Do you know how to drive?

Last Friday (16th August) changes were made to how police deal with the offence of careless driving, such as middle lane hogging. The big question though is do drivers know how to drive?

It sounds like a silly question. If you’ve passed your test then surely you know the rules to make sure you don’t get penalty points, but that might not be the case. So lets start at the beginning.

What changed on the 16th August 2013?

Drive%202[1]As of Friday police forces across Britain were given the power to issue £100 fines and three penalty points for offences associated with careless driving. This upped the fine for things like using a phone or not wearing a seatbelt while driving and added to the powers they already possess to penalise serious driving offences with court action and the possibility of much higher fines and penalties.

What are the offences? 

According to the BBC‘s report it is expected that police will focus their new powers on the following:

  • Driving too close to the vehicle in front
  • Failing to give way at a junction (not requiring evasive action by another driver)
  • Overtaking and pushing into a queue of traffic
  • Being in the wrong lane and pushing into a queue on a roundabout
  • Lane discipline, such as needlessly hogging the middle or outside lanes
  • Inappropriate speed
  • Wheel-spins, hand-brake turns and other careless manoeuvres

What this means for drives

Most simply it means getting out the highway code and reviewing its guidance. For many of us it’s probably been a while since we last took the time to look and things have been updated.

I’m not going to repeat the whole document but here are a few reminders:

  • Driving too close to the vehicle in front (tailgating) e.g. Rule 126:

hc_rule_126_use_a_fixed_point_to_help_measure_a_twosecond_gap

The Highway Code stipulated a two second gap between vehicles on a dry day. Double that if it’s wet/icy. Anything less and it’s at the discretion of the police officer.

  • Failing to give way at a junction e.g. Rule 259

A polite reminder…drivers joining a road, via a slip road, do not have priority.

It is up to those joining traffic to fit into the flow. That means match your speed with existing traffic whenever possible, do not force anyone to take evasive action to avoid you and only move out of the slip road or left lane when it is safe to do so.

Should a driver on the motorway change lanes to give joining traffic room then so be it, but they don’t have to.

Speed limits alter depending on the road and the vehicle you are driving. Could you confidently state what the speed of a car would be on a single carriageway road with a national speed limit? And what about if you were towing a trailer?

(It’s 60 mph on single carriageway national speed limit roads, for cars. And if you were towing a trailer it’s 50 mph)

Safe driving!!

Being safe on the road – Lessons from a fighter pilot!

Have you ever thought ‘Am I going blind? Where did they come from?’ or heard (or used the phrase), ‘Sorry mate, I didn’t see you’. Drivers up and down the country have probably thought this at least once, but is it careless driving or a genuine mistake?

Fighter jetA report by John Sullivan of the RAF has the answer, and the repercussions of this will change the way your driver or cycle. (This is just a very brief summary but the full report can be found here1211 Road Survival Guide Final – fighter pilot.)

John Sullivan, an Royal Air Force pilot with over 4,000 flight hours in his career, believes lessons used by fighter pilots can help make us all better road users. Fighter pilots have to cope with speeds of over 1000 mph so being aware of any limitations is important in ensuring everyone is kept safe.

So what’s the truth of the matter? Well, simply put, your eyes are failing you! For small but significant periods of time you are completely incapable of seeing anything at all! The good news is that if you know it you can do something about it.

Why do our eyes fail us?

From hundreds of thousands of years of evolution our eyes, and the way that our brain processes the images that they receive, are very well suited to creeping up on unsuspecting antelopes and spotting threats such as sabre-toothed tigers.

These threats are largely gone and they’ve been replaced by vehicles travelling towards us at high speeds. This, we’ve not yet adapted to deal with.

Why? (here’s the science bit!)

Light enters our eyes and falls upon the retina. It is then converted into electrical impulses, that the brain perceives as images. Only a small part of your retina, the centre bit called the fovea, can generate a high-resolution image. This is why we need to look directly at something, to see detail.

The rest of the retina lacks detail but it contributes by adding the peripheral vision. However, a mere 20 degrees away from your sight-line, your visual acuity is about 1/10th of what it is at the centre.

Try this scary test to see quite how much detail you lose in your peripheral vision

  1. Stand 10 metres away from a car.
  2. Move your eyes and look just one car’s width to the right or left of that car.
  3. Without moving where you eyes are now looking, try to read the number plate of the car.
  4. Try the test again from 5m.

The test shows you quite how little detail you are able to truly capture from the side of your eyes.

Missed MotorcyclistThat’s not to say that we cannot see something in our peripheral vision – of course we can. As you approach a roundabout, you are likely to see a huge lorry bearing down upon you, even out of the corner of your eye – obviously, the bigger the object, the more likely we are to see it. But would you see a motorbike, or a cyclist?

To have a good chance of seeing an object on a collision course, we need to move our eyes, and probably head, to bring the object into the centre of our vision – so that we can use our high-resolution vision of our fovea to resolve the detail.

Another test to try

  1. Look in a mirror.
  2. Look repeatedly from your right eye to your left eye.
  3. Can you see your eyes moving? You can’t.
  4. Repeat the test with a friend and watch them. You will see their eyes moving quite markedly.

You can’t see your own eyes move because your brain shuts down the image for the instant that your eyes are moving. This is called Saccadic masking.

In the past, this served us well. It meant we could creep up on antelopes without our brain being overloaded by unnecessary detail and a lot of useless, blurred images.

However, what happens when this system is put to use in a modern-day situation, such as a traffic junction?

Jumping vision

When you move your head and eyes to scan a scene, your eyes are incapable of moving smoothly across it and seeing everything. Instead, you see in the image in a series of very quick jumps (called saccades) with very short pauses (called fixations) and it is only during the pauses that an image is processed.

Your brain fills in the gaps with a combination of peripheral vision and an assumption that what is in the gaps must be the same as what you see during the pauses.

This might sound crazy, but your brain actually blocks the image that is being received while your eyes are moving. This is why you do not see the sort of blurred image, that you see when you look sideways out of a train window.

The only exception to this, is if you are tracking a moving object.

But it’s summer. Surely I can see road users at this time of year?

Not necessary! Even on the sunniest day elements like glare or shade can hinder your vision. Have a look at the following pictures below to see what I mean.

Hidden moped

Can you see the moped driver in the picture above? (Hint: the middle tail light)

Hidden moped sun

And how about the moped in this photo (above)?

Hidden moped sun close up

The close up here shows the moped rider, who, even with their headlights on is difficult to see!

So what can we do?

Drivers:

  • Slow down on the approach of a roundabout or junction. Even if the road seems empty. Changing speed will allow you to see vehicles that would otherwise be invisible to you.
  • A glance is never enough. You need to be as methodical and deliberate as a fighter pilot would be. Focus on at least 3 different spots along the road to the right and left. Search close, middle-distance and far. With practise, this can be accomplished quickly, and each pause is only for a fraction of a second. Fighter pilots call this a “lookout scan” and it is vital to their survival.
  • Always look right and left at least twice. This doubles your chance of seeing a vehicle.
  • Make a point of looking next to the windscreen pillars. Better still, lean forward slightly as you look right and left so that you are looking around the door pillars. Be aware that the pillar nearest to you blocks more of your vision. Fighter pilots say ‘Move your head – or you’re dead’.
  • Clear your flight path! When changing lanes, check your mirrors and as a last check, look directly at the spot which are going to manoeuvre.
  • Drive with your lights on. Bright vehicles or clothing is always easier to spot than dark colours that don’t contrast with a scene.
  • It is especially difficult to spot bicycles, motorbikes and pedestrians during low sun conditions as contrast is reduced.
  • Keep your windscreen clean – seeing other vehicles is enough of a challenge without a dirty windscreen. You never see a fighter jet with a dirty canopy.
  • Finally, don’t be a clown – if you are looking at your mobile telephone then you are incapable of seeing much else. Not only are you probably looking down into your lap, but your eyes are focused at less than one metre and every object at distance will be out of focus. Even when you look up and out, it takes a fraction of a second for your eyes to adjust – this is time you may not have.

Cyclists and motorcyclists:

  • Recognise the risk of being in a saccade. High contrast clothing and lights help. In particular, flashing LED’s (front and rear) are especially effective for cyclists as they create contrast and the on-off flashing attracts the peripheral vision in the same manner that movement does. There’s nothing wrong with leaving these on during the day.
  • The relatively slower speed of bicycles means that they will be closer to a point of collision if a vehicle begins to pull into their path. Turn this to advantage – when passing junctions, look at the head of the driver that is approaching or has stopped. The head of the driver will naturally stop and centre upon you if you have been seen. If the driver’s head sweeps through you without pausing, then the chances are that you are in a saccade – you must assume that you have not been seen and expect the driver to pull out!
  • Recognise that with a low sun, a dirty windscreen or one with rain beating against it drivers are likely to have less of a chance of seeing you.
  • Cycle instructors have been saying it for years: Ride in a position further out from the kerb as a driver is more likely to be looking in this location.

Much of the information in this article has been taken from the original article (http://www.londoncyclist.co.uk/raf-pilot-teach-cyclists/) written by Andreas for London Cyclist, in November 2012.

A325 Consultation – Have your say this week

We are asking residents what they think about possible designs for the existing A325.

The proposals focus on the urban design and traffic management of the road as it goes through Whitehill & Bordon and one of the main aims of redesigning the A325 is so that traffic will be more likely to use the proposed inner relief road (which will be consulted in 2014). It is planned that the proposed inner relief road, to be built as part of the new development, will reduce traffic on the A325 creating opportunities to

    • make it more attractive and integrating the new development with the existing community;
    • help to create a sustainable town centre
    • make it safer for walking and cycling
    • make it easier to cross the road

Consultation A325To give everyone an opportunity to have their say, and if you missed the dates in the Forest Community Centre, then the exhibition information will be at the Eco-station between 25th and 28th March. The Eco-station is open on Mondays (9am-5pm), Wednesdays (10am-5pm) and Thursdays (9am-5pm). The proposals will also be available on our website at www.whitehillbordon.com or by using the attached link: http://www.whitehillbordon.com/a325-consultaion/

A tweet at the wheel!

Drive%202[1]

Do you tweet, send a text, or check who’s called you whilst you drive? Do you always use a hands free device to do this?

A recent survey from Halfords found 48% of drivers confess to having used a handheld mobile to make a phone call when driving at least once in the past year whilst 36% do so once a week or more. As our need to remain in touch grows the law is being ignored more than ever. Some 35% of drivers admitted reading text messages, rising to 57% among under 25’s, whilst almost one in five (19%) have gone onto social networking sites or used the Internet. 

It’s not just reading a message or making a call that is an issue. Over half of drivers surveyed (53%) say that they will take their eyes off the road to look at who is calling from them and 45% admit they do so to see who has sent them a text message.

In contrast to these actions, the Onepoll online survey of 2,083 drivers found that almost nine in ten respondents said that using a handheld mobile phone while driving, created a danger to the motorist and other road users.

Illegally using a mobile without Bluetooth or a hands-free kit was ranked as the third most hated behaviour among other drivers, with inconsiderate driving and drink driving ranked higher.

The annual study by Halfords marks the sixth anniversary of tougher legal sanctions being introduced to discourage the use of hand-held phones, or similar devices, when driving – which saw fixed penalty fines rise to £60 and three penalty points being added to an offenders’ licences.

Dave Poulter, In-Car Technology Manager at Halfords, commented: “These findings paint a disturbing picture of what is happening on the UK’s roads and the emerging trend towards using mobile phones to link with social media while driving is extremely worrying.”

“There are a number of ways of staying connected legally – from bespoke hands-free kits, that read out text messages for you, to car stereos that incorporate hands-free capabilities as well enabling maps and traffic services to be accessed from mobiles safely.”

He went on: “This dangerous behaviour is simply unnecessary and easily avoided through the smart use of hands-free technology.”

Further to these results Road.CC reported that insurer LV= carried out an observational study in Cardiff, Edinburgh, London and Manchester, last year, to record mobile phone use close to pedestrian crossings and junctions.

LV= found that drivers using handheld mobiles engaged in ”reckless driving, speeding, and sudden braking,” one-third of them did not stop at pedestrian crossings (just 10 per cent of those not using mobiles failed to do so) and that they were twice as likely to demonstrate erratic driving behaviour.

When the LV= survey findings were published in December, Managing Director for Car Insurance John O’Roarke said: “It’s been nearly ten years since legislation banning the use of hand-held phones when driving was introduced, so it’s worrying to see that many motorists are continuing to use their devices when on the road.

“While it can seem tempting for people to use their phones at the wheel whilst driving they should always pull over to make a call, send a text, or browse the internet.”

Pothole season

potholeIt’s that time of year again – pothole season – where if it isn’t cold weather it is wet weather that has caused yet another pothole to appear. Driving and cycling around becomes more tricky and you start to wonder whether the holes will get fixed this week or next.

Whilst all public roads gets checked regularly it’s not always possible for whoever manages the roads to find the pothole before it becomes a problem, and if they don’t know about it it’s not going to get fixed for a while. 

Fix meSo what can I do? Well you don’t need to resort to marking up each pothole yourself (like one Dorest resident has done recently ). Instead, from the comfort of your own home, you can make sure the potholes you see get fixed sooner rather than later by reporting the potholes (or other highway problem e.g. flooding, street lights out, etc) yourself.

By giving a few bit of information, such as the location of the problem and, in the case of potholes, their size, the problem can be passed on to the correct person to be dealt with. Not only that, with some sites you can see if the pothole has already been reported and track progress on its repair.

The main sites I’ve found for reporting a pothole in the UK include:

For those in Hampshire the website is http://www3.hants.gov.uk/roadproblems and the telephone number is: 0845 603 5633.

To give you an idea of what you might expect from the pothole reporting part of the website the following is a step by step guide to reporting a pothole:

Step 1: Use the link above to reach this page and then click on Report a Pothole.

Scan 1

Step 2: Either put in a postcode or click on the map to record the location of the pothole.

Scan 2

Step 3:  A flag should appear with a text box that invites you to Report a Problem or Remove my Selected Location. (If a problem has already been reported it should be shown on the map as well.)

Scan 3

Step 4: If you select Report a Problem you are asked to complete a few questions to give more information on its location and the size of the pothole.

Scan 4

You don’t have to leave your details and should take no more than a few minutes of your time.

Finally, I was pleased to see two guys from Hampshire County Council filling a pothole a couple of weeks ago, outside the Eco-station! I can’t claim that I reported it but repairs are being completed in the town. (Sorry about my poor photography skills!)Repaired pothole in Bordon 1

Snow!

With snow falling in Whitehill & Bordon (and much of the rest of the UK) what better time to talk about the white stuff and how to deal with it.

Now first off some potentially much needed advice…yes folks you CAN clear snow from in front of your house and your neighbours houses if you wish. The Met Office have set out some guidance  (The Snow Code) to give residents some useful tips. Including the following:

  • Pay extra attention to slopes and steps. These areas are likely to need more salt to keep them ice free.
  • Never use water to clear snow. This can re-freeze as black ice and cause more problems as it is harder to see.
  • Table salt or dishwasher salt can be used on your driveways. If you don’t have any salt then sand or ash can be used. Whilst it doesn’t melt the snow as well as salt it provides extra grip in the snow compared to doing nothing.
  • Please do not take salt from the Highway salt bins for personal use. This salt is provided to keep public roads and footpaths clear.126_N4_webview

Secondly, getting about today…for those of you who drive to work I’m sure you will have noticed just how clear the main roads were this morning. Today’s 6am gritter run clearly did the trick!

To stay up to date with the latest news about traffic and travelling in bad weather follow @Hantsconnect and @ROMANSE on Twitter or listen to your local radio station. Further information about driving in snowy conditions can be found on Hampshire County Council’s website at www.hants.gov.uk/roads/winter-maintenance

Walkers and cyclists please remember that footpaths and off-road cycle tracks don’t normally get gritted so assume they haven’t been and take care!

Finally, some of you may not have seen this post from a month or so ago; make your petrol go further this winter! Useful advice with temperatures currently hovering around the 1 degree Celsius mark!