Category Archive: Learner Drivers

Road Crossings: Everything You Need to Know

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A recent survey has revealed that four in five of us are unable to identify a pelican crossing – how about you?

It’s not only pelican crossings that are causing confusion for us Brits – the survey carried out by Admiral Insurance also uncovered that 85% of drivers and pedestrians didn’t know the difference between a puffin crossing and a toucan crossing.

Such a lack of knowledge may seem ridiculous but it’s actually very serious – a third of pedestrians killed in 2017 were making their way across a pelican crossing at the time. The insurer believes the problem could be linked to both pedestrians and drivers simply not knowing enough – if anything – about the many different crossing types in the UK and how they should be used.

A quarter of motorists also stated they have nearly hit a pedestrian at a crossing with 50% saying the pedestrian was not looking before stepping out on to the road. Most worryingly though, a third of drivers revealed that they simply failed to see the pedestrian in the first place – with 13% confessing the reason they didn’t was because they were too busy looking at their mobile phones while driving.

What’s worrying about these findings is how little both drivers and pedestrians understand about the designated crossings and what the rules are for safely using them. More needs to be done to make sure all road users know what their responsibilities are when it comes to crossing so we can see a reduction in the number of accidents taking place.”
– Admiral Insurance

To help ensure you know your crossings inside out (and across), here’s a breakdown of the different types:

General rules for crossings

There are several rules that you must remember:

1. If you are stuck in traffic, never stop on a crossing even if it is not being used; keep them clear at all times so it can still be used by pedestrians.

2. Remember that being stuck in traffic can also obscure your view of a crossing up ahead – so pay particular attention; don’t let your concentration wander because you’re bored or frustrated.

3. Make sure you give pedestrians the time they need to cross; don’t rev your engine, allow your car to creep forward or toot your horn.

What is a zebra crossing?

These feature a series of white stripes that echo the markings on the coat of a zebra. When approaching, keep an eye for potential pedestrians who want to cross – and especially those who are walking towards a zebra crossing and may not be paying attention to vehicles on the road.

Remember that you must come to a halt if someone does want to cross so be prepared to slow down and stop if and when required – and be extra wary of stopping distances if you’re driving in wet or icy conditions.

Finally, never flash your lights or honk your horn to encourage a pedestrian to cross – there could be a vehicle coming the other way who isn’t concentrating (because they’re too busy texting).

What is a pelican crossing?

These are signal-controlled crossings with traffic lights; when the light is red, stop and wait for the flashing amber light. If it shows and there is still a pedestrian on the crossing, you must remain stopped. If there are no pedestrians when the amber light is flashing, then you may move off – but remaining aware at all times that a pedestrian may well decide to make a last second dash for it!

Remember, you must also give way to a pedestrian even if the light moves from flashing amber to green – they may be someone with a mobility issue who requires the extra time to make their way safely across.

Final important point – there are crossings that can have a central island between the two lanes; you must wait for all pedestrians to make their way across even if they’re coming from the other side of the island.

What are puffin, toucan and pegasus crossings?

These are all similar to the pelican crossing and while the light sequence is the same, they do without the flashing amber phase. It means you need to be even more on your toes about potential light changes and pedestrians making a break for it at the last moment.

Puffin crossings are designed to let pedestrians and cyclists cross the road together while pegasus crossings are used to allow riders to safely cross the road with their horses.

What is a ‘staggered’ pelican, puffin or toucan crossing?

As above – but with one key difference; there is a crossing on each side of a central island that don’t line up with each other. It means pedestrians must activate each crossing independently. However, do bear in mind, pedestrians may not know the rules and think they can keep walking – so be extra cautious.

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Zebra crossing © Josephenus P. Riley

Pelican crossing © Albert Bridge

Pegasus Crossing © Darren Meacher

 

‘Dutch Reach’: What It Is & Why It’s in the New Highway Code

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In a bid to cut the number of cyclists injured or killed on our roads, the latest version of the Highway Code will now include details of the ‘Dutch Reach’.

The technique is designed to protect cyclists from riding into car doors opened by unobservant drivers or passengers. Instead of the driver opening the door with their right hand, risking not looking round before exiting the car, the ‘Dutch Reach’ sees the motorist using their left hand instead.

How the ‘Dutch Reach’ works:

• You pull up on the left hand side of the road and park

• You reach across your body with your left hand to grab the door handle

• As you turn your body, this movement instinctively makes you look at the side mirror before looking over your shoulder

• You check the road behind you for cyclists, pedestrians or other road users

• You open the car safely, fully aware of what is going on around and behind your car.

Avoid ‘Car Dooming’
This technique has been taught in the Netherlands for years to avoid cyclists and other road users from falling victim to opening car doors, incidents known as ‘car dooming’. In the full Dutch version though, the driver winds down their window, reaches out of the car with their right hand – because they drive on the left hand side of the road – and pulls the external handle to open the door.

The inclusion of the stripped-back, more practical UK version was announced by cycling and walking minister Jesse Norman who said, ‘the benefits of cycling and walking are enormous. We shouldn’t only concentrate on catching and punishing drivers when they make a mistake but try to ensure that they have the skills and knowledge to drive safely alongside cyclists in all conditions.”

If only one person is saved from Sam’s tragic fate because the driver or passenger has adopted the Dutch reach… then that’s a life worth saving.”

– Jeff Boulton, whose son Sam died after being hit by a taxi door in 2016.

Keep your distance
Plans to include minimum distances for drivers to safely overtake cyclists are also being considered for inclusion in the new Highway Code. Currently, the Code states that motorists should give at least as much room as they would when overtaking a car – but this was seen as too vague and open to interpretation by cyclist campaigners.

Instead, a 1.5-metre gap must be provided by the motorist and if they fail to do so, they could risk being fined £100 and receive three points on their licence. These new inclusions/considerations are aimed to drive down the the high rates of cyclists being killed on our roads; in 2017 alone, 101 were killed in road traffic collisions.

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Main image © Pixabay

Overtake image © West Midlands Police

Controversial New Test Manoeuvre Improving Learner Safety

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New data reveals that the controversial new driving test manoeuvre – pulling up on the right hand side of the road – could be boosting learner awareness, making them safer, better drivers.

When the new driving test was introduced at the end of last year, many of the changes were welcomed – save for one, which sees the learner now having to pull up on the right, reversing for two-car lengths and coming to a stop before rejoining traffic.

Its inclusion in the driving test caused consternation within the instructor and examiner communities with some saying that the manoeuvre was dangerous and contravened the Highway Code.

Pulling ahead

Fast forward nearly a year though and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is claiming that such new manoeuvres have had a positive impact on learner awareness and risk management skills, not a detrimental one.

According to official test statistics, there has been a 3.4% drop in driving faults when moving away safely; the DVSA believes this shows that learners are now more aware of the risk of moving away from the side of the road because of the ‘pull up to the right’ manoeuvre – and therefore, are better equipped to manage such manoeuvres both in the test and in the real world.

The agency also claims that driving faults on the forward-parking manoeuvre are also lower by 1.2%, again suggesting that learner awareness has improved.

Necessary measures

For the DVSA at least, these stats will vindicate its belief that manoeuvres such as pulling up on the right were, well, right and that the aim – to ensure drivers had suitable experience of such manoeuvres for when they were driving by themselves – has paid off.

By including them in the test, the DVSA has always argued that the examiner would be in a better position to assess a learner’s risk management skills in the ‘real world’.

Change for the better?

Carly Brookfield, the CEO of the Driving Instructors Association, commented: “Despite the majority of the industry getting behind the changes, there were trainers who were opposed to the introduction of this manoeuvre.

“They may well remain cynical, and point to decreases in faults being minimal. However, any positive shift in a candidate’s ability to identify and better manage the real risks of independent driving should be welcomed – and are an early and encouraging indicator of the efficacy of the new test.”

Her views were echoed by Gordon Witherspoon, the DVSA’s Deputy Chief Driving Examiner: “It’s great to see the improvement in learner drivers’ awareness and risk management and how new drivers are more prepared for driving on their own once they pass their test. These were some of the goals when these changes were introduced.”

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Main image © Albert Herring

Level Crossing Lunacy: Nearly 50 Vehicles Hit by Trains Every Week

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A new report has uncovered the risks UK drivers are taking when confronted with a level crossing.

According to new research, one in seven drivers admit they would ignore red lights and jump a level crossing. Such absurd risk-taking probably explains why 46 incidents involving vehicles happen every week on the UK’s level crossings.

Over the past five years, the figure climbs to a shocking 10,500 incidents in all with six people killed plus many others injured.

Urban legend
The survey of 1,600 people carried out by Network Rail also revealed that a staggering one in nine drivers would head over a level crossing if they had checked the rail timetable beforehand and believed no train was due.

The problem with that ‘theory’? Freight trains aren’t listed in timetables and can come pummeling down the track at all times of the day, often at speeds of 100mph.

Most dangerous drivers
The biggest crossing jumpers are lorry drivers (32%) followed by car drivers (28%) with all risking a fine of £60 and three points on their licence if caught. In some counties, the problem is so bad that enforcement cameras have been fitted that dish out automatic fines for drivers who decide to flout the law.

For instance, 21 level crossings in Sussex now have the cameras in place to try and deter drivers from taking unnecessary risks.

How to Cross Safely
There are 3,800 level crossings in the UK with many featuring lights and barriers but in some cases, just gates – here’s what to do when you approach any type of crossing:

Just Lights – Many crossings have lights that flash from amber to red. If you are approaching and see an amber light, stop your car before the white line. If the amber light comes after you’ve gone over the white line then continue; don’t stop or try and reverse.

You should also be aware that there are some level crossings that only have small light signals that show either green or red; only ever attempt to go over a level crossing when the light is green.

Light & Barriers – Many level crossings use a combination of both lights and full/half barriers. The sequence is the lights will go from steadily flashing amber – so stop – then to flashing red with the barriers coming down.

There is also typically an audible warning to help warn pedestrians as well. Wait for the train to pass – but don’t assume that the crossing is safe and that you can zig-zag your way round the barriers; other trains might pass one after another so wait until the red lights stop flashing and the barriers come up before proceeding with your car – and life – still in tact.

No Barriers & No Lights – Though few and far between, such level crossings do still exist in the UK and are simply gated. The onus then is on you, the driver, to ensure that it is safe to cross. Come to a stop in front of the gate, get out and see if there is a railway telephone – use this to contact the signal operator who can warn you if a train is coming.

If all is clear, then open the gate, walk across the track – always checking each way down the track before and as you go – and open the other gate. Drive across, stop again and close the gates before calling back the operator to inform them that you’re safely across.

Keep a level head

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Crashed car © Network Rail

Level crossing image © Walter Baxter

Uncovered: New Driving Laws You Need to Know

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There are a host of new laws and schemes being introduced – or under consideration – that will significantly impact on your driving life.

From renewed calls for a Graduated Driving Licence scheme to the police using double decker buses to spot distracted drivers, we offer a breakdown of some of the new laws, schemes and technologies being used – or considered – to clamp down on bad driving:

Blood Tests To Check Driver Tiredness

Tired driving is a known killer and it’s why scientists at the Sleep Research Centre at the University of Surrey are developing a blood test that will identify if you’re too knackered to be behind the wheel. The test could then be used by police to check on a driver’s wakefulness. Its arrival can’t come soon enough as fatigue was a contributing factor in 4% of all road fatalities in 2015 with unofficial figures feared to be far higher because fatigue is traditionally incredibly difficult to identify as a contributing factor.

Motorists to Be Fined For Driving Too Close to Cyclists

A new law is being planned that will see drivers fined £100 and receive three penalty points if they give less than 1.5 metres of space when overtaking or passing a cyclist. The aim is to reduce the number of cycling casualties – around 100 cyclists are killed every year on our roads. The proposed law is already being used by certain police forces in the UK including West Midlands who have pulled over 200 motorists to date with repeat offenders ending up in court.

Calls for Graduated Driving Licence

Theory Test Pro has already highlighted Government plans to consider rolling out a Graduated Driving Licence scheme, which could see big restrictions applied to recently qualified drivers including nighttime curfews and a limit on the number of passengers they can carry. The calls for a GDL scheme are growing louder though after an horrific crash in 2017, which saw newly-qualified driver Skye Mitchell losing control of her car. The resulting accident killed her and her passenger Caitlin Huddleston.

Both victims’ families – and the coroner who investigated the accident – are now calling for GDLs to be introduced, believing the women lost their lives that night because of Skye’s driving inexperience – she had only been qualified for four months. A recent RAC Foundation Report backs up their claims, stating that if GDLs were rolled out, 281 fewer people would be killed or seriously injured on our roads each year.

Double Decker Buses Used to Catch Texting Drivers

The ever-trailblazing West Midlands police are at it again, using a low-tech way to spot mobile-using drivers by hiring double deckers buses and camping out on the top deck to look down into cars. The initial test proved a success with several people caught and issued with £200 fines and six points on their licences. West Midlands says it intends to carry out the operation again in the future so expect other police forces to follow suit.

Roadside Eye Tests for Drivers

As we all know, before taking their practical test, learners must read a licence plate from 20 metres away to prove their eyesight is fit for the road. The problem? As far as mandatory driver eyesight tests go, that’s it! The issue of poor vision though was highlighted by the DVLA earlier this year and certain police authorities are now conducting roadside eyesight checks. The importance of such checks has been underlined further by a new survey that reveals one in four drivers admit they probably wouldn’t pass the 20-metre test if they were stopped by police.

Having good eyesight is essential for safe driving so it’s really important for drivers to have regular eye tests. Eyesight can naturally deteriorate over time so anyone concerned about their eyesight should visit their optician – don’t wait for your next check-up.”
– Dr Wyn Parry, DVLA’s senior doctor

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All images © West Midlands Police

Tailgating Crackdown: ‘Stay Back to Stay Safe’ Says New Campaign

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Driving too close behind another vehicle is causing 100 deaths or serious injuries a year on our roads and motorways according to research – and Highways England thinks it’s high time we all woke up to the dangers of tailgating.

The government agency has launched a new campaign that addresses the issue by focusing on new research that shows one in eight of all road casualties are caused by motorists driving too close to the car in front. The research also shows that nine in ten motorists have either experienced being tailgated or seen it happen – and over a quarter of us have admitted to tailgating.

Dangerous habit

It is believed that while some tailgating is done to intimidate drivers into pulling over or to speed up, Highways England says that in a majority of cases, it’s simply motorists not paying attention to the distance between their vehicle and the one in front.

The problem is not only the reduced stopping distances caused by tailgating but also the negative impact it can have on the poor driver on the receiving end. Researchers used dashcams, facial recognition, emotion tracking and heart monitors to show that a tailgated driver’s emotional reaction is one of surprise, anger and even contempt, all combined with a spike in heart rates.

“Tailgating makes the driver in front feel targeted and victimised, distracting their attention from the road ahead and making them more likely to make a mistake.”
– Richard Leonard, Head of Road Safety at Highways England

To drive home that drivers must stay back to stay safe, Highways England has launched its ‘Space Invaders’ campaign that uses a classic videogame character to show how distracting and dangerous tailgating can be:

Stop!
To help motorists stop tailgating or reacting negatively to it, Highways England advises:

If you’re a tailgater
… remember the Highway Code that states you should leave a two-second gap between you and the car in front – and to double that count in wet conditions.

If you’re being tailgated
… to never speed up, slow down (do not tap your brakes) or keep looking in the rearview mirror; instead keep driving safely and if and when appropriate, let people overtake when it is safe to do so.

Know your distances

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More Young Drivers Hitting Parents’ Wallets to Cover Motoring Costs

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A new report reveals that newly qualified motorists are having to rely on their parents’ deep(ish) pockets more than ever to cover the cost of their motoring.

According to Compare the Market, over half (52%) of 17-24 year olds turned to their parents to cough up cash to stay on the road over the past 12 months. Parents are spending on average £762 per child –  spread that across the UK and you’re looking at an eye-watering £2 billion a year being drained from the bank of mum and dad.

The problem is costs for young drivers are escalating so parents are increasingly finding themselves digging deeper into their bank accounts to help keep their offspring on the road. On average, parents are contributing £288 a year towards insurance, £178 on repairs, £125 on taxes and £169 on petrol.

Rescue me
As well as these everyday costs, parents are also helping their kids buy their first cars, contributing £2,021 on average while nearly a third said they paid all or some of the costs toted up by their children in their first year of driving. One in ten parents admit that they continue helping out for the first three years.

But who can blame them? After all, as of July 2018, 17-24 year old drivers are paying an average insurance premium of £1,309 a year; that’s £600 more than the national average. To make matters worse, the Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) is adding £161 to that premium. Some experts say that all in, it can cost a young driver up to £2,400 a year to insure and run their motors for the first year.

With the odds so heavily stacked against young motorists, the fear is that one day soon even parents will end up baulking at the idea of paying out more as motoring becomes unaffordable for their kids, which is terrible news for those who rely on their cars to get to school, uni or work.

via GIPHY

Drive down motoring costs
If you’re worried about covering the expense of owning a car, use these quick tips to give yourself (and your parents’) bank account some blessed relief:

• Sign up with an insurer who offers a telematics-based insurance scheme; this will see a black box installed in your car that will monitor your driving and if you behave yourself, could see up to £380 taken off your annual insurance bill.

• Buy a car with a one-litre engine only and get a motor that is known for its reliability (hello Honda and Toyota!) – check out What Car? magazine’s latest list of the UK’s most reliable cars. Pick the right one and you won’t have to worry about expensive repair/maintenance costs.

• Consider taking out pay-as-you-go car insurance that will work out cheaper if you don’t do many miles each year.

• Check for the best insurance deals every time your insurance comes up for renewal; remember, insurance companies aren’t known for their customer loyalty so don’t show them any either.

• Get a parent added to your insurance policy; this should bring down the cost but never list the parent as the main driver if they are not; you could end up in court for insurance fraud.

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Women ARE better drivers than men – but take longer to pass test

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A new study has revealed that women are safer drivers than their male counterparts – but it takes them longer to get a pass in the driving test.

According to Confused.com research, it’s women who are in pole position when it comes to committing the least amount of motoring offences, being involved in the least number of accidents and having the least expensive fender benders.

The only downside? Women take longer to pass their driving tests; while more female learners took their test in 2017 than men, more of them failed too. That might offer some cold comfort for the male of the species – but not much.

The study was conducted by comparing official statistics for driving tests, crimes and insurance costs, and has revealed some startling findings.

Breaking the law
While the number of male and female drivers on our roads is broadly even, men are nearly four times more likely to commit a motoring offence:

• In 2017, over 585,000 motorists in England and Wales found themselves in court because they broke the rules of the road; of this bunch, a whopping 79% were men.

• The majority of speeding offences were committed by male drivers

• Men were done for drink-driving five times more than women

• Men were twice as likely to be penalised for driving without tax or insurance

• Men have more bad driving habits than women; for instance, 23% of male drivers have admitted they don’t indicate when changing lanes compared to 17% of female motorists.

Women pay less
The study also reveals that insurance companies are right to charge women less for their insurance, even though such discounts were officially banned by the EU in 2012 because of gender discrimination. Regardless, men still pay £92 more on average than female drivers for their insurance.

The report’s findings have predictably not gone down well with some male motorists who argue that men drive twice as many miles per year than women, which increases the likelihood of breaking the law.

But according to Brake, the road safety charity, even when such a disparity is taken into account, men are still shown to be the most law-breaking drivers by some margin.

As a female racing driver, I know women can hold their own when it comes to driving, and data suggests that they are in fact safer on the roads. And this is reflected in the fact that they are paying almost £100 less for their car insurance premiums.”
– Amanda Stretton, motoring editor, Confused.com

Male or Female...

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Be aware: Speeding laws are set to become far stricter

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Police are currently reviewing their enforcement guidelines because they believe that the current punishments aren’t deterring speeding UK drivers.

According to reports, Chief Constable Anthony Bangham, the head of road policing, has launched an official review into speeding on UK roads, specifically into the ‘buffer zone’; this sees drivers ‘able’ to go over the speed limit slightly before police will intervene.

While you can technically be done for speeding by breaking the limit by 1mph, the guidelines for the buffer zone say that drivers ‘can’ go over the limit by 10 per cent plus 2mph before they risk facing prosecution; it’s ultimately down to the police’s discretion. This means that drivers typically don’t face a speeding fine unless they’re going over 34mph in a 30 zone or over 78mph on the motorway.

The guidelines also state that any enforcement should be proportionate and take into account how visible speed limit signs are, plus what the road “feels like”. When you put all these together, it means that many police officers are dishing out speed awareness courses to offending drivers, instead of a fine and points.

But the Chief Constable believes that such a buffer zone sends out the message that “it is okay to speed” and he wants to challenge that perception. The announcement has led some commentators in the press to state that the review could see those going over the limit by 1mph end up with a fine.

Such a possibility though has been quashed by a spokesman for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, who stated: “There is no proposal for drivers to be prosecuted for driving one mile per hour over the speed limit – that would be neither proportionate or achievable.”

Instead, the review will examine all current speed enforcement guidelines, “looking at available evidence. The findings of the review will be considered by all chief constables before any action is taken”. The review itself has most likely been triggered by last year’s findings that speeding offences have reached a six-year high – and it is clear that something needs to be done to tackle drivers who believe speeding is okay.

I don’t want the public to be surprised, I want them to be embarrassed when they get caught [speeding]. They need to understand the law is set at the limit for a reason. They should not come whingeing to us about getting caught. If booked at 35 or 34 or 33 at [in a 30mph zone] that cannot be unfair because they are breaking the law.”
– Chief Constable Anthony Bangham at the Police Federations roads policing conference earlier this year.

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Driver Fined £36,000 for Speeding During a Single Night

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A British driver has managed to amass speeding fines totalling tens of thousands of pounds after caning a rented Lamborghini in the emirates.

We all love the idea of owning an exotic sports car – but for most of us, it’s probably not something that we will ever be able to afford. Instead, you could make like the British tourist holidaying in Dubai who rented a Lamborghini Huracán to see what the highlife looks – and drives – like.

The car normally costs £180,000 and can hit speeds of over 200mph; the latter seems to be a speed that the tourist was determined to verify on Dubai’s eight-lane Sheikh Zayed highway. According to reports, the driver in his 20s managed to trigger every single one of the highway’s speed cameras in the early hours of July 31. He racked up 33 speeding infringements in all with 12 of the recorded offences putting his speed at over 124mph.

Cash crisis
The total amount in speeding fines comes in at £15,000 but to make matters worse, the young driver will have to pay a fee to get the car released from the police pound (once the car has been surrendered to the cops), bringing the total to £35,693 (a handy sum for anyone wanting to put a deposit down on a Lamborghini Huracán we would have thought…).

It appears that the tourist can’t plead ignorance to the speeding rules in Dubai either as the firm that rented the car told him that, “there are cameras everywhere in Dubai and he would be liable for all fines”. Currently, the tourist has the Lambo back at his hotel and the rental firm still has his passport as they argue over who should pay the police pound fee.

The Sheikh Zayed highway where the British tourist was clocked speeding 32 times.

 

Speeding in the UK

You might think that such absurd speeding could only happen overseas where UK drivers appear to lose all inhibition – but nothing could be further from the truth:

• A driver was caught doing 160mph on a motorway in West Yorkshire

• One motorist was snapped doing 106mph in Dundee in a 30mph zone

• Research shows though it’s not young drivers who are the worst offenders; it’s those aged over 65 on 6.5% with, admittedly, young drivers tailgating them close behind (6.2%)

• The worst speeders by car brand? Audi drivers (8.7%) followed by BMW drivers (8.3%). Why are we not surprised?

It’s worth bearing in mind that the minimum penalty for speeding is a £100 fine and three penalty points added to your licence – but for drivers who are still within two years of passing their test, their licence will be withdrawn if they manage to build up six or more penalty points. So for those of us who love speed, tell your right foot to behave itself and save it for a track day instead.

Know your limits

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Lambo © Ben

Highway ©  Mohammad Sabbouh

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