Category Archive: Everything else

UK Drivers Say Learners Should Be Allowed Onto Motorways

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Last year the government launched a consultation on whether learner drivers should be allowed to practise on motorways – but a recent survey reveals that British motorists are already giving the potential move two thumbs up.

The government’s proposals would see learners allowed to head out onto a motorway before their test as long as they are accompanied by a professional instructor and are in a car fitted with dual-controls.

While we wait for the consultation’s outcome, the RAC has revealed in a survey of 2,000 motorists that 79% of respondents thought learners should be allowed onto motorways with 78% stating that learner driving standards would be driven up as a result. Nearly a fifth of those surveyed thought that introducing motorway driving would make no difference – and only a tiny 3% thought it might actually drive down safety standards.

Perhaps such a positive reaction from the public shouldn’t come as a surprise – after all, only 14% of those surveyed felt that they themselves were ready for driving on Britain’s fastest roads once they’d passed their own practical and theory tests.

Revealing what is potentially a serious driver education issue, half of the motorists said that neither test had prepared them for driving on the motorway with 40% stating that they only felt partially prepared. As a result, nearly 60% of those surveyed revealed that they were either somewhat or very nervous when heading out onto a motorway for the first time.

Tragically, 1% of respondents were so scared at the idea that they have never been on a motorway since qualifying to drive – this despite the fact that motorways are Britain’s safest roads.

While the RAC thinks it’s an “apt time” to introduce the policy, the organisation was at pains to point out that it should be up to approved driving instructors to decide if a pupil is actually ready and able to have a lesson on a motorway – and that the Government must provide clear guidance on how ADIs should assess whether a learner is ready for a motorway-based lesson.

“Many learner drivers do not live in an area which has access to the motorway network. In addition, those drivers that live regions furthest away from a motorway are less likely to drive on one on a regular basis. Such high speeds can make a driver who has recently passed test feel nervous and more vulnerable the first time they venture on to these types of roads.”
– Pete Williams, RAC road safety spokesman

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The iPhone Set To Stop Drivers Texting At The Wheel

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With drivers still continuing to use their mobiles while at the wheel, the maker of the iPhone, Apple, has decided to introduce a mode that could cull the killer practise overnight.

We all know that using our phones while driving is bad news – you are four times more likely to have a crash according to the British Medical Journal plus 60% of car accidents in the UK were caused by phone use in 2016.

But motorists don’t seem to be getting the message; even with new laws that could see new drivers losing their licence instantly if caught, over 200 drivers were caught each and every day in March using their mobiles. Perhaps then it is unsurprising that mobile phone makers are now stepping up to help us keep our eyes off our mobiles and on the road.

Enter Apple who announced this week that it is introducing a powerful new feature on the next version of the iPhone’s operating system (iOS 11): ‘Do Not Disturb While Driving’. When the mode is enabled, the iPhone detects when you may be driving and darkens the screen so any incoming notifications won’t distract you.

To ensure your contacts aren’t left in the dark as well, the mode can automatically send notifications to those trying to contact you, telling them that you can’t respond because you’re behind the wheel and won’t be available until you’ve reached your destination. If you should still be tempted to reach for your phone though, the screen will remain locked while you are moving, stopping you from accessing distracting apps.

Thankfully, passengers wanting to use their phones need not fret – they can choose to opt out of the system and resume their WhatsApping unimpeded. While drivers can simply not enable the mode, we nevertheless feel that the feature is an important one for encouraging drivers to help themselves – and to keep their licences and driving safe.

– iOS 11 will be available to download in the autumn.

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Revealed: 6 of Britain’s Most Unknown Driving Laws

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Use our quick guide to brush up on these more unknown motoring laws so you don’t end up paying in fines and points once you pass your test.

Even the most diligent learner might fall foul of these following laws – so make sure you know your Highway Code inside and out to avoid being fined or penalised once you’ve got your hands on your hard-won licence:

1. “Aww, ain’t that cute!”
It’s a lovely image; the cute mutt poking its head out of the passenger window, tongue out, ears flapping in the wind as the car cruises along. Alas, it’s also highly illegal – you could be fined as the Highway Code expects motorists to suitably restrain their animals in a car so they are unable to distract you or cause an injury to you (or it) if an emergency stop is required.

Failing to adhere to the law can not only see you punished for driving without due care and attention – but an unrestrained animal could also see your car insurance invalidated in the event of an accident.

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2. “Check out my block-rocking beats!”
It is a common-held belief among some drivers that playing your favourite music really loud while behind the wheel is seriously cool; that all the other motorists, say, stuck in traffic with you will love those thumping, rolling beats and be secretly thanking and admiring you for it. In reality though, the tinnitus-bating driver looks more like a total tool than seriously cool.

And you could also be breaking the law if the volume of your music is judged to be alarming, distressing or annoying by those around you. Expect to be given a verbal warning by the police and if you ignore it, your car to be seized. Rockin’.

3. “Oh heck, I’ve drunk too much – I’ll just sleep it off in my car. Hic.”
The interior of your car might seem like the perfect mobile sleeping bag if you’ve just rolled out of the pub or a party a little drunk but can’t face the long walk/taxi drive home. But if the police find you asleep in your vehicle, the onus will be on you to prove that you had no intention of driving – or face 10 points on your licence and an epic fine. Good luck.

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4. “Why, you lousy, stupid, idiotic #@?$@!!!!“
We all get ‘flustered’ from time to time when at the wheel – after all, other drivers can do the most stupid of things from being too busy preening themselves to notice the lights have changed or cutting you up.

But the answer is not to get sweary or use ‘provocative’ gestures to signal your displeasure – if you’re caught cursing or flipping the finger at drivers, you can be done for ‘disorderly behaviour’ and should expect a fine that is equal to 75% of your weekly pay.

5. “I’ll just keep an eye on Google Maps by leaving the phone on my lap”
The urge to glance down at your mobile’s sat nav to check your route is tempting when behind the wheel – but it’s also against the law. If you are going to use your mobile’s sat nav abilities, you are not allowed to have it ‘loose’, i.e., on your lap or precariously placed in a cup holder.

Instead, it must be mounted on a stand on the dashboard at all times – just like you would with a dedicated sat nav – and your route entered before you start the car and head off on your journey. A failure to do so could lead to a £200 fine and six points on your licence. Hello retest!

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6. “Walkies!”
Another pet-related law to remember – if you should breakdown at the side of the road, most of us know that you should exit the vehicle and wait well away from it. But the same rule doesn’t apply to your pet sadly.

Instead, you must leave it in the car because if said critters should break free or become stressed once outside the vehicle, you run the risk of the animal shooting out into the road and causing an accident. The only exception to the rule is if the vehicle needs to be vacated quickly due to an emergency.

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Shamed! The 8 Most Infuriating Driving Habits of 2017

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The latest survey from the AA reveals which bad motoring habits are infuriating UK drivers the most when out on the road – but are you guilty of any of them?

The AA has been polling its members since 2008 to uncover which motoring bad habits continue to drive us mad when we’re behind the wheel – here’s a countdown of the eight most obnoxious driving habits for 2017:

Tailgating (26%)

Driving right up behind someone is the most irritating (and obviously very dangerous) habit according to the survey with the practice topping the polls now for six out of the past seven years. It’s also a habit that 49% of motorists have admitted to doing in the hope of getting the other car to speed up (or get out of the way). Whatever the motivation, it is believed that one in five motorists have been involved in an accident or a near miss because of tailgating.

Finally, some of us might be tempted to ‘brake check’ the tailgater by either applying or slamming on our brakes to give them a ‘scare’. As this video shows though, it’s a truly lousy idea:

 

Talking on a Mobile (25%)

The latest drive by the government to crack down on mobile phone use at the wheel is one that will have been welcomed by a majority of drivers judging from the survey’s results. And rightly so because you are four times more likely to be involved in a crash if you use your mobile while driving.

To act as a deterrent, a recent law change saw the penalty for using or holding a phone while driving increase from three to six points on your licence and the fine increase from £100 to £200. If mobile-obsessed drivers need any further convincing why phone usage at the wheel is lethal, watch how this lorry driver changing the music on his mobile managed to destroy a family:

 

Middle Lane Hogging (23%)

It’s a common sight on UK motorways – an empty inside lane being ignored by a car cruising along the middle lane. The problem? That hogging the middle lane can lead to congestion – according to the RAC, it wastes a third of motorway capacity – plus is potentially dangerous because it causes other drivers to weave in and out of traffic to get past the hogger.

You should always drive in the left-hand lane when the road ahead is clear. If you are overtaking a number of slower-moving vehicles, you should return to the left-hand lane as soon as you are safely past.”

– The Highway Code.

 

Swooping (10%)

This is a heartstopper for any driver unfortunate enough to find themselves on the receiving end of a ‘swooping’ motorist. The manoeuvre sees a driver making a dangerous bee line for the slip road off a motorway or dual carriageway at the very last moment because they’re about to miss their exit.

You should watch for the signs letting you know you are getting near your exit; move into the left-hand lane well before reaching your exit; signal left in good time and reduce your speed on the slip road as necessary.”

– The Highway Code

The following video shot by lorry driver Mike James shows a driver in a black Audi performing a ‘swooping’ manoeuvre on the M5:

 

Overtaking on the Inside (7%)

It might be tempting to deal with a middle lane hogger by undertaking them in the left lane – but it could also prove to be lethal. First, unless under special circumstances, it’s illegal and secondly, the other driver might not be aware of a car undertaking them because they’re not expecting it and it’s invariably in their blind spot.

[Do not under take unless] in congested conditions, where adjacent lanes of traffic are moving at similar speeds, traffic in left-hand lanes may sometimes be moving faster than traffic to the right. In these conditions you may keep up with the traffic in your lane even if this means passing traffic in the lane to your right.”

– The Highway Code

 

Speeding or Driving Slowly (both 3%)

Speeding’s appearance will come as no surprise to most of us but driving too slowly is perhaps less obvious but potentially just as dangerous, and could find the offender charged with ‘inconsiderate driving’. The reason? Driving too slowly can create hazardous situations such as moving out too slowly and onto a motorway or dual carriageway from a slip-road.

 

Littering (3%)

Do people still throw their rubbish out of their car windows? Yes – sadly such knuckle draggers still exist but some drivers, well, riders in this case are taking action against the litterbugs. Meet the Russian litter vigilante:

 

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Britain’s Worst Instructors Set To Be Exposed?

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According to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), there is a very real possibility that the rankings of Britain’s 40,000 instructors could soon be published to help drive up what it believes are failing tuition standards.

The most recent figures show that pass rates are falling with some learners only passing after nearly 40 attempts – and the DVSA is determined to do something about it, claiming that part of the problem is due to poor quality instructors.

Currently, instructors are checked on a regular basis by the agency with 30% receiving top marks but with the vast majority (69%) managing a ‘merely satisfactory’ rating. Nearly 700 instructors were also struck off last year for failing to make the minimum standard mark at all.

The DVSA’s issue? That only 3% of instructors actually let their pupils know what their rating is because they are not obligated to.

Be-league-red Instructors?
To help students find the best instructors in their area – and it believes help drive up tuition standards – the DVSA has said that it will release an Ofsted-like league table that will feature all 40,000 of Britain’s instructors if they don’t start revealing their ratings soon.

The agency’s chief executive, Gareth Llewellyn, told The Times: “We are encouraging driving instructors to publish their rating. If they don’t do that, then at some point we will compel them to do that. We will put out information into the public domain so that parents can choose a good driving instructor.”

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No Way! Learner Fails Test Because Of Instructor

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The driving test is tough enough – but for one student, it wasn’t her driving that was the problem; it was her instructor’s car.

Picture the scene – you are halfway through your test and are driving your instructor’s Ford Fiesta. All’s going well until you see flashing blue lights in your rearview mirror and have to pull over. Cue the police stopping the test because according to their records, the instructor’s car has no insurance and no MOT. Test over – with a guaranteed fail.

That’s what happened to an unnamed student while taking her test in Birmingham; she was pulled over, informed the car wasn’t road legal and the vehicle subsequently seized and towed away. In the meantime, the student and examiner were driven back to the test centre.

To add insult to injury, according to the police, the pupil is alleged to have been on course for a pass with no faults made – but alas, she hadn’t driven for the amount of time needed to get a pass and will now have to retake the test.

There is a silver lining though – the student won’t be done for the offences; instead the driving instructor will be facing 6-8 penalty points on their licence and a £5,000 fine for the lack of insurance plus a £1,000 fine for having no MOT.

In the meantime, police have said that they are now in possession of the instructor’s badge after he reportedly revealed that he knew the car wasn’t insured. As for the pupil, the police did say that “we think she might get a replacement test free due to the circumstances, [a] bit of goodwill from the DSA (Driving Standards Agency) would be nice.” We heartily agree!

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New Driving Test With Sat Navs Arrives This December

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Big changes are afoot for learner drivers at the end of 2017 – so here’s what to expect.

After months of speculation, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has finally confirmed that changes to the driving test will be rolled out on Monday 4th December, 2017. The new-style test will affect all tests in England, Scotland and Wales and at this stage, will only apply to the car driving test.

What’s Changing in the Driving Test in 2017

There are four big changes coming down the road:

1. Independent Driving
Currently, the independent driving section of the test lasts 10 minutes; this will be extended to 20 minutes from December and make up around half of the test. You will be expected to drive without turn-by-turn directions from the examiner as well. The intention? To put the examiner in the best possible position to judge your driving ability more accurately in real-world conditions.

2. Sat Nav
During the independent driving section, instead of the examiner telling you where to go, you will  be required to follow the directions on a sat nav instead – this is to make the test more ‘modern’. In practise, the examiner will provide and set up the sat nav’s route for you so all you’ll need to focus on is following the route, not worrying about the technology itself.

Bear in mind that you can’t use your own sat nav and that if you do happen to take a wrong turn, you won’t be penalised unless you make a fault. Finally, you may be the 1-in-5 of learners who won’t be selected to use a sat nav during the test – instead, you will need to follow traffic signs instead.

3. Reversing Manoeuvres
Say goodbye to the ‘reverse around a corner’ and ‘turn-in-the-road’ manoeuvres! While the DVSA will no longer be testing the two manoeuvres, it still expects your ADI to teach them to you during your lessons. Replacing them are one of three possible reversing manoeuvres:

• Parallel parking at the side of the road

• Parking in a bay – either driving in and reversing out, or reversing in and driving out

• Pulling up on the right-hand side of the road, reversing for two-car lengths and rejoining the traffic.

4. Answering Two Vehicle Safety Questions
Expect to be asked two safety questions:

Before Test Starts
One ‘Tell Me’ question focusing on how you would carry out a particular safety task

During The Test
One ‘Show Me’ question focusing on how you would carry out a particular safety task.

What’s NOT Changing in the Driving Test in 2017

The pass mark remains at no more than 15 driving faults and with no serious or dangerous faults whatsoever. The examiner will still be marking you on the same things as before plus the driving test’s running length will remain the same – around 40 minutes. Finally, the cost of the test won’t be changing either.

Why Changes Are Being Made to the Driving Test in 2017

Despite the UK being one of the safest countries in the world when it comes to driving, the DVSA wants to reduce accident figures even further – and the public agrees according to the consultation the agency carried out while coming up with the new test structure:

88.2%
of the public agreed with increasing the length of the independent driving part of the test

70.8%
agreed with asking candidates to follow directions from a sat nav

78.6%
agreed with the plans to change how the reversing manoeuvres are test

78.4%
agreed with asking the ‘show me’ question while the candidate is driving.

At Theory Test Pro, we believe anything that can help young drivers get the best and safest possible start to their driving careers is essential – but what do you think? Are you happy with the new changes or would you prefer for the test to remain the same?

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Driving Instructor Sacked after Tirade at Horse-Riding Kids

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One would hope that of all road users, it would be driving instructors who would know what’s what when it comes to horses and the rules of the road – but it actually took a 14-year-old horse rider to teach a ranting ADI the law.

In a video that has gone viral, 52-year-old ADI Craig Allred is seen telling off two young riders, Megan Lockett aged 14 and friend Callum Mullock aged 12, as they were horse-riding in Greater Manchester. Irritated at the two kids for allowing their horses to poo in the road, the instructor tells them that they should take their horses into a field instead.

Arguing back, plucky Megan tells him that they can’t go in the fields because they belong to the local farmer and tells the instructor to ‘google’ the law about horse riding because they’re doing nothing illegal. Alas, the instructor doesn’t leave it there, accusing the two kids of being cruel to animals because they are, erm, riding horses.

His behaviour apparently didn’t impress Craig’s employers either – the AA Driving School have since let the ADI go, telling the Daily Telegraph: “We were disappointed to see this behaviour, which in no way upholds the views and values of the AA or AA Driving School… We apologise for any upset, particularly to the two children, who dealt with the incident in a mature and commendable manner”.

For the actual rules of the road about horses, their riders – and how to treat them – the Highway Code states:

• Be particularly careful of horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles especially when overtaking

• Always pass wide and slowly

• Horse riders are often children, so take extra care and remember riders may ride in double file when escorting a young or inexperienced horse or rider

• Look out for horse riders’ and horse drivers’ signals and heed a request to slow down or stop

• Take great care and treat all horses as a potential hazard

• Don’t randomly tell off young horse riders for no good reason and be videoed doing it… [That’s our addition – Ed]

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New Driving Test Rollout Plan Revealed & More

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The Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has launched its five-year strategy that details the agency’s plans for improving the driving and theory tests, rolling out the new driving test and more. Here are some of the choice highlights.

Revealing the Latest Driving and Theory Test Pass & Fail Rates
The agency reveals that 1.5 million car driving tests were carried out in 2015 to 2016 with a pass rate of 47%, roughly the same figure as in previous years – but it’s this continuing low pass rate that the DVSA is blaming for the high waiting times many learners have been experiencing.

The agency says that it is looking into increasing the choice of when and where driving tests can be offered to help deal with the delays In the meantime, the DVSA claims some progress has already been made:

11.9 weeks
The average waiting time for a car practical driving test in June 2016

5.4 weeks
The average waiting time in February 2017.

Turning to the theory test and it’s bad news – the pass rate continues to decline with the 2015-2016 rate standing at 49.3% compared to 2014-2015’s 51%. The DVSA sees the continuing downturn as a result of introducing new questions and no longer publishing the actual questions used in the theory test.

Promising Better Information & Training for Learners
To tackle the pass rate issue and boost road safety, the DVSA says it is examining different ways to aid learners. Ideas being explored include:

• Ways of improving driver training using technology including virtual reality

• Updating the driving test so it always reflects the latest technological innovations including driverless car features.

The DVSA also wants to ensure that newly qualified drivers aren’t forgotten by:

• Offering them the information and support they need to enjoy a safer driving career; one proposal is to send personalised advice to new drivers based on any faults incurred during their driving test.

Rolling Out the New Driving Test
The recent trials of the new-style test have been completed with nearly 4,000 people taking part in the consultation and 4,500 learner drivers trialling the new test itself.

Though final analysis of the research has yet to be finished by the DVSA, the agency plans to roll out the new test in 2017 to 2018 across all locations.

Revealing the Future for Driving Instructors
According to the DVSA’s official figures, there were 39,878 Approved Driving Instructors (ADI) as of March 2016 with 68.8% of ADIs achieving grade B (‘Sufficient’) at their most recent standards check:

We need to make sure that instructors have access to guidance and training to improve the service they provide. We want to improve the arrangements for motorcycle instructors [as well], to make sure that all instructors have to pass an assessment with DVSA.”

– Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency’s ‘Helping you stay safe on Britain’s roads’ report.

Tackling Driving Test Fraudsters
Nobody likes a cheater – especially the DVSA who has been cracking down on those either impersonating someone else for the purposes of helping them pass the test or using technology to cheat on the theory test via, say, a concealed Bluetooth device.

In 2015 to 2016, the agency acted on 818 reports of suspected impersonations linked to a whopping 2,144 driving or theory tests – as a result of the DVSA’s investigations, 355 people have been arrested.

Acting on Learner Feedback
The DVSA also published some of the feedback it’s received from learners about what improvements and changes they would like to see to make learning to drive more efficient and accessible. Some suggestions (and complaints) include:

“I started looking for a driving instructor but you can’t really tell who’s a good instructor.”

“Online driving tests, showing visually how to approach traffic lights, etc. with incidents happening on the way, such as having to pull in quickly.”

“Mock tests with the examiner would break the ice.”

“I went to book my test in October as I was ready and the earliest booking was December, so I had to wait and keep paying for lessons to keep practising.”

That’s the DVSA’s plan covered – but what other elements would you like to see addressed by the agency to ensure your learning experience is better? Let us know in the comments below. In the meantime, the full DVSA document can be viewed here.

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Motoring Group Demands Driving Test Be Made Tougher

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You might feel the driving test is plenty tough enough but according to one motoring group, it doesn’t go far enough – especially for young drivers.

While the test has continued to evolve over the past 80 years since its introduction in 1935, the York Institute of Advanced Motorists believes that it is still too limited. In particular, the organisation wants to see the test covering motorway and night driving plus even pothole negotiation.

Critically, the group is also demanding that young drivers are given more efficient testing while being subjected to a series of limitations on what and how they drive once they do pass the test. As YIAM’s Keith Horner explained to the The York Press: “We need to aim for a better test for young people, so if we can target a better structured test that makes them better drivers, then it is for everyone’s benefit. It would be quite a good idea to put a limit on the engine size like what happens on motorbike tests, and put a curfew on younger drivers.”

His call for stricter testing and post-test restrictions was echoed by a survey carried out by the road safety charity Brake last year that found 92% of the public believe there should be some kind of restrictions on newly qualified drivers:

75% said there should be a requirement for a minimum number of taught hours before learner drivers are allowed to take their practical test

66% supported the use of a ‘P’ plate to show a driver is on probation

50% believe there should be restrictions on car engine sizes for new drivers

44% believe there should be restrictions on carrying young passengers (unless family/dependants)

38% support restrictions on night driving between midnight-4am (unless for work/education)

30% believe a newly qualified driver should lose their licence if they break any traffic laws during their first year on the road.

We’re calling for a system of graduated driver licensing (GDL), allowing young drivers to develop skills and experience gradually, with night-time curfews and a restriction on the number of passengers a novice driver can carry. GDL works well in other countries, and could prevent more than 400 deaths and serious injuries every year in Britain.”

– Brake, the road safety charity

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