Aug 272016
 

New research for Kwik Fit, the UK’s largest automotive servicing and repair company, has revealed that the average driver knows only 79% of UK road sign meanings, with one in five road signs a mystery.

For two in five drivers, not being able to understand a sign or being confused over its meaning has led to problems on the road. The most common mistakes due to misinterpreting road signs are breaking the speed limit (16%), braking suddenly (15%) and having to slow down, causing traffic to build up (9%).

Perhaps recognising the gaps in their knowledge, the majority of drivers believe that the driving theory and hazard perception tests should be retaken throughout people’s motoring lives, with more than half (53%) thinking it should be repeated at least once every twenty years.

When researchers for Kwik Fit tested drivers on some specific UK roads signs and road markings, some significant gaps in their knowledge were revealed.  Only one in ten drivers correctly identified the central white line markings which indicate a hazard ahead.  In direct contrast to their true meaning, the vast majority (66%) believed that this line meant normal road conditions.

A circular white sign with a red border is worryingly unfamiliar to the majority of drivers, as only a quarter (27%) know that this means “all vehicles prohibited expect bicycles being pushed by pedestrians”. More than this number (30%) of drivers think it signifies a “red route – no waiting” while a further third (33%) admitted to not knowing.

While a white “C” on a red circle should be familiar to drivers in the capital, one in four Londoners (22%) don’t recognise this as signifying a congestion charging zone.  In fact, 6% of Londoners think it means “caution children ahead” with 4% believing it marks a charging point for electric vehicles. Those drivers from outside London should take care if they are making a trip to the capital, as more than a third (34%) could not correctly identify the road sign, and so could find themselves risking a penalty fine.

Signs giving indications of speed caused confusion for a surprising number of drivers. Kwik Fit found that almost one in five drivers (19%) were flummoxed by the meaning of a white circle with a black diagonal bar.  5% thought this meant a 70 mph limit applied, 4% thought 60mph applied while 7% thought it meant no speed restrictions, something which doesn’t apply on any public road in the UK. The correct meaning is “national speed limit applies”.

As well as maximum speeds causing confusion, drivers are also in danger of being caught out by minimum speeds signs.  A white 30 on a blue circle with a red diagonal line through it indicates the end of a 30mph minimum speed zone, something that could be identified by just one in four (25%) of drivers.

Two-thirds (68%) of UK adults believe that drivers should have to re-take the driving theory and hazard perception tests, with an average gap of every 15 years. Those who do currently drive would leave a longer period between tests, on average every 16.5 years, while non-drivers believe motorists should be retested every 11 years

Roger Griggs, communications director at Kwik Fit, says: “The findings show that although many of us think we are good drivers, we are ready to accept that we don’t know the meanings of all road signs. Our research showed that some surprising results, and indicated that there are some clear instructions and safety warnings which drivers are not picking up on when out on the road.

“While people can’t be expected to voluntarily retake their test, it would be a good idea for even those of us who have been driving a long time to make sure we really do know the correct meaning of road signs and markings.”

Aug 262016
 

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TyreSafe and Highways England research suggests that over 10 million UK motorists could drive a vehicle with an illegal and dangerous tyre during 2016. This comprehensive survey highlights a poor attitude towards tyre safety among UK motorists. The joint survey revealed more than 27% of tyres were already illegal when they were replaced.

That could equate to more than one-in-four of the 37 million cars and light commercial vehicles (LCVs) on the UK’s roads being driven with a tyre that could cost its driver a £2,500 fine and three penalty points, an MoT failure – or worse.

The survey’s findings confirm fears among road safety stakeholders of a poor attitude towards tyre safety among UK motorists, which is increasing the risk of drivers being involved in an incident. A vehicle’s tyres are the only safety critical component in contact with the road and if unroadworthy the effectiveness of the vehicle’s braking and steering systems are significantly compromised.

In particular, tread depth has a decisive impact on the amount of distance a vehicle takes to stop in the wet, and must be of at least the minimum legal limit (1.6mm). Previous studies* have proven that the braking distance of a vehicle with tread of 1.6mm is nearly 12m further than a vehicle with new tyres when braking in the wet from 50mph.

Stuart Jackson, Chairman, TyreSafe, said: “The Tread depth survey results are a concern. Figures from the Department for Transport** show that dangerous tyres are the largest single contributory factor in accidents resulting in casualties of any vehicle defect – including brakes. If the number of casualties from tyre-related incidents is to be reduced on our roads, the UK’s motorists need to change their attitude to this primary safety feature and carry out regular checks to ensure their vehicle’s tyres are roadworthy.

“The concern comes not just from the number of illegal tyres at the point of replacement, but also the proportion which were below 2mm – those with just 0.4mm left (half the thickness of a bank card) before reaching the 1.6mm legal minimum.

While a tyre is legal at this point, the amount of distance it can cover and remain within the law is difficult to predict and can only be verified by regular checks. TyreSafe’s own research has revealed one-in-five drivers have never checked their tyres and the majority of the remaining vehicle owners do not do so on a regular basis.

“The obvious conclusion is that while one-in-four tyres are illegal at the point of replacement, a further 43% are changed before reaching 1.6mm more by good luck than good judgement. TyreSafe urges drivers to check their tyres regularly before their luck runs out.”

Take a look at the full survey results below from TyreSafe.

Jul 312016
 

The race is currently on to create the next breakthrough in driving – autonomous cars. With technology companies and car manufacturers rigorously testing their own take on the driverless car, how far are we from the new future of motoring?

The support for autonomous / driverless cars was front and centre of recent new government backed legislation in early 2016. The overall aim was to have motorists buying and using self-driving cars by 2020. Chances are, if you’ve followed news within the motoring world, you’ve likely been hearing a lot recently about plans for driverless cars and many are keen to jump on the bandwagon.

Partially autonomous cars are already available now to motorists; with the ‘Parking Assist’ feature widely embodied in a variety of car makes and models.  Furthermore, some cars on the market are already experimenting with the technology themselves such as the high profile Tesla Model S “Autopilot” feature. But this has only been an indication of what a fully driverless car could potentially achieve.

Plans for full autonomous cars have been frequently announced across manufacturers and mainstream companies. Volvo laid down plans earlier in the year regarding their ambitious trial of recruiting members of the British public to test their autonomous technology on a public highway. This particular test will see a limited number of semi-AD cars running in London early next year.  Similarly, The GATEway project has also opened their doors to the public to participate in similar trials – conducted at the UK Smart Mobility Living Lab in Greenwich.

Search engine giants Google have also been flying their flag for driverless cars for a considerable amount of time. They’ve been constantly in the spotlight with their own vehicle throughout its testing phase. However, early reviews from journalists were not thrilled by the car’s performance. This hasn’t been helped by some additional public testing hiccups along the way with the occasional crash and police pulling a test model over for being too slow. It seems Google’s advantage in the race to create the first driverless car has faded. With other companies like Uber and possibilities surrounding Apple’s involvement in the motor industry, it’s clear that this method of transport seems high on agenda’s for the manufacturer and technology companies.

As it stands it’s too early to see who will launch their driverless vehicle first, so don’t expect them to appear on driveways near you just yet. There are still many other areas to address before driverless cars can be properly inducted onto our roads. Motor insurance guidelines, driving tests and other areas of established road rules and regulations also need to be prepared for the dawn of the driverless motor. Despite the backing of UK legislation, the autonomous future seems to be coming though at a cautious pace.

Jul 302016
 

Electrical gremlins are the faults most likely to provide motorists with an unwanted repair bill just as their car exits the standard three-year manufacturer’s warranty period, according to Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index.

While some car makers offer longer new car warranties, sometimes of up to seven years, most still offer the typical three years’ worth of cover.

Just over a quarter of cars suffer an electrical breakdown in their fourth year on the road, but axle and suspension faults have the sharpest increase between a car’s third and fourth year, jumping up nearly 4% to just over one in five (22%).

Engine failures are the third most likely thing to go wrong as a car comes out of the protective umbrella offered by a three-year manufacturer warranty, with 17% suffering a fault.

Over the last five years, air con and electrical faults are the failures that have consistently increased as soon as a car enters its fourth year.

Data analysed from the 30,000 Warranty Direct policies that were live in 2015 showed that electrical and engine faults are actually more likely in a three-year old car. But the repair bill for an engine failure on a four-year old car is considerably more expensive, at an average of £740.76 as opposed to £692.26 on a three-year old vehicle.

Gearbox faults are the most expensive to fix on a four-year old car, with an average repair bill of £896.22, more than a hundred pounds more than on a three-year old car.

The cost of fixing steering system woes also jumps between a car’s third and fourth years, again by more than £100, to an average of £532.37.

Overall, the average repair cost for a four-year old car is £480.74.

Jul 292016
 

The sleek, Japanese-built, Mazda MX-5 (05-15) has been named the most reliable* used convertible for summer driving, in a new study of 3-8 year old** cars by the industry’s leading provider of direct consumer warranties, Warranty Direct.

The company analysed its database of 50,000 live policies to reveal that Mazda’s classic and recently-revived roadster is the least likely of all convertibles on Warranty Direct books to leave you stranded with pricey, undesirable repairs.

The Vauxhall’s Tigra (04-09) is the next best car on the list, boasting the second lowest maximum repair cost in the top 10 convertibles table at £663.74; the Tigra however, is more than twice as likely than the MX-5 to suffer a fault, with 18 in every 100 expected to break down each year.

The Peugeot 206 CC (98-09), Mercedes-Benz SLK (04-11) and Volvo C70 (06-13) complete the top five, with both the Mercedes-Benz and the Volvo racking up wallet wilting maximum repair costs of £2695.02 and £2086.51 respectively, more than three times that of the Mazda in the most expensive case.

Top 10 Most Reliable Convertibles

Make Model Year Reliability Index Maximum Repair Cost
1 Mazda MX-5 (05-15) 16 £501.4
2 Vauxhall Tigra (04-09) 36 £663.74
3 Peugeot 206 CC (98-09) 72 £1701.37
4 Mercedes-Benz SLK (04-11) 92 £2695.02
5 Volvo C70 (06-13) 101 £2086.51
6 Volkswagen Eos (06-14) 126 £5864.46
7 Audi TT Roadster (06-14) 132 £4408.37
8 BMW Z4 (09-16) 136 £2152.4
9 Audi A3 Cabriolet (03-13) 145 £4373.11
10 BMW 3 Series (07-13) 204 £5958.06

Warranty Direct’s Chief Operating Officer, Philip Ward, said: “With the summer holidays upon us and the recent heatwave, many drivers might just be thinking about finally dropping the top.

“The Mazda MX-5 is head and shoulders above its competition. It’s fun to drive, has long-proven reliability and is surprisingly affordable in terms of convertible ownership.

“Manual folding roofs have fewer parts to go wrong, whereas modern electric roofs include motors and hydraulic pumps, which can cause expensive repairs. This explains why some high-end convertibles appear lower on the list.”

Electrical faults are the most common on the top 10 most reliable drop-tops, with an average repair cost of £349.35.

Nearly two in five (37%) of BMW Z4 garage visits are due to electrical faults, whilst 28% of Audi A3 Cabriolet breakdowns are on account of engine faults.

The BMW 3 Series is the most expensive car in the top 10 to fix if something does go wrong, with repair bills soaring to £5958.06.

At the opposite end of the scale, the Porsche Boxster (04-12) is the least reliable convertible, with 42 in every 100 suffering problems which cost an average of £731.07 to repair.

*- Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index score is calculated on a combination of vehicle criteria from a database of more than 50,000 live policies:

  • Frequency of failure
  • Cost of repair
  • Duration of repairs
  • Average age and mileage

The higher the Reliability Index score, the worse the car is – the lower the score, the better and the average RI number is 100. For more information on Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index, visit; www.reliabilityindex.com/what-is

** – Warranty Direct looked only at 3-8 year old vehicles for which there was a minimum of 100 policies on each vehicle to be robust.