Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Four year MOT exemption for new cars proposed

The amount of time that new cars are allowed on Britain's roads before requiring an MOT could rise from three to four years, under government proposals. The change could be in effect from 2018 after a public consultation.

Northern Ireland and many European nations already have such an exemption. The Department for Transport said safer technology and improved manufacturing means new vehicles stay roadworthy for longer.

It cites figures showing the annual number of three and four-year-old cars involved in accidents where a vehicle defect was said to be a contributory factor has fallen from 155 in 2006 to 57 in 2015.

MOTs were first introduced in 1960 for vehicles more than 10 years old, with the exemption period dropping just 7 years later to three years.

Vehicles must currently undergo the test on the third anniversary of their registration and every 12 months once more than three-years-old. This requirement excludes cars and motorcycles made before 1960, goods vehicles powered by electricity and tractors.

A number of parts are checked during the MOT test to ensure vehicles meet legal standards, including lights, seatbelts, tyres and brakes, and emission levels are also examined.

More than 2.2 million cars each year require a first test, at a maximum cost of £54.85, with motorists facing a fine of up to £1,000 for driving a vehicle without a valid MOT.

Transport Minister Andrew Jones said: "We have some of the safest roads in the world and MOT tests play an important role in ensuring the standard of vehicles on our roads.

"New vehicles are much safer than they were 50 years ago and so it is only right we bring the MOT test up to date to help save motorists money where we can."
In November, a poll for the AA of more than 19,000 drivers suggested 44% were in favour of MOTs after four years, while 26% were opposed, and a third did not have a view either way.

Commenting on the proposals, AA president Edmund King said: "The benefits are that there will be cost and time savings for drivers, whilst the downside is that we are likely to see some more cars with faulty tyres and lights slipping through the net."

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

If caught speeding you could be fined 150% of your weekly salary

For the most serious speeding cases in England and Wales fines will rise by up to 50% after a review of sentencing guidelines for magistrates' courts.

A driver caught doing 41mph in a 20mph zone, or 101mph on a motorway, could be fined 150% of their weekly income.

The Sentencing Council said it wanted to ensure a "clear increase in penalty" as the seriousness of offending increases.

It said the changes were not intended to result in significant differences to current sentencing practice, but to target specific offences.

The current limit for a speeding fine is 100% of the driver's weekly wage, up to £1,000 - or £2,500 if they are caught on a motorway.

When the new guidelines come into force on 24 April 2017, magistrates will be able to increase the fine to 150% - although the upper cash limit will stay the same.

The most serious speeding cases subject to the rise
  • 20mph speed limit; 41mph and above recorded speed of driver
  • 30mph; 51mph +
  • 40mph; 66mph +
  • 50mph; 76-85 +
  • 60mph; 91mph +
  • 70mph; 101mph +
Source: Sentencing Council

In 2015, 166,695 people in England and Wales were sentenced for speeding offences
  • 166,216 were fined.
  • The average fine was £188,
  • two people were sent to prison.

The Sentencing Council held a consultation with magistrates and criminal justice professionals in 2016. The feedback was that current guidelines "did not properly take into account the increase in potential harm that can result as speed above the speed limit increases". As a result, it has increased the penalty to send a clear message.

Do magistrates have to stick to the guidelines?
  • Sentencing guidelines must be followed, unless a judge or magistrate feels it is not in the interests of justice to do so
  • If a judge or magistrate believes that a guideline prevents the correct sentence from being given in an exceptional case, he or she can sentence outside of the guideline
  • Guidelines set sentencing ranges within the maximum for the offence as set out in current legislation
  • When legislation changes, guidelines are amended as appropriate
Source: Sentencing Council

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Child Car Seats - NEW Laws

So you have probably already heard very confusing whispers throughout last year about the possibility of a change to the child car seat laws. The main point to note is that Newly purchased booster seats will be banned for smaller children.

  • By law, all children must use a car seat until they are 12 years old or 135cm tall, whichever comes first.
  • From March, ‘backless’ booster seats will be banned for children shorter than 125cm and weighing less than 22kg

This change is in a bid to improve safety. Basically itjust means that most kids will have to spend longer using a high-backed child seat. HOWEVER The rules will only apply to new purchases, so drivers won’t be fined for using a booster seat bought before March. Meaning that there is no need to rush out and buy a new car seat for your child.... PHEW!

Monday, 5 December 2016

How would you treat a driverless car?

Scenario: Say you're driving down a two-way street and there's a vehicle parked in the opposite lane. The oncoming traffic therefore needs to pull out into your lane to overtake.

What do you do?
Many of us just drive on as we have right of way. But eventually one of us feels charitable and slows down to allow the oncoming car to overtake, giving permission with a quick flash of headlights or a beckoning wave.

Now consider if this oncoming car was a driverless or autonomous vehicle (AV)?
would it be able to understand what you mean when you flash your lights or frantically wave your hands?

Its sensors could decide that it's only safe to overtake when there's no oncoming traffic at all. which on a busy road this may be never, leading to increasingly exasperated passengers and increasingly angry drivers queuing behind.

These safety-first robot cars could become victims of their own politeness and end up being bullied and ignored by aggressive, impatient humans.

This, at any rate, is one of the conclusions to be drawn from research carried out by Dr Chris Tennant of the psychological and behavioural science department at the London School of Economics.

His Europe-wide survey, commissioned by tyre-maker Goodyear, finds that nearly two-thirds of drivers think machines won't have enough commonsense to interact with human drivers.

And more than two-fifths think a robot car would remain stuck behind our hypothetical parked lorry for a long time.

Robot v. human
Driving isn't just about technology and engineering, it's about human interactions and psychology.

"The road is a social space," as Carlos Cipolitti, general director of the Goodyear Innovation Centre in Luxembourg, puts it.

And it is this social aspect that makes many people sceptical about driverless cars.

"If you view the road as a social space, you will consciously negotiate your journey with other drivers. People who like that negotiation process appear to feel less comfortable engaging with AVs than with human drivers," says Mr Tennant in his report.

Of course, humans are always sceptical about new technologies of which they have little experience. That scepticism usually diminishes with usage, however.

And even many sceptics accept that emotionless AVs could cause fewer accidents than we humans, with our propensity to road rage, tiredness and lack of concentration.

A statistic often used out is that human error is responsible for more than 90% of accidents.

But 70% of the 12,000 people Mr Tennant and his team interviewed agreed that: "As a point of principle, humans should be in control of their vehicles."

An an even greater proportion - 80% - thought an autonomous vehicle should always have a steering wheel.

AV pioneer Google - which aims to develop cars without steering wheels - reckons it can meet most of these real-world challenges.

It has already filed patent requests for tech that it claims will be able to identify aggressive or reckless driving and respond to it; and recognise and react to the flashing lights of police cars and emergency services.

In time then, it may well be able to programme its cars to recognise the different meanings of headlight flashes, and interpret the intentions of human drivers by their behaviour.

In the latest Google self-driving car project monthly report, head honcho Dmitri Dolgov says: "Over the last year, we've learned that being a good driver is more than just knowing how to safely navigate around people, [it's also about] knowing how to interact with them."

These interactions are "a delicate social dance", he writes, claiming that Google cars can now "often mimic these social behaviours and communicate our intentions to other drivers, while reading many cues that tell us if we're able to pass, cut in or merge."

Google's test cars have now racked up more than two million fully-autonomous miles of driving on public roads in California, Arizona, Texas and Washington, reporting a handful of minor accidents to the Californian authorities.

Interestingly, quite a few of these accidents have involved human-driven vehicles going into the back of the Google cars, suggesting perhaps that the ultra-cautious robots, with safety as their first priority, are more timid in their approach than we're used to.

Mr Dolgov admits that the self-driving software is not yet ready for commercial release.

Source: BBC

Sunday, 4 December 2016

British insurers want driverless car data

Driverless car technology seems to be advancing at breakneck speed - Now the insurance industry is calling on carmakers to provide more data to show who was at fault in accidents involving driverless vehicles. The insurers say drivers need to be able to prove that they're not at fault if the technology goes wrong.

The Association of British Insurers wants cars to collect a basic set of core data which would be made available after an accident. The data would cover

  • 30 seconds before any incident
  • 15 seconds after any incident
  • exact location of the vehicle
  • Mode: autonomous or under the control of the driver
  • If the motorist was in the driver's seat and had a seatbelt on.

The ABI's Director General Huw Evans says this data "would offer public reassurance by protecting motorists from being incorrectly blamed if something fails with their car, helping police investigations and supporting prompt insurance payouts."

The UN body which agrees international regulations on vehicle safety is due to bring in new rules on data collection in 2019 and the insurers are hoping to influence that process.

In the long term, fully autonomous vehicles could make the roads so safe meaning that there would be little need for motor insurance. However for the next few years, as more cars get autonomous driving features, there could be a period of dangerous confusion for motorists.

 Experts think that we will have to wait until the mid 2020s for a vehicle that can be left to get on with the job in all circumstances. Will autonomous driving technology even appear attractive in the interim with the higher price tag, when those that buy it will have to keep their hands hovering over the wheel and their eyes on the road until the product evolves further. Only time will tell.....

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Drivers caught using phones for first time now face points

Under new government plans drivers in England, Scotland and Wales caught using a mobile phone for the first time will automatically receive penalty points.

Previously, motorists in some police force areas could avoid points by taking a remedial driving course. However ministers believe it is not a tough enough measure to deter people from using a hand-held phone while driving.

They have also confirmed plans to raise fines for offences from £100 to £200 and penalty points from three to six.

The scrapping of the driving course option is among several measures announced in a government response to a consultation on punishments for drivers caught using hand-held phones.
The government first announced that it was going to increase fines and double penalty points in September.

The new measures, which are due to take effect next year, follow the jailing last month of lorry driver Tomasz Kroker, who killed a mother and three children while distracted by his phone.

Fine numbers plummet

The number of fines issued for motorists caught using a mobile phone illegally has plummeted by 84% since 2011.

Some 16,900 drivers were handed fixed-penalty notices in England and Wales last year, compared with 123,100 in 2011, Home Office data shows.

Motoring groups believe the decline is due to a 27% fall in the number of full-time dedicated roads policing officers in England and Wales (excluding London) between 2010 and 2015.

Department for Transport figures show that a driver being impaired or distracted by their phone had been a contributory factor in 440 accidents in Britain last year, including 22 which were fatal and 75 classed as serious.

Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation, said: "By ruling out courses and doubling the fine, ministers are reflecting public concern and showing they want to stamp out a potentially lethal activity before it becomes entrenched behaviour for a growing number of drivers."

The measures will not affect Northern Ireland, where drivers are currently given three penalty points and a £60 fine for the offence.

The Department for Infrastructure has said there are no plans to change this, but it "will continue to monitor changes being made in Britain to see what can be learned".

Source BBC

Monday, 7 November 2016

Sharp rise in speeding tickets on 'smart motorways'

The introduction of smart motorways has seen a big rise in speeding fines. According to data collated by the BBC's The One Show, between 2010 and 2015, fixed penalties issued on smart sections increased from 2,000 to a whopping 52,000.

There are more than 236 miles of smart motorways in England, which use the hard shoulder and variable speed limits to control traffic flow. The government says they are not there to generate revenue but are used to improve capacity.

Smart motorways are operated by Highways England, which uses overhead gantries to direct traffic into open lanes and change speed limits depending on the volume of traffic (the gantries also containing speed cameras).

A further 200 miles of smart motorways are currently under construction or in the planning phase.

Revenue increased The One Show asked 12 police forces in England which monitor major stretches of smart motorway, including parts of the M1, M25, M4, M42 and M6, for the total number of speeding tickets and fines collected.

The majority of forces responded, with half supplying directly comparable data, showing that a total 52,516 tickets had been issued on these stretches in 2014-15 compared to 2,023 in 2010-11.
That meant the revenue going to central government every year increased to more than £1.1m, from £150,600 five years ago.

There is just one stretch of smart motorway on the M9 in Scotland - this saw tickets increase from 9 to 41 over the 4 years. No data was supplied by police for the stretch of the M4 in South Wales.
On one section of the M1 in Nottinghamshire, police issued 8,489 tickets, amounting to £425,000 of fines, in 2015. In 2010, it issued no fines at all.

Nottinghamshire police defended the figures, saying the speed cameras had only been fully operational since 2013.

Safety concerns Nottingham-based motoring lawyer Paul Wright said he had seen a "deluge" of cases along one stretch of the M1.

He told the BBC: "A cynic might say that it's another way of getting more and more money out of the motorist, over and above what we're paying already.

"And it's an easy way to extract fines from people, because once you're clocked over the limit by the camera, it's very difficult to fight against that."

And the AA told The One Show "questions need to be answered about the money being recouped".
It has also raised safety concerns about drivers having to use emergency refuge areas when the hard shoulder is removed to operate as an extra lane.

AA president Edmund King said more emergency refuges were needed and they should be twice as long, adding: "Only a couple of weeks ago one of our members broke down on a smart motorway. There was a red 'X' up but they still got hit from behind."

Cut congestion With motorway traffic forecast to increase by up to 60% from 2010 rates by 2040, the government is pressing ahead with its £6bn investment in smart motorways.

A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: "Smart motorways smooth traffic flow and cut congestion for millions of motorists, with evidence from trials showing they are just as safe as regular motorways.

"Enforcement is a matter for the police and it is clear that speeding costs lives. However, we have been clear for a number of years that speed cameras should not be used to generate revenue."
Shaun Pidcock, head of Highways England's smart motorway network, said they were "the safest motorways on the network".

"We have 100% CCTV coverage and we have people watching over them, making sure they're safe, and we can get people in the traffic office to them far safer and quicker than we can do on normal motorways."

For a full report, watch The One Show on BBC One, at 19:00 GMT on Monday 7 November.

Source: BBC