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Council concerned at motorists laziness

According to research, motorists, including van drivers are putting themselves, other motorists and even pedestrians lives at risk by failing to signal at junctions and driving over mini-roundabouts instead of around them.

Calderdale County Council have appealed to motorists in the region to take extra care as evidence collected by both their own Road Safety team and volunteers from a road safety committee clearly show that the concerns raised are justified.

The two groups monitored 4,000 vehicle manoeuvres at six separate junctions throughout Calderdale. The results reveal that almost half of all drivers failed to signal, and 60% of drivers are not following the correct Highway Code procedure at mini-roundabouts. The junctions at Church Street and Thornhill Road came out on top as the two worst in Calderdale in terms of drivers who seem to have got into bad habits. Results found 36% of drivers failed to signal and 63% failed to go round the roundabout. The council feel that it is vital for everyone to keep up to date with the rules of the road.

Calderdale Council’s Deputy Road Safety Officer, Kate Marsh, said “I don’t believe for a moment that drivers have forgotten the mantra: ‘Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre’, but unfortunately the evidence suggests that a significant number of drivers fail to do so. Signalling warns others of our intended actions on the road, and it is covered under the basic rules, techniques and advice for drivers in the Highway Code. Driving over rather than around mini-roundabouts often results in drivers ending up on the opposite carriageway, which puts road users in danger.”

The council’s roadside research also found that delivery vans that are protected by vehicle insurance cover are some of the worst offenders. Failing to signal may result in an accident and having to claim on the insurance policy.

Charity calls for danger warnings on alcoholic drinks

A major UK road safety charity is calling for alcohol manufacturers to put drink drive warnings on their products as the festive season approaches.

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) believes warnings on the labels of alcoholic beverages should not only inform the drinker of the amount of alcohol in the product but also warn of the dangers of drink driving. The Institute says that in 2009, the latest statistics available, 20% of motorists killed in their vehicles were over the legal alcohol limit for drivers.

Over 10,000 reported accidents in 2009 involved drivers over the drink limit with many being drivers who hadn’t even had a drink on the day of the accident. IAM say that over 10% of the incidents involved drivers who had been drinking the night before and were probably unaware that they were over the limit. It is highly likely that a large percentage of drivers with commercial vehicle insurance would have been caught this way.

Simon Best, the chief executive of IAM, believes drinks manufacturers should take the lead on labelling their products saying “Drink driving is an epidemic on our roads. Every one of 2009’s drink-driving incidents was preventable. That 380 people died in crashes that year, simply because they didn’t heed the warnings and the law, is tragic.

“We want to see clear drink driving warnings that are just as hard hitting as health warnings on cigarette labels. If the drinks industry softens the road safety and health messages on its labels then the case for a compulsory system of labelling would be compelling. The message to everyone is don’t drink and drive.”

Drivers who rely on their vehicles to make a living should be particularly careful at Christmas when the temptation to share a festive drink with regular customers or colleagues is at its highest. The message from IAM is: “Don’t even have one drink it can lead to losing your job.”

Help is still needed to make the switch to electric

Electric vehicle charging point provider Elektromotive are asking the Coalition Government to keep their £5,000 incentive in place in order to help support the sales of electric vehicles (EVs).

Nissan’s LEAF has helped with the profile of the new cars but the anticipated take up of commercial vehicle insurance on EVs has not materialised. Persuading companies to invest both their time and money in new technology has always been a challenge and it is important to provide them with an incentive to make the change. Elektromotive are urging the Chancellor not to end the scheme when he makes his upcoming Budget speech.

Elektromotive MD, Calvey Taylor-Haw, said “If the Government and the automotive industry are to convince people that electric vehicles are viable alternatives to petrol and diesel-powered vehicles, the Plug-In Grant will play an essential role throughout 2012. With enough money left in the pot from this year and valuable tax revenue accrued from each EV sale, the Government could easily continue to offer the remaining fund to those joining the electric revolution in 2012.”

Most companies are aware of the lower running costs and the environmental benefits which are associated with an EV, but stopping any help may well undermine the growth of EVs throughout the next year. Better access to more charging posts is also the key to greater EV sales if the results from recent research are to be believed. The study claims that as well as the cost, the fear of being stranded with a juiced-out EV is at the heart of companies decisions. The study suggests that just 2% of fleets of 100 vehicles or less have any kind electric vehicle and fewer than one in fifty fleets surveyed had any EVs. It is hoped that the Coalition incentives will encourage small-medium fleets to look at electric vehicles in the next few years.

DVLA set to profit from private details of drivers

The latest money raising scheme by a Government Department involves the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) selling the names and addresses of motorists to companies chasing after them for private parking disputes.

In a move that is bound to cause controversy across the UK, the DVLA have admitted that they already pass information on to wheel clampers but in the future want to charge more. Simon Tse, the chief executive of the DVLA, is hoping to get ministerial approval to raise the current charge of £2.50 which only covers administrative costs, to a higher fee that will enable the DVLA to cover the £100 million deficit it is currently facing.

The proliferation of private parking enforcement companies has not been slowed at all by the Governments decision to outlaw wheel clamping on private land, instead the companies now issue tickets that are often passed on to debt recovery companies to collect. Van drivers and lorry drivers typically that have van insurance cover are often ticketed by these private companies if they spend a few extra hours at motorway service stations catching up on sleep to comply with their working hours. The tickets can be for as much as £150 and there is no official means of appealing against the charge.

The DVLA plan has not been welcomed by driving groups who believe that the end result of any increases could see drivers even more out of pocket. Professor Stephen Glaister, from the RAC foundation and long time transport expert, said “Rightly, an admin charge is currently levied to cover costs. Wrongly, it seems talks have already taken place about turning the system into a money making scheme. Not only would the DVLA be making cash out of drivers’ details, to add insult to injury car owners would ultimately foot the bill, because you can be sure parking companies would pass on the extra charges.”

Drivers cutting corners in a bid to save cash

According to a report released today, drivers across the UK are putting their safety and other motorists’ safety at risk as they look to save money on their every day motoring. The same survey revealed many motorists are now getting motor insurance quotes for third party insurance instead of comprehensive cover as they look for other ways to keep their cars on the road.

The survey conducted by a car rental company revealed just how desperate some motorists are to keep their motoring costs down. Over 2,300 drivers were questioned and the results were alarming to say the least. Over 30% said they had postponed a car service because they could not afford it, and 20% even said they were driving on bald and worn tyres even though they knew they were dangerous.

Some drivers even admitted they should have new brake pads fitted but were reluctant to have them done because of the cost. Managing Director of Car Rentals, Gareth Williams, said “It is understandable that drivers want to make whatever cost cutting measures they can but we do not advise cutting back on essential road safety checks and car maintenance.

“Britain’s roads and motorways can become very dangerous in the winter weather so we think people should think about other areas where they can make cuts – clothing, holidays and so on – areas which don’t put themselves or other motorists’ lives at risk.”

The survey also revealed 1 in 10 drivers had changed their van insurance cover company to save money, and 30% said they had changed to smaller less expensive cars and vans. Over half said they no longer took their vehicle for servicing at authorised garages but found cheaper, independent garages to do the work.

Cargo vans the latest must have craze to hit New York

New York is a city known for its 24 hour lifestyle and the fads and fashions that make the city the most famous place on earth.

It is of course home to some of the richest people in the world, who can be seen in their ultra long and sleek limousines, however, all that is changing and the new must have acquisition in the city is a commercial vehicle insurance policy, because the new vehicle for the rich and famous is a… cargo van! Apparently the anonymous looking vehicles are the latest must have accessory to city life, and rich bankers and financial whizz kids are buying the vans and kitting them out in the most luxurious ways, including of course a chauffeur.

Investment banker Steve Kantor is very proud of his Sprinter van, which looks like any other van from the outside, however, he explained that the interior is slightly unconventional: “I have two big-screen televisions. I have a couch in the back that goes into a bed, and I have four chairs that go back and massage you. It has a desk, a table and an intercom so you have can have meetings in there if you want to.”

And he is not alone; the van bought by Mr Kantor is proving very popular in New York and is considered a snip at $189,000! Of course you can buy a basic model for around $40,000, but it doesn’t have satellite television.

Even the luxurious models bought by Mr Kantor are now being put in the shade. The New York philosophy of bigger and better has been brought to bear by those at the very top of the money tree. There is no question of these people buying a ready-made model, oh no. The mega rich are now employing designers to customise their newly acquired vans to the tune of $500,000 and yes, we can say that twice, five hundred thousand dollars for a cargo van. It’s a funny world.

Bobby vans carry on the good work

A unique community service operation has recently celebrated its 14,000th call out to the help the local population of Swindon, Wiltshire.

The Bobby Van service started out in 1998 and in the 13 years since has been giving help and advice to crime victims in the heart of the Cotswolds. The Bobby Van is in actual fact a basic police van, however, it has been converted into a mobile work station where the drivers can assess the security needs of a home that has been burgled and make the necessary safety requirements on the spot. All operators of the three Bobby Vans that operate in Swindon are skilled locksmiths, carpenters and some have experience as law officers.

It is the proud boast of the service that no security measures set up by the Bobby Vans has ever been compromised. The operators not only install security at burgled homes but also visit local community groups to give them advice on household security issues. The operators are trained in fire safety as well as crime prevention and are known throughout the Wiltshire town.

The cost of running the service is prohibitive and contributions from different sources keep the vans solvent. The uniform and fuel for the Bobby Vans is provided by the police force while the fire service provides them with a base. Other running costs are provided by donations from local groups and it is not always easy to raise the money. It costs well over £200,000 to keep the three vans on the road when commercial vehicle insurance, maintenance, equipment and wages are taken into account.

Robert Hiscox, chairman of the Wiltshire Bobby Van Trust and High Sheriff of Wiltshire, said “We like to call ourselves the fifth emergency service. We are enabling people to stay in their own homes. The police are not carpenters or locksmiths. This to me is a huge success and it is incredibly satisfying, even though we sometimes struggle to raise the money.”

Grit boxes emptied by thieves

North Lanarkshire Council have been  appalled to find that thieves have been stealing the grit put aside to use on the roads and pavements. They are asking all residents to report the road salt thieves.

The council are cracking down on the thefts after a series of incidents during the bad weather last winter which saw the thieves unwittingly asking a senior council road official if he was interested in buying some salt at his own front door. North Lanarkshire Council are also claiming that it is down to the so-called ‘white van man’ because a large number of grit bins, complete with salt, have been stolen throughout the borough.

The Council’s Business Manager, David Smart, said “We have been filling our 1100 plus grit bins since the end of the summer and already a number are empty. Some householders might be holding salt for the worst of winter but we are also in no doubt there are unscrupulous people out there stealing our salt, either for their own business use or to bag and sell it round the doors.”

A council spokesman said they are aware that a number of people are being community minded and are collecting the salt on behalf of elderly neighbours who would otherwise be stuck inside their homes, and for that they applaud those individuals. However, others have been undoubtedly stealing it to treat their own yards, business premises or in the worst cases, to sell it on. The council have asked companies who typically cover their vans with commercial vehicle insurance to ensure their drivers are not using the vans to misappropriate the grit from the road side containers. The council have asked local people to report any vans seen taking grit from the community boxes to the police.

Uninsured business goes up in smoke

A brave business women from Wiltshire saw her business go up in smoke this week and is now rueing the fact she had no commercial vehicle insurance.

Ma-Mi Hartwell had been unemployed for two years before she decided to try her hand at catering. She managed to scrape together enough money to buy a second hand burger van and set about creating her business plan, something she was eminently qualified to do as in the past she had owned her own finance company. All this year Ma-Mi has seen her profits grow and grow as word spread around town about her excellent burgers.

Unfortunately the uninsured van went up in flames in the early hours of yesterday morning and her business future is now in serious doubt. The 52 year old said: “I feel sick. It was my living. I was burgled four times and now this. I have been told by a lot of people that burger vans aren’t doing too well but I was doing extremely well. My food is really the talk of the town. They have told me that people who come here have stopped going to other places because of my burgers – they’re home-made. I know some of the other burger vans are suffering. I was just going up and up until now.”

The fire crew from nearby Stratton who put the blaze out reported the incident to the police who are now carrying out investigations. A spokesman for Wiltshire Police confirmed the force are treating the incident as suspicious and classing the event under criminal damage.

Mobile phone use still a big problem

A concerted campaign to make drivers aware of the penalties, and the sometimes horrific consequences, of using a mobile phone while driving is to be launched over the winter period.

Although it is now 8 years since using a mobile phone while driving was made illegal, it still has not registered with the public in the same way as drink driving and using a seat belt has. Thousands of motorists still use their phones regularly and the problem is particularly prevalent with youngsters in their first years of driving.

GEM Motoring Assist, a well known motoring group with a road safety charity branch, have launched a Courtesy Code which warns motorists of the penalties they can incur for using a mobile device while driving, a minimum of three points on their licence and up to a £1000 fine, enough for a driver with commercial vehicle insurance to lose his job. The initiative comes after research shows that drivers are four times more likely to have an accident while driving if they are using a phone and that almost 50% of drivers under 25 admit to using a phone while driving.

The figures are backed up by traffic penalty statistics that show in the last two years more drivers than ever before have been prosecuted for mobile phone offences. The campaign leaflet entitled “Kill the conversation not yourself” encourages drivers to carry a mobile phone in their car for emergency purposes but to switch it off as soon as they turn the car engine on. It warns drivers of the consequences of causing an accident when using a mobile phone and how a charge of dangerous driving can easily be lodged.

David Williams, the Chief Executive of GEM Assist, spoke at the launch of the leaflet saying “It is illegal and dangerous to use a hand-held mobile and it must only be used when you have stopped in a safe place. However, it is a good idea to have a phone in the vehicle in case of emergencies.”

The leaflet can be downloaded online.

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