Posts Tagged ‘driving’

Real Life Road Safety: An Office on Wheels

Posted on January 13th, 2012 by James Luckhurst

Real Life Road Safety: An Office on WheelsNo matter how good a driver you believe yourself to be, road safety should be observed by all. In this series of articles, motoring journalist James Luckhurst, will be looking at real life cases of drivers who are inadvertently putting themselves and others in danger on our busy motorways.

MARTIN WILCOX, 34, was stopped by police on a British motorway when he veered suddenly from the third to the fourth lane, in front of the unmarked police car, causing the police driver to brake heavily to avoid a collision. Martin pulled back into the third lane and, as the officer drove past, he saw him holding a styrofoam cup of coffee in his left hand. He was driving a two-year-old, 2.5-litre company car.

Martin told the officer he was driving from Twickenham in south-west London, with a colleague, to a client meeting in Liverpool. He drives about 500 miles per week, some of this as part of his work. He has nine points on his licence, all from camera-recorded speeding offences. He has also collected two parking tickets in the past three years. He occasionally makes and receives calls from a hands-free mobile phone when driving. He admits to having once fallen asleep at the wheel, though it was a momentary lapse with no catastrophic consequences. His employer imposes no limits as to the hours or mileage he drives, and does not operate a road safety policy. Martin has never been offered a driver training course and there are no company guidelines on mobile phone use while driving.

Driver training expert Graham Griffiths pointed to a lack of perception by Martin that his actions were unsafe. “Martin is not your typical high-mileage businessman, but when he is on the road he treats his car as a mobile office, restaurant – or padded cell,” he said. “The real problem is that driving is just the nuisance factor that goes with his need to do his job. Quite possibly this view is confirmed by his employer, and exacerbated by the trials of actually getting from A to B. He is unlikely to recognise his behaviour as unsafe.

“A coffee cup in one hand limits Martin’s ability to take any avoiding action if someone messes up. On this occasion, he was lucky that the avoiding action was taken by the policeman. It’s no surprise that getting on for two-thirds of all company-owned vehicles are involved in an accident – and insurance claim – each year. Here, neither the individual nor the company appreciates the risk to which they expose themselves. His car is either his desk on wheels, or his restaurant.”

No excuse to be bored

Posted on August 1st, 2011 by James Luckhurst

No excuse to be boredAfter a nationwide search to find the country’s favourite family car games, car maker Saab has revealed ‘Backseat Face Snap’ as the winner. Submitted by Renée Smith and her family from Merseyside, the fun-filled game requires backseat passengers to decide on four facial expressions. The players then face each other and cover their faces, revealing their expressions and if they’re the same, they shout ‘Snap!’

Other games that came top in Saab’s competition to find the most fun and innovative games that can be played on the move include: I Like Bananas, Island Shipwreck, Traffic Bingo, a themed Alphabet Game and Guess Upon a Rainbow.

Saab launched the national campaign earlier this year to bring back quality family time when in the car. The campaign encouraged parents to look at more interactive ways of keeping their children entertained when travelling as a family.

So here’s how to play a few ultimate backseat car games:

Backseat Face Snap

Decide on four faces, such as happy, sad, pull tongues and funny face. Next, face your challenger and cover your face with both hands in front. Count together 1, 2, 3…the reveal!
Are you the same? Shout “SNAP!” or let’s try again!

I Like Bananas!

When you see a car, say “I like…” followed by something of that colour. For example, if you see a red car, shout “I like tomatoes!” or for a green car, you might say “I like apples!” Take it in turns as a family, and the winner of the round is the first to spot a yellow car and say “I like bananas!”. It’s simple and a great game for even the youngest of children.

Island Shipwreck

You and your group of passengers are stranded on an island with sea surrounding you and all you have are trees, plants, a fresh water stream and your beach wear.

When you come across a lorry on your journey, choose one item for your island. For example, if you see a supermarket lorry, you could choose a case of vegetables, or if you see a van with DIY on it, you could choose some tools to build a house. The idea is to write down all of the provisions you are collecting that you are going to need to survive on the island!

Want to make it harder or be more creative? You could choose items to create your very own paradise island or draw your island at the end of your journey. It’s amazing what lorries will pass you by!

Traffic Bingo Game

Give every passenger boards with small pictures or words on of things that you might find on your journey, such as speed limit signs, post boxes, and petrol stations (or perhaps you might want to make it harder with suggestions like windmills, cows and public telephones?). As you go along, tick off the boxes when you see the items on your board. The winner is the first one who has marked off the most boxes by the end of the journey.

Themed Alphabet Game

It’s simple! Pick a theme, such as countries, fruit, movie stars, football clubs – anything that comes to mind! Work your way through the alphabet, taking it in turns to name something that belongs to your chosen theme. Can you find a word for those tricky letters such as Q, X and Z? Give it a go and see!

Guess Upon a Rainbow

Give passengers a wipe-clean piece of card or board, which has all the colours of the rainbow on: red, yellow, pick, green, orange, purple and blue. It could be coloured spots, squares or lines or you could even create the board in the shape of a rainbow. You each have to spot something red on your journey that begins with R, then something yellow that begins with Y, something pink that begins with P and so on, working your way through the colours of the rainbow.

Once you’ve found items for every colour, to win, you must find something that has two of the colours of the rainbow on it. Want to make it more challenging? The item you find must begin with any letter of the word RAINBOW!

Stay alert on those long summer road journeys

Posted on July 29th, 2011 by David Williams MBE

It’s summer holiday time for many of us, and with that comes the opportunity to get away for a week or two… usually to somewhere that’s a fair old drive from home. Pressure of time, combined with encouragement from occupants of the rear seats, means there’s an urge to press on and get to your destination at the earliest opportunity.

Stay alert on those long summer road journeys

There are many examples, including my own neighbours, who were determined to get to their holiday villa on the Spanish Mediterranean coast without any substantial break. Sharing the driving would have helped, but it’s still an enormous distance to cover in one go.

However, their endurance pales into insignificance compared with a couple of Finnish gentlemen who, with their wives, escape the harsh northern winter and spend the period between November and March in Malaga. Or at least, this is what they have done for the past six years. The wives fly but the men drive, and there’s an annual challenge between them as to who can complete the road journey back from Malaga to Helsinki in the shorter time.

We’re talking about a distance of more than 2,500 miles, attempted with breaks only for fuel and coffee. That, in my book, displays a reckless disregard not only for your own needs but for the safety of others.

Recently-released research from the Dutch Road Safety Institute shows that many car drivers tend to drive even though they themselves think they are too tired to do so. They are aware of the dangers this causes and know that they should stop to have a rest or ask someone else to drive. Nevertheless, they continue to drive. These are some of the conclusions from a survey about ‘state awareness’ and fatigue.

State Awarness

State awareness, the reseachers maintain, is one of the Sustainable Safety principles and involves the capability of people to judge how well they can perform a task. We are of course concerned with driving and how well they perform in traffic. How capable do they consider themselves and how good are they really?

State awareness is also connected with risk awareness and calibration: How dangerous do road users consider a traffic situation to be, and how dangerous is it really? And how do they tune their behaviour to their capabilities in order to perform safely in traffic?

Drivers interviewed for the Dutch study said they recognize fatigued driving mostly from yawning, not being able to keep their eyes open, and loss of concentration. At that moment they could decide to stop driving and to have a short nap or to ask a passenger to take over the wheel. Drivers find these two strategies to deal with fatigue the most effective. They are also the most effective measures from an objective point of view. However, they are not the most widely used strategies: drivers mainly opt for letting fresh air into the car, talking to a passenger, having a stop to eat or exercise, or turning the music louder.

Don’t ignore the signs

The most important reasons to start or continue driving anywhere are that we see the need to get to where we are going, that there is often no one else in the car who could take over, and the belief that we will be able to make it home all right. This indicates that there appears to be state awareness, where drivers do realise that they are tired, but many of them ignore the symptoms, accept the risk of fatigued driving, and start or continue to drive nevertheless.

Reduce your risk on the road this summer by waking up to the dangers of fatigue. Make sure you get plenty of sleep before a long journey. Plan to drive during times of the day when you’re normally awake, don’t push yourself to complete a long journey all in one go. Schedule a night stop somewhere rather than ‘pressing on’ regardless. And, if you’re able to get away, then have a great holiday!

Hay fever and driving

Posted on July 11th, 2011 by David Williams MBE

When you reach my grand age (60 next birthday) you become more aware of the awful illnesses that begin to strike.

However, succumbing to the misery of hay fever after nearly 6 decades was not a worry that was high on my ‘concern’ list.

Yet a couple of weeks ago during a long grass mowing session I noticed my eyes were continually itchy, streaming with tears and rather swollen.  Blaming the problem on the strange location of the mower’s grass box which sprays dirt, grit and cuttings into the user’s face every time it is emptied, I soldiered on.

However, the next day the problem got worse and people started to enquire what tragedy had occurred to make me cry so much.  I was in danger of drowning in a tidal wave of tears and wet tissues.  Then the dreaded H.F was mentioned.  “But I don’t suffer from ……..” I argued.

“It can strike at anytime in your life boy” was the message given by one who knows and I was promptly dispatched to the pharmacist to receive some eye drops especially formulated for such conditions.  I am pleased to say that the remedy worked and after a couple of days the symptoms had faded.

Hay fever and driving

However, this incident got me thinking about the seriousness of hay fever to motorists and what effects it could have in terms of road safety.

Apparently around 15 – 20 per cent of the population in the UK suffer some degree of hay fever and the figure is as high as 1 in 4 for motorists.

The worse symptoms are experienced from around mid May through to August and can include sneezing, runny nose, headache, itching and watery eyes, swelling of the eyes and many others.  Obviously any of these symptoms could affect a driver’s ability to drive safely.

It is of course an offence to drive if you are unable to maintain safe control of the vehicle and a long bout of sneezing could easily fall into this category.  At 30MPH a car travels 44 feet every second and so a long sneezing fit could easily mean that the driver is ‘blind’ for a long stretch of road.

Likewise it is also an offence to drive while unfit through drugs and this includes medication.  Some hay fever remedies can cause drowsiness and so it is vital to check with your doctor or pharmacist if the remedy could affect your driving.

GEM has prepared a list of helpful tips. Download our Don’t Motor on Meds leaflet today!

Gumball: 3000 miles of unnecessary risk-taking

Posted on June 6th, 2011 by James Luckhurst

Gumball: 3000 miles of unnecessary risk-takingIF YOU have time on your hands, a very expensive car and a few thousand quid in your back pocket, then how about joining a line-up of like-minded folk for a high-speed romp along the motorways of Europe? That’s right, just pay your £28,000 entry fee, kit your car out with police radar detectors and make the front number plate unreadable, in case you come to the attention of the authorities as you reach speeds in excess of 200 km/h on the public road. And God help anyone who might dare get in your way.

Yes, it’s rally season again, when the well-heeled throw caution (and consideration for others) to the wind as they charge across national borders in pursuit of having an excellent time. This year’s Gumball 3000 was one of the first events in the summer calendar, and saw Aston Martins, Rolls Royces and even a pink Ferrari growl their way out of London for the south coast.

So, do we have any sympathy for the two British drivers and the Austrian who were arrested on the A16 autoroute in France a few days ago? I don’t think so. All were involved in the ‘Gumball 3000’ car rally that was in France at the time.

The first Briton, driving a Rolls Royce at 222 km/h, was arrested on Thursday near Oroër, in Oise, after testing positive for cocaine. This was established using field impairment tests and a saliva test. The Austrian also tested positive for drugs, and was still in custody Friday morning in the local platoon of the highway police in Beauvais. His vehicle was confiscated.

An hour later, on the same stretch of autoroute, a British driver of a Mercedes was clocked at a speed of 219 km/h. Another British motorist was also arrested, having been detected driving at a speed of more than 190 km/h. His vehicle, a Jaguar, was immediately confiscated and impounded.

It was in the Gumball 3000 in 2007 that two innocent people (who happened to be in the way of a Gumball participant) died after being involved in a crash. Yet the reckless behaviour continues and is still seen as a great way to celebrate motoring.

Gendarmerie spokesperson, Colonel Gérard Escolano, commented on the action: “These three racers were all participants in the Gumball 3000,” he said. “This rally was established by an Englishman in 1999 and reserved for wealthy drivers of sports cars. It is held once a year.

“We cannot ban this rally because it is not an official sporting event. For us, it is tourists who pass through France. But as soon as we were informed of their arrival on our territory, we implemented a monitoring device that staked all their possible routes to ensure that they could not make free on our roads, and to ensure maximum safety for other motorists.”

The French Gendarmerie have been proactive in sharing their intelligence with colleagues in other countries, and have also asked for any useful advance information to be passed back to them, as the Gumball participants continue on their planned route through Europe. Now you really would think the police have better things to do with their time, wouldn’t you. But while events such as this continue, law enforcers have no choice but to devote substantial resources to the task of minimising the completely unnecessary risks created by the Gumballers.

Hymns, Hornsby and Hampton

Posted on May 10th, 2011 by James Luckhurst

Hymns, Hornsby and HamptonMost people travelling in a car driven by me express their surprise at the choice of music available for listening. As a former organ scholar, I have a liking for church music and am in my element singing along with the occasional rousing hymn. Throw in a Bach trio sonata or a spectacular toccata and I’m in my element, regardless of the weather outside or how busy the road might be.

I spent a lot of my 20s working in radio, and I will never forget the very first track I ever played as ‘drive time’ presenter on BBC Radio Kent in 1989: Bruce Hornsby and the Range, and a song called ‘The Valley Road’. Great for care-free journeys in the country, even better on one of those seemingly endless roads across America’s west.

But I also used to do a lot of late night radio, and that opened my ears to some absolutely fantastic music – mostly jazz – that still has a place in my CD changer. I only have to hear ‘Flying Home’ by the amazingly talented and energetic Lionel Hampton on his vibraphone, or ‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me’ in an arrangement for jazz trumpet and guitar by Ruby Braff and George Barnes, and I’m re-living those exciting late nights in a little studio in Knightsbridge.

OK, they work for me, but perhaps I have spent too long in the car on my own. Church organs and late night jazz aside, what would I choose to keep me happy, and to ensure that my wife wouldn’t complain too much (assuming she’s in the car as well)? Well, here’s my selection. Not so much a ‘Desert Island Discs’ choice, but in my opinion a perfect mix of eight tracks for a journey when the sun is high in the sky, the windows are down, traffic is light and we’re heading somewhere lovely.

1.   Hotel California, The Eagles

2.   American Pie, Don Maclean

3.   London Calling, T-Rex

4.   Go Your Own Way, Fleetwood Mac

5.   Total Eclipse of the Heart, Bonnie Tyler

6.   California Girls, The Beach Boys

7.   Road Trippin’, Red Hot Chili Peppers

8.   The Valley Road, Bruce Hornsby and the Range

Why not share your favourite driving tracks with us!