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Monday, 26 January 2015

Record numbers of learner drivers are turning to lookalikes in a bid to pass

L-test fears of older motorists
Record numbers of learner drivers are turning to lookalikes in a bid to pass their tests, new Government data has shown.

A recent clampdown on fraud by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) revealed nearly 700 reported cases of candidates hiring impersonators to sit both the practical and theory elements of the driving test.

These figures are for the current financial year alone, and are already 20 per cent higher than the number of recorded cases in 2013-14, The Times reports.

It is thought that those without the requisite skills needed to pass the driving test are turning to criminal gangs and paying up to £1,800 for people to sit the practical assessment for them.

The problem is such that driving examiners are not receiving training on how to study an applicants facial features, to ensure they are the person they purport to be.

The extent of the fraud was highlighted after the DVSA took action to stamp out fraud from corrupt language interpreters, with the results being that the driving test can now only be taken in English and Welsh.

DVSA chief executive Alastair Peoples, told The Times: "Driving test fraud is a serious offence and is dealt with accordingly. We have stringent measures in place to detect fraudulent activity and work closely with the police to bring all offenders to justice."

So far this financial year, 188 people have been arrested and 55 convicted to offences relating to driving licence fraud, with 37 receiving prison sentences.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Well done Trevor

Congratulations from us all at the Kent Group of Advanced Motorists
to Trevor Cobb on passing the National Observer Test
                           Well done that man!!

Monday, 19 January 2015

Details of new Dartford Crossing safety system unveiled

Images of a new safety system that will help to keep the Dartford Crossing operating safely following the removal of payment barriers have been published today by the Highways Agency.

Since it launched on 30 November last year, Dart Charge has already helped to speed up journeys by removing the need to stop at a barrier to pay the Dartford Crossing charge. But to get the most benefit from the changes, there needs to be a new way of identifying and managing overheight vehicles and dangerous loads before they enter the tunnel – a job until now that was carried out at the payment barriers. This is part of the wider changes which include signage on the approach to the Crossing, to give HGV drivers enough warning to get in the correct lane.

All major tunnels have rules about what substances can be taken through them and the Dartford tunnels are no exception. Vehicles carrying some of these substances may require an escort though the tunnels; some others may be prohibited altogether and need to find an alternative route. In addition, the two tunnels at the Dartford Crossing are slightly different sizes, having been opened almost 20 years apart. Vehicles more than 4.8 metres high can only use the eastern tunnel, and vehicles more than 5 metres high cannot use the tunnels at all.

The new safety system will use various detectors to identify the vehicles, signs to encourage drivers to get into the correct lane in good time, and barriers and traffic signals to control them - bringing them to a safe stop and turning them around if necessary. Lanes at the side of the main carriageway will enable this to be done quickly and efficiently, minimising delays for other drivers.

The system has been extensively tested over the last six months at a disused airfield using vehicles from a local haulage company.

Caption: An overheight lorry being turned around using the new safety system for the tunnels


Highways Agency Project Director Nigel Gray said:

"With Dart Charge, drivers no longer stop at a barrier to pay the crossing charge, speeding up journeys and reducing congestion. But the barriers are also the point at which we have identified and managed dangerous loads and oversized vehicles – so now we need a new approach. This system has been extensively tested and will be able to do the job effectively, and without requiring every driver to stop. It is a big part of fully realising the benefits that Dart Charge is already bringing."

Construction of the new system of traffic signals and barriers on the northbound carriageway will begin in late January and is due to be completed by early April.


Caption: The new safety system being tested at a disused airfield


While the new system is installed we will continue to use the re-configured booths and barriers to manage northbound over-sized and dangerous goods vehicles. Journey time improvements following the introduction of Dart Charge will be improved further once the old barriers are fully removed and the new system in place, however there has still been an improvement (averaging around four minute quicker journeys northbound compared to nine minutes southbound).

Connect Plus, the Highways Agency's main service provider for the whole M25, are carrying out construction work associated with the project.

Erwan Huerre, Transition Director for Connect Plus, said:

"Our construction work will be ongoing whilst we build the new tunnel safety system, consisting of new signals and barriers. It is important to remember that these barriers will be in the 'open' position most of the time, and will only need to be used when a non-compliant vehicle is detected. To maximize the effectiveness of the new system, drivers – in particular HGV drivers – are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the future layout."

To date, over-sized and dangerous goods vehicles have been managed by the barriers at the old payment booths. However, with the introduction of Dart Charge and the ongoing removal of the payment booths a new method of stopping these vehicles from entering the tunnels is needed.

The new system will detect whether a vehicle is too tall, wide or long to enter the tunnels or whether it is carrying hazardous goods that mean it cannot enter the tunnels or needs to be escorted. These will trigger a system of traffic signals and barriers that will stop the vehicle.

The new system has been designed to ensure that when a vehicle needs to be diverted away from the tunnels it is done in a way that causes the minimum disruption and delay to all drivers using the northbound carriageway.

Turning back any vehicle will cause some delay to other road users but is essential for the safety of all road users. The Highways Agency wants to ensure this happens as rarely as possible and is working with partners such as the Freight Transport Association, Road Haulage Association and other organisations, including those representing overseas haulage companies, to promote the tunnel height and other restrictions at Dartford to ensure drivers comply with them.

The Highways Agency has published guidance for these drivers, and this can be found on their website.

Advice to drivers of tall vehicles

If you are driving a tall vehicle, you need to ensure you get in the correct lane as soon as possible after junction 2 to avoid being in the wrong lane. New signs will inform you which lane you should choose.

The northbound carriageway now divides just after the junction 1a exit slip road, with the two inside lanes (left-hand lanes) dedicated to the west tunnel and two outside lanes (right-hand lanes) dedicated to the east tunnel. Vehicles joining at junction 1a can only access the two inside lanes and use the west tunnel.

Tunnel height restrictions are 4.8m for the west tunnel and 5.0m for the east tunnel. Vehicles joining at junction 1a can only access the two inside lanes and use the west tunnel, and therefore vehicles over 4.8m in height are prohibited from using the slip road and should, if under 5m, use junction 1b.

Drivers who fail to use the correct lanes will be in violation of traffic regulations and could face enforcement action from the DVSA – potentially a fine and points on their licence.

Advice to drivers carrying hazardous materials

Arrangements for drivers with hazardous loads are essentially unchanged – drivers  should continue to exit at junction 1a and follow signage to the vehicle marshalling area where they can be checked and escorted through the Crossing. The safety system will identify, stop and turn around drivers who fail to do this

IAM appoints new CEO

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has appointed Mrs Sarah Sillars OBE, one of the leading women in British industry, as its new Chief Executive Officer as she returns full-time to the automotive sector. 

Sarah's mission will be to improve driving and riding skills and to campaign for legislation to improve road safety.

Sarah Sillars, OBE and Hon FIMI, joins London-based IAM next month. The IAM is one of the most regarded and well-established bodies in British motoring.
Sarah takes up her role on 5 February having overseen the commercialisation of Semta, the sector skills council for engineering and advanced manufacturing.

Sarah said: "I am delighted to be back playing a significant role in the automotive sector. The IAM has played a unique part in lowering the numbers of people killed and injured on UK roads. I am very proud to be appointed their Chief Executive."

"Many thousands of people have reason to be grateful to the IAM and its passionate volunteers for their advice, guidance and training over the decades."

She continued: "With more than 1,700 deaths and 21,000 serious injuries a year on our roads there is still much work to be done.

"My intention is to ensure that we consolidate our experience and expertise, and then change up a gear – to further build on the excellent and vital research, training and lobbying activities that we carry out.

"We will change opinions, driving habits and legislation."

The IAM, which was formed more than 50 years ago, has more than 90,000 members, all intent on improving their own motoring skills or driving through reform to improve road safety.  It provides independently audited driver and rider training, including the advanced test.

IAM Chairman Alistair Cheyne OBE said: "Sarah is the perfect person to drive the IAM into a new era. She has the skills, background and experience to help the IAM achieve its goal of becoming the best provider of post-licence driver and rider training in the UK.

"The challenge ahead is a large one, but I am now confident that we will see growth for an IAM that attracts more of the UK's drivers and riders."

Sarah has a long and illustrious career within the automotive sector, having been CEO and Executive Chair of the Institute of the Motoring Industry (IMI). They made her an Honorary Fellow and Vice President on her departure in 2012.

Awarded Industry Personality of the Year 2004 and Outstanding Achievement Award 2006 by automotive magazines AM and Motor Trader respectively, Sarah was listed in the UK motor industry's most influential top ten and the 'most powerful' female executive, according to the 2007 AM Power List.

In September 2008 Sarah was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award by Bodyshop Magazine in recognition of IMI's work with ATA in the body repair sector.

She was awarded an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List in June 2008 for services to skills training and the retail motor industry.

Sarah has more than 25 years of experience within the motor and retail industries, having begun her career with Marks & Spencer, managing stores in England and later as Operations Director at automotive management consultancy Anne Gray Associates.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Driving test doesn’t equip new motorists for life on the road, says IAM and youn

Leading road safety charity the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) and young driver safety organisation the Under 17 Car Club Charitable Trust are calling for the UK driving test to be revamped to make it more relevant to the real world risks that young drivers will face as they start their driving careers.

Currently the driving test does not include any testing of a driver's ability to cope safely with country roads, poor weather or driving at night – aspects both organisations know are the main risk factors in the first six months of solo driving.

Road accidents remain the biggest killer of young people in the UK, higher than both alcohol and drugs. In 2013 there were 191 people under 24 killed and 20,003 injured as drivers and riders of cars and motorbikes (1).

In the past five years (2009-13) there were 1,037 people under 24 killed and 120,958 injured on UK roads as drivers and riders – while the overall trend has been falling, these figures are unacceptable.

Neil Greig, IAM director of policy and research, said: "The driving test needs to become a much more integrated part of a graduated licensing system that picks up on best practice from around the world. For instance, Austria has a 'second phase' licensing system, where young drivers come back in the 12 months after the test for a further three interventions to examine attitude changes and skills."

Young male driver casualties have dropped by a third in in Austria as a result of the initiative.

Safeguarding younger drivers forms an important part of the IAM Manifesto. It calls  for road safety education to be part of the National Curriculum, supports a 12 month minimum learning period prior to taking the practical test, supports limits on peer passenger numbers, suggests that the practical test includes higher speed roads and supports a lower drink-drive limit for new drivers. The IAM also wants to see learner drivers allowed on motorways so they can learn from an expert rather than on their own after passing the test (2).

The IAM's Licensed to Skill report (3) shows that 'driver or rider error' is a contributory cause in 68% of all road accidents.

The report also points out that while speeding, drink driving, mobile phone use, tailgating, road rage and bad weather are all important, none are as frequently reported as driver error as the cause of road accidents.

Neil said: "We cannot rely on technological advances such as black boxes alone to help bring our injury and death rate down on the roads – we also need a much more integrated training system that embeds continuous improvement into new drivers' minds."

John Peabody-Rolf, instructor at the Under 17 Car Club and IAM observer, said: "The driving test as it stands does not equip young drivers to go out on the road safely. You can go out and pass your tests knowing only the roads in a small local area. As such, it doesn't give young drivers the skills they need for a life on the road."

He added: "Young drivers are often unaware that if you drive into a corner too fast and brake sharply, it is the worst thing you can do – the car is already imbalanced and will behave in a way you won't expect."

Through its progressive system of young driver development the Under 17 Car Club gives instruction to address this issue, as well as guidance on night driving and how to handle roads in different weather, lighting and grip levels, plus very importantly develop driver attitude, and understanding of risk and consequence.

John also pointed out the American model of young driver tuition, which includes driver education as part of the school syllabus. This part of the syllabus must be passed before going on to take the controls of a car. American driver tuition also covers the dangers of peer pressure and mobile phone use.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

In Car Dash Cams

NextBase dash cam
Dash cams have gone from being one of the products you find hidden at the back of electronics stores – buried behind obscure cables and door bells – to a popular car accessory.

Though just a few years ago a tiny number of motorists used these cameras, which record the road in front of the car as you drive, they have mushroomed in popularity following the advent of 'crash-for-cash' scams on the road. These scams can see criminals swerve in front of innocent drivers and slam on the brakes, causing the car behind to crash into them.

The criminals then make fraudulent personal injury claims on the unsuspecting motorists' insurance, potentially extorting thousands of pounds in the process. Dash cams, however, are a simple defence against this type of 'crash-for-cash' ploy.

Budget models can be bought from under £15 (though these can offer very poor image quality, especially in darker conditions) and sophisticated versions can cost over £300. Some feature full HD recording, GPS logging (meaning that in the event of an accident, you can prove the time and location) and motion detection, where the dash cam automatically records moments of high G-forces (such as a collision or heavy braking) and prevents these from being overwritten.

Using the camera is a simple as setting up a sat nav. Simply plug the power cable into the12V power supply in your car and mount the camera's sat-nav-style suction pad to the windscreen. The camera should automatically start recording providing a view of the road ahead of the car, overwriting the oldest footage should the memory card fill up.

Should you be involved with a crash this should provide evidence to prove exactly what happened, meaning that even if another driver admitted blame for an accident and then changed their story afterwards, you can show the true story. With good quality you can expect Number plates easily legible on recorded footage and the camera captures a wide view of the road. (Quality drops dramatically at night.)

Another bonus of using a dash cam is that some insurers will give you a discount of up to 15 per cent on your car insurance - however the only real downside apart from having to splash out for it in the first place, is that it can slightly obscure your view of the road, with the power cable dangling down, unless you spend time carefully routing it around the windscreen.

Jilted wife gets revenge on Porsche-driving husband

Porsche 911
An Australian woman who discovered her husband had been playing away, exacted her revenge in style by selling off his prized Porsche 911 for a fraction of its value.

The scorned wife, from Melbourne, placed an advert for the 2010 Carrera 997 model, which is worth around $150,000 (£81,000), stating that she intended to sell it for just $20,000 (£10,800).

She took the advert out on the aptly named Revenge Sales website, with the title 'Ex-husbands precious Porsche 911'. In it, she wrote: "I have been married to this unfaithful poor excuse for a human being for over 25 years and yes we are wealthy.

"I had hunches that my husband was cheating so I followed him out on what he said was a 'guys poker night' to find him at a five star restaurant cuddling up to this young blonde woman (cliché).

"So to pay him back, as I have rightful ownership of his precious Porsche, I have decided to sell it for a specific price of $20,000."

The woman then explains she is going to spend the proceeds on a European holiday so she "can fondle with all the wealthy European men," the Daily Mail reports.

The advert soon attracted the attention of car enthusiasts and potential suitors alike. One potential buyer replied to the ad with: "It's a bit of a ride from the east coast of the USA, but if your offer is legit, I'll be happy to make the trip, respect and pay your $20K asking price, and take you to dinner."

Others praised the woman for her bold actions, while some questioned the authenticity of the offer, which sounded too good to be true. The car is now listed as sold.

What do you think of the woman's method of revenge?

Don't lose your grip on salty roads - advice from the IAM

As the Met Office has issued yellow weather warnings of ice and snow for much of the country, roads are expected to be gritted to prevent snow from settling. The IAM's chief examiner, Peter Rodger is offering advice to motorists to better cope with driving on road surfaces that have been recently treated. 

  1. If weather conditions are severe in your area you should take notice of police advice and simply don't travel. However, in exceptional circumstances if you must go out make sure you drive safely with extra caution on icy roads.
  2. Salt will often make the windscreen, headlights, number plate and rear parts of your car very dirty. Cars without headlamp washers, for example, will lose an estimated 40% of luminosity, and possibly all their focus in about 20 miles on a damp, gritted motorway. When travelling long distances it is advised that you stop regularly at service stations to clean your windscreen and headlights with a clean cloth. Or keep a filled gallon of water in the car boot to give your lights, windows and mirrors a quick wash over – a handy investment to top up your windscreen washer reservoir when needed too.
  3. When driving on a busy road avoid overtaking a gritting lorry as the road ahead may not be treated yet. If you have any doubt, don't risk it. Never overtake a snow plough in heavy snow conditions.
  4. While roads may be gritted to give you better traction some areas may not be completely treated, leaving ice patches exposed. You should therefore drive at a steady pace – ensuring the safety of you and your passengers.
  5. It's important that you keep your car clean throughout the winter as the salt in grit can cause external damage such as corrosion to any exposed suspension parts. Ensure that you thoroughly wash the underneath of your car when you can to stop salt from settling.
  6. Don't forget to wash/rinse alloy wheels too; the smallest scratch can quickly become a large rust patch.

Rodger said: "Preparation is the key to avoiding a dangerous situation whilst driving in snowy or icy conditions. Don't rely on the performance of your car systems to get you out of trouble – allow time, make sure you have good visibility all round and carry the right equipment."

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Well done Alan Billington!!

Hearty Congratulations from us all at the Kent Group of Advanced Motorists go to Alan Billington seen here below receiving his Masters Certificate from Staff Examiner Steve George.
Good job Alan - well done that man!!

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Happy New Year

2015 is final upon us. And since it's the start of a new year many may be making New Years Resolutions today.  Whether it's 'be more organised' or  'lose weight' I bet not too many people will be adding 'improve my driving skills' to their list. As an observer with IAM and the Kent Group of Advanced Motorists, driver improvement is something of an ongoing project. I advise from experience, training and resources like the ‘How to be a Better Driver - Advanced Motoring’ handbook and ‘Roadcraft’. It wouldn't be right telling others, often many years senior to myself - better ways to drive without consistently looking at my own driving. 

We all make mistakes and one of the skills on an advanced motorists is self evaluation. When we make a mistake (and we all do at some point in our drive) we'll analyse it later. It’s something that we could all do if we where to step back and think for a moment. After all we have all passed a test to qualify to drive on the UK roads.

So why not add an advanced driving course to your list this year. We carry out the IAM'S ‘Skill for Life’ programme. At the Kent Group we hold sessions on the first Sunday of the month at Maidstone and Kingston Village. At Maidstone, your have around an hours lecture covering The System, Driving Plans and Motorways over a four month period. You'll head out in your own car with an observer each month who will advise and guide you through the process of becoming a better driver. Most will then go on to complete a test whereby an examiner who holds or once held a class one police driving licence will assess your skills. 

These examiners are arguable the best drivers in the UK. They are not out to catch you out, they want the same as you and I. For safer driving around the county and across the country. 

If this interests you why not join us in fulling your New Years Resolution and take up the challenge of becoming an Advanced Driver. 

My New Years resolution is not only continue evaluating my own driving skills but to also be more organised.  And since I am not only an observer with the Kent Group, but also the Social Media and Website co-ordinators it brings me neatly onto some of the group's plans for 2015. 

Our Vice Chairman and Events secretary has been busy filling the places available for a range guest speakers for our evening social events. We have David Larkin from the Highways Agency talking about the Dartford Crossing and the new toll system. And throughout the year examiner Lester Parsons Will be reciting some tells and stories during his time in the police force. We’ll also be going to the dogs… by way of Greyhound Racing at Sittingbourne. Our Annual Dinner will be towards the end of the year as will (dare I say the C word so early on in 2015…) The Christmas Quiz. All our events are posted on our website right here.

These events are open to those who have just joined us, associates who are at present becoming an Advanced Driver, full members who have passed their test and observers. 

If your still not sure about joining us and wish to speak to someone, Our Outside Events Team will be attending a number of public events throughout the year. Bearsted Classic Car show, The Kent County Show and the Maidstone Mela to name just a few.  And since we now cover the whole of Kent, we'll be visiting events right across the county to promote Advanced Driving. We also making a number of visits to the Kent Safety Store at Bluewater throughout the busiest weekends of the shopping year. So please come and meet us and feel free to ask any questions you may have. 

If you can’t wait to ask however, you might find some answers on our website. Re-vamped in October you might just find what your looking for. You’ve already found our blog. Here we’ll have regular updates, with general motoring news, group news, congratulations on those who have passed their Advanced Test and of course driving tips.  We are also on Facebook and Twitter where short driving tips are often posted.

2015 is already shaping up to be a busy one.  But that’s no excuse not to join as and become an Advanced Driver. After all, we welcome those who wish to be safer on our roads.

Happy New Year. And safe journeys throughout 2015

Graham Aylard has been an Advanced Driver for around 10 years, has been a local observer for the Mid-Kent and Kent Group for four years and recently passed his National Observer test. He is  also the Website and Social Media co-ordinator for the group. If you wish to contact him, feel free to do so at online@kentiam.org.uk

The views in this post and others made by Graham are of his views and not necessarily those of the IAM or the Kent Group of Advanced Motoring. 

Image from www.christmasstockimages.com and used under the Creative Commons licensing