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Road Safety Week 2019 – How you can stay safe on the UK’s roads

This week (18-24 November) is Brake’s Road Safety week – the UK’s biggest road safety event. This year, Brake want everyone to “Step up for Safe Streets” and learn about, shout about and celebrate the amazing design-led solutions that will allow us all to get around in safe and healthy ways, every day. Want to find out more? Read on!

What is Brake?

Brake are a road safety charity based in the UK, who’s ethos is improving road safety for everyone. They work with communities and organisations across the UK to stop the tragedy of road deaths and injuries, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and support people bereaved and seriously injured on roads.

Brake’s vision is a world where everyone moves without harm. They believe that mobility without danger is everyone’s human right wherever we are; in cities, towns, villages or moving between places.

What is Road Safety Week?

Road Safety Week has been running since 1997 and aims to raise awareness for all road users, including motorists, on how they can use the UK’s road network to travel safely without negatively impacting any other users.

Every year, Brake organise a week where they raise awareness about the impact of road safety and the issues carelessness on the roads can cause. Across the world:

  • Every 24 seconds someone is killed on a road
  • More than 1.3 million people die on the roads every year
  • Road crashes are the leading cause of death for young people aged 5–29

In Britain alone, someone is killed or seriously injured every 20 minutes. Motorists and other users can sign the Brake Pledge, designed to highlight how to protect themselves and the people around them on the roads. Although it’s only one week of the year, motorists should use the advice from the Pledge year-round!

How can you help?

You can sign the Brake Pledge and commit to being a safer driver! You can also donate to Brake to help them support people bereaved or seriously injured and deliver road safety activities to educate people and raise awareness about road safety in all generations.

Whilst Brake provides guidance and support for road users, an important part of avoiding accidents is ensuring your car is in good order and that’s where your local Trust My Garage member can help. Trust My Garage is a collection of Britain’s best local garages – each one different and all dedicated to the highest standards of skill and personal service.

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

By using a TMG-approved member, you’re visiting a garage that adheres to a CTSI (Chartered Trading Standards Institute) approved Code of Conduct. Our code means that you and your vehicle get the best service possible, no matter which TMG member you visit – so excellent service is on your doorstep!

With over 2,900 members across the UK, you’re never far away from a TMG member. We’ve even created a handy search function so you can locate your nearest TMG-approved garage with ease!

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.

If you’re looking for more information about Trust My Garage, you can head over to our website, TrustMyGarage.co.uk. We’re also on social media, so check out our Facebook and Twitter profiles and you can get the latest motoring news and updates straight into your social feeds!

Got a top road safety tip? Like our TV advert? Make sure to leave us a comment in the section below!

Help your motor beat the frost this winter with Trust My Garage

With frost now starting to creep across the UK, drivers should be taking steps to ensure their vehicles are safe, roadworthy and winter ready. Trust My Garage has some top tips for looking after your motor in the winter weather – read on to find out what you can do to keep rolling through the chilly season!

Do I need Antifreeze?

In short; yes! Antifreeze is clever stuff that stops the water in your engine’s cooling system from freezing! It also does several other important jobs, making it a vital car fluid to keep your engine running smoothly.

As well as preventing water from freezing, antifreeze raises the boiling point of engine coolant to prevent overheating. The stuff also protects your engine from internal corrosion, aids heat transfer, and prevents scale from building up internally.

How do you use it?

There’s the concentrated form, or the ready mixed with water kind. The latter version is commonly referred to as engine coolant and can normally be used straightaway for top-ups and replacements. The concentrated form needs to be diluted with water, usually at a level of around 50% antifreeze and 50% water. Always check the pack’s instructions for the right ratio to use, as well your vehicle’s Owner’s Manual to make sure you use the correct variety for your car, as recommended by the manufacturer.

Braking

Brakes are an essential part of any car and therefore should be regularly checked and well maintained. This is especially important during winter months, but how can you tell your brakes are in tip top condition?

It’s a case of making sure you have them checked regularly, as the winter months can be very wet and sometimes puddles can be difficult to avoid. When driving through a puddle, make sure you test your brakes afterwards by driving at a slow speed and gently applying pressure.

Listen out for warning signs, as brakes will let you know when there is a problem – whether this is through grinding or squeaking. Sometimes your car will act like it has a mind of its own and pull you to one side while driving, which could indicate a fault or imbalance with the braking system. Vibrations and temperamental pedals are also a sign you need to take give your car some attention – so look out for the signs and don’t ignore them.

Don’t ignore any warning lights that may appear on your dashboard! If you are unsure of their meaning either consult your Owner’s Manual or visit your local Trust My Garage member, who will be able to advise of any issues with your car.

Heading on a trip? Plan your route

The further the distance you’re travelling, the more chance there is for issues such as traffic to occur. We’re getting close to Christmas, which 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) northbound
  • 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

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.

With the onset of dark evenings after the clock’s go back an hour it’s important to make sure all your lights are working properly. With poorer weather conditions it’s also wise to make sure your motor’s wiper blades are in good condition and your screen wash level is topped up with a good quality fluid – this will help prevent your washers from freezing in the lower temperatures.

Check your tyres

To learn all you need to know about ensuring your vehicle’s tyre are ready for the road, regardless of the time of year, read our “What to do when… you need to check your vehicle’s tyres” post. In winter, it can also be advisable to equip winter tyres to your vehicle – but how are they beneficial to you?

Winter tyres are designed to offer optimum traction and grip in cold conditions. They have a softer compound, along with deeper grooves and narrow cuts – called sipes – built into the tread. These features help disperse water and snow, and allow the rubber to move around, which improves contact with the road. You can identify a winter tyre by the snowflake symbol on the sidewall. Tyres without the snowflake symbol but marked ‘M+S’ (Mud and Snow) are not necessarily proper winter tyres.

Winter tyres work best at temperatures below 7°C. Indeed, they outperform conventional ‘summer’ tyres for traction, cornering grip and braking in such conditions – regardless of whether there is snow or ice.

Winter tyres aren’t mandatory in the UK. Only a small percentage of drivers choose to fit them, many of whom live in more remote areas – such as the Scottish Highlands – however, it’s a different story in much of mainland Europe. If you travel abroad with your car over the winter season, check the requirements and laws for each country you visit to avoid a fine.

The price of winter tyres varies widely, dependent on your car and wheel size. On average, they are slightly more expensive than an equivalent summer tyre in the UK.

However, while the cost of four winter tyres is significant, remember that your summer tyres will last longer as a result. Thus, while you may have a fairly high initial outlay, the longer-term cost of winter tyres is relatively low.

Lights

Before setting off on a journey, turn on your vehicle’s lights and either walk around the vehicle to conduct a check or ask a passenger to check all your lights are working correctly – be sure to press the brake too and check that all three lights are working.

If any lights are dim or aren’t working, including fog lights and number plate lights, you should get them replaced as soon as possible.

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.

If you’re on the motorway in the event of your vehicle developing a problem, the Highway Code says to leave 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.

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 doors if at all possible, so that you’re not at risk of oncoming traffic. Make sure all passengers do the same, and that they keep far away from the carriageway – be sure to stay behind the roadside barriers where possible.

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.

Emergency snow kit

  • Warning triangle – let other drivers know your situation to avoid stress and confusion
  • Cat litter or sand – to put under the wheel to help traction in slippery conditions
  • 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.

TMG member 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, pop in your post code and take a look!

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 and safely.

What is Trust My Garage?

Trust My Garage is a collection of Britain’s best local garages – every one different and every one dedicated to the highest standards of skill and personal service. All the garages in Trust My Garage are members of the Independent Garage Association – which is part of the RMI, one of Britain’s oldest motor trade organisations. IGA members are true professionals who have to comply with a strict code of practice.

Each and every customer of all Trust My Garage members can rely on using a nationally recognised brand.

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

What to do when… Driving in Winter

Winter is here! With a chill in the air and crunch of frost underfoot, there can be no doubting the harshest season of the year is upon us. When it comes to driving, Winter weather can lead to accidents and issues on the road, so here at Trust My Garage we’ve put together some advice for helping you to stay safe during the cold season.

 

Plan your travel

Before setting off, be sure to check ahead that your route is clear of accidents and other issues that can cause delays, and that the roads haven’t been shut due to poor conditions.

snow traffic.jpg

Check your tyres

If you have the opportunity and need, winter tyres could be a viable option for your vehicle. If you use your normal tyres, ensure they are inflated to the recommended pressure and have a minimum tread depth of 3mm across the width and circumference of the tyre in order to cope with the slippery and wet conditions.

vw snow tyre.jpg

Check for faults

If you notice a fault with your vehicle, such as a cracked windscreen, dim headlight, or poorly charged battery, it’s important to get it sorted before undertaking any winter driving. If you feel there is a fault but aren’t sure how to proceed, you can always take your vehicle to a local garage to have it looked at by a professional – you can even use the TMG Find a Garage map to locate your nearest Trust My Garage member.

 

Check the dashboard

If your car is displaying a warning light on the dashboard it’s important to get it checked – the systems are there to keep you safe! If your vehicle isn’t performing at its best it could lead to breakdowns or accidents, so be sure to keep it in the best possible condition. If you aren’t sure what the lights on your dashboard mean you can take a look at our Getting to know your vehicle’s dashboard blog post to give you a breakdown of what you need to know.

 

Dress appropriately

Even though most of us have the luxury of heating in our vehicles, if we break down or have an accident we can often be at the mercy of the Winter chill. By dressing warmly and layering up you can keep warm – and you could even save money on your fuel consumption!

warm clothes.jpg

Keep supplies in your car

In the case of a real emergency it’s important to keep supplies in your vehicle. Items such as a torch, blanket, biscuits, water, a hot drink, a hat, scarf and gloves, and a mobile phone charger or battery pack are always helpful to keep you safe and warm. You should also keep something to put under your tyres if you get stuck, and a shovel to clear any snow.

 

Control your speed

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) recommends:

“When driving in snow, get your speed right – not too fast so that you risk losing control, but not so slow that you risk losing momentum when you need it – and brake, steer and accelerate as smoothly as possible. Start gently in second gear, avoiding high revs. Stay in a higher gear for better control. Only use the brake if you cannot steer out of trouble.”

 

Your stopping distances also increase tenfold on ice, so be sure to leave ample room between any surrounding vehicles to stay safe on the road.

 

Read road signs

While you may use familiar roads while driving, any changes to the surface or temporary problems should be highlighted by road signs – so keep an eye out for any updates. Signs will also post any road closures or other issues, so be sure to look around for any information possible.

snow hazard sign

If you’re driving on unfamiliar roads then it’s even more important to check road signs – nobody wants to get lost in the snow and ice! By employing careful, steady driving, you can give yourself enough time to read and process any information you need to know.

 

Know when not to drive

If conditions are too dangerous, the safest option is simply to not drive. Although it will delay you, it’s the safest option – and no drive is worth injury, no matter how small. It’s important to keep an eye on weather forecasts, so you don’t plan a journey when the weather is going to be particularly bad. Driving safe means that you can drive happy.

 

If you’re looking to embark on some winter travels, you can take your vehicle to your local Trust My Garage member. Whether it’s for a check-up, service or repair, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) approved code of conduct that our members use mean that you and you motor both get the best possible service – no matter the weather!tmg_ctsi_long

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.

rospa-cycling-safety-diagram

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!.

 

5 reasons why you need to straighten your car out

Ideally you should be checking your wheel alignment as often as you get your car serviced and every time you have a tyre change!

OK- how many of you just winced because you never check your wheel alignment, or have never even thought about getting it checked?wheel alignment

If it has never seemed important, here are the top 5 reasons why you should be checking regularly that the wheels of your car are perpendicular to the road and parallel to one another.

1. SAFETY for you and your passengers

Badly aligned wheels will result in your car being pulled to one side of the road ultimately putting everyone in the car at unnecessary risk. Think of it like driving in wet or icy conditions. By not regularly getting your wheel alignment checked you are unintentionally making driving an unsafe practice.

2. Save fuel and costs

You wouldn’t initially think it, but when your wheels are not properly aligned it adds extra pressure on your tyres and they push against each other. This then creates higher resistance between your tyres and the road, making it harder for your car to move forward, and consequently using up more fuel. In addition to this the extra fuel usage means you are burning more fossil fuels which significantly harm the environment.

3. Reduce your carbon footprint

These days, everybody is trying to reduce their own carbon footprint and by making sure your wheels are correctly aligned, you can manage your emissions. The extra fuel usage needed to move your car forward when poor alignment is causing your wheels to fall under extra pressure, means that more fossil fuels are being burned and you are inadvertently contributing to global emissions. By having your wheel alignment regularly checked, you can help to improve your own carbon footprint.

4. Extend the lifespan of your tyres

New tyres can be a real drain on your bank account, and the price of wheel alignment at a garage is likely to be a fraction of the cost of brand new tyres. As mentioned, badly aligned wheels add more pressure onto your tyres – and this burns the rubber much faster. If you read our previous blog HERE on tyre depth, you will see that bald tyres are extremely dangerous and costly – so you need to keep an eye on these for both your safety and to save money.

5. Avoid knock on effects

Not addressing your wheel alignment can take its toll on other parts of your vehicle. Wheel alignment is carefully defined by the vehicle manufacturers to ensure that the car will always handle in a safe and secure manner. Misaligned wheels , which can often be caused by the poor state of our roads – not helped by the proliferation of traffic calming measures – can literally have a “knock-on” effect on other components such as brakes, steering and suspension.”

What should you do next?
Trust My Garage advises that you get your wheel alignment checked every 6,000 miles or every six months. Get your nearest Trust My Garage member to cast their expert eye over your tyres for peace of mind. You can find your nearest member HERE.