Category Archive: Learner Drivers

Driver2020: Sign Up Now to Shape the Driving Test of the Future

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The folk behind the driving test are looking for learners to tell them about their driver training experiences to help young people in the future become safer, better drivers.

Created by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), the Driver2020 project aims to make young drivers more confident and skilful by shaping how they learn to drive and once they have passed their test, how they drive for 12 months afterwards.

And research shows that help is needed sadly. Despite the outstanding service offered by Britain’s driving instructors, teenage drivers are still involved in 9% of all fatal and serious accidents according to the charity Brake – even though they only make up 1.5% of licence holders in the UK. Also, a quarter of young drivers crash within two years of getting their driving licence.

Learner Opinions Needed

To address this very real problem, the Driver2020 project will run for three years – up until 2021 – and needs you and your opinions to make it work. It wants to use the feedback from you and over 14,000 young people to shape the future of the driving test, so if you are aged between 17-24 and are currently learning to drive, get in touch and register for the project.

Once you’re signed up, you may either get free training, e-learning or be asked to download an app to help with your driver education. Once you’ve passed your test, you will then be paid to complete four surveys – one just after passing your test, then the others at three, six and 12 months after passing. Each completed survey will see a £5 shopping voucher delivered to your inbox.

Best of all, as well as that warm glowy feeling of knowing you have helped make our roads safer, you’ll also be entered into prize draw that could see you win a year’s fully comp car insurance (up to £1,500) or other prizes including shopping vouchers and iPads.

ADI Support Needed Too

To help get the feedback from the 14,000 learners needed for the project, the TRL is also asking instructors to promote the project to their pupils and encourage them to sign up. Driver2020’s project director Shaun Helman explains: “Without the help of Approved Driving Instructors… research projects like Driver2020 simply cannot succeed.”

For more details on the Driver2020 project or to register, head to the official site here.

“[I look] forward to being able to come back to the [ADI] profession at the end of the project to see what role they can play in implementing whatever we find, so that we can all work together to improve the safety of the people we all serve – those new drivers who are hungry to learn, to improve, and to make the roads safer.”
– Shaun Helman, Project Director of Driver2020

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Revealed: Shock Surge in Accidents Caused by Slow Driving

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Official figures show that road crash casualties caused by slow drivers shot up by a third in 2017 – don’t become part of the growing problem.

According to the latest research from the Department for Transport, slow or hesitant drivers caused 175 injuries and two deaths in 2017, representing a 31% increase from the previous year.

The increase could be down in part to the growing number of elderly drivers on UK roads, reckons the AA; Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency figures reveal nearly five million of the country’s 39 million driving licence holders are now over 70-years-old with 100,000 aged 90-plus.

This combined with bad habits such as middle-lane hogging or slowing down to look at your mobile can lead to dangerous situations:

• Slow drivers cause others to become impatient and overtake under potentially hazardous circumstances
• This applies especially to those who hog middle lanes, leading to other road users having to slow down/overtake
 needlessly
• Slow driving can also cause congestion, increasing pollution and delaying other road users.

Driving like a snail can be as dangerous as driving like a cheetah. Too many motorway users hog the middle lane and drive ‘far below the speed limit’ which can lead to undertaking, tailgating, congestion and road rage, [Also] I was in a queue of five cars joining the M3 recently when the lead driver was driving at approximately 25 mph. It was incredibly dangerous.”
–  Edmund King, president of the AA

Can You Be Prosecuted?
While rare, driving too slowly can see you done by the police for careless driving. This can result in a £100 fine and three points on your licence. If you should end up in court, you can expect a fine of up to £5,000 and nine points – and even be disqualified from driving.

Remember, the sign for a minimum speed limit in the UK is a round blue circle with a white number in it. The end of the minimum speed limit is signified by a red line through the sign. Expect to find these signs in areas deemed accident spots by authorities (such as tunnels).

Can You Fail Your Test for Driving Too Slow?
In a word, yes; your examiner will be watching to see if you are competent and have the appropriate skills for safe driving. If they feel you are not driving at a suitable speed for the road and conditions, you run the risk of receiving a minor or even test-failing fault. In fact, driving too slowly is one of the top ten reasons for failing the test.

Our advice is to not kid yourself into thinking that by driving slowly, it will increase the chances of passing your test. Instead, driving slow will be seen as a sign you lack confidence and represent a potential danger to other road users.

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Main image © West Midlands Police

Speed Camera Able to See 1 KM Away Snaps 1,293 Speeders in a Month

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Unveiled in November, the Lone Ranger features a massive telephoto lens that can capture high-definition images of speeding drivers from over half a mile away.

The police says the distance offenders can be caught by the Lone Ranger is twice that offered by a regular speed camera. The cutting edge camera began testing in Gloucestershire last month as part of Operation Indemnis.

Since the trial began, the camera – fitted with automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) – has snapped 1,293 drivers speeding on the A417 with one motorist caught doing 126mph on the 70mph-limited road with nine others caught doing over a ton.

Other offences picked up by the Lone Ranger include tailgating, number plate violations and driving without insurance or tax (with the offenders’ cars being seized by police). Demonstrating just how powerful the camera is, seven drivers were also done for not wearing a seatbelt.

Persecuting drivers?

Not according to the police. The reason for introducing the Lone Ranger is simple – the A417 that connects M4 and M5 is one of Britain’s most dangerous roads for accidents. “This is not about bashing the motorist,” said Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl. “This is one of the county’s busiest roads which also has one of the worst accident records due to the way it’s used.

“We now have a chance to test a new model of collaborative road policing which, if it proves a success, can be put into practice elsewhere. The aim is not just to penalise motorists but to uphold the law by creating a change in people’s behaviour. But the police will enforce the law when necessary.”

Based on the Lone Ranger’s results after a single month, we reckon you should expect to see the camera rolled out across the UK in 2019 – so stick to the speed limit, don’t tailgate and, for goodness sake, wear a seatbelt.

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Image © Jaguar MENA

New Test Means New Drivers Feel Ready for Real Life Driving

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It’s been just over a year since the driving test underwent some seismic changes, introducing a raft of new and altered elements to help make learners better, safer drivers once they qualify.

These included increasing the independent driving part of the test from 10 to 20 minutes and the majority of candidates being asked to follow directions from a sat nav during the test. The three possible reversing manoeuvres were also changed plus candidates are now asked a ‘show me’ question by the examiner during the test instead of at the start.

Confidence boost

After conducting two surveys, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has revealed the changes have left pupils feeling more confident about their ability behind the wheel once they have qualified. For instance, six months after passing the new-style test, 81% of drivers felt it had prepared them for driving on our roads.

Digging deeper into the research reveals that new-test drivers spent more time practising on country roads (44.2% did at least 4 hours) compared to those who took the old-style test (37.1%). Drivers who took the new-style test also spent more time practising on high-speed dual carriageways (50.1% did at least four hours) compared to those who took the old-style test (46.6%).

Sat nav sorted

The introduction of the sat nav has understandably seen a large increase in its use during driving lessons themselves. Before the changes to the test, only 1.6% spent four hours or more using a sat nav during lessons. After the changes, 23.8% used a sat nav during lessons.

The DVSA’s research also shows that 86.3% of new drivers use a sat nav at least some of the time with 86.3% saying they were confident that they could drive safely while following directions from a sat nav.

A bright future?

The results are very positive with 90% of new motorists stating they are confident they are a safe driver after six months of driving independently while 79.1% are confident they are a good driver. Overall, the new style test has been praised by new motorists because:

+ the test and their learning for the test were reflective of real-life driving

+ there was a good range of road types included in the test and their learning

+ they feel comfortable and confident driving on their own.

But new drivers believe there is still some room for improvement:

– motorway driving lessons would have helped them to feel much more prepared for driving on them

– while the test prepared them well, new drivers have struggled with the different way experienced drivers now treat them as they no longer have L plates or an accompanying ADI

– the bulk of their learning to drive was done after the test – with some complaining that they felt they were being trained to simply pass the test

– they believe the learning process and test cannot entirely prepare them for driving on their own.

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Main image © Fernando Butcher

Dual carriageway ©  Lewis Clarke

Revealed: Big Changes to Hazard Perception Test’s Video Clips

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From snow and fog to night driving, the hazard perception test has just introduced weather conditions to its clips library – here’s everything you need to know!

In 2015, the test saw the long overdue arrival of computer-generated videos to test your ability of spotting potential dangers in the road. Fast forward to today and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has now introduced a new series of CG clips that feature different weather and driving conditions.

These include fog, rain, wind and snow/ice. Other clips include driving at night and in dusk/dawn low-light conditions. To help you get an idea of what the new clips show, here are some sample clips from the DVSA:

Driving in snow

Driving in rain

Driving at night

How the new hazard perception test clips effect learner drivers

These new clips are already up and running in the hazard perception test but don’t change the length of the test itself or what you are expected to do; learners still spot developing hazards in 14 video clips and will get awarded points for spotting them as soon as they start to happen. The pass mark also remains the same.

In the meantime, the DVSA advises to keep using theory test practise software plus we will introduce the new style clips into Theory Test Pro as soon as they become officially available; once they go live, we will let you know.

Who the new hazard perception test clips apply to

As well as pupils learning to drive a car, the new clips will also appear in:

Motorcycle theory tests from December 2018 • Lorry, bus and coach theory tests from early 2019 • Approved driving instructor (ADI) part 1 tests and Driver and DVSA enhanced rider scheme trainer theory tests from early 2019.

What driving instructors think of the new hazard perception test clips

“Most of my pupils have the same slot each week due to their schedules, and so only usually drive in the same light. Also, pupils learning in the summer months may not have even driven in rain so practicing in the video clips will help them think about how they will drive in these conditions in the future. Good thinking DVSA!” – Jessica Hanson, Driven to Success

“I think the new clips are a great idea – it will make learners think how weather can change the way they need to drive. We as instructors try our hardest to cover weather conditions but we cannot always show them. On the flip side, a lot of pupils think that once they have passed their theory test, they can forget about it!” – Ellis Wood, Driving with Ellis

“It’s a good idea because no matter how good a driving instructor you are, sometimes you just can’t do this stuff on a practical level so to address it in another way can’t really be a bad thing. Yes, you can talk about weather conditions hypothetically with pupils but you can’t make it snow can you!”– Kathy Higgins, Insight 2 Drive

“It’s brilliant – it really enhances what the DVSA is offering learners. I think it’s about time too and am surprised these style of clips have not been included before. I always make sure I cover as many of these conditions as I can in lessons so pupils are at least aware of what they should be doing in such conditions.” – Nick Salzen, 17 Plus Driving School

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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?

Unlike pelican crossings which have a predetermined timer for pedestrians to cross, puffin crossings have sensors that can detect pedestrians in the waiting area and also crossing the road; the lights will only change to green once the pedestrians have crossed the road. Toucan 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

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