Advice and Tips

How black box insurance works

Young drivers have a habit of crashing cars, sometimes through inexperience and often through bravado – and frequently because of the two combined. Not all young drivers behave so recklessly of course, but until relatively recently, insurance companies could only go by statistics, so they’ve long struggled to treat drivers as individuals. Not any more, as modern technology allows insurers to monitor how their customers drive, to see just how safe (or otherwise) they are. Thanks to the use of telematics, or black box technology, young drivers can now prove to their insurer they’re not a liability.

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Advice and Tips, Buying Advice

New insurance write-off categories on the way

It’s always the same. Just when everyone has got used to something, along comes someone who just has to change things around so nobody knows what’s going on any more. The perfect example is the insurance write-off system; for years we’ve had category A, B, C and D write-offs, but that’s all set to end on 1 October. That’s because from this date, written-off cars will instead be categorised A, B, S and N.

Thatcham is a safety and security testing facility (based in Thatcham, Berkshire) and in conjunction with the Institute of Automotive Engineers the new categories have been devised, in a bid to ensure that damaged cars are categorised correctly. Or to put it another way, the new scheme is being introduced to make sure that cars that are too badly damaged won’t be returned to the road.

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Advice and Tips

How to be a safer motorbike rider

Summer is finally here and once again our roads are filling up with motorcyclists keen to make the most of the great weather. If you’re one of those motorcyclists you need to be seriously careful because according to government statistics, bikers make up 1% of the total traffic on UK roads, but account for over 20% of casualties. If you’re a rider you should be terrified by that stat.

It’s no surprise though, because a bike has no side impact bars, crumple zones or airbags to save you when things go pear-shaped, which is why every time you ride you need to stick to a few simple rules. A minor error of judgment that a car driver might shrug off could prove fatal for a biker.

According to official figures, the things most likely to cause a motorcyclist to come to grief are failing to negotiate bends on rural A-roads, collisions at junctions, collisions while overtaking and loss of control. The latter one is a bit of a catch-all as it could be because of poor positioning on a bend or riding too fast for the conditions. Either way, sticking to these simple rules could mean the difference between life and death.
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Advice and Tips

Essential motorbiking kit

Spring has sprung and its arrival means our roads are full of motorcyclists, keen to enjoy the warmer, drier weather now it’s here. But while riding a bike gives you a sense of freedom that your car-driving compatriots can only dream about, it comes at a cost. Bikers are much more vulnerable; even a minor low-speed incident which a car driver would shrug off, can leave a biker seriously hurt. That’s why wearing suitable protective clothing every time you get on your bike is so important.

Choosing what to wear when riding isn’t just about protection from injury – it’s also about comfort. The correct gear ensures you’re comfortable, warm and dry, helping you to fully enjoy your ride without distractions. Many items of protective wear also have reflective panels or strips, ensuring you stay highly visible at all times. Remember, don’t just go for the way the clothing or gear looks; it needs to perform too.

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Advice and Tips
Winter-driving

Winter Driving

We previously posted a blog full of top advice on how to prepare your car for winter driving. That was the easy bit – but how do you cope with driving when the temperatures plummet and the roads are covered in snow and ice?

If you had to guess whether the roads are safest in the summer or the winter, which would you go for? It’s a no-brainer isn’t it? In the winter there’s the spectre of sub-zero temperatures to contend with, as well as fog and darkness. So if you find the idea of summer driving nerve-wracking, you’ll probably be freaked out by the notion of getting behind the wheel when things get icy. But while driving is more hazardous in the winter than the summer, if you’re properly prepared there’s nothing to be afraid of.

The key thing to remember when it gets really cold is that you can’t afford to be lulled into a false sense of security. Even when things look safe, they may not be, so always drive carefully. When the temperatures fall, road surfaces are often wet and/or covered in frost, ice or snow – but not necessarily uniformly. Here’s how to deal with it: Read more

Advice and Tips

Winter car maintenance

Keeping your car serviced is essential at any time of the year, as our blog on top car maintenance tips proves. But in the winter it’s especially important that you keep on top of things if you want to avoid a breakdown or even a crash. Fail to maintain your car properly and once the temperatures plummet you could easily be involved in an accident – and that’s when things can get really stressful.

There are lots of checks you do to ensure your car doesn’t let you down when the going gets tough. None are time-consuming or difficult and much of the following is good advice all year round. But now the sub-zero temperatures have hit with a vengeance, make sure you find the time this weekend to give your car the once over.

Battery

This is the most common reason for winter breakdowns for two key reasons. Firstly, a battery doesn’t hold its charge as readily in cold weather and secondly, turning over the engine demands more of the battery because the oil is thicker. So the temperature dropping by just a few degrees can make all the difference between the engine spinning over and firing, and there just being a click when you turn the key, because it’s all too much.

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Advice and Tips, Car Maintenance
tyres on a snowy country road

Winter tyres

If there are two things that don’t mix, it’s conventional summer tyres and icy roads. They’re the motoring equivalent of strawberries and mustard, or lamb chops with clotted cream. You just don’t want to go there. But if you’re reliant on your car to transport you whatever the weather, what can you do to keep moving when the temperatures plummet? Investing a few hundred quid in a set of winter tyres is the simple answer.

When the temperature drops below seven degrees centigrade, the rubber in conventional tyres hardens and grip is reduced. Winter tyres feature a compound which stays soft even when the mercury drops below zero, so getting going is easier, while braking distances are reduced too – from 30mph, you could stop in just 35 metres compared with the more usual 43 metres. As a result, you can get going more easily, stop more quickly, and when you corner your car will feel much more stable.

For years, some drivers in mainland Europe have been compelled to fit winter rubber in low temperatures. It’s one of the reasons why Scandinavian countries don’t grind to a halt when the snow hits; they just fit their winter tyres and keep driving. Recent harsh winters in the UK and lots of publicity has led to an increasing number of drivers here adopting European practice, but many drivers remain unconvinced.

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Advice and Tips

What happens if I’m caught drink driving?

It’s almost half a century since the breathalyser was introduced in the UK. When the technology was rolled out as part of the Road Safety Act it heralded a new era, with drink-related deaths and injuries steadily dropping. When you consider the number now stands at around 240 per year you might be shocked, but 30 years ago the figure was 990 – and in 1979 it was a massive 1,640.

Unfortunately while ‘only’ 240 people are killed on our roads each year because of alcohol, a whopping 85,000 lose their licence because they’re caught driving over the limit – and 85 per cent are men. The number of drinks you’ve had makes no difference – whether you’re just over the limit or well over the limit, in the eyes of the law you’re still a convicted drink driver and the consequences are exactly the same.

A lot of people get caught out driving the morning after they’ve had a skinful; the alcohol in your system takes time to disappear. How quickly you breach the legal limit and how fast your blood/alcohol level drops is dependent on a variety of factors including your sex, weight, metabolism and how often you drink alcohol. They key thing though is that if you’re caught out the morning after, the penalties are exactly the same.

The penalties

The penalty you receive is up to the magistrates who hear your case, and depends on your offence. You may be able to reduce your ban by taking a drink-drive rehabilitation scheme (DDRS) if you’re banned from driving for 12 months or more. It’s up to the court to offer this but there’s a variety of drink-driving offences. These are what they are and the possible penalties:

If you’re caught in charge of a vehicle while above the legal limit or unfit through drink you can be imprisoned for up to three months and fined up to £2,500. You can also be banned, although this is discretionary.

Get caught driving or attempting to drive while above the legal limit or unfit through drink and you’ll definitely lose your licence for at least a year. You also face an unlimited fine and you can be imprisoned for up to six months.

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Advice and Tips
Drive carefully

How to be a safer driver

There are about 45 million driving licence holders in the UK, although many of the people who hold a licence aren’t active – perhaps as many as one third. However, that still leaves around 30 million people trying to stay out of trouble every time they get behind the wheel.

The problem is, all too often some of those 30 million drivers end up on the traffic news because they’ve brought a major road to a halt having parked their car on its roof or driven into someone else. Each year about one in 15 of us will crash our car – that’s about 200,000 accidents, most of which are completely avoidable.

Last year we guided you through the 10 most common reasons for car crashes and gave you a few pointers as to how to avoid these scenarios. The thing is, if you drive well at all times you can avoid just about any accident, not just the common ones.

The key thing to remember is that driving well isn’t difficult, and if you want to be a really good driver, it’s our highly trained traffic cops that you need to emulate. Sure we hear about them crashing sometimes, but they cover huge mileages, often at high speeds on roads that are saturated with hazards – so it’s amazing they’re not involved in shunts more often.

The reason why these drivers are so good is because they’re trained using a book called Roadcraft (the police driver’s manual). So if you want to be a more gifted driver, what better way than to start with your own copy of Roadcraft? Read it and these are the key things you’ll put into practice every time you drive.

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