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Calling all drivers to check their head restraints

WEDNESDAY 2 SEPTEMBER 2009

Research released by Brake and Direct Line finds two out of three of drivers don’t know how to correctly position their head restraints, yet a correctly fitted head restraint can help reduce the chance of suffering a serious neck or head injury in a crash.

Two out of three respondents said they didn’t know how to correctly position their head restraints, or incorrectly thought the top of a head restraint should be level with your neck or ears. The remaining one in three drivers correctly say the top of a head restraint should be level with the top of your head to give your head protection and to stop your neck ‘hyper-extending’ backwards in a crash, potentially breaking it or giving you other severe injuries.

Two out of three respondents said they never or rarely check their head restraints. Only one in seven drivers claimed to always check.

Case study: Michelle Houldershaw suffered whiplash injuries on 23 November 2000 following a car crash in Boston, Lincolnshire. Doctors later diagnosed her injuries as having developed into vertebrobasilar insufficiency (VBI) – a condition which has caused Michelle to have two heart attacks and seven paralyses, which have similar effects to those of a stroke.

Michelle Houldershaw says: “A short loss of concentration from the driver behind caused complicated whiplash and led to neck pain and spasms. From being an independent, active person; I became a disabled person who was being cared for by her two young children and husband. If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in a car crash, don’t suffer more than you have to – adjust your head restraint to the correct height.”

Brake, the road safety charity 27.8.09

Hundreds die without seatbelts

THURSDAY 20 AUGUST 2009

Fifty years after the invention of the modern car seatbelt, 400 people are still being killed each year because they fail to "belt up". The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (Rospa) says Volvo's three-point belt design has saved one million lives worldwide.

But too many people are still ignoring safety warnings. The Department for Transport said campaigns and on-the-spot fines were hoped to encourage more seatbelt use. Volvo did not patent its three-point belt design, created in 1959, to encourage other carmakers to install the safety measure. As a result seatbelts were widely fitted from the 1970s.

However, Rospa's road safety manager Duncan Vernon said lives were still being "needlessly lost" despite the invention's success. "Wearing a seatbelt is one way you can drastically increase your chances of survival in a crash, even if it's just a short journey or you don't think it's necessary to put one on," he said. "As we get new drivers every week, it's important that everyone hears the message about how seatbelt wearing is important."

The first government campaigns in the 1970s featured Jimmy Saville imploring motorists to: "Clunk the car door. Click the seat belt. Even if you are just going round the corner: Clunk Click Every Trip." By 1982, it had succeeded in convincing about 40% of car drivers and front-seat passengers to wear seatbelts.

Younger drivers

Department for Transport research puts the number of people killed annually while not wearing a seatbelt at about 565 and estimates close to 370 would have survived if they had been restrained. Its research showed the peak age for not wearing seatbelts was 21 to 25.

A spokesman said: "Road deaths are at an all time low in the UK but we know that a life could be saved every day if all drivers and passengers belted up every time they got in a car. "That is why the government runs hard-hitting advertising campaigns highlighting the dangers of not wearing a seatbelt and has recently doubled the fixed penalty for not wearing a seatbelt [to £60]." Its latest campaign, launched last year at a cost of £2.6m, shows graphic images of the damage that can be caused to internal organs in road crashes when people do not wear seatbelts.

The maximum fine in the courts for not wearing a seatbelt is £500.

Pay-as-you-go motoring back on the cards again?

TUESDAY 28 JULY 2009

Despite a move to introduce pay as you drive motoring being shot down in flames by UK motorists only 2 years ago it looks as though this particular policy may well be back on the agenda. Citing the fact that motorists no longer believe the government when it introduces tax rises for motorists in the name of "the green revolution" there is a push to put pay as you drive motoring back on the agenda.

While there is a valid reason for disputing the UK government's handling of various tax increases in connection with motorists in the UK, there are grave concerns that by introducing pay-as-you-go motoring this will give the government an easy opportunity to increase the charges year-on-year. At least with the road tax you know exactly what you are paying for the next 12 months, even though the duty on petrol does fluctuate. Would you rather the government introduce an initial low pay-as-you-go mileage charge then increase this in the years to come, again in the name of "the green revolution"?

While there may be some new support for pay-as-you-go driving there is a danger that motorists will make it much easier for the government to increase charges in the future citing the fact that motorists are in control of the number of miles they travel each year.

Speed Camera Blunder

WEDNESDAY 24 JUNE 2009

Nearly 25,000 motorists are to have speeding fines refunded and points removed from their licences because of an administrative blunder.


What is described as an "historical clerical error" in Dorset means that police and the local speed camera partnership have to track down drivers caught by a single camera over the past decade.

The potential bill could be more than £1 million, if every driver is contacted.

The camera, monitoring westbound traffic on the A35, was supposed to enforce a 30mph limit in Chideock, a small rural village in the west of the county.

Alan Dawe, a lorry driver, who was caught travelling at 41mph on the road, challenged the fine and during the court hearing discovered that the paperwork giving legal authority to the speed camera identified its location incorrectly.

As a result every speeding ticket issued since the original Traffic Regulation Order was drafted is illegal.

A spokesman for the Dorset Strategic Safety Camera Partnership said it was contacting all 24,889 motorists to inform them of the error, outlining what they need to do to get their fines refunded. If the penalty points are still on their licences, they will be rescinded.

The spokesman added that claims for compensation from motorists who faced higher insurance premiums would be considered on a "case by case basis".

Safety camera partnerships have been forced to refund tickets for a number of technical reasons.

In August 2005 nearly 5,600 motorists had their fines refunded and penalty points rescinded after it was discovered that the speed limit sign next to a camera in the heart of London had been put in the wrong place. It cost the London Safety Camera Partnership £335,880.

"There have been a number of technical problems and difficulties with signage which has led to fines being refunded," said Claire Armstrong of the anti-camera campaign group, Safespeed.

"We welcome this news, the law does have to be enforced appropriately."

Congratulatons to Kevin....a very special driver!

THURSDAY 18 JUNE 20

A big congratulations go to Kevin Hooton for passing the Diamond Special Advanced Drivers Examination.

Diamond was established in 1992 by the Driving Instructors Association (DIA) to provide a benchmark for the nations professional driving and riding instructors. Although instructors are periodically checked on their instructional ability, driving standards are not officially checked. Diamond filled the void by providing an advanced driving test modelled precisely upon the DSA test and accredited by them.

With today’s busy roads more of a challenge than ever and driving standards variable to say the least, driving defensively is not only desirable – it can prove to be an absolute life saver for you, your family and for other road users.

The DIAmond Advanced Motorists Test is the only advanced test in the UK that uses the Governments Driving Standards Agency’s test marking system – a system with which we are all familiar.

Training to pass it or the even tougher DIAmond Special Test will improve your driving technique, your observation skills, making you far more aware of what is actually happening in your driving environment. Add to this the fact that you will use your vehicle far more economically, thereby saving fuel and reducing emissions in the process. Your smoother driving style should also reflect in less wear and tear which can produce even further savings!

The pass mark for the advanced Diamond test is no more than 6 driving faults. The even tougher special test is no more than 2 driving faults which makes Kevin's pass all the more special as he received no driving faults at all.

For more information on advanced driving visit our After you've passed page.

Can you pass your test without a Sat Nav?

TUESDAY 17 MARCH 2009

Learner drivers may soon have to drive to named destinations, such as a railway station or hospital using only road signs as part of their driving test.


The examiner would not give any directions, nor would the use of satellite navigation be permitted.

This is because the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) is looking at ways to enhance the 50-minute test, in order to improve road safety.

The DSA believes that learner drivers rarely go through all aspects of driving in their tuition or test, and so they may not be ready to drive alone at first. They also think learners may not be able to drive properly while following road signs or talking to passengers, even though they may know how to control the vehicle.

AA President, Edmund King, said such a test would push the current generation to the edge since they are so reliant on computers. Many young drivers rely so much on sat-nav that they can no longer drive safely while thinking about the route to take. The test will certainly become more demanding. However, Mr. King expressed some doubts since a candidate who knows the area well could have an advantage.

Driving instructors were also pleased about the possible change.

The Transport Research Laboratory is studying the results of tests at seven centres across the UK to determine how the test can be upgraded for the first time for many years.

A spokeswoman for the DSA confirmed that following road signs during the test was one of various ideas being looked at.

Be careful how you spend your redundancy money!

FRIDAY 27 FEBRUARY 2009

Unemployed? Good redundancy package? Want to make loads of money?
Easy – don’t even think about becoming an ADI!


The driver training industry is about to be flooded with weak, newly qualified, and badly trained instructors, according to Professor Peter Russell, Director of DERF, the Driver Education Research Foundation.

Professor Russell is warning the new Secretary of State for Transport, Geoffrey Hoon, that plans currently being developed by the Driving Standards Agency to control the spurious claims and poor recruitment strategies of some instructor training firms will be too late to save the industry from a glut of under-trained instructors.

When British Steel closed down its mills in the town of Corby, Northamptonshire in the early 1980s, many hundreds of redundant workers – seduced by national advertising campaigns telling them how much money they could earn as self-employed driving instructors – spent their redundancy packages on ADI training courses.

Then, as soon as they qualified for a trainee driving instructor’s licence, they charged their eager clients less than half the price of the existing instructors in the area.

The result of this became known as the ‘Corby Effect’. Even though fewer than 27% of these new trainees eventually qualified as Approved Driving Instructors (ADIs), in the six months or so that they were offering cheap training, hundreds of fully qualified ADIs lost clients and faced unemployment themselves – except, in their cases, there was no redundancy package to fall back on.

And according to Professor Russell, it is happening again, only this time on a much greater scale.

A fully qualified driving instructor has to pass three tests: a theory test, a driving test, and a test of ability to instruct. Having passed the first two, a partly qualified instructor (PDI) is allowed to give driving lessons for six months. After that, the instructor must pass the third test to be allowed to continue teaching people to drive. Would-be instructors are allowed three attempts to pass the third part, and if they fail they have to wait two years before they can begin at Part 1 again.

There is now a proliferation of national press and television advertising encouraging the unemployed to take instructor training at a cost of up to £4,000 a time. The advertising is straightforward: no previous experience is needed and earnings of £30,000 per year, plus a free car and a guaranteed supply of clients, are there for the asking.

No one mentions that statistically over half of them will fail the theory test, lose their training fees and be back on the scrap heap. No one mentions that 60% of the survivors will fail to pass their advanced driving test to qualify for the trainee instructors’ licence needed before they can begin to earn any money at all. No one mentions that more than 70% of those who gain trainee licences will fail to pass their instructional test.

And, if they are in an area that already has enough instructors to meet the local need (there are 44,000 ADIs nationwide, and half as many again partly-trained instructors), even those who succeed in qualifying by passing all three ADI tests may struggle to earn a reasonable wage, after paying their franchise fee, and/or motoring costs, plus all their business administration costs.

The Corby Effect led to chaos in the industry. If the selection, recruitment and training processes of new instructors are not changed soon, the results could well be catastrophic – and at the very time that the Department for Transport, with its commitment to road safety, is making plans to make the driving test more difficult.

Motorists to drive on hard shoulders

MONDAY 9 FEBRUARY 2009

Motorists will drive on hard shoulders after ministers scrapped plans to widen the overcrowded motorway network. An extra lane was to be added to 220 miles of motorways but it was decided it would cost too much.

Long sections of the M6 the M1 the M62 and the M25 will now have ‘hard shoulder running’. It is proposed that this will happen at peak times to relieve congestion. Traffic flow will be monitored by CCTV with maximum speed limits of 62 mph; speed limits will be reduced if necessary. In case of breakdown or other problems there will be ‘emergency refuge areas’ set up every 800 yards.

Road safety group Brake said they have serious concerns about using the hard shoulder as it is used by emergency vehicles to get to the scene of an accident as quickly as possible without endangering other vehicles. The AA have similar concerns and also added that hard shoulder running only addresses short term congestion and it is really road widening on the cheap.

Plans to widen the overcrowded motorway network were scrapped recently in favour of allowing motorists to use the hard shoulder. 220 miles of motorways were to get an extra lane added but it was decided by ministers that it would cost too much.

Long sections of the M6 the M1 the M62 and the M25 will now have ‘hard shoulder running’. To relieve congestion traffic flow will be monitored by CCTV at peak times with maximum speed limits of 62 mph; speed limits will be reduced if necessary. In the case of a breakdown or other problems there will be ‘emergency refuge areas’ set up every 800 yards.

Road safety group Brake raised serious concerns about using the hard shoulder as it is used by emergency vehicles to get to the scene of an accident as quickly as possible. The AA have similar concerns and also added that hard shoulder running only addresses short term congestion and it is really road widening on the cheap.

Hoot Hoot Instructors Pass with Flying Colours!

FRIDAY 21 NOVEMBER 2008


Well done to two of our driving instructors Ian and John this week for passing their check tests with flying colours.


Qualified driving instructors are periodically retested by the Driving Standards Agency to ensure their instructional ability is up to scratch. The DSA will then award a grade to each instructor and we were thrilled to hear both John and Ian improved on their previous grade to achieve a really 'good standard of instructional competence'.


Congratulations go to both of you for achieving this high standard. Proof that Hoot Hoot driving instructors really are among the best in the business.

Woman fails test for splashing a pedestrian

TUESDAY 23 SEPTEMBER 2008


A woman in Manchester failed her driving test for splashing a pedestrian by driving through a puddle and failing to stop to exchange details with the man who was waiting at a bus stop.

Michelle Kelly, 31, described the decision as 'ridiculous.' "Why should you hand over your details?... It wasn't as if I'd deluged the pedestrian. And if I'd swerved to avoid the puddle I might have caused an accident."

The DSA wouldn't comment on specific details of the test but advised that, where possible, drivers should avoid splashing pedestrians and that a failure to do so would be sufficient grounds for failing a driving test.

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