Monthly Archives: March 2011

March 31, 2011
Petrol Price Rage

PRESSURE is growing on Government ministers to bring down fuel prices – as petrol topped £6 a GALLON at filling stations across Wales.

Haulage bosses, small businesses, drivers and politicians told Wales on Sunday that soaring fuel costs are hitting them hard.

We found one filling station in Radyr, Cardiff, charging £1.44.9 a litre for unleaded petrol, while average prices hit £1.32 in Wales – or just over £6 a gallon.

The turmoil in key oil states in North Africa and the Middle East has pushed world oil prices even higher in recent weeks, but warnings that forecourt prices would continue to rise were dampened yesterday when prices fell in the wake of the Japanese earthquake.

A Treasury spokesman told Wales on Sunday that Chancellor George Osborne is considering ways to ease fuel costs in his budget on March 23, but would not confirm any decisions.

Simon Higgins, Welsh spokesman for the Road Haulage Association, called on the Chancellor to scrap the fuel rise that had been planned for the budget and bring in measures to lower duty if fuel prices kept rising.

He said “The price of fuel is horrendous. Businesses are having to make quotes for jobs based on what they think the price of diesel will be but, with prices sailing through the roof, they won’t quote their customer properly.

“We are looking for a mechanism fuel duty stabiliser so when the cost of fuel goes up, tax goes down and price will stay the same. That way everyone will know what they are paying and businesses will be able to do their quotes better.”

He also demanded a rebate for essential users – threatening a war between struggling motorists and hauliers over whose problems are the more intense.

He said: “As hauliers, we have not got any choice but to buy fuel. We are essential users and, if there is not a rebate, then the costs have to be put onto the consumer, which then contributes to inflation.”

Figures from website Petrolprices.com showed that average petrol prices in all Wales’ major towns and cities had hit between £1.31 or £1.33 per litre last night. Average diesel prices were hovering around £1.38 per litre.

According to the AA, the UK has the eighth highest price in Europe for unleaded petrol and the second-highest diesel price.

And analysts have warned that, if the political turmoil in North African countries like Libya and Egypt continues, forecourt prices could soar to £1.50 per litre by Easter.

Many businesses have said this would be the final nail in the coffin, while others said they will have no choice but to pass costs onto the customer.

Small businesses which rely on transport are also feeling the squeeze as they are finding their costs rising at every level of their business production.

Stephanie Eynon, who runs Betty’s florist in Cardiff, says the high petrol prices have made things difficult for the business as it costs more to deliver the flowers and to order more stock in.

She said: “It’s ridiculous. There’s only so much we can take, and we’ve had to cope with the VAT increase as well. It’s awful for us as a small business. A big part of our service is delivering the flowers to our customers. But now it doesn’t cover the wages of our driver and the fuel.”

Plaid Cymru parliamentary leader Elfyn Llwyd also urged the Treasury to act quickly to help businesses.

He said: “For the last five or six years we have been lobbying successive governments that they should introduce a fuel regulator process or some kind of regulation to stabilise prices. Fuel tax should be constant, it’s perfectly logical. It’s been a long time coming.

“I hope that the Treasury do not put the level increase on. They need to stop that one. Businesses are suffering and people have got less money to spend. It’s causing inflation for goods.

“This issue doesn’t just affect people in rural areas, it affects everyone. The main problem is that the petroleum industry rules the roost and it is a finite resource.”

The Treasury said officials would be looking at ways to ease the pressure of rising fuel costs in the run up to the budget.

A spokesperson said: “The Government recognises that higher fuel prices increase the cost of living for people and are examining options as part of the Budget process, including a fair fuel stabiliser that would reduce fuel duty as oil prices rise but increase them when they drop.”

Read More http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2011/03/13/call-for-action-to-cut-petrol-prices-91466-28326415/#ixzz1GadVa1hZ

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March 29, 2011
A Safe Place for Boy Racers?

YOUNG men and their cars can get a bad reputation – but two police officers are on a mission to re-educate boys behind the wheel.

Officers from the Neighbourhood Policing Team in Ashington, Martin Hayes and Andy Crosby, decided to tackle the issue of boy racers and have organised the first of what they hope will be monthly educational car shows.

Yesterday, the first event for young drivers and car enthusiasts in the area kicked off at Woodhorn Museum in Ashington.

Through the car shows the two officers hope to offer young men in the area a place to go where they can explore their interest in cars and chat with other people with similar interests but at the same time learning how to do so in a way which is not anti-social.

CSO Martin Hayes said: “We have had problems with boy racers in the area and residents complaining about racing through car parks, loud exhausts and speeding in built-up areas.

“This event is of benefit both to the community and the motoring enthusiasts alike. It gives the drivers somewhere safe and legal to go. And it keeps them from driving in the streets of Ashington and gathering in car parks.”

Throughout the evening the group were joined by members of Cramlington Motorclub, who brought along examples of racing cars.

They were also on hand to provide advice and expertise in how the young men can channel their talents and interests in a positive way. A crew from Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service also attended the event and put on a car-cutting display to demonstrate the perils of driving dangerously.

CSO Andy Crosby said: “We are looking to organise more events of this type in the future. It gives us the ideal opportunity to engage with a section of the public that can be quite hard to reach and who there are a lot of negative opinions about.

“Hopefully this will see some of the drivers think a little more about how their driving can impact on the whole community.”

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March 28, 2011
LIGHTING THE WAY

Campaigners are looking to change the law as to the brightness of car headlights.

MOT regulations do not currently test for Bi-xenon headlights however, these headlights are up to three times brighter than standard headlights and drivers are being blinded. In addition to this it is also in contravention of the Construction and Use Regulations 1986 and the Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations 1989.

Research has found that from a study of over 13,000 participants, a whopping 90% of respondents felt that the High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights were too bright and were dangerous.

The bright lights do not just affect drivers, but puts many vulnerable road users such as motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians at risk also.

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March 25, 2011
TREES STOP DRIVERS SPEEDING

Norfolk Villages have introduced a new initiative which could transform the countries traffic calming measures. The villages have introduced rows of trees and hedges along the roadside.

Statistics show that motorist’s speeds have dropped on average by 1.5%. This is thought to be because the trees have reduced driver’s peripheral vision, which in turn has made them slow down.

Poor visibility of the road ahead has also meant that fewer cars are overtaking; this along with drivers sticking to the speed limits makes for safer roads.

It is hoped that more councils will look to do the same, not only to improve road safety but also to help the environment.

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March 24, 2011
It Never Pays to Cheat

FOUR learner drivers who paid another man to sit their theory exams were jailed as a judge issued a warning to others about the scam.

The impersonator is still at large, but Kayfee Hameed, Sami Hamadok, Agar Hamid and Ahmed Omar are behind bars.

Hameed and Hamadok, from Middlesbrough, were jailed for six months, while Omar. Hamid, the youngest, was jailed for four months.

Judge Peter Bowers said at Teesside Crown Court: “It is suspected that far more of this impersonation goes on than is detected.

“A deterrent sentence is essential.

You all have considerable mitigation, but it is important that others learn not to commit this sort of offence.

“Impersonating someone taking a driving test is serious. It allows you to drive on the roads without an adequate knowledge of road safety.”

Defence barristers told Judge Bowers that the four men did not realise they were committing a serious offence at the time, but do now.

The court heard that Hamadok paid the man to stand in for him during tests in Middlesbrough and in Doncaster in September 2009.

The Teesside attempt was thwarted by an official who noticed differences between the candidate’s and Hamadok’s documents.

Paul Cleasby, prosecuting, said that the impostor passed the test in Doncaster, which allowed Hamadok to sit his driving test, but he failed.

The court heard that the 36- year-old’s credit card was used to book theory tests in the names of Hameed, 35, and Hamid, 20.

The same impersonator passed the exam in Harrogate for Hamid and in Grimsby, for Omar, 30, without any suspicions being raised.

When he tried the same for Hameed in Middlesbrough, the same official challenged him because his description did not match Hameed’s.

Robin Turton, for Hamadok, of Percy Street, Middlesbrough, said he made unprompted admissions to police and helped as much as he could.

Brian Mark, for former factory worker Hameed, of Meath Street, Middlesbrough, said he was desperate to be able to drive.

Rachel Dyson said Omar, of Eaton Close, Bristol, struggled to find work in the UK and thought it would be easier if he had a driving licence.

Elyas Patel, for Hamid, a part-time restaurant cashier, of Spalding Towers, Leeds, said he was deeply ashamed of what he had done.

He said he committed the offence out of a wish to contribute to society, but had been lulled into the lair of an unscrupulous individual.

The court heard that the four men, who admitted conspiracy to commit fraud, paid £400 to £500 to the impersonator.

A spokesman for the Driving Standards Agency said: “Driving test impersonation is a serious offence, which puts law abiding road-users at risk.

“We investigate all suspected incidents and work closely with the police to make sure that those responsible are brought to justice.”

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March 23, 2011
DRIVING AWAY WITH THE FACTS

Most of us take for granted that the rules of the road have always been there, but you may be surprised to find that many laws and regulations were only introduced in the last 100 years.

The first huge change for drivers was when the driving test was introduced in 1934. At the same time the 30mph speed limit was established for towns and villages.

The MOT was introduced in 1960.

It wasn’t until 1965 that the 70mph national speed limit was introduced, with the breathalyser test following shortly after in 1967.

In 1969 a separate driving licence group for automatic vehicles was introduced.

1990 saw examiners give candidates a brief explanation of faults committed during the test.

The pass plus scheme was an initiative introduced in 1995.

The year 2000 saw pupils able to complete the theory test via touch screen.

2002 saw talking on a mobile illegal whilst driving and also a change to the theory test, with the newly formed hazard perception component.

2010 was the year independent driving was introduced to all practical driving tests.

Emily Smith of Britannia Driving School said: “It is interesting to see how the driving test and driving regulations have advanced over the years. One fact that shocked me was – that on average a driver spends two weeks of their entire lives waiting for traffic lights to change.”

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March 22, 2011
Driving Test to Change?

Motorway training should be integrated into the driving test to help improve the general standard of driving, according to the Driving Instructors Association which also wants the current Pass Plus scheme integrated into the driving test syllabus.

The DIA is the UK’s largest body representing professional driver trainers and says those applying for a driving test should only be allowed to do so once instructors are confident that candidates have sufficient experience of driving on all the types of road they will encounter when they have a full licence.

The association also wants driving qualifications for qualified drivers need to be developed further. So drivers of company vehicles would have to achieve minimum national occupational standards for driving (currently there is no recognised syllabus for company drivers in category B vehicles). It says the qualifications should also have a shelf life to encourage refresher training.

Another issue that that the DIA wants addressed is the current lack of a formal training syllabus for potential Approved Driving Instructors (ADIs) to work to. The DIA’s belief is that there should be a prescribed syllabus to prevent customers wasting their money. The minimum entry level to the industry should also be raised to include recognised teaching qualifications (e.g. Preparing to Teach in the Life-long Learning Sector).

The final change proposed is that all drivers should have their eyesight tested by an optometrist, not at the driving test centre, with drivers’ eyesight checked at least every 10 years. Currently, the responsibility is with the driver to self-certify their eyesight has not deteriorated after the age of 70.

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March 21, 2011
McLaren Executive Loses Driving Licence

The chairman of the motoring group McLaren has lost of his driving licence and been banned from driving for six months.

Ron Dennis was given 3 points when he ran a red light earlier this month and with 9 points already on his licence from previous speeding offences he was automatically given a ban.

Mr Dennis claims that he jumped the red light as he felt stopping suddenly may have gone on to cause a crash.

He pleaded with the courts, after hearing of his ban telling them that he really needs his licence as he works long hours and spends time with his children over the weekend. However, they ignored his pleas and along with the ban ordered him to pay a fine of £350 and court fees.

Emily Smith of Britannia Driving School said: “No matter who you are or what your reasons may be, the highway code is in place for a reason. Points on our licence allows us as humans to make an occasional error, but after acquiring 12 points you must suffer the consequences.”

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March 18, 2011
DRIVING WITHOUT A LICENCE

Driving without a licence doesn’t simply mean not having a licence but can include driving on a provisional without being supervised or not notifying the DVLA of a change in health or a disability, which could mean being refused on medical grounds.

The penalty for driving without a licence can include 3-6 points and a fine of up to £1000. Not to mention the guilt you would have to live with if you were involved in an accident.

Driving whilst disqualified is considered to be just as serious as those who have been disqualified have normally been caught driving inappropriately in some manner.

If caught driving whilst disqualified, you can receive up to 6 penalty points, up to £5000 in fines and some courts will issue a prison sentence.

Emily Smith of Britannia Driving School said: “Ensure if you’re on a provisional licence, you drive only whilst supervised by somebody over the age of 21 and who has been driving for three years or more. If your medical history changes, be sure to inform the DVLA and if you have been disqualified refrain from driving altogether.”

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March 17, 2011
What Do the Stars’ Drive?

From Hollywood actors to Boris Johnson, a host of well-known figures have been raising the profile of electric vehicles. So why are these cars fast becoming the latest celebrity ‘must have’?

At last month’s Academy Awards ceremony in the US, a number of actors chose to arrive at the red carpet in electric vehicles rather than the traditional stretched limousine, continuing a trend that began a few years ago when the environmental organisation Global Green USA launched its Red Carpet/Green Cars campaign. Now, many Hollywood actors, such as George Clooney, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt, are regularly seen driving electric cars.

So why are electric vehicles the latest celebrity must-have? According to Henry Mason, head of research and analysis at trendwatching.com, it’s all part of the diversification of the “statusphere” taking place in mature consumer societies. “Status isn’t just about having the biggest, fastest or most expensive, it can be about generosity or social connections or, as here, eco-credentials,” says Mason. “In other words, celebrities are making the ultimate statement: yes, they can afford the shiny sportscar, but choosing to drive an electric car displays their eco-awareness, their intelligence and empathy – things that can’t just be bought.”

Such high-profile backing should provide the industry with a much-needed boon at a time when many models are coming on to the market.

So, which other high-profile figures have been bitten by the electric bug?

Quentin Willson, motoring expert and former Top Gear presenter

Recently I drove a Mitsubishi i-MiEV for a year on trial but had to give it back once it was over – now there’s a large hole in my life where an electric car used to be.

The children loved it too. Every morning on the school run the three of them would say, “Daddy, take the electric car!” My six year old used to show it to her friends and say, “this is the car that helps the grass grow”.

The silence is a new sensation – and the speed. I like listening to the whistling of the wheels and air, just savouring the silence.

I could do about 100 miles for £1.20, with no queuing at petrol stations or worrying about the cost of fuel. You can charge it in your garage overnight and then you’re free to go. At the end of the day you charge your laptop, mobile phone and electric car – it just becomes part of your charging routine.

But the greatest thing is the promise of an oil-free future. If we can wean ourselves off fossil fuels without compromising the cost of living or horrendous interest rates, that will be amazing.

Ben Collins, Top Gear’s The Stig

I’ve test-driven quite a few of the new electric road cars such as the Tesla Roadster, which is in the super-car category of electric vehicle. Taking them round a racetrack is what I love doing most, because you’re able to test the performance to the absolute maximum.

Electric cars are a new technology and they’re developing very fast in areas such as battery capacity. The acceleration is really something because the torque of the electric motor means you get instant power from any speed; the initial acceleration is very potent.

The biggest advancements in the technology will come from motor racing. When I drove the Tesla for the second time, a year after they’d first brought it out, there were huge advances. The battery is very heavy but they’ve adjusted the car to improve the dynamic handling and the way the chassis supports that weight; the improvement in the space of a year was very impressive.

Development never occurs faster than when the advances are happening in racing because the competition demands quick advances. You’ve got things like the EV cup and Formula One with kinetic recovery [a form of hybrid technology]. The industry is really at the beginning and it needs as much support as it can get.

Lisa Rogers, broadcaster

I first came across electric vehicles on Scrapheap Challenge. To start with they were just seen as comedy value, something for Top Gear presenters to laugh at. But now they’re a serious alternative.

I borrowed a Tesla sports car last summer when it was really hot. Just driving it with the top down in London through Regent’s park and Primrose Hill was amazing.

I’ve driven virtually every car you can think of in the various car programmes I’ve done, and nothing can turn heads like the Tesla.

I could not live where I live without a car – there is no public transport, I live on the side of a bloody Welsh hill! I’m going to put up a wind turbine and then run an electric car off it – not a sports car though; something that can fit two children and a dog in the back.

Boris Johnson, mayor of London

My own conversion to electric cars came several years ago when I took out the Californian-made Tesla sports car. I found to my delight that it has same acceleration as a Porsche 911. But, the real marvel was that this car was producing no more noxious vapours than a dandelion in an alpine meadow.

We are staring the age of mainstream electric car use full the face. As we speak, a wider choice of, dare I say, desirable electric vehicles are silently manoeuvring into the forecourts of enlightened salesrooms across the UK.

In London we are gearing up to ensure they can be driven with ease, simplicity and convenience. From April we are launching Source London, to provide a network of easy-to-access charge points – 1,300 due in place by 2013. As the number of these exhaust-pipe-free vehicles accelerates, so we can deliver significant reductions in fumes.

While the upfront costs of the current crop of electric cars remains high, the lucky owner niftily avoids the cost of the staggeringly overpriced lagoon of fossil fuel required to drive a traditional model. And with a 100% discount on the congestion charge to boot, the reasons why London is becoming the electric car capital of Europe are clear.

Kele Baker, Strictly Come Dancing choreographer

I got my electric car six years ago. I commute in London and I work late into the evening so I want to be able to drive home at night.

I had a Nissan Micra, but wanted something smaller and more environmental. One day I saw a G Wiz parked on a road and I thought – that’s what I’ve been waiting for.

First and foremost I like the fact that it’s non-polluting. That’s most important to me. I can also drive without paying congestion charge, and Westminster council waives my parking fee, but those are just additional benefits. I like the fact that I can look after my needs – because of my job I need a car to carry equipment – but I can do it guilt-free.

My car has two forward settings, economy and full – I call them “go” and “turbo”. My little car puts a smile on my face. It’s cute and fun. I try to drive it as much as possible on economy because you get a longer battery charge. But sometimes I go on turbo and pretend it’s my little Porsche.

It draws a lot of smiles and curiosity from people. That’s something that I value because it shows people that the technology is available now, it’s not a pipe dream.

Kevin McCloud, Grand Designs presenter

Sitting in an electric car, you feel like you’re sitting in the 22nd century surrounded by gas-guzzling monsters. Other cars all seem so primitive in comparison.

We must move towards de-carbonisation and these cars offer us an opportunity to go in that direction – they give us an amazing chance to be effectively “off grid” and move towards a zero-carbon life.

My most memorable journey in an electric car was driving a TH!NK City on the Brighton to London eco rally – and I won!

I burnt up an Alpha Romeo at the lights in south London in this tiny, beautiful little lightweight car. It’s because it has fantastic torque and acceleration.

It looks like it should have an 800cc engine, it’s that small. It goes round the corner like a dream and has a really low centre of gravity. You can have more fun in a small electric car than you can in a higher priced sports car.

The car that interests me most at the moment is one that’s going to be launched at the Geneva Motor show – the Volvo hybrid electric car which does 136 miles to the gallon. I think a big part of the future is electric.

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