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!!

Dream Green Getaways this Summer

Looking for a dream green getaway this summer but not up for trawling the internet to find transport information as well as holiday locations? Then we might just have the answer for you.

Green traveller is one of a number of sites which highlight inspiring holidays you can go on without having to set foot in an airport terminal.

Bike

For starters the site includes information on ferries, trains and coaches to get you to your destinations.

It includes information on home grown holiday options in the UK, such as their guides on Car-free travel in the UK’s national parks, as well as international adventures, like Electric Bike Cycling holidays in Switzerland, Austria, Portugal and Italy.

Finally, the site also gives advice on eco-concious accommodation, days out and places to eat to enable you to tailor your Green Getaway to you and your family.

Ciders

Other websites with similar advice include Eco Travelling and for those who want more detailed alternatives to flying both Loco2 and The Man in Seat 61 are brilliant sources of information.

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.

Remember when petrol was 46p per litre? It still can be.

46p petrolI haven’t lost my mind I promise. Petrol really can be 46p a litre if you share a journey with 2 other people.

This isn’t something that is completely off the wall either. Parents regularly carpool to save both time and money when getting their kids to and from school or activities. Co-workers do it too, maybe only once a week, but every little change helps when it comes to saving pounds.

One group of guys have even saved £100,000 between them by car sharing (read their story here) so why don’t you give it a go?

If you’re not sure where to start, or don’t know anyone you could car share with, why don’t you visit www.whitehillbordon.liftshare.com It’s FREE to join and links to thousands of other users to ensure that if there is someone going your way you can find them.

 

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.”

Free activities this Saturday!!!

This Saturday (9th February) the Eco-town team invite you to test your driving skills (to make your fuel go further) and take the time to spot some local wildlife. 

goldfinch[1]For all you early birds (no pun intended), there is a FREE guided bird watching walk leaving from the Eco-station at 8:30am (so please dress appropriately)!!    

The route will take in Bordon Inclosure and the Deadwater Valley Local Nature Reserve before returning to the Eco-station around 10:15am where a hot drink and cake will be available (first come, first served).

great%20tit1[1]Led by Deadwater Valley Trust’s Eco-town ranger and with support from the RSPB (North East Hampshire group) we are hoping to see finches, thrushes and maybe even a heron or egret.

Also, if your interested in other walks please take a moment to look at one of the earlier Blog post: 2013…A Walk in the Park.

Secondly, for those drivers among us who want to make their fuel go further the Eco-station will have a driving simulator available for you to test out some fuel saving driving tips. Small changes to the way we drive can help make the fuel you put in go further so why not come down and trial your skills, for free, between 10 am – 1pm at the Eco-station.

The Eco-station and Exhibition House will also be open from 10am – 1pm so come along and find out what the plans are for the town. (For information on our address and week day opening hours visit www.whitehillbordon.com/eco-station)