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Driving into old age, when is it time to stop?

kingsboroughgdnsWhen you’re older, having your own car can mean the difference between maintaining your independence and being stuck at home, lonely and isolated. Although senior citizens get free bus passes, sometimes public transport can be unpredictable, unreliable or simply non-existent, so having your own car can seem like the best option. However, there can be some problems with keeping a car into your old age.

As you get older, there could be more and more health concerns than when you were younger. Aches and pains that occur can make car journeys too troublesome and even distract you to the point that it is dangerous for yourself if you continue to drive.

There are other problems with the deteriorating health of drivers too. Deteriorating vision is a common problem in old age and can have an awful affect on driving. Additionally, as you get older your reaction times tend to slow down. In combination your reaction times and poorer vision could result in a more dangerous situation, if a child playing in the street ran out in front of you or a car pulled out on you for example.

Eyesight can deteriorate so slowly that you might not even notice, although you might feel safe on local roads as you know these well and you can possibly predict the amount of traffic in the places closest to you from day to day, unknown journeys can be made more stressful.

If you choose to give up driving when you get older, then there are certain things you need to keep in mind to stay safe as a pedestrian. If you do need to walk on the road, remember to walk towards the oncoming traffic, you will be able to see traffic coming towards you sooner and they will see you too.
Remember our reaction times, speed of walking, judgement of speed and distance can change as we get older, so take care when crossing the road either by foot or driving across.

Satellite navigation systems – love them or hate them?

MapSatellite navigation,  more affectionately known as ‘Sat Navs’ – are now a common feature of modern-day cars. They are extremely useful if you do not have a map handy, if you cannot read a map or have no one to help you navigate. However, they can also be distracting and misleading, so you need to make sure to use them wisely and in the right ways.

First of all, drivers need to be aware that there are different types of Sat Navs available and that not all of them have the same features. The most up to date models will have features that will point out safety cameras to the driver and even what it thinks the speed limit is. Knowing the speed limit is a vital skill for a good driver, but relaying on the Sat Nav can lead you into hot water as they don’t always get it right. In fact, it is best not to trust your Sat Nav and to use it rather as advice to be taken rather than strict rules to be followed.

So why use a Sat Nav? It can be a great tool to get you round new places that you are not too familiar with, and can save you the fuel you might have used if you get lost. Also, it is safer than trying to read a map at the same time as driving. Simply programme in the route before you get underway, and follow the spoken directions. Occasional glances to the screen are fine, but it you are distracted by this put the Sat Nav where you cannot see if, but still hear it. If you take a wrong turn, do not panic! The Sat Nav will recalculate the route and tell you the right direction to go in.

However, there are reasons not to use a Sat Nav. They are considered to be a distraction so if you are distracted by the Sat Nav, if might be safer not to use it all, however they’re becoming so normal to use that some cars have them fitted as standard, and they are part of the new driving test which, at the time of writing, is being trialed. Whether or not the use of the Sat Nav will become part of the driving test, diving instructors should show their learners how to use one correctly and allow them to gain some experience on using one on a driving lesson.

Remember that Sat Navs can cause additional blind sports so putting them in the middle of your windscreen is really not a good idea, since they can obscure your view of the road. Latest crash tests have shown that in the event of a collision the Sat Navs can simply come off the windscreen on impact.

Finally one thing to always remember is that Sat Navs are not always right, especially when it comes to speed limits, they are only as good as the last bit of software that was put on them and they are no defense when issued with a speeding ticket.

Driving in Fog – when do you use your fog lights?

liverpool-20130121-00298When do you and when don’t you use your fog lights?

Well think about why you use them, are they are more to help other vehicles see you? or are they to light the road up ahead.  We think it is a bit of both.

The general rule of thumb is to use your dipped headlights and fog lights if visibility is less than 100 meters. In daylight these won’t dazzle other drivers but will show them that you are there. Remember to adjust your lights according to the changing conditions. Using your lights is not enough remember to use your demisters to keep the inside of the windows clear and your wipers for the outside, you might not even notice that it is the mist on your screen that is preventing you seeing and not just the fog.

Do not use your main beam in fog as this can dazzle others and create reflection off the fog so will impair your visibility further. As soon as you are out of the fog, turn your fog lights off. It is an offence to use them unnecessarily.

As we all know don’t follow others too closely by hanging onto their lights as their vehicle is displacing the fog so you may get the impression that the fog is not as dense as you thought.

Increase the distance between you and other road users as the roads may also be wet. If you have to overtake take extra care as the fog may be hiding oncoming vehicles that can’t see you either, after all the car in front could be heading for a collision and there is you following them!

Fog can also come with ice and snow, which can create freezing fog, your windscreen washers might not work in freezing conditions, it would be wise to avoid driving at all in these conditions.

Remember, also look for the coloured reflectors on the motorway, red is used along the hard shoulder, amber on the central reservation and green to highlight slip roads.  

If you can avoid driving in fog then do so, stay safe out there. 

Does your attitude affect your skill as a driver?

7k0a0071Your mood and attitude can alter your driving dramatically. Try not to drive when you are angry, upset or feeling unwell. If you get angry while you are driving, pull over and calm down then continue with your journey.

A driver should always be considerate to other road users including pedestrians, cyclists and motor cycles. Try to be understanding to someone driving too slowly – it may be a new driver or someone who does not know the area well. Speeding up behind them or tailgating will only fluster them and cause them to make mistakes or brake harshly, possibly resulting in you going into the back of them!

Do not allow yourself to become agitated or involved if someone is driving badly or erratically. This will only fuel the situation. The best course of action is to pull over (where it is safe and legal) calm down and continue with your journey when you feel relaxed again.

Slow down or hold back if someone “cuts you up” by pulling out of a junction in front of you or changing lane too closely. Allow them to get clear from you – do not retaliate by doing the same to them, or tailgating and flashing your lights to intimidate them.

Our attitude can also change depending on the goal for the journey, for example we if we are simply going out with friends our driving will be different than when we are driving to work. If we are late our attitude can change and we might take a few more risks in order to get there a bit quicker.

If we get our attitude right we can influence other drivers by simply showing a bit of courtesy on the roads. I am sure you will agree that if you are late and someone lets you out, it can improve your mood, so if you let other people out or at least create a bit of space for them to get into, they are now more likely to show courtesy to other drivers. However, please do not show courtesy to the point of danger, we have all seen drivers stopping in the middle of the road to allow one driver out of a side road, while holding up the 21 drivers behind them.

Remember, we all make mistakes, so let it go! Or as a good friend of mine always says “leave them with it” Good driving is as simple as ABC. Attitude, Behaviour and Choice, make sure you are looking after yours and no one else’s. It is easy to retaliate on the road by moving from our ‘adult’, mode into ‘child’ or ‘parent’. For more information on how this works Google ‘transitional analysis or ‘parent adult child’ theory.

So please stay safe and stay in ‘adult’ 🙂

Driving in the Dark – how safe are you?

Samsung TechwinWhen you are driving at night you can’t see as far ahead as in daylight. You can get help from illuminated and reflective signs, reflectors between white lines (cat’s eyes) and the glow of other vehicle headlights. Be aware of the hazards of driving at night such as misjudging distance, speed, cyclists, animals and pedestrians can be harder to see.

Never drive so fast that you can’t stop in the distance you can see to be clear in your lights. To enable you to see further you can use main beam on unlit roads unless you meet oncoming traffic or are following another vehicle. On lit roads you should use your full headlights. If you are on an unlit road and have main beam on, avoid dazzling others by switching it off during passing and then returning to full beam.

At dusk you may want to put your side lights on before “lighting up time” (when the street lights come on). Don’t be afraid to be the first driver with their lights on. Likewise at dawn the opposite applies. Don’t switch off your lights until you are sure it is safe and you can be seen easily. Why not be the last to turn off your lights, but the first to turn on. A lot of cars now have daytime running lights.

Your eyesight also plays a big part in your ability to drive at night. Have your eyes checked regularly. Keep your windows clean – clean windows cut down dazzle as they are not full of grease which can make it harder to see, straining your eyes can also lead to fatigue.

You’ll need to take extra care when overtaking at night. Only overtake if you can see the road will remain clear until after you have finished the manoeuvre and are safely back on your side of the road. Don’t overtake if there is a junction, bend, brow of a bridge or hill.

Remember to keep your distance. On a dual carriageway or motorway where it is possible to overtake, if you are overtaking on a dual carriageway only pop your full beam on when you are alongside the car you are overtaking. Don’t use full beam in the face of oncoming drivers, this will cause dazzle. If you’re being overtaken, dip your lights as soon as the vehicle has passed you.

If you are dazzled by another vehicles lights, slow down and if necessary stop. Don’t look directly at oncoming lights and don’t retaliate by leaving your lights on full beam to dazzle them back! On a left hand bend you should dip earlier as your headlights will cut straight across the eyes of anyone coming toward you temporarily blinding them.

When parking at night the same rules apply, you must not park within 10 metres of a junction, on a blind bend, and you should park facing the direction of traffic.

If you have to park on any other type of road, you should never leave your vehicle without side or parking lights unless signs indicate otherwise. You must not park on the right hand side of the road unless it is a one way street.

If you are going to stop at the side of the road for a short time always switch your headlights off even if your engine is still running, you can always leave sidelights on. If you leave your headlights drivers coming towards you will not be able to see to the side of your car properly.

Choosing the Right Car Insurance

car in deep waterWhen you drive a car, it is a legal requirement to get insurance so that, if you get into an accident, you are covered. But it’s not enough for just the car to be insured: you yourself need to be insured to drive the car, too.

This insurance also protects anyone else you get into an accident with. However, knowing exactly what sort of insurance out there is important, since there are many different types and you need to know what sort is best for you.

If you do not have insurance, you will get a minimum of 6 points on your licence which, if you are under the New Driver’s Act, will cause you to have your licence taken away. This means it is absolutely essential to get insurance and always be insured when you are driving, even for the shortest journeys. And even to park on a public road the vehicle must be insured.

You need to shop around and check what you are getting for your money. A lot of insurance can be very pricey, especially for bigger cars, and you need to make sure that you are getting the right sort of coverage when you pay for your insurance. Remember that there are types of insurance that include 3rd Party, Fire and Theft, Fully Comprehensive insurance. Think about how you use your car and what you use it for before deciding exactly what insurance you want.

Perhaps a telematics based or “Black Box” insurance would better suit your needs. With this type of motor insurance policy you will have a telematics box fitted to your car with the telematics box showing you and your insurer your driving behaviours. This can vary depending on the insurer and may generate feedback with the aim to promote safer driving. You can usually view your driving behaviour feedback at any time within an online account or via an app on your mobile phone.

Each insurer is different, some measure your driving which may result in rewards or penalties throughout the term of your policy. This could mean you may be rewarded with extra miles for demonstrating good driving behaviours or have to pay an additional premium if you have demonstrated poor driving.

Whereas some insurers don’t penalise or reward you during the term of your policy, instead they consider your driving over the year and produce a renewal based on how you have driven. If you have driven well this may reduce the cost of your insurance at renewal. It’s worth checking the terms and conditions of each insurer before deciding as they can vary, for example some insurers can have curfews on when you can’t drive and restrictions on the number of miles you can drive in a month.

If your car is stolen your box could enable your insurer to track its location and if you are involved in an accident some insurers try and contact you to see if you need assistance.

Collingwood Young Drivers provides telematics box insurance for young drivers, which has no curfews and no monthly restrictions on miles. For more information you can visit


Bad driving habits, why do they happen?

steeringWe all had to reach a certain standard of driving in order to pass our driving tests all those years ago, but since then some of us have developed bad habits when we get behind the wheel. It’s an unfortunate side effect of gaining experience, and it is definitely one that we need to try to discourage.

First of all, you need to assess whether your habits are bad, or whether they are just plain lazy. Keeping one hand resting on the handbrake or the gear stick and not replacing it on the steering wheel every time you change gear is lazy and easily fixed. Just remember it is best practice to keep your hands on the steering wheel! But other types of bad habits may not be a result of laziness.

There are many different types of bad habits. They include things like speeding, not checking all your mirrors – which includes your door mirrors and your rear view mirror, driving too close to other cars and not signalling or simply signalling too late, are also far too common. Another bad habit that many people have is putting the car into neutral before stopping.

So where do these bad habits come from? Mostly, they are caused by our bias; the “what’s worked” bias is created and fed by our superiority bias and our optimistic bias.

Our superiority bias tells us that we are better than other people; we ignore the things that show us in a negative light and concentrate only on the things that show us more positively our selective memory means that we forgive and forget the things we did badly and remember the things we have done well. At the same time we notice other people’s mistakes and failing, which means we conclude that we are much better drivers than other people.

Fuelling this is our optimistic bias; this tells us that we are much less likely to experience unpleasant events than other people. Things like health issues, crashing or being stopped by the police, so we really believe it is not going to happen to us. We are not going to lose control and have to take evasive action, so having one hand on the wheel is perfectly okay. I think you get the picture.

This brings us to the ‘what’s worked’ bias. We will simply keep doing what we have always done because it is working for us. For example if we drive above the speed limit and get to work on time and we don’t get caught, we subconsciously think “well that worked” so it goes on and on. We also learn our bad driving from other drivers. Our friends and relatives, for example we see them doing the lazy stuff and see they are getting away with it to, so it must be okay.

Once we no longer have our driving instructor in the car with us, there’s no one to correct these poor habits. There are a lot of good reasons to get rid of these bad habits, of course. Driving more skilfully can mean there are fewer collisions on the roads and can make you feel safer and more secure when you drive. It can also mean that, if you are involved in an accident, it is less likely to be your fault and you will be more likely to take the correct evasive action if you ever need to.

Keeping the good habits and skills you used to pass your driving test, will pay dividends in the long run, not only on fuel saving and less wear and tear on the car, it may also save your life. We all know how annoying a fire drill is in work or collage, but if there is ever a real fire and everyone gets out, then all the practice runs have suddenly been worth it. It is the same for driving. For example, checking the blind spot 1000’s of times without anything being there is just 1000’s practice drills for the time someone will be there and you have avoided a collision just by looking, so you will be glad you practiced!

Mobile Phones while driving, is this a modern epidemic?

Driving OffencesAs you know it is against the law to use your mobile phone for any purpose when driving unless of course you have a genuine emergency and can prove this, being late for work does not count as an emergency.

If you do need to make a 999 call and it is unsafe to stop i.e. if you are being followed, you may use your phone whilst driving but you will have to prove you where being followed, better still it would be better to keep driving until you find a populated place like a supermarket car park to stop in.

The same applies if you are supervising a leaner driver, you are legally in charge of the vehicle as the full licence holder, this includes professional driving instructors, it is illegal for them too.  I would also go as far as to say talking on hands free is not good business practice for professional instructors.

If you need to use your phone then pull over where it is safe and legal to park, turn off your engine and have your parking break applied.  I stress ‘parked up in a safe place’.  Stopping at traffic lights does not constitute parked up, it is illegal to use your phone there too. 

So why do so many people talk on the phone when getting a hands free kit is so easy, also a lot of new cars have blue tooth enabled.  But having a conversation on hands free is proving to be no safer. 

Talking on the phone is not like having a conversation with someone in the car with you. Whether we like it or not our passengers help us with the driving task. How many times have you, as a passenger, shouted “watch this pedestrian”, cyclist etc. or even gone for the imaginary brake?

Your passengers are sharing the same constantly changing, dynamic environment with you, so will always help or shut up when they feel the driving task is becoming demanding, a person on the end of the phone will not know what is happening outside the car. 

Also having a remote conversation takes a lot more cognitive ability that speaking to someone in your presence, we start to picture the things we are talking about.

Studies have shown that we simply cannot do two ‘thinking’ tasks at the same time effectively. We will ‘toggle’ task, our concentration will move from one task to another, and if your concentration is on the phone call when something capital happens the delay in your action can have fatal consequences.

Lets face it how many of us turn the radio or music off when lost or parking up?

So if we feel compelled to shut down a bit of background noise so that we can concentrate more, then how distracting can a two way conversation actually be?

Nobody has ever been killed or injured missing a phone call.

Road Deaths and Teenage Girls: Who Cares? Guest blog by Professor Peter Russell

7K0A0783Road Deaths and Teenage Girls: Who Cares?

I want you all to look at a more obscure, but incredibly important, aspect of Road Safety that has more to do with passengers than drivers. Initially it appears to be a surprising and awful statistic that young girls between the ages of twelve and sixteen are proportionately more involved in road crashes and road deaths than boys of the same age.

However, even the most cursory research will give clues to the reasons why this happens. Girls of this age group naturally go through a whole range of emotional and physical changes. They progress through the challenges of puberty and menarche; and, with the freedom that secondary education brings, find themselves overwhelmed with options to break free from parental control. The temptations on offer include smoking, shoplifting, alco-pops, soft and hard drugs, legal-highs, under-age sex, texting, sexting and riding in fast cars.

The only links are risk and the chance to cock a snook at society in general, and their parents in particular! When you ask teenage girls about ‘Personal RISK’ you will find many answers. They may not recognise the proportions of the risk, but when presented with a statement that says ‘smoking gives you cancer’. They often reply that just one cigarette cannot possibly kill you immediately and they don’t really care if they die of cancer when they get old. The unusual concept here though is that ‘old’ for a fourteen year-old is perhaps twenty-one; and certainly no more than twenty-five.

The term ‘teenage girls’ can almost be divided into two disparate extremes: those who are still comfortably under the control of their parents or guardians; and those who desperately crave the ability to shock. Regrettably, teaching them about risk, even the risk of death or serious injury, has little effect. They buy cigarette packets which are emboldened with the words ‘smoking kills’. They go shoplifting en-masse; quite often as a means of passing a peer group test. They all know other girls who have tried under-age sex and not all of them have become pregnant; and, of course, most kind of illegal drugs are readily available in almost every school playground.

So it is with riding in stolen cars or with unsafe drivers. Unlicensed drivers who steal cars know they can get away with it, without being caught, most of the time, and they know too that if (or even when) they are caught the punishment is laughable. At least it seems laughable to their friends. Even the thought of attending a court carries no great stigma. And there is nothing quite like the ‘buzz’ of driving, or being a passenger in, a car at high-speed deliberately putting their lives at risk. For impressionable young girls, sitting with an older boyfriend behind the wheel it is so easy forget or ignore a lifetime’s warnings from mums and dads. Life is fun! Isn’t it? Is there anything that parents and teachers can do?

Many Graduate Driving Instructors, who form the highest proportion of Members of I.D.E.R., have studied the problems associated with teenage girls being proportionately more involved in car crash injuries and deaths than boys of the same age. We looked at the reasons and it seems that a normal ‘educational’ approach about the risk has little or no effect. “Coming for a ride? ” holds no more fear for many teenagers than popping a pill, or getting drunk and being incapable. After all what is incapable? It is only another sensation. And you need as many sensations as you can before you get old, or even reach twenty- one. So if young girls discuss and then discard the risk as not worth worrying about, what Educational roles remain?

Shock videos in road safety television adverts, detailing the gruesome injuries and the risk of death obviously don’t work. It is easy to dis-associate yourself from unwelcome adverts. If this were not true cigarette sales amongst the young would be nil. And so would the deaths of passengers in stolen cars or those badly driven by inexperienced drivers. It is apparent that peer group pressure is one of the strongest factors that govern the lives of teenage girls. So much of everything they do and wear is the subject of what effect this will have on ‘authority’. And this is where traditional Educational approaches to changing teenagers’ behaviour fail.

Traditionally young girls prefer to seek boy friends from an age group about three to five years older than themselves. There are a number of reasons for this. Fourteen year old boys are not usually emotionally ready for relationships with girls. And when they discover this interest they find that the girls of their own age are already interested in boys who are older. Therefore they have more success with younger girls. So we have a self-perpetuating system.

There is a strong school of thought that argues that when relationships are based on couples of similar age, the female is more dominant and the male less likely to take risks. But where the boy is older the girl is happy to go along for the ride – as it were. And this is how they live – and die. Traditional lectures, mentoring and discussions on road safety, risk and changing driver behaviour do not succeed; but there may be an alternative ‘educational’ method that may work. Throughout this summer I have been involved in an International ‘Expert Think- Tank’ discussing how these unnecessary deaths and injuries can be reduced. My own view is that learning – change of behaviour – has more chance of success when personal involvement is required.. I wonder whether it would be possible to create a survey which invites girls to put their own personal ‘wish- list’ of risks into proportion. This may be too drastic for some teachers and road safety specialists who just say ‘avoid all risk’ and leave it at that. I feel that if risks could be put into context, the more responsible youngsters might decide to miss out the risks that have more immediate chances of happening. What do you think?

What can you, as Graduate Driving Instructors, do to reduce the absurd road safety statistic that means more girls in the 12-16 year-old group will be killed or seriously injured than boys of the same age. One obvious reason is that when youngsters steal cars for what they call ‘joy-riding’ and what others call car theft, the boys tend to do the driving and are marginally safer behind a steering wheel airbag than their unbelted passengers, especially those in the rear seats.

Most often the passengers tend to be girls. When crashes inevitably occur the passengers are more likely to be killed by being thrown out of bursting doors or through the windscreens than the drivers. That is the challenge; the problem is how to educate, inform, train, or bring home, the risk factors to those involved. Those who want to put the task onto teachers are dodging the real issue. The girls who are usually involved are not those who respond well in schools.

Road Safety officers would probably never touch first base with them either. However this does not mean that efforts must rest solely on the parents, although these are the ones with the greatest interest in cutting down deaths. One suggestion which I favour is to invite youngsters to discover their own views on their own personal risk, perhaps by making comparisons of various risk factors. They could be invited to compare the likelihood of dying or serious injury as a result of smoking, of taking drugs or of driving in un-safe or dangerous situations. If this is a viable method then perhaps the best way to get the message through is by using the pages of girls’ magazines, or feeding life-like story lines into some of today’s favourite television soaps.

Once upon a time most books and television stories aimed at impressionable audiences always emphasised that bad actions eventually resulted in bad reactions. If people stole cars they crashed them and died. Neither ‘Noddy’ nor ‘Mr Toad’ was ever allowed to benefit from dangerous driving. These days when youngsters steal cars in soap stories; car thieves escape punishment, either judicial or moral; and carry on as before. Even in radio programmes such as the Archers they still allow their young roughnecks to be glorified.

Their victims forgive them, in spite of fears of living with the consequences after leg amputation, etc; the culprits never change their attitudes and later on they buy cars without any worries about the problems that real people have getting satisfactory and affordable insurance cover. The reasons we have spent twelve whole months looking at this problem, before returning to our traditional themes of helping those who wish to become better Professional Driver Trainers is that we are all personally involved in finding solutions. Solutions have been offered that have baffled road safety experts and will still continue to do so – perhaps forever.

We have promoted this challenge today, in the hope that some of our readers will recognise the opportunities of reducing teenage road deaths, both boys and girls, within their own family circles and they can find solutions at their own level of this national problem.
I.D.E. R. – The INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE for DRIVER EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH – represents those Government Approved Driving Instructors who have gained University recognition as GRADUATE DRIVER TRAINERS: and was formed in 2011 to encourage a greater Educational Psychological involvement in practical Driver Training and Testing. IDER’s PreI.D.E.R. President, Professor Peter RUSSELL, a qualified and experienced Educational Psychologist; operated his own Driving School in Southampton from 1957 until 1980, when he took a Master’s degree, followed by his Doctorate; both in Advanced Driver Education. He then took on various Global Road Safety roles: initially with the International Association for Driver Education (I.V.V.); the European Union & Commission (Road Safety Advisory Committee; the UK Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, (PACTS); as Training Director of BSM; and General Secretary of the ADI – National Joint Council (ADI-NJC); the Driving Instructors Association (DIA Int).; and the Motor Schools Association of GB (MSA). Still not retired, Professor RUSSELL, lives at 32B Thorold Road, Bitterne Park, SOUTHAMPTON SO18 1JB; Tel 02380 582480; and 07725 842348; he works regularly for the NHS and DIABETES UK on Research and Complaints projects. He is a regular broadcaster, speaker and writer on Health & Road Safety challenges. Date of Publication 1st June 2016
The ANNUAL PRESIDENTIAL LECTURE GIVEN TO Members of the International Institute of DRIVER EDUCATION RESEARCH: Summer Semester 2016; by President Professor Peter RUSSELL of Bitterne Park, SOUTHAMPTON SO18 1JB (Tel 02380 582480) Dated: 1st : June 2016

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