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Safe, practical – and fun!
TAKE CARE OF THE GRANDKIDS
How to use child seats safely
THE EYES HAVE IT
Checking you can still see well enough to drive
LIFE AFTER DRIVING
How to stay active and mobile
Still in the
Valerie Singleton explains how to be a safe and confident mature driver
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CO N D A TRUSTED SE G N I V I R D R U O Y N O OPINION FREE* TO WARWICKSHIRE RESIDENTS AGED 65+
If you’re concerned your driving ability has deteriorated over time, our Mature Drive Review offers a trusted, impartial second opinion to help you put your mind at rest. Our Review can also be useful if you haven’t driven for a while, or if you are taking over the driving duties and can offer reassurance prior to renewing your licence at 70. The reviews offer honest, practical advice, and support to boost skills and confidence.
CC’ and quote code ‘W 34 11 3 30 0 0 03 ng today by calli -older-drivers Book your review fety.org/road-users sa ad ro ks ar w t si vi ion For more informat
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VALERIE N O SINGLEIETW INTERV O N P8
MAIN IMAGE: Tim Scott
GROWING OLDER BRINGS both rewards and challenges. Many senior drivers have decades of experience, making them some of the safest drivers on the road. On the other hand, advancing years can also bring health problems that make driving more difficult than it used to be.
Our road network has changed enormously since the older generation started driving, and heavy traffic, complex junctions, and the ever-changing rules of the road can be demanding if you are not ready for them. DriveOn magazine can help. It’s full of useful advice to make
driving safer and enjoyable for older drivers, as well as guidance about keeping the cost of motoring in check. There are also tips on how to stay mobile and independent if you make the difficult decision that your driving days are behind you. With the right attitude and some expert help, most senior drivers will find that motoring can be a part of their lives for many years to come.
HRH Prince Michael of Kent GCVO PRESIDENT OF THE ROYAL AUTOMOBILE CLUB DriveOn magazine 3
Why Valerie Singleton still enjoys driving
Find out how careful driving could cut your fuel bill
48 THE TEAM... Publisher: James Evans Editor: David Motton Art director: Caroline Creighton-Metcalf Contributors: James Barrell, Richard Dredge, Dan Sherwood Commercial director: Richard Storrs Photography: Richard Faulks CONTACT: email@example.com 08451 308 853 4 DriveOn magazine
Boost your confidence behind the wheel with a driving assessment Disclaimer: The contents of this magazine are copyright First Car Ltd and may not be reproduced or transmitted, in any form in whole or in part, without written consent from the editor. Neither First Car Ltd nor its staff can be held responsible for the accuracy of the information herein or for any consequence arising from it.
UPFRONT 6: News that matters to you Understanding the new Highway Code
How a Blue Badge could help you
8: Interview: Valerie Singleton
DRIVING 12: Renewing your licence 14: Refresher driving courses 18: Cut your fuel bill 20: The new Highway Code 24: The A-Z of car technology
SAFETY 26: Avoiding distractions 27: The importance of seatbelts 28: Appropriate speed 29: How to combat fatigue 30: Child seats and ISOFIX
Keep your car running smoothly
32: Drink and drugs 34: Eyesight and visibility
STAY MOBILE 36: The Blue Badge scheme 38: Motability explained 40: Choose the right road
OWNING A CAR 44: Buy the right car 46: Save on your insurance 48: Maintenance essentials 50: Your accident checklist DriveOn magazine 5
The stories that matter to experienced drivers
Mature drivers support regular retests Most older motorists are willing to prove they are still safe to drive, according to research commissioned by the road safety charity, IAM RoadSmart. IAM RoadSmart surveyed more than 3000 motorists aged over 60, and more than half (55%) agreed with the statement that senior drivers should be retested every five years after their licence renewal. Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart’s director of policy and research, commented: “Our research shows that many older drivers are confident in their driving and happy for their health and driving skills to be periodically tested to determine that they are still up to scratch.” In fact, many older drivers are willing to conduct such tests independently, with nearly two-thirds of
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respondents (65%) claiming that if there was a DIY kit available to test their driving fitness, they would use it. “With the extended backlog of patients waiting to see a GP, we would encourage older
Nearly half of drivers were in support of flexible licences drivers to independently monitor behaviours or health patterns which may impact their driving habits and general health more than usual,” said Greig. “In cases where there is any doubt, older drivers should temporarily put the brakes on getting in the driver’s seat.” Nearly half (46%) of drivers surveyed were
in support of a flexible licensing system which might, for example, restrict drivers to only using local roads or driving in daylight hours. On this, Greig added: “Flexible licences are already used in some countries, including the USA and Australia. In these places, following an official assessment, older drivers can continue behind the wheel, but in a restricted area, type of road, or time of day. “IAM RoadSmart supports a flexible driving licence pilot project in the UK to test whether this approach would allow some older drivers to maintain their mobility and still reach local services. This would maintain their quality of life as well as reduce the cost to society of bringing services to them.”
organisation, Which?. Only a quarter of those aged 65 and above are comfortable changing to an electric car (26%) or intend to buy one (23%). More than
half (52%) of respondents aged 65 and above do not intend to buy an electric vehicle in the future. Two in five drivers of all ages (44%) said concerns about battery range put them off switching to an electric vehicle, while a third (34%) cited the upfront cost. The UK’s charging infrastructure is also a concern for motorists, with a third (33%) stating they are put off buying an electric car as they are worried about accessing charge points away from home or on long journeys. The reluctance of older drivers contrasts with the enthusiasm of the younger generation. Seven in 10 (71%) 18-24-year-olds are comfortable switching to electric vehicles and around half (56%) of those aged between 18 and 39 said they intended to buy one in the future.
that eight in 10 drivers would struggle to get by without their cars, but the exorbitant cost of filling
up may force people to cut down on non-essential journeys. Pump prices look certain to go up even more.”
Older drivers slow to go electric Sales of electric vehicles are at an all-time high, but the older generation is not rushing to make the switch. That’s the finding of a survey by the consumer
Fuel prices hit record high A tank of fuel has never been more expensive, RAC research has revealed. Data from March 2022 shows the average price of a litre of unleaded is now 165.89p and a litre of diesel costs 176.76p. Superunleaded is even more expensive, costing 177.68p. Simon Williams, the RAC’s fuel spokesman, said: “We know from RAC research
DriveOn magazine 7
Driving safely at 80
ow in her 80s, Valerie Singleton knows she is a good and safe driver. If that sounds like a somewhat over-confident declaration, we should add that this was confirmed by a recent driver assessment she completed, using the scheme organised by the breakdown provider and road safety organisation, GEM Motoring Assist. “This was the third time in the past five years that I’ve had someone in the car to appraise my driving skills,” she says. “I rather think I learnt the most from this most recent
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assessment, which was also the most enjoyable.” Val is proud of her role presenting GEM’s ‘Still Safe to Drive’ video resource, which helped her confront some of the key issues connected with driving in later life. As well as offering practical advice relating to the physical changes we experience as we age, the resource focuses on preserving good family relationships through periods of change and uncertainty – such as when someone is facing the prospect of managing without a car.
WORDS: James Luckhurst
A mature driver assessment can improve your skills and confidence, as broadcaster Valerie Singleton discovered
A LIFETIME BEHIND THE WHEEL So is this interest in driving a recent thing? “Oh no,” says Val. “I have always loved getting behind the wheel. I started taking lessons in my late teens, when I was living in the Fulham area. However, rapid career developments meant I didn’t have as much time to devote to it as I might have liked. But I paid for a few blocks of lessons with BSM and passed my test first time. “As soon as I had this independence, I bought my first car, a little Morris 1000 with a split windscreen. In 1965 I took it with a
girlfriend across on the ferry to France, then put it on the motor-rail service and spent a fabulous summer exploring Italy, Greece and eastern Europe. Some of the roads were no better than dirt tracks. I remember arriving at a campsite near Skopje and needing to empty a ton of dust that had found its way into our suitcases. “Thankfully everything went to plan on the trip. We drove back through Italy and France, and the only thing that went wrong was the oil sump getting knocked by a pebble in Yugoslavia. A local garage couldn’t have been more friendly; they fixed us up and we were soon on our way again.” That was to be the first of many happy motoring trips across Europe and further afield. “Driving in America has always been huge fun,” Val explains. “A Chrysler Sebring out across the Florida Keys must be my idea of automotive heaven. What a lovely car! And with lower speed limits, the whole experience is that much better and you see a lot more.” It was not long before Val felt ready for some classier wheels. So out went the Morris 1000 and in came an MGB. “I was presenting Nationwide at the time. One evening we had the instruction from the floor manager to find something to talk about, as we were a bit light on content. There had been some criticism of British Leyland during the programme, so I piped up saying how pleased I was with my MGB. Next day British Leyland’s PR man was on the phone offering me an upgraded model!” Selling the MGB proved a bad mistake, even though it was necessary at the time. “I had the MGB, my boyfriend had a Mercedes and we were only being allowed one parking permit by the council,” she explained. “So I sold the MGB… and we promptly split up. He said I could keep the Mercedes, but it turned out to be a terrible
I have always loved getting behind the wheel. I started lessons in my late teens. DriveOn magazine 9
VAL’S DRIVER ASSESSMENT “A friend was telling me recently about his experience of a driver assessment, and I Val was a familiar face on television
decided it would be worthwhile to organise one myself,” says Val. “My one concern was how I would fare with the eyesight test I was told I would need to complete. You see, I have never had any sense of distance. What is 20 metres? What is 200 metres? Would my eyes be good enough? I’d had them tested recently, and there were no concerns. But what if… “It turned out my fears were entirely ungrounded. I looked forward to the actual driving bit, because I knew it was not a test. I was not going to fail, and be disqualified or told to give up driving. Stuart the assessor, a retired motorcycle police officer, was lovely. He is a representative of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), who provide assessors for all the GEM Driver Assessments. He shared lots of practical tips as we went along. “As oldies, we tend to worry about how sharp our reflexes are. I was therefore very pleased to show Stuart that there was nothing wrong with my ability to react to a sudden situation. I was driving into a little town, and turned right into a one-way street. It was all clear to the left and I started my turn – only to find a man had just stepped into the road with his bike. I immediately braked and he held his hand up in abject apology. There was no collision; we were not even close to a collision. For me it was an excellent test of my reactions and I am pleased it happened.”
ABOUT VAL Valerie Singleton is best known for her role as presenter of the children’s television show Blue Peter in the 1960s and early 70s, as well as Nationwide (1973 to 1978). She went on to present Tonight, The Money Programme for BBC2, PM on Radio 4 (1982 to 1993) and an array of other high-profile shows. She appeared on Desert Island Discs in 1974 and This is Your Life in 2001. She received the OBE in 1994 for her services to children’s broadcasting.
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IMAGE: PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo
car, very expensive to maintain and always going wrong.” Today, Val is easy to spot on the roads around her West Country home, thanks to her green BMW Z3 sports car. “It’s lovely. Totally impractical, but a real joy to drive,” she says. “My orthopaedic surgeon wasn’t too happy about me driving it after a hip operation.” A naturally inquisitive person who loves to find her way along country lanes to explore beyond the obvious, Val prides herself on understanding other drivers – especially those determined to overtake her and everything else on the road. “Perhaps it’s a sixth sense,” she says, “but even if another car is holding back and not dangerously tailgating, I always know when it’s being driven by someone impatient or aggressive. Off they go at the first opportunity, then five minutes later I’m pulling up just behind them because we’re at a junction or there’s another reason to stop. “Do I mind? Not really, but we would all benefit if these drivers saw the value in hanging back and simply going with the flow. I just wish they were more willing to think about the risks and the consequences – for them and the rest of us – if something went wrong.”
As oldies, we tend to worry about how sharp our reflexes are
Val found it very useful to have her driving assessed
What did Val learn from the assessment? “Stuart’s explanation of road markings and paint was a revelation,” she says. “Where the markings are a bit worn, you know that’s probably caused by car tyres straying over to the wrong side of the road, so be alert. “We reflected on how I could adopt a slightly safer position when turning right at T-junctions, to avoid creating a blind spot. I am also more aware of just holding back in a queue of traffic so that I can always see the car in front’s rear tyres – and a bit of Tarmac between us.” Finally, where does Valerie go from here as a driver? “For the time being, I am pleased to say there is no great need to do anything drastic. The next marker post in my driving life will be the requirement to get a more sensible car, perhaps one that’s not quite so low to get into. But thankfully, that day is not here yet!” ❑
BACK TO SCHOOL You will find a wide variety of driver assessments available, ranging from simple sessions to boost confidence through to detailed appraisals for those with specific medical conditions or disabilities. They’re great ways to boost your confidence while ironing out any bad habits, or to make a sensible decision about when to cut back on your driving. As well as the GEM/RoSPA appraisal which Valerie Singleton enjoyed, one of the best known is the IAM RoadSmart Mature Driver Review. This costs £49 and is carried out in your own car on roads that will be familiar to you. You can bring a friend along if you wish. Turn to page 14 to find out more about driving courses for mature drivers.
DriveOn magazine 11
your licence is easy Mark your 70th birthday by renewing your driving licence. It’s doesn’t take long and it won’t cost a penny
It’s hard to believe that it’s more than half a century since you were first old enough to drive a car. But time flies, and if you’re nearing your 70th birthday, you might be alarmed to hear that your driving licence is about to expire. But there’s no reason to panic – everybody’s driving licence expires when they hit three-score years and ten, and it’s simply a case of reapplying for it, free of charge. After this you’ll have to renew it every three years to make sure you’re still legally allowed on the road.
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Renewing your licence requires you to declare that you’re still fit to drive; there’s no need for a health professional to agree with you. But for the safety of yourself and those around you, it’s worth talking to your GP each year to make sure they think you’re still fit to get behind the wheel. And just to be certain, why not undertake a refresher driving course (see page 14)? Even if you don’t go this far – and we’d recommend you do – it’s well worth getting your hearing and eyesight checked each year.
IN THE KNOW Not just at 70...
IT’S A FACT
If you need to share your driving licence details you ca n do so by gene rating a licence check code on line at www. gov.uk/view-d rivinglicence
HOW TO RENEW YOUR LICENCE The DVLA will send you a D46P application form 90 days before your 70th birthday. If you already have a photocard licence, just fill in the form and return it to the DVLA. Your new licence should be with you within three weeks, and you can drive while
If you’re web savvy, you can save time by applying online
It’s not just when you reach 70 that you need to renew your licence. If you move house or change your name, your licence will need to be updated. Photocard driving licences have been issued in the UK since 1998. Unlike the earlier licences, these have a 10year lifespan (to keep the photo up to date) – and if you don’t renew yours after 10 years, you’re liable for a £1000 fine. However, you’re more likely to receive a £100 penalty – but you won’t get one at all if you renew in good time. Since 8 June 2015, the paper counterpart to photocard licences has been abolished, so if you update your details you can expect a photocard licence with no counterpart. Likewise if you have an old paper licence, issued before 1998, you’ll receive a photocard if you update your licence. you wait for the new licence to arrive. If you still have your old paper licence, you’ll have to fill in the form and send it back with your current licence, a passport photo, and proof of identity. If you don’t have the D46P form, you can use the D1 form, which you can request by ringing 0300 790 6801 or by going to a post office. If you’re web savvy, you can save time by applying online at www.gov.uk/ renew-driving-licence-at-70. Your new licence should arrive within a week. ❑
DriveOn magazine 13
Never too old
TO LEARN Give your driving an MOT with some help from the professionals
ge brings experience, but we can also become set in our ways. That applies to driving as much to other aspects of life. If you’re concerned that you have some bad habits behind the wheel, or just want an honest and independent assessment of your ability, consider a driving course. Any approved driving instructor should be able to help with some refresher lessons, but there are a number of courses and assessments tailored to the needs of older
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drivers. The IAM RoadSmart Mature Driver Review is one, and is available to drivers aged 70 or over. The assessment lasts for an hour, and takes place in your own car on familiar roads to help put you at ease. IAM RoadSmart is happy for a friend or family member to come along for the ride to lend some moral support. After the hour-long drive the assessor will prepare a confidential written report. Drivers reaching a high standard will also receive a certificate recognising ‘Excellent’
IN THE KNOW Back to school
Age is no barrier to learning. A driving course will improve your driving. Here’s a quick guide to what’s on offer...
IT’S A FACT The number of drivers aged 70 or more is growing at a rate of 10,000 per month, according to research undertaken by IAM RoadSmart.
IAM RoadSmart Mature Driver Review What is it? An hour’s drive with a verbal/written report. How much does it cost? £49. Is it specifically for older drivers? Yes, drivers should be 70 or over. How can I find out more? Call 0300 303 1134 or visit www.iamroadsmart.com
RoSPA Experienced Driver Assessment What is it? It’s not a formal test, but the hour-long assessment will give an honest evaluation of your skills. You’ll receive a verbal and written report after the drive. How much does it cost? £55. Is it specifically for older drivers? The assessment is for anyone who wants to prove they are a competent driver, or wants the reassurance of an independent check on their driving. It’s not just for older drivers. How can I find out more? Call 0121 248 2233 or visit www.rospa.com
AA Driving School refresher lesson What is it? A refresher lesson is for a driver who would like to improve their skills, or address an aspect of driving they struggle with. How much does it cost? AA lessons vary in price, and the refresher lesson last at least two hours. Expect to pay around £90. Is it aimed specifically at older drivers? No, the lessons are for any qualifed driver, not just older motorists. How can I find out more? Visit www.theaa.com
DriveOn magazine 15
OLDER DRIVERS FORUM
Training is just one of the ways the Older Drivers Forum offers support
Instructors are there to help
or ‘Competent’ driving, while those who don’t make the grade will receive advice on what they can do to improve. The IAM RoadSmart assessment and other similar courses help older drivers stay on the road as long as it’s safe to do so, boosting confidence and brushing up the skills of competent drivers. That’s so important when research by the RAC Foundation suggests up to 15% of older drivers give up too early because they lack faith in their own abilities. They also help less able older drivers and their friends and families with the difficult task of deciding when to stop driving and look for other ways to stay mobile and independent. ❑
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Driving assessments are a great way to brush up your skills and boost your confidence, but help for older drivers can take many forms. As well as pointing senior motorists in the direction of a local driving assessment, the Older Drivers Forum (www. olderdriversforum.com) offers other kinds of support and advice, too. The Forum started following Sergeant Rob Heard’s experience as senior investigating officer at a fatal collision involving an 89-year-old man driving the wrong way down a dual carriageway in Hampshire. Although the 89-year-old survived the collision, another motorist died and the older driver was prosecuted for causing death by careless driving. “He was found to be blind in one eye and below the legal limit in the other,” Sergeant Heard explains. The case generated considerable media interest. Was there a widespread problem with older drivers? Sergeant Heard decided to investigate, and produced a report for Hampshire Constabulary. One of the
The Forum is about keeping mature motorists on the road safely report’s recommendations was the foundation of the Older Drivers Forum. “We know that older motorists have a wealth of experience, confidence and tolerance. However, sight, hearing, reaction time and judgement of speed and distance may not be as sharp as they once were,” says Heard. “Fragility increases with age, so injuries tend to be more serious and recovery takes much longer. Casualty rates do increase for car drivers aged over about 65, and the fatality rate increases significantly. “That’s where we come in. The Older Drivers Forum is about keeping mature motorists on the road safely for longer. Whether that’s helping through giving you practical and informative help and support to continue driving or pointing you in the right direction for an assessment to identify your driving needs – from wing mirror adapters to an elevated driving seat – we’re here to help.”
As well as benefiting from Rob Heard’s experience and knowledge, the Forum is made up of experts from the emergency services, charities, local authorities and businesses, all keen to help older drivers stay safe behind the wheel for as long as possible, and make a sensible decision about when they should stop. “We have engaged with thousands of older motorists since our creation and we have seen a marked reduction in the number of incidents involving older drivers,” Heard explains. “We have done this via our website, driving appraisals, presentations, leaflets and brochures and older driver-focused events.” Although the Forum is for drivers in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, its reach goes well beyond county borders, and has been recognised with a Commendation Certificate in the Prince Michael International Road Safety Awards. Sergeant Heard has worked with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents to create a nationwide website sharing the same principles and aims as the Older Drivers Forum (www.olderdrivers.org.uk). The Forum’s reach – and the number of drivers it has helped – looks set to keep on growing.
DriveOn magazine 17
IT’S A FACT
The truth about
Electric cars are increasingly popular. They may not be cheap to buy but the cost of fully charging an electric car’s batteries is much less than a tank of fuel.
Choosing an efficient car and driving with economy in mind can make a dramatic difference to your fuel bill Most drivers know to take a car’s official combined economy figure with a pinch of salt. It’s often difficult to achieve similar fuel efficiency in real-world driving. The trouble is, not all cars fall short of the official figures by the same amount, so how do you know which cars will really save you money at the pumps? A company called Emissions Analytics has been carrying out its own independent testing of fuel economy and emissions since 2011. Cars are tested on a variety of road types and gradients. As the car drives along, its exhaust gases are measured by a Portable Emissions Measurement System
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How do you know which cars will really save you money at the pumps? (PEMS). The system also records vehicle data from the engine control unit and weather conditions. This allows Emissions Analytics to take account of variables such as temperature, road conditions and traffic levels to make sure that the test results are consistent and repeatable. The real-world mpg figures for all the cars tested – covering thousands of models – are now available on Equaindex.com. ❑
CUT YOUR FUEL BILLS
Follow these tips and you’ll pay less at the pumps Drive smoothly, avoiding heavy braking or acceleration.
Read the road ahead, so you can drive more smoothly.
Don’t carry unnecessary weight in the boot.
Be sparing with the air conditioning and don’t open the windows at high speed; it increases drag. Keep your car serviced properly, to maintain optimum engine efficiency.
Maintain your tyre pressures; under-inflated tyres use more fuel and need replacing more regularly. Travel at quieter times; traffic jams are inefficient.
Don't rev the engine hard and use the gears correctly by changing up early. Stick to speed limits – sitting at 80mph uses more fuel than sitting at 70mph.
Avoid excessive idling of your engine; it’s often more economical to switch it off. Fuel prices can vary significantly, so shop around.
Plan your route in advance so you don’t cover unnecessary miles.
Avoid short journeys; the first two miles use fuel at almost twice the rate.
Don't warm up the engine before setting off in the morning; instead, drive straight off – it’s better for the engine, too.
Don’t carry things on your roof if they’ll fit inside your car. Fitting a roof box will increase fuel use.
DriveOn magazine 19
OF ROAD USERS
There have been some big changes to the Highway Code intended to protect vulnerable road users. Here’s what you need to know
ou can do a lot more harm with an HGV than a small hatchback. And a hatchback can do a lot more damage than a child crossing the road. That’s now reflected in the Highway Code. Lots of changes were made in a big update in January 2022. Some existing rules have been tidied up or clarified, but the headline news is the ‘hierarchy of road users’ – those who can do the greatest harm must take the greatest responsibility. The likes of HGV
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and coach drivers have the greatest duty to look out for other road users, because they’re driving the biggest, heaviest vehicles with the most potential to do damage. Pedestrians are at the opposite end of the hierarchy, as they’re likely to come off worst in any collision. Car drivers must take a great deal of responsibility, as although they are vulnerable to larger and heavier vehicles, they need to take extra care around horse riders, cyclists, and people on foot. These new rules are
ORDER YOUR COPY To maximise the benefits of some fantastic changes, the rules need to be widely communicated, understood, and ultimately backed up with visible and effective police enforcement. Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns sometimes misrepresented as allowing vulnerable road users, in particular cyclists, to do as they please with the car driver always getting the blame. That’s not what the changes are all about. Everyone needs to stick to the rules, and use the roads safely, however they choose to get from A-to-B. Rather there’s a shift of emphasis, and an acknowledgement that might isn’t right. Those with the greatest potential to
cause harm shoulder the greatest responsibility. Just as an HGV driver should remember that car drivers and passengers are more vulnerable than they are in a collision, so we drivers should keep in mind that a horse rider, cyclist, or pedestrian is likely to come off worse if we hit them. We all need to take care of each other, and especially the most vulnerable people on the road.
We all know we should regularly brush up our Highway Code knowledge, but how many of us can put our hands on our hearts and say we’ve kept up to date? The new rules mean now is the ideal time to order a new copy of the Highway Code, so we can remind ourselves of all the rules – both old and new.
You can order your copy from www. safedrivingforlife. info. The new edition costs £4.99.
GREATEST RESPONSIBILITY DriveOn magazine 21
THE HIGHWAY CODE
DOS AND DON’TS PEOPLE CROSSING ➔ THE ROAD AT JUNCTIONS
DO give way to pedestrians who are crossing (or waiting to cross) the road at junctions.
GIVING AWAY AT JUNCTIONS
DO give way to cyclists who are riding straight on when you are turning into or out of junctions.
ROAD POSITIONING WHILE CYCLING
DO remember that cyclists are allowed to ride in the centre of the lane, or two abreast, while allowing you to overtake when it’s safe to do so.
DO use the ‘Dutch reach’ when opening a car door. This means using your left hand to open the driver’s door, which encourages you to turn towards the road, giving you a better view of any vulnerable road users such as cyclists who may be passing close to your car.
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OVERTAKING ➔ CYCLISTS
DON’T make a close pass on a cyclist. Leave at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists at speeds of up to 30mph, and leave more space when overtaking above 30mph.
OVERTAKING HORSES DON’T pass close to a horse or a horse-drawn vehicle travelling at speeds of up to 10mph. Give at least two metres of space.
PARKING AT NIGHT
DON’T park against the direction of traffic at night, unless you are parked in a marked bay. This is because reflectors on the back of a car facing the wrong way won’t be picked up by the headlights of other vehicles, which could make a collision more likely.
The changes to the Highway Code are a reminder that all road users have a responsibility to look after one another, in particular the most vulnerable ones: pedestrians, cyclists, other two-wheeled transport and horse riders. Edmund King, AA president DriveOn magazine 23
OF MODERN TECHNOLOGY Don’t know your AEB from your ESP? Let us guide you through the safety technology fitted to modern cars
ABS Anti-lock Braking System (or simply anti-lock brakes). This prevents the wheels from ‘locking up’ under braking (the wheels are said to be ‘locked up’ when they are no longer turning but the car is still moving). By preventing lock ups, ABS ensures the driver is able to steer the car while braking heavily in an emergency. ACC Adaptive Cruise Control. While regular cruise control keeps a car at a set speed, adaptive cruise control varies the speed to prevent the car becoming too close to the vehicle in front. It does this using sensors (often radar, cameras, or a combination of the two) which detect other vehicles and can measure how far away they are. 24 DriveOn magazine
AEB Autonomous Emergency Braking.
This uses sensors in much the same way as Adaptive Cruise Control, but can apply the brakes if the driver fails to do so to prevent a crash or at least reduce its severity. Some systems only operate at low speeds, but the best AEB systems are increasingly sophisticated and can operate over a wide range of speeds.
EBA Emergency Brake Assist (sometimes simply called Brake Assist). Even in an emergency, drivers can be reluctant to brake hard. EBA is designed to detect a ‘panic stop’ by interpreting the speed and force with which the brake pedal is pressed, and will apply the brakes fully, unless the ABS activates to prevent a lock up.
DriveOn TOP TIP
ESC/ESP Electronic Stability Control or Electronic Stability Program. By easing off the throttle or braking individual wheels, stability control systems help the driver maintain control if they corner too quickly for the conditions, leading to a loss of grip. Different car makers use different names for stability control, including ASC, DSC, DSTC, PSM, VDC, and VSC. LDWS Lane Departure Warning
System. Sensors detect if a car is drifting out of its lane when the driver isn’t indicating. The driver is alerted by a warning light, a sound, or a vibration through the wheel. A Lane Keeping System (LKS) goes further, gently steering the car to keep it in the lane.
Autonomous emergency braking is one of the biggest recent safety advances. There's a list of cars fitted with this technology at www.thatcham. org/files/pdf/stop_the_ crash_AEB.pdf
SRS Supplementary Restraint System.
Quite simply, this is just another name for a vehicle’s airbags. They’re described as a supplementary system because they are intended to supplement seatbelts – so be sure to belt up on every journey.
TPMS Tyre Pressure Monitoring System. This keeps a check on the level of pressure in all four tyres, and warns if one or more tyres start to go flat. ❑ DriveOn magazine 25
Driven to distraction When you’re driving it’s easy to lose your focus for a moment or two. But doing so can have very serious consequences...
If we asked you to name the number one cause of car crashes, what would you say? Speed? Alcohol? Drugs? Statistics show that the biggest cause of accidents is, in fact, distractions. At 70mph you’re covering the length of a football pitch every three seconds, so even the shortest lapse in concentration can have deadly results. Dealing with distraction ■ I f you need to do something distracting, find a safe place to pull over. ■R ecognise what makes you distracted, then work out whether or not you really need to do it. ■C oncentrate on your driving – although this is sometimes easier said than done. ■M ake sure you’re ready to drive. After an emotional event, you might need time to calm down. ■P lan your journey in advance, so you’re not having to work out your route as you go along. THE PENALTIES.: If you’re convicted of careless driving or driving without due care and attention, you can be fined up to £5000 and get 3-9 points. ❑
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IN THE KNOW
The most common distractions... Don’t want to crash your car? Then don’t do any of these things; they’re the most common distractions that cause car crashes. ■ Using a mobile phone ■ Changing music ■ Staring at an accident ■ Eating or drinking ■ Dealing with children ■ Chatting to a passenger ■ Having an argument ■ Lighting a cigarette
Show some restraint
Use the seatbelt’s height adjustment to make sure the diagonal strap fits over your shoulder, not your neck. That way you’ll be safer and more comfy.
A few seconds belting up before setting off could mean the difference between life and death further down the road The seatbelt is the simplest piece of safety kit in a car, and by far the most effective. You’re twice as likely to die in a crash if you’re not wearing a seatbelt, yet two million of us refuse to buckle up, more than 30 years after seatbelt use became mandatory. How can this be? A recent study found that 85% of over-65s find seatbelts too restricting. It’s true that as we get older it gets harder to reach around for the belt to put it on, but if you want to stay safe on the road, buckling up is a must. Even a low-speed crash can have potentially lethal consequences if you’re not belted up. Crash at 30mph and your body will be thrown towards the windscreen with a force of between 30 and 60 times your bodyweight. However you look at it, that’s going to hurt... ❑
IN THE KNOW ■ Penalties - The fine for not wearing a belt is at least £100 and up to £500. You’re also responsible for ensuring that any passengers aged up to 14 are wearing theirs. ■ Airbags - If you think you don’t need to wear a seatbelt because your car has airbags, think again. An airbag is a Supplementary Restraint System (SRS) – supplementary to the seatbelt. ■ Exemptions - If you think you’re exempt on medical grounds, your GP may be able to provide an exemption certificate. There are no medical conditions which grant automatic exemption, though.
DriveOn magazine 27
IT’S A FACT One in seven residents of Watlington in Oxfordshire has points on their licence – the highest ratio in the UK, and twice the national average.
Sensible speed Driving above the speed limit risks a fine. Driving too fast for the conditions risks something far worse Drive at 70mph on a motorway and you’re probably safe – but the same speed on a busy high street would lead to utter carnage. The problem is, things aren’t usually so obvious. On a blind brow, you can’t see what’s just over the horizon. On a twisty rural road you don’t know what’s just around the bend, whether or not there’s a tractor about to emerge from the field that’s fast approaching – or if a horse has just dumped its breakfast on the apex of the next corner. So while speed on its own won’t necessarily harm anyone, the wrong speed for the conditions could easily be lifechanging – for you as well as those around you. THE PENALTIES.: If you’re not driving like an idiot, but you’re caught driving over the speed limit, you’ll be fined £100 and given three points. You might be offered a speed awareness course instead, typically for £100, but without the points. Not everyone gets the option, though, and you can attend only one course every three years. ❑
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IN THE KNOW Don’t try to wriggle out of a fine by trying any of these excuses: ■ “I picked up a hitchhiker who said they liked my car. I let them drive the vehicle. I don’t have their name or address.” ■ “My car was stolen overnight and returned to the same point. I didn’t report it, as the first thing I knew was when a summons turned up.” ■ “I was in the airport’s flight path and I believe the camera was triggered by a jet overhead.”
Combat fatigue If your eyes start to feel heavy when you’re driving, battling on regardless could prove to be a very bad decision... IN THE KNOW
Driving while tired can be as dangerous as drink-driving. One French study found that drivers who have been drinking alcohol or who are sleepy are both twice as likely to be responsible for an accident as someone who is sober and well rested. Being tired worsens our alertness and reaction times, but perhaps the greatest danger is falling asleep completely. Nod off behind the wheel, and you won’t brake or take evasive action. That’s why sleeprelated accidents are more likely than others to result in serious injury or death. Research suggests that one-in-five accidents on major roads are sleep-related. You might think you can beat fatigue by winding down the window or playing loud music, but there’s only one really effective remedy – and that’s sleep. ❑
Here’s how to stay alert: ■ Get plenty of rest before you set off. ■ Avoid alcohol before a journey – just a bit can make you tired. ■ Take regular and proper breaks – include one 15-minute rest for every two hours of driving. ■ Caffeinated drinks can help boost energy, but they take 20 minutes to have an effect. ■ Avoid heavy meals before and during journeys, especially at lunchtime. ■ If you can, share long journeys with another driver. ■ If necessary, schedule an overnight stop for really long drives.
DriveOn magazine 29
Child protection If you’ve got to transport little ones, by law they have to be in a child seat. But which one? If you have grandchildren, the only way of ensuring that your loved ones are safe in your car is with the right car seat. Unfortunately, many people don’t know what TOP TIP to look for when buying a car seat and it’s estimated that up to two-thirds of seats are Almost all modern cars fitted incorrectly, risking a child’s safety. have ISOFIX mounting points. If you are borrowing a seat from mum and These allow compatible child dad, make sure you know how to use it. That seats to attach securely means understanding how to secure it in your and quickly without car, and how to strap the child in correctly. using the car’s For regular trips with the grandchildren, you seatbelts. may want to buy your own seat. Choosing the right seat means picking one that’s appropriate for the child’s weight. Group 0 seats are for children weighing 0-10kg, while Group 0+ seats are suitable for children weighing up to 13kg, Group 1 seats are for children weighing 9-18kg, Group 2 seats are for kids weighing 15-25kg, and IN THE KNOW Group 3 seats cover the 22-36kg weight range. Bin the booster You may also see seats referred to as ‘i-Size’. This is a new European standard for seats which uses If you need graphic proof that all child a child’s height rather than weight to determine seats don’t offer equal protection, just the correct size, and all i-Size seats are fitted using watch child seat manufacturer Britax’s ISOFIX fixings rather than a car’s seatbelts (see the ‘Bin the booster’ video. You don’t need ‘Top tip’ on this page to learn more). to be an expert to see how much more Whatever type of seat you are looking for, ask protection is offered by a high-back for a thorough demonstration and if possible try booster than a basic booster cushion. the seat in your own car before you buy it. ❑ Simple booster seats are a popular option for older children, lifting them up so they can use the car’s seatbelt rather than sitting in a seat with its own harness. However, Britax has found that many seatbelts used to secure child seats may be twisted, too high,
It’s estimated that up to two-thirds of child seats are fitted incorrectly, risking a child’s safety
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The right seat will help keep children safe
or fitted around the seat and not the child. Basic booster cushions also offer no head or side-impact protection. Britax is urging all parents – and grandparents – choosing a Group 2-3 car seat to pick a high-back booster, which locates the upper belt better and provides additional protection for the head, especially from side impacts. “We are calling for all parents using booster cushions to switch to a high-back booster option and help us further spread the word about the inadequate protection these cushions provide - it could save precious lives,” says Britax’s Mark Bennett.
■F or more info and to see the footage visit: www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8hlFdEH0Cc
DriveOn magazine 31
Keep a clear head
Alcohol isn’t the only drug that impairs driving. Did you know that some prescription medication can be just as harmful to driving as illegal drugs or drink? As we age, it’s more likely that we’ll need to take regular medication. While this might help keep our health in check, it can have a serious effect on our driving. So if you’re taking medication, are you still fit to drive? The simple answer to this question is ‘probably’. However, the long answer depends on the type and/or combinations of medications you’re on. The key thing to remember is that if you’re unfit to drive through taking prescription drugs, you can be prosecuted – it’s not all about being high on illegal drugs. Since March 2015 the law on drug driving has changed, making it an offence to drive with more than a set level of certain legal (and illegal) drugs in your system. POTENTIAL REACTIONS Taking any drug can have an effect on your driving. Before you take any medicines, check with your doctor that you’re not likely to suffer from any of these: ■ Sleepiness/drowsiness ■ Fainting ■ Blurred vision ■ I nability to pay attention ■ Dizziness ■ Slowed movement ■ Nausea
IN THE KNOW
The drugs that cause problems Any medicine can lead to your driving being adversely affected. The ones most likely to have an impact include: ■ Drugs for anxiety ■ Anti-depressants ■ Products containing codeine ■ Some cold and allergy remedies ■ Tranquilisers ■ Sleeping pills ■ Pain relievers
THE PENALTIES.: Driving, or attempting to drive, with too much drink in your system means a minimum 12-month ban – or three years if you’re caught twice within 10 years. You can face six months in the slammer, an unlimited fine or, in more serious cases, both. The magistrates who hear your case will decide. Too much alcohol means anything over 80mg of booze per 100ml of blood in England and Wales, and just 50mg in Scotland, something which would be tested at the station after an initial breath test. Refusal to provide a sample, unless there’s medical proof that you can’t, has the same punishments as providing samples above the legal limit – although driving bans can be longer, as an extra deterrent. Kill someone due to drink driving and you face 14 years behind bars, an unlimited fine, and a ban of at least two years. ❑
DriveOn TOP TIP
You can buy a breathalyser to check if you are over the limit, but think twice about drinking to the maximum. It’s more sensible to stick to soft drinks.
Too much alcohol means anything over 80mg of booze per 100ml of blood IN THE KNOW
■ Don’t try to calculate if you’ve consumed enough to tip you over the drink-drive limit. ■ Drinks poured at home are usually larger than pub measures – don’t underestimate how much you’ve had. ■ If you drive to a party and drink more than you expected to, don’t risk it. Book yourself a taxi or arrange for a friend or family member to collect you. ■ If you’re involved in a crash you’ll be breathalysed – don’t risk it. ■ A drinking session the night before can easily put you over the legal limit the following morning. Organise alternative travel plans for the next day. ■ If you know someone has been drinking, don’t let them drive – and definitely don’t let them give you a lift home.
Drink a pint of strong lager or a large glass of wine and it’ll take around three hours before your body has broken down the alcohol
DriveOn magazine 33
OUT TO SEE
Is everything starting to look blurred? Are you squinting more than you used to? If so, it’s time to book an appointment... You should be in the habit of getting your eyes tested every year. It’s normal for your eyesight to begin to deteriorate from your mid-40s, so if it’s a decade since your peepers last got a decent inspection, you may find they’re not as good as you thought. It’s not just about being short or long-sighted though; there’s a raft of potential issues, with night-time driving being a particular problem for older drivers. The minimum amount of light needed for you to see is known as the absolute threshold and this increases as you get older. For every decade over 25, you need twice the brightness at night to receive visual information, so by the time you’re 75, you may need 32 times the brightness you did at age 25 to see properly. Glare can also be a problem. Between the ages of 15 and 65, the recovery time from glare increases from two to nine seconds, and susceptibility to it also increases. So if you’re dazzled by a vehicle on main beam, it’ll take you longer to see clearly again – you could end up driving a considerable distance while blinded by glare. There’s nothing you can do to prevent or slow down this deterioration, but you can mitigate it by having an annual check with a qualified optometrist who will be able to advise you on whether or not you should still be driving – and he or she will also be able to ensure you have the best possible correction for your vision, should you need it. ❑
It’s normal for your eyesight to begin to deteriorate from your mid-40s; there’s a raft of potential issues 34 DriveOn magazine
Regular eye tests are important
IT’S A FACT Driving with defective sight is an offence. Fail to meet the required standard and you could be prosecuted or have your insurance invalidated.
IN THE KNOW
Driving and vision See the signs. Generally, the older we are, the closer we need to be to road signs to see them clearly. We also need them to be lit more brightly and we need to look at them for longer to process the information they’re giving us. So if we see a sign too late we have less time to make the necessary decision. It’s not just you – it’s all of us! It’s the law. You must be able to read (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary)
a number plate made after 1 September 2001 from 20 metres. You must also meet the minimum eyesight acuity standard; that’s your central vision. Your field of vision must be up to scratch, too – along with your peripheral vision. It’s a fact. In a typical year, more than 5000 drivers have their licence revoked because their eyesight isn’t up to the required standard.
■ For the full story on driving eyesight rules, log on to the official website at www.gov.uk/driving-eyesight-rules
DriveOn magazine 35
IT’S A FACT Blue Badge holders are exempt from the London Congestion Charge, so long as they register in advance with Transport for London.
ACCESS all areas If you’ve got mobility problems, help is at hand – whether you’re a passenger or a driver
The Blue Badge scheme exists so that people with mobility problems can park nearer to essential amenities than they otherwise could. Crucially, the scheme isn’t just for drivers with mobility issues; it’s also in place to benefit passengers. Cars displaying a Blue Badge are exempt from some parking restrictions, and they’re also able to park in designated spaces. Blue Badge holders are generally allowed to park for free at on-street parking meters and in pay-and-display bays, as well as on single or double yellow lines for up to three hours, except where there’s a ban on loading or unloading.
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Some local authorities put additional restrictions on Blue Badge holders and the scheme doesn’t apply in some London boroughs, which have their own parking concessions. If you want to apply for a Blue Badge, you can do so through your local authority, or you can do it online via the gov.uk website – just go to www.gov.uk/apply-blue-badge where you’ll find a list of what you’ll need to apply. You can also contact the Blue Badge initial enquiry support service: ■ England: 0343 100 1000 ■ Scotland: 0343 100 1001 ■ Wales: 0343 100 1002 ❑
IN THE KNOW Are you eligible?
The rules for who can and can’t have a Blue Badge changed in 2019 so that people with hidden disabilities, such as autism, could also apply. A badge costs £10 in England, £20 in Scotland, and is free in Wales. Badges usually need renewal every three years. Eligibility criteria vary
across Great Britain. If you receive the higher rate of the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) you should automatically qualify. The full details can be found at: www.gov.uk/government/ publications/blue-badgecan-i-get-one/can-i-geta-blue-badge.
IN THE KNOW
Blue Badge cheats At the end of 2018, the Local Government Association estimated that the theft of Blue Badges had risen by 45% in 12 months and increased six-fold since 2013. The misuse of Blue Badges is also a serious problem, with some drivers borrowing a Blue Badge belonging to a friend or relative, which they have no right to do. It is a criminal offence to misuse a Blue Badge and can lead to its confiscation and a fine of £1000. The
Blue Badge and its concessions must only be used by the badge holder.
DriveOn magazine 37
IT’S A FACT
Motability helps more than half a million people stay mobile and independent, many with specially converted vehicles You’ve probably heard of Motability, but you may not know it’s an independent charity rather than a government-run scheme. It also runs the biggest car fleet in the country, with around 650,000 people enjoying the benefits. A registered charity that’s been going since 1978, Motability enables people to use their government-funded mobility allowance to lease a new car, scooter or powered wheelchair. The scheme works brilliantly in that you can have a new car every three years (every five if it’s a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle), and everything is taken care of. That means
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There’s no upper age limit to the Motability scheme. As long as you already receive one of the relevant allowances, you are eligible to apply.
your insurance, tax, maintenance and breakdown cover are included – even replacement windcsreen cover. You’re restricted to 20,000 miles per year, but that’s double the typical UK driver’s average. Most importantly, Motability can ensure that your car is suitable for you to use, so it can install whatever controls are needed for you to drive safely. And with around 450 different car models available, you shouldn’t struggle to find something suitable. For everything you could ever need to know about what Motability could do for you, log on to www.motability.co.uk or give them a call on 0300 456 4566. ❑
MY STORY... Rosemary’s wheels Rosemary, 67, has been enjoying the benefits and freedom of Motability since it began, and has found it makes a big difference to her life. She says: “Motability has been a tremendous help to me. It’s changed a lot – there are many more makes and models available and new adaptations to make driving easier, but what never changes is the difference it makes to my family every day. “Before we discovered Motability we had an unreliable old banger that I couldn’t drive because
IN THE KNOW
it was a manual, so my husband had to drive us everywhere. I got my first Motability car when my son was a small child and having access to a safe and affordable automatic car was a godsend. I could take him to school, clubs and friends’ houses with ease. I got some of my independence back. “Now I’m retired, we use the car for everyday tasks and getaways. We’ve been able to travel around the country in confidence and comfort, knowing my ‘legs’ are waiting outside for me!”
Motability has changed a lot, but what never changes is the difference it makes
Are you eligible? You must receive one of these benefits: ■ Higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA). ■ Enhanced rate mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP). ■ Armed Forces Independence Payment (AFIP). ■ War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement. The parent of a child over three who gets one of these benefits can also apply.
Rosemary couldn’t imagine life without her Motability car
DriveOn magazine 39
CHOOSE THE RIGHT ROAD Deciding whether or not to continue driving isn’t easy. But ending your driving career doesn’t mean giving up your independence altogether
ith good health and a careful attitude, it’s possible to drive well into old age. But none of us want to continue driving if we’re no longer safe behind the wheel. Older drivers may have a lifetime of experience to fall back on, but slower reactions, reduced dexterity, failing eyesight and other health problems can hinder our ability to control a car
40 DriveOn magazine
safely and deal with hazards. Deciding to stop driving isn’t easy, although the checklist opposite will help. If you do decide your driving days are over, it’s important to remember this doesn’t have to mean the end of your independence, especially if you live somewhere that’s well served by public transport. Anyone old enough to claim a state pension is entitled to free off-peak bus
THE OLDER DRIVER’S CHECKLIST
DriveOn TOP TIP
You don’t have to stop driving entirely. It may be better to gradually cut back, driving regularly but avoiding more stressful and difficult journeys.
travel anywhere in England. Off peak is defined as between 9.30am and 11pm on weekdays, and anytime at the weekend and on public holidays. You’ll need to apply for a pass through your local authority so there’s no doubt that you’re entitled to travel for free. Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish bus users get an even better deal, with anyone over 60 being able to travel free of charge
Deciding whether to carry on driving isn’t easy. It takes honesty and not a little courage to admit your driving days are behind you. Here are some things to consider: Is my eyesight good enough? You have to be able to see clearly. By law, you should be able to read a number plate made after 1 September 2001 from 20 metres. Night vision worsens with age and the time it takes to recover from glare increase, so regular eye tests are a wise precaution. (For more on this, see page 34.) How’s my health? Conditions such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes or arthritis can all harm our ability to drive in different ways. Think about any medication you take, too, and ask your GP about any side effects which may reduce your ability to drive. Am I annoying other drivers? Just because another driver sounds their horn at you, it doesn’t mean you are in the wrong. But if you find that other drivers are frequently frustrated by your driving, it could be that you are making more mistakes and becoming erratic. Have I had any mishaps? After years of being a careful and safe driver, have you started to have any parking bumps or near-misses? Minor errors of judgement can be warning signs that you should cut back on your driving or stop completely before a more serious accident. Have I done everything I can to help myself? If you find busy roads stressful, are you planning your journeys to drive when there is less traffic on the road? If long journeys are becoming daunting, how about taking the train instead and saving the car for shorter journeys? If operating the clutch and gearbox have become a strain, why not swap to an automatic? What do people I trust think of my driving? Has anyone ever told you that your driving makes them feel unsafe? A close friend or relative may feel awkward about bringing this up, so be bold and ask a regular passenger for their honest opinion. If in any doubt, have your driving professionally assessed (see page 14).
DriveOn magazine 41
Stay mobile Are you still a confident driver?
MY STORY... John Motton’s bus-pass adventure Most bus passes are used for short journeys like popping to the shops for a sliced loaf. But John Motton’s bus pass has really clocked up the miles, including a trip from his home in Folkestone, Kent to Land’s End. “The leaflet that came with the bus pass said to use it and enjoy it,” says John, 76. And that’s exactly what he has done. “I’ve read about other people making long journeys with their bus passes, and I thought travelling all
42 DriveOn magazine
the way along the south coast seemed like quite an adventure.” So John and his wife, Christine, started to plan their 350-mile journey. “We decided that we would do it three nights at a time so we didn’t have to take too much luggage.” John and Christine made use of discounted travel on the railways and the National Express coach network to get home, and then to travel west
to restart their bus journey again a few weeks later. “We visited lots of interesting place along the way,” John says. “On a bus you can just sit back and enjoy the ride.”
IN THE KNOW
DriveOn TOP TIP
Need more help deciding whether to continue driving? GEM Motoring Assist has lots of advice on its dedicated website for older drivers, www.stillsafetodrive. org.uk
Deciding whether or not to continue driving doesn’t mean giving up your independence at any time so long as they have a pass. If getting to the bus stop is a struggle, many local authorities operate ‘Dial-a-Ride’ services for the elderly and people with limited mobility. You make a phone call and a minibus is sent to collect you. Taking the train can be a less stressful way to cover long distances than driving. Anyone over 60 can buy a senior railcard which gives a third off most railway fares in England, Scotland and Wales. A one-year card costs £30, and a three-year card £70. After a few trips to visit the grandchildren the card should more than pay for itself.
THAT DIFFICULT CONVERSATION ❑ Talking about giving up driving is awkward. It’s not easy for the senior driver, or for the friend or relative who feels the time has come to persuade someone to hang up their car keys for good. It’s a conversation to be approached carefully. ❑ If someone brings up the subject, don’t be defensive. Remember, it’s difficult for anyone to criticise a loved one’s driving, and if they’re prepared to risk your feelings they are doing so because they are concerned for your safety. Listen to their reasons. ❑ Maybe you are the one who wants to persuade a friend or relative to stop driving. Do so with respect and tact, and emphasise that your main concern is their safety. Point out the advantages, such as the money saved, and help them consider alternative ways to get around.
If you don’t live close to a bus stop or train station, getting about without a car won’t be so easy, but don’t forget you’ll be saving a lot of money if you stop driving. With no finance, insurance, fuel or servicing to pay for, you could be thousands of pounds better off. Driving 5000 miles a year in a new petrol car worth £13,000 costs £2817 per annum, according to the AA. That’s money that could be put towards a mobility scooter or regular taxi rides. Stopping driving doesn’t have to be the end of the road; it just means finding other ways to get around. ❑
DriveOn magazine 43
Owning a car
Buy the right car Finding the ideal car takes time, and our needs tend to change as we get older. Do plenty of research and don’t let anyone rush you into a hasty choice Buying a car is a big decision. It’s a choice most of us have made many times before, but some of the things to consider tend to change as we age. Drivers young and old need to think carefully about their budget, and whether or not a car offers enough space. But as we grow older and develop the odd ache
44 DriveOn magazine
and pain it becomes doubly important to make sure a car is comfortable to sit in. Many drivers find cars with a high-up seating position (such as an MPV or a crossover) are easier to get in and out of. Also, pay close attention to how easy it is to operate the controls. If your fingers aren’t as nimble as they used to be big buttons
will be easier to use than fiddly little switches. Perhaps until you retired you ran a diesel-powered car. If you’ve cut back on your mileage since you stopped work, a diesel may no longer be the best choice. Petrol cars generally cost less to buy, and are better suited to short journeys than modern diesels.
IN THE KNOW New vs used
TOP TIP Don’t home in on just one model when buying; devise a shortlist and shop around to see what deals are available. This week’s perfect buy may not be next week’s...
Take your time and look at several cars before parting with any money
If you live with a more serious health issue, RiDC (the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers) can help with your car-buying decision. You’ll find them online at www.ridc.org.uk or you can call them on 020 7427 2460. RiDC’s website covers topics such as how to keep driving when you suffer with
arthritis, multiple sclerosis or after you’ve had a stroke. There’s also guidance on buying a car that might need modifications for you to use it comfortably. Whatever your health needs, look at several cars before you buy and only spend your money when you are entirely happy with your choice. ❑
Most of us would like a new car, but we know a used car will be more affordable. While that generally holds true, there are other pros and cons to consider besides price. New cars have the advantage of longer warranties, generally covering three years but with five or even seven years of cover offered by some makes. A used car from a main dealer will typically have the remainder of the original warranty or a year’s cover. Buy privately and you can’t expect any warranty or protection against unexpected bills. Another advantage to buying new is the availability of low-rate finance packages which make for surprisingly affordable monthly payments. However, new cars lose their value more quickly than a well cared for used car. And used car buyers can protect against costly repairs with an aftermarket warranty from the likes of www.warrantydirect.co.uk.
Be fore buying, hagg le for th e be st poss ibl e deal
DriveOn magazine 45
Owning a car
A fair deal on insurance
Many 70-year-olds have half a century of driving experience under their belt, but that doesn’t guarantee a great deal on car insurance
You deserve a pat on the back. If you are reading this, the chances are you are over 65 and have probably been driving for nearly 50 years, perhaps more. You would think all that experience would be rewarded with cheap insurance premiums. Unfortunately the reality isn’t so rosy. Other risk factors increase as we age, with slower reactions and other health problems offsetting the benefit of all those years behind the wheel, at least in the eyes of many insurance companies.
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Some big-name insurers start to lose interest in people over 65, and finding cover gets more difficult again once you reach the age of 75. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Competitive cover is out there if you know where to look. On the next page we list some easy steps you can take to keep the cost of insuring your car affordable. With the right car, the right insurer and the right kind of policy, you should be able to find high-quality cover at a fair price. ❑
IT’S A FACT Drivers over 65 are least likely to have penalty points for driving without insurance (under 4000 people) according to IAM RoadSmart.
IN THE KNOW
Cut your premium ■ Contact a specialist in older drivers, such as Age UK, RIAS or Saga. www.ageuk.org.uk www.rias.co.uk www.saga.co.uk ■ Make a thorough search. Don’t just contact insurers you have used before, and try price comparison sites, too. ■ If you don’t drive as often or as far as you used to, try a limited mileage policy. ■ Consider a larger excess to bring down your premium, so long as it’s an excess you could afford to pay if you had to. ■ Think about a black box insurance policy.
IN THE KNOW
Dash cams: your impartial witness Imagine you’ve had a crash. There’s just you and the other driver, and no other witnesses. Their version of events is very different from yours. Just who will be believed? In situations like this dash cams really prove their worth. These discreet video cameras film as you drive, and will automatically record any incident that occurs. A dash cam doesn’t take sides. By recording a collision, you have evidence of your actions and those of the other
driver or drivers involved. It’s a lot harder to argue with a video recording than somebody’s fallible memory of who did what. Being in a crash can be stressful and intimidating, and it’s easy to forget to write down details like the number plate of the other car if you feel flustered . A dash cam will remember what you forget. And if the other driver sees you have a dash cam, they’re more likely to behave calmly if they know they are being filmed.
They can be a worthwhile investment even if you never have an accident. That’s because many insurers offer discounts as high as 20% for drivers using a dash cam. The cameras aren’t expensive, with good quality models from around £50.
DriveOn magazine 47
Owning a car
Park your car on level ground and let it cool. Dig out the handbook then do these basic checks:
LIGHTS With the ignition on, check the headlights and rear lights, including main beam. Do the same for the indicators. If alone, check the brake and reversing lights by reversing towards a wall and looking for the reflection.
48 DriveOn magazine
COOLANT Your engine and radiator contain coolant to stop overheating. Most cars have an opaque plastic coolant expansion tank containing a coloured liquid (green, pink, orange or purple), with the level sitting between the minimum and maximum marks. If it needs topping up, add anti-freeze so the coolant doesn’t become too dilute. Topping up shouldn’t be necessary; if needed, there may be a bigger problem.
BRAKE FLUID Your car’s brakes work hydraulically; the fluid in the system activates the brakes at each wheel. Brake fluid absorbs water over time, which is why it must be replaced every two years. A dropping level suggests leaks in the system. The reservoir is mounted under the bonnet, below the windscreen. Don’t remove the cap; just rock the reservoir gently so you can see the fluid move. It shouldn’t be below the minimum mark.
IN THE KNOW Well oiled
Let your engine run out of oil and it won't be long before the whole thing is wrecked. That's why you must ensure there's always enough oil in your engine. It takes just a couple of minutes; here's how. ❏ Park on level ground and switch off the engine. ❏ Open the bonnet and leave the car for five minutes. ❏ Pull the dipstick out. ❏ Wipe the dipstick clean. ❏ Push the dipstick all the way in. ❏ Pull the dipstick back out. Towards the bottom are two markings. The oil level should be between these; if there's no oil showing at all, the engine will soon be wrecked. ❏ If the oil on the dipstick is below the bottom line, add a small amount of oil. ❏ Add oil by unscrewing the oil filler cap, on top of the engine. ❏ Using the correct type of oil (check the handbook), top up the level.
IN THE KNOW
❏ Check the level again and add more if necessary.
Check the tyres are inflated to the correct pressure, and be sure there’s plenty of tread left. The law states that there should be at least 1.6mm of tread across the central three-quarters of the tyres all the way around. However, wet weather stopping distances in the
wet increase long before this level of wear. Research by Tyresafe.org has shown that a car with barely legal tyres needs a further 11.9 metres to stop from 50mph on wet roads than the same car with brand new tyres. That’s around three whole car lengths.
❏ Replace the oil filler cap and dipstick. ❏ Ensure the dipstick is back in place as well.
DriveOn magazine 49
CUT OUT AND KEEP
Nobody wants to crash, but if you do, make sure you’ve got this page handy, along with a pen and sheet of paper. If it all goes pear-shaped, just follow the instructions.
FIRST: ■ Stop and warn other road users of the incident. If anybody has failed to stop, take their registration number or a description (make, model, colour). Even just a partial registration number may be of use.
■ Switch on your hazard lights and, if possible, move the vehicles to a safe place. Assess any injuries and offer first aid if you can. If anyone has been injured, contact the police or ambulance service straight away.
■ Call the police if there’s debris on the road or an obstruction to traffic; don’t put yourself in danger making the crash scene safe. Call the police if any other driver is aggressive or uncooperative.
ACCIDENT INFORMATION: Date: Time: Weather conditions (low sun, foggy, raining, sunny): Road conditions (wet, dry, muddy): Road where accident occurred:
Brief description of what happened, using a diagram if it helps:
Note: If more than one other vehicle is involved, make sure you collect their details too.
Make & model:
Description of driver:
Number of occupants in car:
Driver’s contact number:
Insurer’s contact number:
Colour: Policy no:
DAMAGE TO VEHICLES:
Fill this section in right away, so in the event of an accident, you can simply tear it out and hand it over.
Car registration: Policy no:
Insurer’s contact number: I confirm that all details on this sheet are to the best of my knowledge, correct and accurate: You: Other driver: Signed: Signed: Date: Date:
■ Don’t admit liability – even if you think it was your fault. If you do, it’ll only cause problems later on. ■ Don’t put yourself in danger to make the area safe – call the police and stay out of the way of any moving traffic. ■ Don’t leave any valuables in your car if you have to leave it at the scene – damaged cars are often looted. ■ Take photos of the scene, the cars involved and any other damage – photograph from every angle you can. ■ Contact the police – even if you think the accident is only minor, they will have it on their records if any dispute arises. ■ Contact your insurance company as soon as possible after the accident – and certainly within 24 hours.
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