Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Why do we drive on the left in the UK?

There is significant evidence that in the days of the Roman Empire everyone drove on the left. Examination of Roman gold mines indicates that they drove on the left. The ruts left by the loaded carts leaving the mine are on the left side of the road whilst lighter empty carts entered on their left side.

This was for a few reasons.

1. If you passed a stranger on the road, you walked on the left to ensure that your protective sword arm was between yourself and him.

2. In those days, we needed our right hands free to hold a sword, whilst the other hand held the reins of the horse.

3. One mounts a horse from its left and it was sensible not to be doing this whilst out 'in the traffic'.

4. When carts passed each other the drivers needed to be sure that they actually missed each other so they passed "driver to driver". I.e. they drove on the left.

In 1773 an increase in horse traffic forced the UK Government to introduce the General Highways Act of 1773 which contained a keep left recommendation. This became a law as part of the Highways Bill in 1835.

So why do other countries drive on the right?

In Continental Europe however, the "Keep Left" practice was changed due to Napoleon.

The reason it changed under Napoleon was because he was left handed his armies had to march on the right so he could keep his sword arm between him and any opponent.

From then on, any part of the world which was at some time part of the British Empire was thus left hand and any part colonised by the French was right hand.

The drive-on-the-right policy was adopted by the USA, which was anxious to cast off all remaining links with its British colonial past

Once America drove on the right, left-side driving was ultimately doomed. If you wanted a good reliable vehicle, you bought American, for a period they only manufactured right-hand-drive cars.

From then on many countries changed out of necessity.

Today, the EC would like Britain to fall into line with the rest of Europe, but this is no longer possible. It would cost billions of pounds to change everything round.
The last European country to convert to driving on the right was Sweden in 1967. While everyone was getting used to the new system, they paid more attention and took more care, resulting in a reduction of the number of road accident casualties.

From September 2009 Samoa now drives on the left instead of the right.
The main reason for this is that they want to use right-hand-drive cars, for instance from Japan and New Zealand, which both drive on the left.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Car pushed down motorway by lorry.

Lorry Driver Cleared

As her car was pinned sideways to the front of a lorry and shunted down the motorway at 60mph, the internet was the last thing on Rona Williams’s mind.

But when footage captured by a passenger in a passing vehicle was posted on YouTube, she found herself a web sensation.

And among those intrigued by the drama were the police.
lorry shunts car

Wedged: Lorry driver John Tomlinson was cleared of any wrongdoing after his lorry was pictured shunting a car sideways along the A1

Yesterday, the driver of the tanker, John Tomlinson, appeared before a tribunal, faced with being stripped of his heavy goods vehicle licence over the incident.

But as well as being cleared of any wrongdoing he was praised for his handling of the near-disaster after a police report found that Mrs Williams had been to blame.

The accident happened in January on the A1 near Leeds but was only investigated after dramatic footage was published on the internet showing the Renault Clio wedged against the front of the tanker as it sped down the fast lane.

At the time, Mrs Williams, 31, told the Daily Mail she had no idea how the lorry had hit her car as she was ‘tootling’ along to work.
John Tomlinson
Rona Williams

'Ill advised': Vet Rona Williams undertook Mr Tomlinson's 40-tonne lorry on the A1 near Leeds and tests revealed he would have been unable to see or hear her after she hit his lorry

She insisted she had not deviated from her path when she ‘felt a knock’ and found herself trapped under the truck’s bumper.

As she was pushed along the motorway, she rang 999 on her mobile phone and begged: ‘I’m going to die, I’m going to die! Can you do something?’

In a desperate attempt to catch the tanker driver’s attention, she yanked on her handbrake, sounded the horn and flashed her hazard warning lights.

‘I kept thinking, “Nobody knows I’m here. Nobody has seen me”,’ she said. ‘I tried everything.’
lorry shunts car

Exonerated: A tribunal praised Mr Tomlinson for his actions after he was alerted to the presence of Ms Williams' car by another driver

Mr Tomlinson was completely unaware of her presence until another driver flagged him down.

He pulled on to the hard shoulder where Mrs Williams, a vet from York, escaped shocked but unharmed. Her £6,000 car sustained only a dented side and worn tyres.

When the footage emerged on YouTube in March, it attracted millions of viewers and prompted the police to relaunch their inquiries into the incident.

During the investigation, Mr Tomlinson was suspended from his job delivering loads of silica sand for Cheshire-based Arclid Transport.

Yesterday, he appeared before North West Traffic Commissioner Beverley Bell, who was told police had concluded that Mrs Williams had pulled out in front of him from the left in an ‘ill-advised’ manoeuvre.

Tests had confirmed he could not have seen or heard the car wedged in front of his cab, and the hearing praised his actions.

Exonerating him, Miss Bell concluded: ‘You showed, in my view, coolness and a clear head.

‘I feel it is entirely inappropriate for me to take away your licence. You, your employers and the haulage industry should be able to hold your heads up high after this incident.’

Afterwards Mr Tomlinson, from Clitheroe, Lancashire, a lorry driver for 29 years, appeared close to tears as he said he hadn’t decided whether to resume his career.

His solicitor, Sean Joyce, said his client had been ‘wholly vindicated of any wrongdoing’.

He added: ‘This incident was, as they say, a freak of nature and purely accidental.’

Additional mirrors fitted to new lorries are meant to eliminate the blind spot which meant the Clio couldn’t be seen. Arclid has now installed these on its fleet.

Sometimes it's just your lucky day!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Young drivers run over more than a third of pedestrian casualties

The massive reduction in fatalities within our two most vulnerable age groups is the key finding of Younger and older road users, published today by the IAM as the latest in its series of IAM Motoring Facts 2010/2011.

Fatalities have fallen 33 per cent in the 16-19 year old bracket, 25 per cent for drivers in their 70s, and 22 per cent for drivers aged 80 and over since 2008.

Neil Greig, IAM Director of Policy and Research, said: “While these reductions are really positive, we must continue to support these drivers, who are among the most vulnerable on our roads. The fatality rate continues to be highest for 16-19-year olds, followed by the over 80s, but for very different reasons.”

“The greatest risk to the oldest age group on the road is as a pedestrian. In comparison, younger people are much more at risk as a driver or as a passenger in a car driven by a young driver. Pedestrian risk increases from two per cent of those injured aged between 20 and 50, to around nine per cent aged 80 and over. The greatest risk to pedestrians is car drivers under 30 who are involved in more than a third of pedestrian fatalities.”

During their teens and twenties, the risk of young drivers being killed halves every five years as they gain more driving experience. Mr Greig continued: “This lends weight to the IAM’s call for post-test training to be made compulsory in a form similar to that of the system in countries like Austria*1, where reductions of up to 30 per cent in young male driver fatalities have been achieved. If new drivers can be kept alive during this most dangerous stage of their driving career, the risk of them becoming another killed or seriously injured statistic reduces significantly."

Despite widespread beliefs to the contrary, older drivers are no more likely to be involved in an injury crash than middle aged drivers, and are much less at risk than drivers aged under 30. However, the risk of being killed as a car occupant increases from about 0.6 per cent of those injured aged between 30 and 50, to over three per cent aged 80 and over. This is generally a result of age-related frailty; older people are more likely to be injured in a crash and are less likely to recover. Between 20 and 50 years of age, the rate of deaths declines for all road users except for motorcyclists which remains almost constant over this period.

“Young male drivers continue to be the most high-risk group, and are more than twice as likely to be involved in a fatal or serious injury crash as young female drivers. A renewed focus on young drivers, which provides them with opportunities to gain further experience in a controlled and safe environment is of utmost importance”, said Mr Greig.

6 January 2011 

Younger and older road users – IAM Motoring Facts 2010/2011.

Minister wants to allow learners on motorways

Learner drivers should be allowed on motorways, says Road Safety Minister, Mike Penning. 

Mr Penning says it is wrong that learners can travel alone on motorways straight after passing their test. He told the transport select committee that he is examining ways to ensure new drivers can handle fast motorway traffic.

At the moment, learners are prohibited from driving on motorways. As soon as they get their full licence this restriction is lifted.

A report in The Telegraph, says ministers are keen to prepare young drivers before they encounter fast-moving traffic, and two options have been suggested so far. One is to allow learners onto motorways with supervision from their instructor before their test. The other is to enforce motorway training for newly qualified drivers.

The Department for Transport is reviewing the whole issue of driver training and testing. News on a 'Safe Driving for Life' plan for learner drivers is expected in the spring.

Published: 13 January 2011

Learning to Drive - The Evidence

In 2007, the Department for Transport announced that a fundamental overhaul of how people learn to drive was required in order to address key gaps in driver training and testing and to improve safety on British roads.

In response to this, the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) produced a summary of proposals in their consultation: Learning to Drive. This report sets out the evidence on why there is a need to transform the training and testing of drivers, illustrating the Department for Transport and the Driving Standards Agency’s assessment of the current problem.
The evidence has been grouped into three key (but related) issues:

• Issues with how people are learning to drive.
• Weaknesses in what people learn during driver training and testing.
• The ability, attitudes and behaviours of new drivers.

This report has been prepared by the Department for Transport, with the Driving
Standards Agency, to illustrate our assessment of the problem. It does not represent
a systematic review of all the evidence on driver education, training and testing.

The report also focuses solely on learning to drive for car drivers rather the drivers of other vehicles.
The summary below makes statements which are not really news to most ADIs. So, the evidence is in, what about actions? Something for discussion at your next association meeting perhaps? 


Some new and young drivers have a poor understanding of good driving

• Young drivers are less aware of the social dimensions of driving which govern the shared use of the road.
• Some new drivers believe that they really learn to drive after passing the practical test.
• Many young drivers believe that accidents are a normal part of learning to drive after the test.

New drivers have significant gaps in driving experience or ability when they qualify for a full licence

• Too many new drivers qualify with little or no exposure to many typical driving conditions.
• Many of those who pass the test have not achieved a consistent standard.

Although new drivers emerge from the practical test with high levels of confidence in their driving ability, they can identify gaps in their skills but seek no further training

• New drivers are initially overconfident in their driving ability.
• New drivers admit to significant gaps in their driving skills just after passing the
practical test
• Few new drivers take further training to improve their driving after passing their test.

Young and new drivers exhibit a range of unsafe attitudes and driving behaviours

• Young and new drivers exhibit speeding behaviour.
• Young and new drivers admit to drink driving.
• Young drivers think that their peers’ driving is unsafe.
• Young drivers exhibit risky behaviour, which contributes to accidents.

Learning to Drive: The Evidence

Many young drivers are involved in road accidents and they are overrepresented in road casualty statistics

• A large number of young and new drivers are involved in road accidents and near misses.
• Many young and new drivers are involved in road casualty accidents.
• Young drivers are over-represented in road casualties.
• As a result of high accident rates, young and new drivers have relatively high insurance premiums.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Driver Cuts Corner and Kills 4 Year Old. Part Two

"he was driving home from work, he had NOT been drinking, he was NOT speeding, in fact he was doing less than 20 miles an hour. He took a corner wide on a road that had NO markings"

Can you honestly say that you have never done exactly the same thing? But you were just lucky!

This was written by a family member of the driver that cut the corner.

My family were devastated by the story the family of Kian Davies gave to the Merthyr Express.

While we fully sympathise with the terrible grief this family must be suffering, how can they possible say, or know, whether my brother, John Cutlciffe, 'felt no remorse'.

I visited him regularly after the tragedy and for weeks he sat alone in a darkened room holding his head in his hands, traumatised over the fact that his actions had caused the death of an innocent child. He was unable to drive or work and had to get anti-depressants from his GP to help him cope.

They believe he showed no remorse because he didn't approach them in court. How could he? How could he possibly know what their reactions would be and whether they would welcome his confronting them? He sat silently throughout the case, accepted his punishment, and left.

They talk about my brother as if he is a murderer, he was driving home from work, he had NOT been drinking, he was NOT speeding, in fact he was doing less than 20 miles an hour.

He took a corner wide on a road that had NO markings, and on visiting the site, many other drivers did the same as it is a difficult corner to navigate closely. He should have gone even slower if he could not round the corner closely, because he didn't a little boy died and he will have that on his conscience for the rest of his life.

I offer my deepest sympathy to the family, but I will not allow them to say that my brother is a killer who 'showed no remorse'.

Anyone who knows John will now this is not the case, he is a caring loving grandfather, like Kian's grandfather and anyone who points their figure and says he's a monster, should look at the facts of the case, as the appeal judge looked at the facts of the case and made the decision to reduce his sentence.