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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

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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.