The Seasonal Getaway

In interview for the BBC Radio 4 programme Today in 2009 Chris Rea said he wrote “Driving Home for Christmas” many years before its first recording; this was in 1978, and Rea needed to get home to Middlesbrough from Abbey Road Studios in London. His wife had come down to drive him home in her Austin Mini to save money because it was cheaper to drive than travel by train. The inspiration for the song came as they were getting stuck in heavy traffic, while the snow was falling. He started looking at the other drivers, who “all looked so miserable. Jokingly, I started singing: “We’re driving home for Christmas …”

(From Wikipedia)

Most of us travel at some stage over the festive period, and sharing the road with what can feel like the entire population can be stressful, as Chris Rea discovered.

So, here are some tips to help make your journey less stressful.

Plan your journey before you set off. Having a full understanding of your route allows the drive to be smoother and also lets you know where you can take breaks. If you’re too tired to drive then delay your journey. And if you begin to feel tired on the way, then take a rest break. A coffee and a 20-minute stop are the bare minimum to help you stay alert. In any case, your journey should be planned with breaks every 2 hours. It’s not a good idea to rely on caffeine or energy drinks alone. Caffeine based products are a temporary fix that will only allow you to stay awake for a short period of time.

Check the weather forecast. The weather, especially British weather, can be unpredictable in winter. Relying on the roads being gritted can sometimes prove to be a disappointment but main routes do tend to be treated first, so stick to them. Don’t forget to check for weather or traffic-related updates so you can allow more time to travel.

Packing the car can leave you fraught. Make a check list of everything you need and try to ensure there are no loose parcels that could turn into missiles in the event of having to brake in an emergency. Leave all your presents and electrical items out of sight. Don’t give the thieves something to be happy about this season! Carry an emergency pack with some food and drink, a fully charged mobile and basic tools such as an ice scraper, shovel and a high-visibility jacket.

Try and avoid setting off at peak times which includes early afternoon on Christmas Eve as this is when many motorists will start their journey. With Christmas Eve falling on a Monday this year, you might be able to travel on a different day. But remember, there’s a chance some filling stations will be closed over the Christmas period. Make sure you have all the fuel you need for a long journey plus a bit more in case you get held up. Top up all key fluids and check tyres, wipers and lights well before you set off.

One final thought:

If the festive party went on into the early hours of the day of travel, then make sure you are not over the limit ‘the morning after’. Don’t risk it! As a rough guide it takes the body one hour to rid itself of one unit of alcohol (a strong pint of lager or 250ml glass of wine may contain 3 units each). And the clock starts from when you finish drinking, not when you start!

If you can remember what you had, you can always get a rough calculation by CLICKING HERE but it should only be used as a guide.

It’s better to ask someone else to drive or take public transport as opposed to putting yours and other lives at risk by being on the road.

 

Virus-free. www.avg.com

 

The Advanced Driving Test

Want to know what the test is all about. Read the following handout. The test is well within the reach of most drivers. It takes concentration, knowledge, skill and practice. You need to demonstrate that you are observing everything that could affect your progress, you are aware of what could happen, you can anticipate the actions of other road users and you can plan your progress. You must drive legally (speed limits!) and you must not drive in a way that relies on, or causes, another road user to take avoiding action. You should make adequate progress for the circumstances and drive smoothly with appropriate use of the throttle and brake. If the examiner enjoys the drive, you will more than likely pass!

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Winter Car Washing

Image result for car wash dirtThe season of mists and sprinkling saltiness is now upon us. This time of year, mud, drizzle and the start of the road-salting season all prove a challenge to keeping the paintwork of our vehicles shiny. There are good practical reasons to keep your car looking like your pride and joy.

That layer of grime, salt, tree sap and road grease will dull the paintwork if left undisturbed.  The caked-on chemicals gradually eat into the ultra-smooth top layer, making it rougher at a microscopic level, which stops that glossy showroom sheen.  The move to eco-friendly paints used by the car manufacturers these days are low odour and the ingredients much less harmful.  However, they are also softer than their toxic predecessors and very prone to being permanently marked by bird droppings that are left on for any more than a couple of days and the build-up of dried on road spray.

A thorough wash will stop that action and even if the car gets covered in road dirt the following day, the dulling process will take time to re-start.  If you polish it as well, the new look will last even longer as the polish acts as a barrier between the paint and the dirt.  Regular washing will keep the car looking new underneath the dirt for much longer! Perhaps your car has had a ceramic-coat paint protection professionally applied to your vehicle when first registered. (A ceramic-coat paint sealant leaves an extremely durable and high-gloss finish which prevents pollutants from impacting the car’s paintwork and does make cleaning much easier.)

Image result for car washSo, you face two choices. If you really can’t stand the thought of getting a bucket and sponge out, a hand car wash near you is one of the best value things a fiver will buy these days; maybe a couple of quid more if you have an SUV. They often do an excellent and thorough job – wheels, door shuts, tyre shine and all. And, of course, there is always the local automated car wash technology which has improved in leaps and bounds in recent years.

Alternatively, the bucket-and-sponge option can be satisfying and it is very healthy exercise!  Various estimates fly around the internet, but burning about 300 calories by washing a car and anything up to 1,000 if you polish it as well, seems a common view. (Isn’t it amazing the information that is available on the internet!)   

Use a proper car shampoo, NOT washing up liquid.  Fill a bucket with hot water (and wear rubber gloves to protect your hands from the cold.) and don’t overdo the shampoo – too much and you’ll have lots of streaks. Wet the car body all over first, to soften the dirt, then plunge in with the sponge.  Start with the roof and end with the wheels, then rinse off, stand back and admire your work.  Use a leather or microfibre cloth to dry it – or just go for a drive for a couple of miles. Finally, get a cloth, open the doors, wipe the sills and door shut areas and enjoy the smug feeling as you look at your gleaming pride next to all the mud spattered, salt encrusted neighbours . . . until the next day, of course, when your car will be indistinguishable from the rest.  But you had some healthy exercise, the dirt isn’t eating away at the shine and anyway, you know it’s gleaming underneath the dirt.


Driving in Low Sun

While any amount of sunshine is welcomed at this time of year, the glaring low winter sun is taking no prisoners. Often the low level of the sun is much worse during the morning and evening commute and, if the traffic is moving slowly, several miles of facing into the bright sunlight, as invariably the sun is below the level of the sun visor, can put quite a strain on a driver’s eyes.

So, what can a motorist do to cope in these conditions?

Dirty windscreens make it even more difficult for drivers to see in the low sun. The heater is often on the de-mist setting, blowing traffic fumes, suspended oil and smoke onto the inside of the screen which quickly builds up a film of grime which is a major cause of glare. Clean the screen inside and out with glass cleaner at least once a week.

Image result for sun visorUse the sun visor or wear a baseball cap or wide brimmed hat. Just ensure you can still see the road ahead!

Always keep a good pair of sunglasses in the car – they really will make a big difference. Remember to remove them once the sun has set.

If you can’t see because of the sun, do the obvious thing and slow down, keeping an eye on the vehicle behind in case the following traffic can’t see you against the sun. Also, leave extra space between you and the driver ahead if you are dazzled. This will give you more time to regain full control and assess the situation.

Image result for sun behind carIf the sun is behind you, it’s in the eyes of drivers coming towards you – be aware that they might not see you or the road markings between you and them. Switching on the car’s dipped headlights will help oncoming drivers see your vehicle and judge speed and distance.

Low sun behind can dazzle you via your mirrors, so be ready to dip the mirror and remember to check over your shoulder for vehicles in your blind spot.

Low sun highlights windscreen scratches and grime which can hinder your view, so keep the washer bottle topped up with a good quality screen wash and change the wipers at the first signs of wear.

Image result for cataract vision dark examplesThere are eye conditions, such as early cataract growth, where looking towards the sunlight gives much worse vision than when looking away from it. These drivers may well be able to drive quite legally, once advised by an optometrist, but should be aware of their condition and drive with extra care or even postpone a journey until light conditions are more favourable. Perhaps that advice would help us all.

RoadSmart Videos

An introduction to the stages of IPSGA
Check out our new IPSGA video which is aimed at non-advanced drivers and riders and can be used as a promotional tool. Have you taken a look at our YouTube page recently? We’re producing more video content with the newest videos being about IPSGA and our driving and motorcycle Skills Day. Take a look at our YouTube page by clicking here.
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Don’t be a Space Invader

Don’t be a Space Invader’ – stay safe, stay back says Highways England.

That is the message from Highways England as it reveals the extent – and impact – of tailgating on the country’s major roads and motorways.

New figures show that one in eight of all road casualties are caused by people who drive too close to the vehicle in front, with more than 100 people killed or seriously injured each year.

While a small minority of tailgating is deliberate, most is unintentional by drivers who are simply unaware they are dangerously invading someone else’s space.

So, a safety campaign, launched 17th September, uses the well-known Space Invader video game character to alert drivers to the anti-social nature and risks of tailgating.

Highways England says good drivers leave plenty of safe space for themselves and others.

Richard Leonard, Head of Road Safety at Highways England, says:

If you get too close to the car in front, you won’t be able to react and stop in time if they suddenly brake.

Tailgating makes the driver in front feel targeted and victimised, distracting their attention from the road ahead and making them more likely to make a mistake.

It is intimidating and frightening if you’re on the receiving end. If that leads to a collision, then people in both vehicles could end up seriously injured or killed. We want everyone to travel safely, so the advice is – stay safe, stay back.”

If you wonder whether you are ‘space invading’, then remember the Highway Code, which says that drivers should allow at least a two second gap, which should be doubled on wet roads. If you are tailgated, then avoid speeding up, slowing down or staring in the rear-view mirror. Reduce the risk to yourself by driving normally, signalling clearly and allowing people to overtake.

Highways England has a dedicated webpage where drivers can find more information about tailgating and what they can do to stay safe.