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This article has been kindly donated by Chris Smith http://silb.co.uk/ , hopefully Chris will be a monthy guest Blogger.

 

Are You Aware Of Recent UK Law Changes As A Driver?

As a current learner driver you will no doubt be up to speed on all the rules of the road, thanks to your instructor and all of that theory test studying you’ve been doing. But what about your relatives and friends who perhaps sat their test a little less recently, or some of those rules that may not be as relevant to the Highway Code but which might still affect you once you’re out on the roads by yourself?

Check out and share these five recent changes to help everyone stay up-to-date!

 

1)      Speeding Fines Based On Your Means

Make sure you aren’t among the 80% of drivers unaware of the new speeding fines implemented earlier in the year. These are now calculated based on your weekly earnings (or benefits if you are unemployed), and may be up to 150% depending on the severity of the offence:

Band A: 50% of your weekly pay and 3 penalty points
Band B:  4-6 penalty points or a 7-28 day driving ban and 100% of your weekly pay
Band C: 6 penalty points or a 7-56 day driving ban and 150% of your weekly pay

Remember that new drivers in particular risk losing their licence if they build up six points within the first two years of having passed their test, so although there is a 10% margin of error, do you really want to chance having to re-sit your test for those five minutes of adrenaline?

A Note About European Speeding Fines

Gone are the days of being able to escape a speeding ticket from your holiday on the continent by simply returning home to the UK and quietly forgetting about it. Also gone are the days where motorists from other countries can do the same in the UK…  As a result of a new EU information sharing directive, drivers will now be penalised for their driving offences in the exact same way that a resident of the country they committed them in would be. That means whether you were driving in your own car or a rental car, and stopped in person or caught on camera, your ticket will be delivered to your letterbox when you get home. Don’t let those two weeks in the sun come back to haunt by ensuring you’re aware of the speed limits and driving practices in the countries you visit!

 

2)      Car Tax Now Based On Value AND CO2 Emissions

Since April 2017, cars are not only taxed on their CO2 emissions, but also according to their cost – there are fixed annual bands for petrol/diesel cars (£140) and for hybrid cars (£130), but if your vehicle cost more than £40,000, a “premium supplement” of £310 per year applies for five years.  This includes electric cars, which were previously tax free, but doesn’t affect second hand cars registered before 1st April 2017.

If you’re ready to invest in your own set of wheels in the near future, keep this and the following update in mind.

 

3)      “Toxin Tax” for Diesel Vehicles

Thanks to an order from the European Commission, owners of diesel vehicles may be in for a shock after having enjoyed years of incentives to buy them for the sake of their lower CO2 emissions.

Due to heavy levels of Nitrogen Dioxide air pollution in some UK cities, the number one source of which is diesel vehicles, a daily fee similar to the London emission charges will be introduced in 2019. This is likely to involve  charges of £20 for drivers of diesel vehicles to enter certain high pollution areas, with potential bans during extremely busy times in the worst affected areas.

Currently around 39% of vehicles run on diesel in the UK, so the new charges may significantly reduce their value and increase owners’ costs. If you already own a diesel car or were considering buying one soon this is something to keep in mind, especially if you live near one of the pollution zones.

 

4)      Stricter Phone Laws

Did you know that your reaction time when using a phone while driving is worse than if you had been drinking, quadrupling your chances of being in a crash?

Despite the scary statistics, the temptation still seems to be too much for many drivers.

This year the law has been changed to reflect this, with severe consequences in place to discourage offenders.  The price for those who have recently passed their test is especially high – while the £200 fine would be unpleasant, the accompanying 6 penalty points would mean that your licence would be revoked completely if you have passed within the last two years.

Unless you need to call the emergency services in a situation where it is unsafe for you to stop, it is illegal to use your phone unless safely parked, including:

·         Using the sat-nav function without a hands-free setup

·         At traffic lights and in queues (including fast food drive-thrus – be wary if you are a user of Android or Apple Pay!)

·         Even when you are not in the driving seat when supervising a learner

 

5)      New Booster Seat Rules

As the driver, it is your responsibility to make sure any children in the car are using the appropriate seat, so it’s important to be aware of the rules even if you’re only giving your niece a lift to her swimming club five minutes down the road.

Previously children as young as three could use booster seats rather than the more secure 5-point harness systems, but changes to the rules mean that new booster seats can only be used once the child is 125cm (4’1.6”) or taller and 22kg (3st 6.5lbs) or heavier, or over the age of 12. Existing booster seats that comply with the old regulations can still be used, provided the child meets the minimum requirements stated for these (generally weighing above 15kg/2st 5lbs).

 

Now you’re informed about the changes to driving laws in 2017, here are some more helpful resources to find out more and make sure you don’t get caught out:

Stay informed about speed limits in the UK and in other countries you might be visiting.

Find out more about the new car tax bands.

Learn which UK cities with high pollution areas may be affected by the “Toxin Tax” for diesel vehicles.

Take the THINK! Driving challenge to see for yourself how easily you can get distracted by a phone in the car.

Ensure you know your legal obligations as a driver.

Find out how to fit a child car seat correctly.               

 

Test your knowledge of common driving misconceptions.

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This article has been kindly written by Bert Symons, who was a Bus/Coach Driving Instructor for Plymouth Citybus. We hope you find this interesting.

A day in the life of a Bus Driver

 

What is a Bus Driver?

·           To a passenger he / she is a professional driver who takes them from A to B safely.  He/she is also a social worker listening to the tales of woe and the highlights of peoples lives.  He/she is the school child chaperon, the driver who takes folks to a night out and then brings them back and they throw up all over him/her.  He/she is also the information point for all manner of enquiries, some quite unsavoury ones too.  The passenger assumes the Bus Driver to be the consummate Professional.   Little do they know the driver may have only had the Bus Licence for about two or three weeks in some cases, but none the less we trust their judgement.

·           To another Professional Driver the bus or coach driver is someone who shares the same road traffic problems and trusts them to help in sorting a traffic problem in tight circumstances

·           To the everyday motorist….the bus driver is seen as a necessary evil and a problem that has to be dealt with, often in a not too nice way.  This is not so of all motorists; there are goodly number who will help a bus driver in time of need, at a the scene of an RTA or similar and in most traffic situations

·           THE BUS DRIVER……….the all time consummate professional, the all knowing person in the bus seat, the one who spends eight to ten hours a day driving a bus up to twelve tons (without passengers 15 to a ton) in town traffic and for that they get a 45 minute break

·           It is fair to say that not all Bus Drivers are as professional as they might be in their approach to the job inside or outside the vehicle.  Though all of them, throughout Great Britain are taught to drive a bus to the same high standards as that expected of an advanced driver and better

·           When dealing with traffic, the main source of a bus drivers work day, he / she is taught to drive with patience and consideration for other drivers and passengers.  In traffic situations they are taught simple things like…..if the gap looks too small…..it is.  Don’t become part of or create a traffic situation, better way is to hang back and see what develops.  If it turns good, fine, if it turns sour you have at minimum kept yourself, your vehicle and your passengers safe

·           Bus driver and lorry driver training from an Instructor’s point of view can be easy or can be hard, depending on how the person in the seat approaches the job.  As an Instructor I found part of my work was to re-educate a “licenced” driver how to think big and not take chances where they don’t really exist.  Also to get the “newbie bus driver / lorry driver” to realise that they have to be the eyes and ears and brain not only for their own drive but for that of other drivers too

·           Bus drivers have a lot to contend with in a day’s work. Sign on at 0500 hrs maybe, official vehicle checks before starting off. Set up destination blinds, set up ticket machine, consider diversions, make sure the wrist watch is right.  Follow a set route, know fares and bus stops, know traffic regulation surrounding bus drivers and driving, attend a 5 yearly refresher course to attain and retain the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence that gives the right to use the bus licence for gain.  So much more of a job than the travelling public and the motorist can imagine

 

To be a Bus Driver: Using the licence for gain (wage or otherwise)

 To drive a bus you must first have a full car driving licence and then obtain a provisional bus driving licence.   To start training for the bus licence a driver has to pass a two part theory test and also a two part driving test (ability and demonstration).  When completed the new bus driver, to retain his/her nice new licence has to achieve 35 hours Driver Certificate of Professional Competence over the next five years.  This is ongoing.  No CPC? You retain your bus licence but cannot drive for hire or reward

 The average training is two up for three weeks.  Some drivers need much less time and others a lot more.  Whatever the case in the training time for the licence they will learn how the vehicle works, the rules surrounding work hours, the use of a digital tachograph and do hours of practical driving in all types of traffic conditions and all types of road, including a fast road, town road and countryside roads

 Beyond the test training time the training continues.  In the post test training the “new bus driver” will learn further appropriate rules surrounding bus work, how to use the ticket machine, set up destination blinds, what duty cards are all about and how to read them, how to read timetables, rules for lost property, how to deal with unruly passengers, disabled passengers, children and others in general

 There is also a need to learn routes, time pinch points, where bus stops are, normal diversion routes, breakdown procedure, radio procedure, maintenance repairs reporting, the 24 hour clock and so much more, just to arrive at a bus stop at an appointed time and leave again to destination

 Practical driving development continues during the post test period and with all the other elements will last in general for around another three weeks.

 From the day of job application through interview, acceptance, licence application, theory and driving test training time to post-test training can be as much eight to twelve  weeks.  It’s a long haul but 98% will tell you initially at least that it has all been worthwhile.  Success, enjoyment and retention for a bus driver in particular will depend a lot on how the Instructor approached the training sessions with each individual, recognising individuals’ needs tied in with the common problems that are so often experienced

 Bus driving is not a job for the feint hearted and should not be in any way other than in a professional manner, both from the new driver and the Instructor

 

Problems in Bus Driving in Relation to Other Road Users

 

Passengers who become road users

It’s not unknown for a passenger to get off a bus and immediately cross in front of their bus and walk into the path of an oncoming vehicle.  If there is a collision of this manner the bus driver is automatically involved.  There have been many instances where a bus driver has stopped this happening by checking the offside mirror and sounding the bus horn

 Pulling into and out of Bus Bays

Probably one of the more hazardous parts of the job.  Pulling into a bus bay has to be done at low speed, as a result the back end of a bus seems to take so long in clearing a road.  The bus driver has to stop within 4 inches of a kerbside to accommodate safe entry and exit of the bus of passengers on foot or in a wheelchair.  Sometimes pulling into a bus stop or bay fully or at all is impossible due to cars or vans being parked where they should not.

 Pulling out of a bus bay or away from a kerbside bus stop can be just as much of a problem.  If there is an obstruction in the bay or at the stop the driver has to apply more steering to get round the problem, the rear nearside on most modern buses will pivot quickly by about a metre and swipe anything too close, this includes cyclists.  More forward space is also needed to accommodate the length of a bus, so the driver may need to use the opposing carriageway to complete the moving off manoeuvre

 Normal Driving Needs

If normal exists!!  One of the things that is majored on in training is the use of mirrors. That is exterior and interior mirrors.  The internal mirrors have no use in road work, they are primarily for watching passenger movement.  This is something that has to be considered when braking accelerating and steering. How a bus driver reacts with controls can often be determined by the actions of another motorist and can have devastating effects on passenger safety.

 Most city type buses are either semi-automatic or fully automatic gearboxes.  As a result the delays between gear changes experienced in manual vehicles are non-existent in today’s buses.  This means that a lot of buses, on the flat, can be as fast as the average car when moving off.  It has been known to catch out some motorists who are “trying to beat the bus” away from traffic lights etc

 The use of mirrors in a bus driver’s day is crucial and has saved many problems. External mirrors are used when pulling into and out of bus bays.  Pulling in to ensure the back of the bus is clear of the kerb or any nearside obstruction, including a vehicle, cyclist, protruding kerb edge and so much more.  Pulling out of a bay or stop the mirrors have two uses.  One is to ensure there are no running passengers on the nearside which diverts the attention slightly as he/she then checks the offside for the gap in the traffic that is needed.  There is quite often a check back to the nearside before proceeding too far

 Normal forward driving for a Bus Driver is anything but, especially in towns and cities.  A lot depends on the behaviour of other road users and that includes cyclists, motorists of all types, wheelchair users, Motability scooters and pedestrians of all ages.  A special problem is the pedestrian who wants to end life and quite literally walks in front of an oncoming bus at the last moment.  The Driver has this to deal with for the rest of his/her life and as an Instructor it has been to down me or a colleague to pick up the mental pieces

  As well as dealing with other motorists, the bus driver’s work, “passengers,” can also create a problem either on the bus, getting on or off and running for the bus.  On the bus the passenger will get up and move around and this is where the actions of a motorist can create a problem.  Someone swerving in front of the bus or braking suddenly or harshly can have that concertina effect and can throw a passenger up into the bulkhead of the bus or up against hand support bars as the driver reacts

 At a bus stop a bus driver prepares to move into traffic….offside, glance forward on the sweep, nearside and offside mirrors again and one quick final check to the nearside as the bus enters the traffic flow for running passengers.  Imagine, you’re trying to break into traffic flow and someone is running alongside the bus and banging on the side for you to stop.  Instant decision time; do I stop or continue, will the passenger fall under the wheels, will I collide with a vehicle, has someone given way, will I create a traffic problem if I stop for the passenger?  You decide

 BUS LANES (or least that’s what they are called)

Bus lanes now accommodate not just buses, but cyclists, motor cyclists, emergency vehicles taxis and any bus type vehicle with more than 9 seats.  This list in itself creates so many extra problems for the bus driver.  Cyclists are the most vulnerable and quite often don’t consider their own safety when in a bus lane either by riding in an awkward position or sneaking up the nearside of a bus.  Because of the superb straight-line of a bus body, the mirrors give good rearward vision, even so a cyclist can easily be hidden and get crushed.  The rear of the bus is so remote from the driver, on newer coaches 15 metres away, it’s easy to hit something and not know it.  Nearly all buses now are fitted with active CCTV and often up to eight cameras on the outside of the bus and three or four per deck inside

 Motorcyclists pose a separate problem.  In Plymouth our motorcyclists not only use the bus lanes to beat traffic queues but also to do it at much higher speeds than the road speed limit

 Taxis.  The problem here is when a taxi pulls up in a bus lane to set down or pick up a fare or does their shopping etc it’s not unknown

 Emergency vehicles create a whole new set of problems. In Plymouth we have a special relationship with all of the emergency services.  There are times when bus drivers cannot make way for the emergency vehicle, but there are times when the bus driver can “rightly or wrongly” use his/her vehicle to create a gap for the emergency vehicle.  Bus drivers are mad aware of the national guidelines for dealing with emergency vehicles.

 

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Driving and Drowsiness – A Dangerous Combination

 

Being drowsy whilst driving is a major problem in the UK, and it’s enough to test even the safest and most experienced of drivers. Drowsy driving usually happens when you have not slept enough, but can also occur due to untreated sleep disorders, taking medications, or even shift work. It can affect you at any time, as it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when sleep comes over the body. Just as driving while intoxicated is risky and dangerous, not to mention illegal, drowsiness makes you less able to pay attention to the road, slows your reaction time particularly if you need to break or steer abruptly, and affects your ability to make sound driving decisions. We are all aware of the common dangers associated with driving while alert, such as other cars failing to signal and low visibility, but drowsiness is an equally dangerous way to hurt yourself and other drivers around you. A lack of sleep accounts for approximately 20% of all crashes on main roads here in the UK, so don’t be a statistic, pull over to rest or change drivers if you feel any warning signs coming on. 

Legally Responsible

In the UK, if you have a car accident whilst sleep deprived, the law will make you accountable. Although the courts have some deal of flexibility on this matter, if you are charged with dangerous driving, and by definition this means driving in a way that is below the minimum acceptable standard and poses a risk to personal injury or safety, then you will be charged. While a judge’s sentence may vary depending on the amount of damage caused by an accident, at the very minimum your license will be revoked. A prison sentence of up to five years is also possible, even if no serious injury or harm has been done. It is clear to see that the UK judicial system takes driving whilst drowsy very seriously.

 

Is It That Common?

Surprisingly, driving whilst tired is more common than one would think. What would seem as something that is easily avoidable by following a regular pattern of sleep and ensuring your energy levels are stable, driving whilst tired happens more often than imagined. For example, if you are looking forward to an event or a special occasion and are unable to sleep through the night, you may well find yourself sleep deprived in the morning. This poses potential risks to your driving skills, including excessive speeding, or worse, nodding off at the wheel.

Most accidents occur between the hours of 2-6am, even amongst those who are sober. At this time of the day, most people are relaxed and a bit more carefree with their driving as the roads are generally quieter. This is when drivers lose control of their vehicles and crash as their focus is not on other vehicles around them.  

 

Commercial drivers – those who operate tow trucks and buses, for example, are particularly vulnerable during this time of the day, and for two main reasons. Firstly, commercial drivers tend to either be on a delivery deadline or need to return to their base depot, and because of this, they rarely break through the night and get the rest they need. Secondly, and as the Freight Transport Association points out, there is a lack of rest-stop facilities for commercial drivers on UK motorways. The Association describes this shortage as a mistake and an example of how money and business will always win over common sense and personal safety.

The Warning Signs of Drowsy Driving

There is a difference between being tired and being too tired to drive, and it’s something that can hit you at any time. You may start on an all-day car journey perfectly fine and alert, but as the journey progresses you can easily start to feel tired.

The National Sleep Foundation has identified a few symptoms to watch out for which can help you determine when to take a rest break. Some of these symptoms include:

·         - Struggling to focus accompanied by frequent blinking and heavy eyelids

·         - Daydreaming and keeping your focus

·        -  Difficulty remembering the last distances driven

·        -  Missing your exit and drifting from your lane

·        -  Repeated yawning and irritability

 

If it feels as though you are suffering from one or more of these symptoms, find a safe place to pull off on the side of the road, such as a resting spot. If you have another person in the vehicle who is licensed and insured to drive, ask them to take over. Just remember not to panic if you feel any of these symptoms as increased fear means there is a generally a higher risk of crash.

Although drinking coffee can help in small doses, it is best not to rely on it as a solution to your drowsiness as too much caffeine can make a driver experience lapses in concentration and slower reaction times. Coffee consumption is only to be used as a quick fix and not as a substitute for regular breaks. The best advice is to stay calm and exercise caution and good judgement so you can get to your destination safely and securely.

Article written and kindly supplied to us by Justin Fox