Renewable energy has overtaken that of fossil fuels for the first time ever in the UK, a fact that would not have been believed a few years earlier.

Over 5 years the capacity for renewable energy has increased by 300% while that of fossil fuels has dropped by 33% due to power stations either becoming uneconomical or coming to the end of their working lives. The rate of increase in renewable outstrips the “dash for gas” in the 90’s.

Renewable energy includes; hydropower, solar, wind and biomass. It’s combined capacity has reached a total of 41.9 gigawatts which is just ahead of the 41.2 gigawatts for coal, oil and gas. The whole UK power system is slowly but surely moving from the old methods that we have used for many years to a much more eco friendly system. The output from coal has dropped by 25% in the last year alone with only 6 coal plants left in the UK.

However the output from fossil fuels is currently still greater with around 40% of electricity coming from fossils as opposed to 28% from renewable. However this figure will slowly change as we move more and more in the right direction.

In terms of which renewable is top, well that goes to wind which contributes around half the power. Solar comes in second with the energy coming from around 1,000,000 rooftops and fields. Biomass comes in third. Much of this has come as a result of the “carbon tax” imposed on generators of electricity.

Gas powered power stations however have seen a boost with Scottish and Southern Energy building a new 840MW gas power station in Lincolnshire.

New Road in Sweden That Recharges Electric Vehicles

While many countries around the world are looking to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels, Sweden have built a road that can charge electric vehicles on the move. The road is reckoned to be the first of it’s kind in the world. The road is 1.25 miles long and will serve lorries that have been specially adapted to make use of the new technology. In the future the technology will made available to cars and buses. Sweden are looking at a totally eco friendly system by 2030.

The adapted vehicles can recognise when they are on an electric road and an arm connects to the power supply to recharge the batteries while the drive. If a vehicle then pulls out to overtake the arm lifts up and lowers again when the vehicle is back in their own lane. The owner of the vehicle is charged by the amount of electricity used.

The rail has safety features built in to avoid accidents to both people and animals. The system can also deal with small rocks on the track. The technology is similar to that currently being used by some buses. It will be tested over a two year period and will hopefully be rolled out to other parts of Sweden. The cost for the system when fully in use would be in the region of £6,600,000,000 for around 12,400 miles of road.

Experts believe it could take up to 3 years to complete the project at an installation rate of 1 kilometre per hour and will be able to deal with snow, ice and rain.. As a result of being able to power up on the move, vehicles will be able to have smaller batteries as there will be less need to hold a large charge.

Automatic Driving Lessons Newbury and Thatcham

Approximately 33% of new cars that are sold in Norway in 2018 were electric. Will there soon be a time when Newbury will make the same switch with more people not only turning to electric but in turn turning to automatic driving lessons

In Norway they have a target of zero emissions from new cars by 2025. By the looks of it they are well on the way to achieve this.

In 2013, only 5 years earlier, the sales of electric cars was 5.5%, by 2017 it was 20.8%, showing significant growth in sales. These figures show the country as world leaders in “clean” cars in terms of cars sold per head of population.

Currently the government has made EV’s exempt from most taxes as well as free parking and free charge points.

Incredible is the fact that Norway are the largest oil and gas producers and yet they are looking for a much greener country.

Around 148,000 cars were sold last year and two thirds were powered by fossil fuels and an internal combustion engine. However, overall sales in 2018 were down by around 7% on the previous year. The biggest losers were diesel car sales which fell by 28%.

If you include sales of hybrids that have the ability to be “plugged in” and charged then the sales of electric cars is more like 39%. In contrast countries like China have 2.2% electric cars with the United States only having 1.2%

In Sweden they have tested the first road that charges cars as they drive which is reckoned to be the first of its kind in the world. In the UK we are a little further behind the market leaders however we are slowly making in-roads to a cleaner country. In Newbury the infrastructure is slowly building with more charge points being installed all the time. So please contact us on more information on automatic driving lessons.

Middle Lane Cruising

Cruising in the middle lane is not only frustrating for other drivers but also illegal and could land you with a hefty fine and 3 points on your licence. Not only is it one of the most annoying things that drivers do but it can also be very dangerous.

Incredibly 50% of motorists admit to doing it and it is considerd as “careless driving” by the law. For most people it’s just plain laziness despite the risk of a fine.

So these are the top reasons drivers gave in a recent survey as to why they stay in the middle lane even though they could easily drive in the left lane:

  • I don’t have to change lanes as often
  • I can drive faster
  • I don’t like driving too close to the rumble strip
  • I see everyone else do so why can’t I
  • The middle lane tends to be the clearest and therefore the easiest to drive in
  • The rules say that car drivers should drive in the middle lane with lorries in the left lane
  • I feel safer driving in the middle lane as I don’t have to change lanes
  • I drive at the speed limit so nothing should ever overtake me
  • I’ll only have to keep pulling out if I’m in the left lane to keep overtaking slower vehicles
  • I have much better visibility in the middle lane

After analysing almost 100 houyrs of video footage, research shows that around a quarter of motorists drive in the left lane as the law requires. However around the same amount stick to the right hand lane hardly ever moving back to the middle or the left lanes.

The remaining 50% use the reasoning that they don’t like the hassle of constantly changing lanes to overtake lorries as their main reason for staying in the middle lane and also the fact that the middle lane is faster.

There tends to be places in the UK where drivers are more likely to stay in the middle lane with 65% of people living in London guilty of doing it while driving on motorways such as the M4 and the M25. Drivers in Northern Ireland are close behind at 60%.

Some of the areas also bad for hogging the middle lane are to be found in the North East and in the Midlands.

The rules are there to keep the traffic flowing smoothly and to keep everyone safe on Britains fastest roads.

At Peter Skelton Driving School we teach and encourage pupils to overtake while we practice on the A34 in Newbury and along the M4. Overtaking is an important skill that we should all be able to master and at times will be necessary if there are lane closures or an accident in the left lane.

Short Slip Roads Cost Lives

Recently a coach was involved with a collision with a lorry leaving a truck stop on the A1 at Witterings in Cambridgeshire. Three people were killed in the accident. One important factor that lead to the accident was the length of the slip road. The acceleration lane was found, by Accident Investigators, to be only half of the recommended 110 metres. In particular it was totally unsuitable for large vehicles trying to rejoin the fast “A” road where much of the traffic is travelling at 70mph. That strectch of the A1 carries up to 50,000 vehicles per day.

This slip road is just one of many slip roads that join fast sections of dual carriageway in Britain. A spokes person from Cambridgeshire Road Policing Unit said that “This slip road is not only joining a 70mph road it is also used by lorries with slow acceleration. What’s more it is also on a left-hand bend making observations particularly difficult. PC Edwards went onto say “Looking at the slip roads it is clear to see that there is considerable problems faced by all motorists who look to join. Rejoining the carriageway can take a long time if it is to be done safely. Drivers can become impatient which leads to them taking greater chances which in turn leads to more accidents.”

The purpose of these slip roads is to allow drivers to build up speed before joining. However this can be difficult on very short slip roads and with slower vehicles. It is also about timing too. It’s important for drivers to assess the gap and accelerate briskly to avoid causing other traffic to slow down. Unfortunately some drivers feel like it’s their given right to join once they have reached the end of the slip road.

A representative from IAM reinforced these concerns by saying “Motorists don’t have an automatic right to join the dual carriageway just because they have reached the end of the slip road. People sometimes assume that because they are at the end then other drivers will automatically have to let them in.” He also went on to say that “Drivers already on the dual carriageway can always move to the next lean if it is safe to do so in anticipation of traffic that might be trying to join.”

Good road signs can help motorists realise that a joining slip road is coming up. However sometimes there can be information overload when there are simply too many signs. Another option is to have lower speed limits at accident black spots. However this can itself cause problems when fast moving drivers are taken by surprise by a drop in the limit. Not only that but the drop in speed limit can also cause a tailback of traffic at busy times.

There needs to be a standardisation of slip roads to make them more uniform as they have on motorways. This can be a problem however as many are privately owned such as service stations. Dealing with the owners and also acquiring more land often from third parties can be difficult and expensive.

Let’s hope these changes come soon enough. In particular the A34 that runs near Newbury has some very short and hard to see sections of slip roads that can prove difficult for learners as well as experienced drivers.

More Weather Conditions in the New Hazard Perception Test

The Hazard Perception test now includes more clips containing bad weather to test pupils ability to deal with poor visibility etc. The tests looks at pupils ability to spot “developing hazards” that will cause them to change speed or direction. There are a total of 14 clips and points are scored from 5 down to 1 for how soon a developing hazard is spotted. The sooner it’s spotted the more points a candidate gets.

  • Rain
  • Snow
  • Ice
  • Wind
  • Fog

There are some clips that also show driving at night and low light conditions like dusk and dawn.

The new clips will also form part of the theory test for:

  • Motorbike
  • Driving Instructor part 1
  • Bus, lorry and coach

They are being introduced because the Department of Transport has reported that in 2017 there were 16,406 accidents in rain, fog, snow or sleet conditions. Of these 205 were fatal.

It is important that learner drivers can spot these developing hazards earlier especially if stopping distances are increased as in the case for rain where stopping distances can be twice as long. In snow or ice they can be 10 times longer.

The Department of Transport says that Hazard Perception training can account for a reduction in accidents by % which itself could save hundreds of lives each year.

The Road Safety Minister, Jesse Norman said “We are proud that the UK has some of the best and safest roads in the world, however we always strive to make them better.”

The new video clips will better test the new learner drivers to better deal with real world conditions and make them safer drivers in the long term. A spokesperson for the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency said “Our priority is to help everyone to become safer drivers for life not just to pass a driving test. Every year we have too many people, particularly young drivers who end up in serious or fatal collisions due to a lack of experience or understanding of the dangers of bad weather. We know that the theory test really works and we are now using CGI clips to better improve the theory training.”

Safer roads for the vulnerable – Newbury and Basingstoke

The Department of Transport has set out it’s plans to help protect vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists and also to combat road rage in a 2 year plan. The Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy called upon 14,000 people on their opinions on what needs to be done to improve road safety for everyone.

New legislation would give local authorities the ability to tackle parking in cycle lanes and have the power to spend 15% of their budget designated for transport on walking and cycling. The Department of Transport will appoint people specifically to improve the infrastructure for all road users.

Another plan is to introduce discounts on insurance companies for drivers and motorcyclists who pass a “Bikeability” test. The plan will also explore extra training to courier drivers to better deal with; horse riders, cyclists and pedestrians.

A new office will also be set up to look at any video evidence submitted by the public in terms of dash cam footage which possibly highlights bad driving.

The road safety officer, Jesse Norman, said “the protection of vulnerable road users was essential”. She also went on to say “We want to encourage healthy exercise, reduce stress and obesity and improve the air quality. This will in turn boost the economy and productivity on the high streets.”

Two charities “Brake” and “Living Streets” have welcomed the new initiatives and have provided invaluable evidence to support the government’s plans. Joshua Harris from Brake said “Cyclists and walkers need to feel safe in a welcoming environment. This form of travel is not only good for a person’s health but is great for everyone’s health too.” He went on to say “People need to feel safe enough on their bikes so that they will leave their cars at home.”

A spokes person for “Living Streets” said “We need any opportunity we can find to make our roads safer. Sometimes pedestrian and cyclists pay the ultimate price for using roads that should be made safe for all.”

Improvements to the highway code and how driving is taught at grass roots level will also go a long way to improve safety for all. Lowering speed limits in urban areas, longer time for pedestrians at crossings will also go a long way to improve safety on our roads.

Going “Dutch” in Newbury

As a way to keep cyclists safer the government are proposing a change to the highway code. Drivers will be asked to give way to cyclists and pedestrians when turning left and will also be taught to use the “Dutch reach” when opening doors.

The idea is to bring the highway code up to date and make the roads safer for everyone. The changes will be more in line with the US where pedestrians always have priority. In 2017, in the UK over 100 cyclists died on the roads.

Some people, however, say that there is not being enough done to safeguard vulnerable road users. A spokesperson said “Cycling ans walking are important to the nations health and well being, however people need to know that they are safe on the roads while they exercise. We are slowly improving the infrastructure to deal with this”

The highway code states that pedestrians have priority if they are already crossing a side road but does cover what should be done if a pedestrian is “about” to cross, i.e. walking to the edge of the kerb.

Recent research shows that most cyclists are also drivers and many drivers are also cyclists. Safety groups are trying to get rid of the “them v us” mentality when everyone is trying to achieve the same goal of getting from A to B safely.

One idea is to adopt the “Dutch reach” where drivers are encouraged to use their left hand to open the door. By doing so the driver is forced to symultaniously turn their shoulders to check their blind spot for cyclists. Another idea is for there to be a minimum distance for overtaking cyclists safely.

In some European countries motorists are expected to give 1.5m distance between themselves and any cyclist that they are passing. This rule may be reduced to 1m in urban areas such as in France.

Many driving schools in the UK already encourage learners to use a similar method to open the door and to check it’s safe before opening whether they are in the drivers seat or the passenger seat.

MPs want a ban on diesel cars much sooner and say it should be brought forward to 2032. The current Government plans want a ban in 2040 however the terms of the plan are very vague.

A report criticised a cut in subsidies and a lack of suitable charge points. However the government have expressed that they want the UK to be the best place in the world to own an electric vehicle.

Rachel Reeves MP said that the plans give little incentive to both companies and individuals to buy an EV. Parliament wants almost every vehicle to be electric by 2050. However the committee want all new car sales to totally green by 2032. There is concern over whether that includes hybrids too. The ban by 2040 was unclear on the government’s strategy on hybrids.

The county has around 14,500 public charge points and the UK was in the top 10 for EV sales. EV’s make up 0.6% of all cars sold in the UK and hybrids make up 1.6%. These figures represent only a small fraction of the total number of cars on the UK roads which is around 31.5 million.

One concern regarding the growth in electric car sales is whether the infrastructure is there to build the batteries needed to power the vehicles. That alone makes for a challenging target.

The charging point infrastructure is still currently inadequate and gives way to “range anxiety” were customers are worried that they have enough charge left in the vehicle to reach the next charge point.

Currently there is a subsidy on electric vehicles paid for by the tax payer of £4,500 however this is soon to be reduce by £1,000 to £3,500. The cost of pure electric vehicles remains high compared to combustion engines and consumers therefore need an incentive to make the switch.

A spokesperson for the Department of Transport said “We would like new sales in EVs to be 50% to 70% by 2030 with complete zero emissions on new sales by 2040. Our outline for what we are looking to achieve is very comprehensive.”

Hazard Perception – Driving School Newbury

The theory test may be changing again to match modern day situations. Vape clouds coming from car windows, pot holes and even drones may well be included in a revamped test according to reports.

Over 50% of drivers feel that the current theory test is outdated and doesn’t truly reflect modern day driving. The current test shows cyclists and horse riders but doesn’t show people reading the mobile phones while crossing the road or with headphones on listening to their favourite music. Some of the most common real world hazards are children playing near roads and children on scooters.
Over half of new drivers said that the current test didn’t prepare them for the real world and 57% believed that other new drivers were also not ready to face the dangers on the road.

The hazard perception was introduced in 2002 and has not been updated in the past 16 years. LV General Insurance have commissioned the report and are now asking the government to update the test. One driver who recently passed felt it was much more like an exercise you just had to pass rather then something that would help you while driving a car in the real world.

Something else that has changed in the past 16 years is the number of people using mobile phones while they drive. Here in Newbury I must see at least 20 people per day doing it. Illegal mobile phone use is now the biggest cause of accidents on Britain’s roads.
One instructor said that “There should be double the number of video clips rather than the current 14, with much more variety. There should be clips that reflect modern life.” They went on to say “Most people see it as a game rather then something to be taken seriously.” Another instructor went on to say “The biggest hazard is simply people doing stupid things”.

All new drivers should drive for the first time feeling prepared for the road and not left feeling inadequately prepared rather than feeling at the mercy to other drivers and hazards.

A representative of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, RoSPA, said that more insurance claims were due to an increase in the number of potholes and backs the insurance companies campaign to change the current hazard perception test.

So stay safe while driving around Newbury and expect the unexpected. Also don’t assume that every other driver on the road is experienced. Many of them may have only passed their driving test yesterday.