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I'm Jane McIntyre, a voiceover and writer, formerly an award-winning BBC radio newsreader and producer. My blog covers life, love and loss; travel, coffee and chocolate; with some heartfelt pieces in the mix about my late dad, who had dementia. Just a click away, I'm half of the team behind - two empty nesters who whizzed round the world in 57 days.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

So you think you`re a safe driver..?

The car ground to a halt beside a temporary 50 mph sign. One of the kind that teases you. 50? Yeah, I wish. The queue was through roadworks--all the way to the next roundabout. It was just before 7.30 am and I reasoned it was probably better to be a few minutes late--than pick up another ticket on my way to--oh the irony-a speed awareness workshop.

This was the very sign I`d ignored a few weeks before, at the start of a trip from Shrewsbury to London. I was running late; distracted, and the road was clear. I hardly noticed my speed sliding up over 60.

The cameras did though, and so, here I was; £85 poorer but about to attend a half day session (slap bang in the middle of UK Road Safety Week) which would keep my licence free of points.

There were more than 20 at the TTC course in Hadley, Telford--a real mix of ages and backgrounds. One had been driving four months. Another; more than forty years. The earlybirds were already getting stuck in to the speed limit section in their quiz booklets --debating the limit on a dual-carriageway with streetlights; pondering over the top speed for a car with a trailer on different roads.

One thing was certain. I wasn`t the only one who hadn`t seen a Highway Code for decades. My recollection of road sign shapes; and of speed limits on different kinds of roads was, frankly, appalling.

Two TTC* trainers, Al and Paul talked about accidents; about the likelihood of death over injury depending on your speed, and about the places you`re least likely to have a crash, or be injured by one. They played videos so that we could spot hazards; and encouraged us to think hard about our driving, and the personal consequences and the risks to others, of going too fast. They were engaging, punchy, entertaining--and didn`t make us feel as if we were being punished or confined to the classroom. Their heady mix of humour, grim stats, and coffee hit home for me, and has already changed the way I drive.

Surprising facts I took home? Motorways are statistically among the safest places to be motoring. built up areas, if you really find it tough keeping to 30 mph, you can drive along in third gear. Apparently, your car won`t mind at all.

Thanks, Al and Paul, for a thought provoking session. They`re great guys. But in the nicest possible way-- I really hope you never get to meet them.

The TTC Group`s Miguel Ramshill illustrates how many people--represented by the blacked out silhouettes--will die before the week is over as a result of a preventable road crash, half of them while at work.


1) Use your gears to stay in control

Selecting a lower gear will help you manage your speed in built-up areas, because engine braking will help to hold the vehicle back and prevent it running away from you. Try 3rd gear for 30mph and, for those challenging 20mph limits, give 2nd a try. Modern engines use fuel-injection systems controlled by computer, meaning you won’t use more fuel.

2.     Look out for street lights

If you can see a system of street lights (that’s three or more), then the speed limit is 30mph. They can be lights on telegraph poles or strip lighting in tunnels, and they don’t have to be switched on. Don’t worry about the space between them, either – 3 or more and it’s a system. If there are no streetlights, then it’s national speed limit (remember, that will vary depending on the type of road and the vehicle you are driving). This rule applies to all road types, apart from motorways. If the speed limit is anything different, it must be signed – because signs overrule streetlights.

3.     A dual carriageway is nothing to do with the number of lanes

Yes, you did read that correctly. A dual carriageway is defined by the fact that it must have a physical separation between the two opposing carriageways. That can be grass, infill, concrete or metal barriers, or just a raised kerb down the middle. You can have one or more lanes in either direction, but the presence of two lanes alone does not constitute a dual carriageway. Our American cousins use the term ‘divided highway’, and that’s a pretty accurate description of a dual carriageway here in the UK.

4.     A dual carriageway with street lights is limited to 30mph

Again, not a typo! Unless there are signs telling you otherwise, the speed limit will be 30mph – remember the streetlight rule. If the limit was anything different, there would be signs to tell you this. Many drivers forget that the streetlight rule applies to dual carriageways too, and are caught out because the road ‘looks faster’.

5.     If you’re towing, you should be slowing!

If you are towing anything, whether it’s a small box trailer, a boat, or a caravan, you will be subject to lower speed limits on a national speed limit section of road. For a single carriageway road, that’s a maximum of 50mph, and for a dual carriageway, that’s 60mph. It’s worth remembering that these lower limits also apply to the majority of vans and to minibuses – important if you need to hire one. If you are towing on a motorway, your maximum speed is set at 60mph.

6.     Give yourself time

One of the biggest causes of speeding is time pressure, or running late. Allow yourself that ‘safety margin’ of extra time, so you don’t feel pressured into breaking the law and risking speeding fines, points, or worse. Remember that a smooth, progressive drive within the speed limit uses up to 25% less fuel. And speed limits are just that – limits, not targets. There will be many occasions when the limit just isn’t appropriate, and you’ll need to adjust your speed accordingly.

*The TTC Group is the largest provider of courses for the National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme (NDORS), an educational alternative to prosecution for some road traffic offences. They run courses on behalf of police and councils in 15 UK regions from Scotland in the north, Wales in the west, across north England and the Midlands to Avon and Somerset, Kent and Devon and Cornwall in the south. Nationally, 1,713 people died in road crashes in the UK in 2013 – the lowest death rate since records began, 21,657 were seriously injured, 160,300 slight injuries. Around 400 people a year are killed in crashes in which someone exceeds the speed limit or drives too fast for the conditions. (figures from the Department for Transport). Speed awareness courses were rolled out in England, Wales and Northern Ireland from 2006. Scotland introduced the National Driver Improvement Scheme in 2007. 0845 270 4363

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