Driving Safely at Night

Driving at night is the most dangerous time to drive, no matter what weather condition is present. The most dangerous time to drive on any roadway is between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m., especially on the weekends.

A 2017 survey by RoSPA revealed that 40% of all collisions occur in the hours of darkness. And 20% of serious accidents on motorways and monotonous roads in the UK are caused by falling asleep behind the wheel. The main reasons behind this is because of reduced visibility and increased difficulty in judging speed and distance.

This isn’t helped by reduced street lighting. Research from Confused.com reveals that over a third of the UK’s street lights are dimmed and 12% are switched off completely, making driving at night even more difficult.

Familiar routes can pose totally different challenges in the dark so make sure you are wide awake and looking out for pedestrians and cyclists in the gloom.

Luckily, there are some things you can do to improve your safety when driving at night.

  • Know and understand how the lights in your vehicle work. Make sure you understand what Auto Lights and Mainbeam switches do. Note where the Main Beam indicator is on your instrument panel.

  • Read the highway code for the rules regarding use of lights on cars. Remember that some requirements are mandatory and could result is fines and penalties if not obeyed.

  • Ensure that all the lights on your car are functioning as they should.

  • Keep windows clean to avoid increased glare and condensation.

  • Read the road ahead for signs of oncoming drivers – glimmers of light at the top of hills and reflections at bends could be the headlights of other vehicles, giving you advanced warning.

  • Cars behind you with main beam on can be distracting. If you are following another car, no matter how far back, dip you headlights to reduce the risk of ‘mirror dazzle’.

  • On rural roads, drive on full beam whenever possible but dip your lights when faced with, or following, another road user to avoid dazzling them.

  • Help drivers see you in twilight by turning your headlights on before sunset and keeping them on for an hour after sunrise.

  • Reduce your speed, understand the limit of your vision and plan ahead. The limit of your vision at night is often limit of your headlight beam which is where you must be able to stop.

  • Allow more time for your own journey, so you’re not driving under pressure. It’s always advisable to take regular breaks when driving long distances, but this is even more vital when you’re driving overnight.

  • Have your eyes checked regularly for problems which can affect your night vision.

  • Be aware that other road users may behave erratically, so be prepared to give them more space.

  • Watch out for pedestrians, especially near pubs and clubs around closing time. Pedestrians and cyclists can be more difficult to spot, especially if they’re not wearing reflective clothing.

  • If you’re travelling through a rural area at night, it’s possible for a herd of deer to cross the road, so those signs warning you of wild animals you’ll have previously passed will suddenly make sense.

  • If you can, dim your dashboard lights and reduce reflections and avoid reducing your night vision.

  • Carry a basic emergency kit. Anything can happen at night and it is important to be prepared. Having a tool kit, torch, map and a first aid kit (if you don’t have one already) can make a real difference. A fully charged mobile with the details of your breakdown cover is another must.

Coping with headlight glare

If you’re dazzled by an oncoming car then avoid looking at the headlights. Look away from the lights! Keep your attention on the left-hand kerb and try to keep your speed steady. Staring at the headlights will impair your night vision, even after the vehicle has passed.

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Don’t get the wet weather blues

Don’t get the wet weather blues this summer

We’re having a typical English summer, sun for a couple of weeks and then downpours for days on end. IAM RoadSmart’s head of driving and riding standards Richard Gladman advises a few ways to keep safe in heavy rain and floods.

Heavy rain

  • Driving in heavy rain will affect your visibility, so take it slow. Rule 126 of the Highway Code states that the braking distance between yourself and another car on a dry road surface should be at least two seconds, and at least four seconds when driving in the rain
  • Ensure your windscreen wipers are working correctly, and that the windscreen is clean – using your wipers when you have a dirty windscreen will just smear and make your visibility even worse
  • Turn your headlights on. Many of us now have automated headlights, but often they will not come on in adverse weather conditions; ensure they are on so you’re visible to other road users. A good rule of thumb is that if you need your wipers on, then you need your headlights on too

Aquaplaning

Is your car aquaplaning? Here are some signs that you could be:

  • Your engine may become louder if the driving wheels have lost grip
  • It will feel as though you’ve dropped down in the gears causing revs to increase
  • The steering may become lighter and unresponsive

If you experience any of this, try not to panic. Follow these tips:

  • Ease off the accelerator or cancel the cruise control
  • Hold the steering wheel straight and firm
  • Do not hit your brakes hard

When your car gains traction you can slowly begin to use the brake and slow down.

How to avoid aquaplaning

If it’s been raining and you’re about to drive, there are things that you can do to help prevent your car from aquaplaning. Standing water as shallow as 2.5mm can cause an aquaplaning effect at speed so be sure to follow the steps below:

  • Check your tyres – they can have a massive impact on how your car will handle in the wet. Watch this video by TyreSafe for more info: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxuYOI_uruU
  • Reduce your speed; problems occur when the tyres can no longer clear the standing water as they rotate. Going slower will allow time for the tread to do its job
  • Be alert for flood warnings on the road and if you can see any water in the distance, be sure to slow down and prepare to go around it
  • Avoid using cruise control in extreme conditions

Floods

  • If there are floods you need to consider other routes to keep you safe. If the water is standing more than six inches deep, avoid driving through it. You can judge the depth in relation to the kerb
  • If there are similar vehicles driving safely through, then you can make a judgement call on whether it’s safe to do so yourself.
  • If the water is fast flowing, do not attempt to drive through it. There is a real danger of your car being swept away

If you have decided to drive through a flood take the following precautions:

  • Go slowly and take it easy
  • Press lightly on the clutch and add gentle pressure to the accelerator to increase engine revs but do so without speed. Do this in a similar way to how you do hill starts, this will prevent water from entering your exhaust. If you’re in an automatic, accelerate lightly but control the speed with your brakes
  • If you have any doubt, turn back. Often modern saloon cars have an air intake in the wheel arch and could be below water level if going through a flood. If your engine takes in any water, it will immediately hydro lock and the engine will stop
  • Remember to stay alert and avoid splashing pedestrians. If this is done accidentally you can still receive a fixed penalty and three points on your license for driving without due care and attention. If done deliberately it could be a public order offence, a court appearance, or a fine

Richard says “With the British weather the way it is, we should all be well practised at driving in the rain. Keeping your car maintained and the rubber (wipers and tyres) in good condition will help you stay safe. In the recent extreme weather, we have seen that standing water and floods are becoming more commonplace, so take extra care and if possible, avoid driving through standing water. If you’re in any doubt about the depth or surface underneath a flood, then it’s best not to take any chances.”

Courtesy IAM Inform Weekly News

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Barefoot in my car?

During this hot weather is it legal for me to drive barefoot in my car?

Please allow Derby Advanced Motorists to start this answer with a definition.

Toe: A part of the foot used to find furniture in the dark.

The unbooted foot is also an excellent tool for finding abandoned Lego bricks on the floor. Apparently, the bottom of a human foot can have over 200,000 sensory receptors and, because the Lego brick doesn’t give way when stepped on, it forces the pressure of one’s weight back up into the foot, causing the sensation of pain and an immediate retraction of said foot and probably a lot of bad language.

The seaside hobble is another fine example of the human nervous system at work. Have you ever been for a paddle in the sea, and had to cross an area of pebbles before reaching the surf? Going slowly and carefully only prolonged the agony!

So, is it illegal to drive barefoot in the UK?

Rule 97 in the Highway Code is not really all that helpful.

Rule 97 Before setting off. You should ensure that: clothing and footwear do not prevent you using the controls in the correct manner

You can, in other words drive a vehicle, barefoot, provided you are able to operate the controls safely. Although, please note: Rule 97 does state “…and footwear”. If you do drive with wet feet, for example, you might be putting yourself, your passengers and other road users at risk by not being able to drive the car safely. This is illegal. According to the Driving Standards Agency – the body that regulates the UK driving test – “suitable shoes are particularly important behind the wheel. We would not recommend driving barefoot because you don’t have the same braking force with bare feet as you do with shoes on.”

The R.A.C. gives this advice on its website. “Driving in less than practical shoes – or no shoes at all for that matter – is not illegal, but you have a responsibility as a driver to uphold standards on the road.

If your selection of footwear hampers that, you’re putting yourself at risk.

There are some basic guidelines you should follow when selecting footwear to drive in. Your shoe should:

  • Have a sole no thicker than 10mm…

  • but the sole should not be too thin or soft.

  • Provide enough grip to stop your foot slipping off the pedals.

  • Not be too heavy.

  • Not limit ankle movement.

  • Be narrow enough to avoid accidentally depressing two pedals at once.


These bear feet would not be suitable!

This does technically categorise some types of footwear – such as high-heels and flip-flops – unsuitable for piloting a car. While light, flimsy and impractical footwear can be dangerous, so can sturdy, robust shoes, such as walking boots, snow boots and wellingtons”

Try emergency braking with a small piece of stone stuck on the ball of the right foot!

So, in summary, although legal it is not advisable. IAM RoadSmart expect drivers to choose sensible footwear!

 

 

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Minimum tread depth for the trailer tyres?

I am going camping this summer and towing my gear in a trailer. What is the minimum tread depth for the trailer tyres?

Tyres

The Law says:

Cars, light vans and light trailers MUST have a tread depth of at least 1.6 mm across the central three-quarters of the breadth of the tread and around the entire circumference.

Tyres MUST be correctly inflated to the vehicle manufacturer’s specification for the load being carried. Always refer to the vehicle’s handbook or data. Tyres should also be free from certain cuts and other defects.

Law: Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 regulation 27

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The word MUST indicates a legal requirement. Failure to comply could result in a penalty which is usually in the form of points on the drivers license and a fine.

If a tyre bursts while you are driving, try to keep control of your vehicle. Grip the steering wheel firmly and allow the vehicle to roll to a stop at the side of the road.

If you have a flat tyre, stop as soon as it is safe to do so. Only change the tyre if you can do so without putting yourself or others at risk – otherwise call a breakdown service.

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Can I tint my car’s front and rear windows?

Can I tint my car’s front and rear windows?

Window Tints.

There are different rules for the front and rear car window tints and it also depends on when a vehicle first came into use.

The Law says:

You MUST NOT use a vehicle with excessively dark tinting applied to the windscreen, or to the glass in any front window to either side of the driver. Window tinting applied during manufacture complies with the Visual Light Transmittance (VLT) standards. There are no VLT limits for rear windscreens or rear passenger windows.

Laws:

Road Traffic Act 1988 Section 42

Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 regulation 32

If your windscreen or front side windows are tinted too much you could get:

  • a ‘prohibition notice’ stopping you using your vehicle on the road until you have the extra tint removed

  • a penalty notice or court summons

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Rainy Day Driving

Rainy Day Driving

The wettest parts of the UK are concentrated in mountainous regions with observation sites in Snowdonia, the Lake District and the Scottish Highlands all receiving more than 4 metres of rainfall in a year.

Other rainy parts of the UK include:

  • North west England – especially the Lake District in Cumbria and western facing slopes of the Pennines.

  • Western and central Wales – particularly the mountainous Snowdonia region in the north.

  • South west England – mainly the higher elevation areas of Dartmoor, Exmoor and Bodmin Moor.

  • Parts of Northern Ireland.

For us in the Watnall weather station region, we are likely to get 20 to 25 days rain annually that is greater than 10mm, according to the weather records. There might be 130 to 140 days rain that is greater than 1mm. https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/public/weather/climate/gcrje93b8

So, in this country, it is going to be difficult to avoid those rainy days when driving.

Driving in heavy rain and flooding can be hazardous. Here are some useful hints and tips to help you prepare for a wet weather drive.

It is always advisable to consider before you set off whether your journey is essential. Of course, one has to get to work or drive the children to school and cannot really delay the time of travel.

First and foremost: Using the car lights correctly when the roads are wet will ensure you can see and be seen. When the rain does start to fall, you should turn the headlights on. Don’t just assume they already are – many cars’ instruments light up even when the headlights are turned off these days, which can be misleading. If your car has daytime running lights you still should switch the dipped headlights on, so vehicles behind you can see the red tail lights. Don’t use rear fog lights unless visibility is less than 100 yards and you cannot see any vehicles behind. Fog lights can mask the brake lights and dazzle drivers behind you

If your car has automatic headlamps, make sure these have activated – or override them manually by turning the headlamp switch to the dipped beam setting.

Slow down! It takes longer to stop or adjust in wet weather and it’s more difficult to see the road ahead/behind. The gap between vehicles should be at least doubled on wet roads, according to the Highway Code – Rule 126 – Stopping Distances. This is because tyres have less grip on the road. In wet weather the rain and spray from vehicles may make it difficult to see and be seen so the driver should keep well back from the vehicle in front. This will increase the ability to see and plan ahead.

Be aware of the dangers of spilt fuel that will make the surface very slippery. You should also try and avoid sudden moves that might unbalance the car, such as sharp steering or braking. Doing so increases the likelihood of your car skidding.

Driving too fast through standing water could lead to tyres losing contact with the road.  If your steering suddenly feels light you could be aquaplaning. To regain grip, ease off the accelerator, do not brake and allow your speed to reduce until you gain full control of the steering again, while keeping the steering pointing in the direction of travel. (The surface water builds up under the tyre, lifting it away from the road surface. Once it loses contact with the Tarmac, you’re effectively ‘surfing’ along on top of the water, with little or no grip.)

Driving through surface water and floods

Puddles may be a couple of centimetres deep, but some can develop into deep potholes of water. There is no way of knowing until it may be too late, so avoid them if possible. Driving through these potholes could cause serious damage to your car not to mention cost an extortionate amount to repair.

Should you come across a flooded road, first think about taking another route. If not, then you need to identify how deep the flood is. If the standing water is more than six inches deep, avoid driving through it. The water is often deeper than it looks and may be moving quite fast.  Your vehicle may be swept away or become stranded. Two feet of water will float your car. If you are familiar with the road, you may be able to judge the flood in relation to the kerb. Are there other vehicles similar to yours that are safely driving through? From this, make a judgement call as to whether it is safe to travel through or not.

If you are in the slightest doubt, then turn around and don’t go through the flood. Often modern saloon cars have the air intake in the wheel arch, which may be below the water level. If your engine should take in water, it will immediately hydro lock and the engine will stop. 

If you have taken everything into consideration and decide to drive through the flood, be sure to do so slowly. The best approach is to press lightly on your clutch and add gentle pressure on your accelerator to increase your engine revs. Do so without increasing your speed, in a similar way to how you would undertake a hill start. This will prevent water from entering your exhaust. If you are in an automatic car, accelerate slightly but control the speed with your brakes. When you have passed the flood, test your brakes to make sure they are dry and working properly.

Avoid splashing pedestrians. If this is done accidentally, you could receive a fixed penalty and three points on your license for driving without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other road users. If deliberately done, it could be a public order offence, a court appearance and a fine.

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Coping with Fog

All Fogged Up

The Met. Office gives out warnings of dense fog when visibility is expected to fall below 200 metres. Severe disruption to transport occurs when the visibility falls below 50 metres. Every driver knows or has known that travelling in fog can be extremely dangerous. Every driver knows or has known that fog can drift rapidly and is often patchy. Once through the DVSA practical driving test this knowledge can drift away from some drivers’ memories like the fog itself.

Here is a reminder from the Highway Code for all of us:

The Highway Code

Rule 226

You MUST use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced, generally when you cannot see for more than 100 metres (328 feet). You may also use front or rear fog lights but you MUST switch them off when visibility improves.

Rule 234

Before entering fog check your mirrors then slow down. If the word ‘Fog’ is shown on a roadside signal but the road is clear, be prepared for a bank of fog or drifting patchy fog ahead. Even if it seems to be clearing, you can suddenly find yourself in thick fog.

Rule 235

When driving in fog you should

  • use your lights as required

  • keep a safe distance behind the vehicle in front. Rear lights can give a false sense of security

  • be able to pull up well within the distance you can see clearly. This is particularly important on motorways and dual carriageways, as vehicles are travelling faster

  • use your windscreen wipers and demisters

  • beware of other drivers not using headlights

  • not accelerate to get away from a vehicle which is too close behind you

  • check your mirrors before you slow down. Then use your brakes so that your brake lights warn drivers behind you that you are slowing down

  • stop in the correct position at a junction with limited visibility and listen for traffic. When you are sure it is safe to emerge, do so positively and do not hesitate in a position that puts you directly in the path of approaching vehicles.

Rule 236

You MUST NOT use front or rear fog lights unless visibility is seriously reduced as they dazzle other road users and can obscure your brake lights. You MUST switch them off when visibility improves.

Ah yes, we remember it well!

Some more advice from the Met. Office for road users when travelling in fog:

  • Avoid travel if possible

  • Drive carefully with dipped headlights, full-beam lights reflect off the fog causing a ‘white wall’ effect

  • Keep an eye on your speed, fog can give the illusion of moving in slow motion

  • Watch out for freezing fog which is made of water droplets that freeze on contact with objects such as the pavement, road, car, etc. It can quickly form a layer of ice.

How do the Met. Office forecast fog?

It can be very tricky to forecast fog. Fog forms when moisture in the air is cooled to its ‘dew point’. This is the temperature at which air will condense from water vapour into water droplets. This is the same effect you get when warm moist air comes into contact with a cold bathroom mirror. While vapour is relatively transparent, water droplets reflect light and therefore reduce visibility. When driving in fog one is actually driving in a cloud at ground level.

Fog usually occurs in the late autumn and winter months, when conditions tend to be colder, and nights are longer. This type of fog forms as a result of clear skies and light winds. The land cools overnight and this reduces the ability of the air to hold moisture, allowing condensation and fog to occur. The fog will often disperse after sunrise, but in some circumstances can last well into the afternoon, and even persist for days on end. This is most likely during January and February, and can cause severe disruption at airports, as well as on roads and for other types of transport.

Coastal fog is a regular occurrence along the eastern coast of the UK and is most common during Spring and Summer when warm air moves over the cool surface of the North Sea towards the coast. Many a day trip to Skegness has been ruined . . . “The weather was great when we set out from Derby this morning!”

 Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.

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Snowing me, snowing you

Snowing me, snowing you … there is something we CAN do!

IAM RoadSmart brings you expert advice on driving in snow from its Head of Driving and Riding Standards, Richard Gladman.

The best advice is to avoid travelling in extreme weather. If no one is moving, you just add to the problem – so listen to travel advice.

If you do have to travel in bad weather, plan your journey thoroughly. Think about where you are going and what it will be like all the way along the journey. If you can, avoid travelling on less-used roads or country lanes as these are less likely to be gritted.

Before setting off, clear all your windows and mirrors fully. Clear off snow piled on the roof of your car and the bonnet too, as it can fall and blow on to the windscreen. Don’t leave anything obscured.

Start your car gently from stationary and avoid high revs. If road conditions are extremely icy and you drive a manual car, you should move off in a higher gear rather than first gear. You should stay in a higher gear to avoid wheel spin.

It’s important you get your speed right when travelling in snow. Never drive too fast that you risk losing control, and don’t drive so slowly that you risk losing momentum for getting up a slope.

Increase your following distance from the vehicle in front of you. It may take up to 10 times as long to stop on snow or ice build this into your following distance – this will give you more time to slow down using engine braking which is less likely to induce a skid.

Make sure you slow down sufficiently before reaching a bend so you have enough time to react to any hazards that appear as you go around it – and so you do not skid as well. You should have finished slowing down before you start to turn the steering wheel.

If you break down or have to pull over on a motorway or dual carriageway, you should leave your vehicle and stand to the safe side of it – ideally well over the armco to the nearside of the road, but not in front of it, when waiting for help.

Richard said: “Many of the problems associated with travel during snow could be avoided if people planned in advance. People routinely travel with only the minimum of safety equipment, without realising their journey could be a lot longer than expected. At the very least you should have a shovel, torch, blanket, jump-leads and tow rope. You should ensure your mobile phone is fully charged, and the number of your recovery organisation is saved into it. A bottle of water and a snack may also prove useful and don’t set out without knowing the locations of petrol stations on your way. This all might sound obvious, but too many of us forget to do any of this. Don’t be one of the ill-prepared, and listen to the weather forecast for the whole length of a winter journey to help you prepare for it.”

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The Designated Driver – Super Star

We know that being the designated driver can feel like a sacrifice. And at this time of the year, when the drinks are flowing, sometimes from dawn ‘till midnight, staying sober isn’t always the most popular option. But getting your colleagues, friends and family home safely is one of the most important things you’ll do this festive season.

Derby Advanced Motorists can’t stress this enough, but please try to develop a ‘none for the road’ mentality. Bubbly will be flowing throughout this season and you may think that one couldn’t hurt, but you couldn’t be more wrong.

Very often people just want their transport arranged and don’t mind who drives as long as it’s not them! In which case it might be worth pre-arranging a cab or minibus – don’t leave it too late as these things are best booked and paid for in advance. Research shows that women are much better at this, so gentlemen take at leaf out of their book and plan ahead!

What about public transport? For many people taking a journey on public transport is the best option, especially if there are only one or two of you going in the same direction. But if you are in a larger group then a taxi might even work out cheaper per person.

Remember if you are the Designated Driver it’s best to have no alcohol at all, even one drink will affect the way you drive without you being aware of it. Your passengers should value you as their designated driver and not try to encourage you to have ‘just one to be sociable.’ You are the one who could be saving them from a driving ban. You are the one who will get them home safely.

Here are a couple of tips:

  1. Make sure your friends are not so tipsy that they are no longer controllable in your car. The last thing you need is a drunk friend giving you driving advice. Having someone behaving badly in a vehicle can be dangerous, and, if a passenger is proving too much of a distraction, you should pull over and stop as soon as it is safe to do so.

  2. Agree a leaving time with your friends and ask them to cover the parking charges (technically you may invalidate your insurance if you take any ‘petrol money’).

Being the Designated Driver can have its benefits, some places offer free soft drinks on a buy one get one free basis, so check out this website to see if any of your local haunts are included.

https://www.cocacola.co.uk/en/coca-cola/designateddriver/

There are more than 10 pubs in the Derby area offering free soft drinks to the Designated Driver.

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