they’ve added your car onto their account, you can use their fund to cover your car repair needs. We recommend asking their permission first though!

How does that sound? Find out more about Trust My Garage and the Car Repair Plan here.

So what will your decision be, will you be taking your motor along to uni with you? Comment below, and let us know what you decide to do! And Good Luck with your new adventure!

 

 

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.

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.

How do I ensure responsible driving on busy roads?

Latest figures from the Department for Transport has revealed that there are now more than 25.8 million cars on Britain’s roads, up from 25.2 million at the same time last year, meaning that five out of nine regions in England now have the equivalent of one car for every two people.  With car production at a high and the use of public transport declining by more than 60 percent in the last six years, the number of cars on our roads is likely to continue to grow.

With this in mind, how can you ensure you keep safe on the road? We’ve compiled the best advice to keep you and others safe when out driving.

Mind the gap

I’m sure we’re all familiar with the mantra “only fools break the two second rule”. Unfortunately, some drivers may need to repeat this a bit more often as research from the road safety charity Brake, has reported that around 14% of accidents happen as a result of tailgating and shunting. Keeping at least two seconds between you and the car in front during normal driving conditions and four seconds during bad weather, will give you sufficient time to brake if needed.

Know your limit

It may seem obvious advice to keep to the speed limit, but drivers not keeping within the limit is one of the biggest causes of accidents on the roads. Keeping to the limit is a requirement and keeping inside the target will reduce hazards and the need for heavy braking. Remember, British motorways have a maximum speed limit of 70 mph and you should only be in driving in the right lanes if you are overtaking vehicles on the left.

Timing is everything

One of the easiest things you can do to keep within the speed limit, is give yourself plenty of time for your journey. Planning ahead to make sure you have enough time, with a route plan will leave you much more relaxed, reducing your temptation to speed.

The child in a safety seat near to mother.Focus

The longer we do something the more it becomes second nature and this is just as true for driving. The benefits of being an experienced driver are obvious, however this experience has the potential to bring complacency. Before stepping into your car, make sure you are well rested, calm, alert and free from any other issues that may affect your attention.

Night driving

Driving at night is not ideal, but if you need to, there is plenty you can do to keep safe. If taking a long journey make sure you are well rested before you begin with your route planned in advance, with regular two hour breaks factored in. Don’t ignore the warning signs, if you still feel tired during your trip, find somewhere safe to stop as soon as you can. If you’re on a motorway, pull into your nearest service station – DO NOT stop on the hard shoulder and have a nap in your vehicle.

Parking

Driving responsibly doesn’t end when you stop driving, how you park can have consequences for both you and other drivers. Are you aware that UK motorists are involved in 1400 car park-prangs every day?[1] Keep your speed low when parking as this allows you greater control in a small space. Look in all directions including left, right and directly behind your vehicle as this is where a car could be backing out opposite from you and of course pedestrians could be there too!  If your car has any form of automated parking assistance – from  reversing sensors to a full blown auto parking mode remember that these are driver aids, not driver replacements!

Mirrors

Do you check your mirrors before every journey? Before setting off, make sure you check that your mirrors are in the correct position, so you can see around your vehicle. When driving you should also check them every time you change speed, or direction and before signalling

Time for a refresh

Once we’ve passed our test, unless it’s a requirement of your job, very few of us will have any additional assessments. As we become more experienced and more comfortable with driving we all have the potential to slip into bad habits. To curb this it’s a good idea to consider a refresher course every few years, ensuring you keep your knowledge and confidence up to speed.

Car maintenance

Being a responsible driver isn’t just about your behaviour and those around you. The health of your vehicle is also paramount. Beyond regular vehicle maintenance, there are various vehicle checks you can make to ensure your car is kept in good working order and reduce your risk of breakdown.  Weekly checks should become second nature, if you’re not quite sure what you should be checking, remember POWER: Petrol, Oil, Water, Electrics, Rubber.

Regular checks will help you spot any potential issues early, if you need any additional guidance, your local Trust My Garage member will be more than happy to help.

While regularly monitoring your vehicle is highly recommended it is no substitute for regular servicing from a trained professional. Trust My Garage technicians are highly skilled and will be able to spot any issues and provide you with clear advice on keeping your vehicle in top condition. To find your nearest Trust My Garage member, visit our website and simply enter your postcode into our garage finder.

You can also download the Trust My Garage app from any smartphone and it will instantly recognise your location before showing a number of trusted garages nearby. From the app, you can view garage feedback, view our educational videos and call one of our members directly to book a service, MOT, or recovery service.

[1] Accident Exchange, 2014 report