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Safety systems could drive down fleet accidents

11 July 2012

The use of driver safety aids by fleets could cut the number of accidents their vehicles are involved in, according to new research.
 
Safety systems such as forward collision warning and speed limiters were tested during a four-year, £18 million study called the European Field Operational Test (EuroFOT).  It is now recommending that fleets consider equipping new vehicles with such systems.
 
The issue is cost: to pack a car with safety aids such as lane departure, collision warning/braking and blind spot information costs anything from £1,000 to £2,000.  For a fleet of 100 vehicles, that equates to at least £100,000 – although tough negotiating with the manufacturer could bring the cost down.
 
EuroFOT tested 1,000 cars and trucks equipped with advanced driver assistance systems, cov-ering more than 21 million miles.  It focused on eight vehicle functions that help drivers in detecting hazards and avoiding accidents, including: adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, speed limiter, blind spot information system, lane departure warning and curve speed warning (which alerts drivers if they are approaching a bend at too high a speed).  The findings suggest that adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning could positively affect up to 5.7% of accidents on motorways.
 
Three-quarters of drivers involved in the test felt that curve speed warning increased safety; they found it most useful while driving on rural roads. It also enabled more defensive driving.
About 80% of drivers felt that blind spot systems increased safety, especially on urban roads and in heavy traffic.
 
The findings come in the wake of Government statistics which reveal that the number of people being killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads has risen for the first time in 17 years.  Road deaths increased by 3% – from 1,850 in 2010 to 1,901 last year – and serious injuries climbed 2% – from 22,660 to 23,122 in 2011.  That’s the equivalent of five people being killed and more than 60 seriously injured every day. With estimates suggesting that at-work drivers account for one-third of casualties, that equates to a weekly death rate of 12 employees who are driving for work, and nearly 150 seriously injured.
 
Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive of road safety charity Brake, said: “It is unacceptable and shameful that after years of consistent casualty reductions, we are now seeing an increase in people dying and being maimed on our roads.”
 
Road deaths have been decreasing year-on-year by an average of 9% since 2004.  In 2010 they fell by 17%, so the figures from the Department for Transport (DfT) represent a dramatic break in the long-term trend.  As a result, Brake is calling on the Government to reinstate the national casualty reduction targets, which were abandoned last year.  It also wants to see more 20mph speed limits; graduated driver licensing; a lower drink-drive limit; and traffic policing prioritised.
 
However, in the past decade the reduction in road deaths has largely come from improved passive safety in new vehicles, such as airbags and crumple zones, according to the Road Safety Foundation.  The charity’s director, Dr Joanne Marden, said it was important to “get safety policies back on track.  For vehicles, it means continuing the introduction of safety features in four and five-star cars and accelerating the adoption of technologies such as electronic stability control and emergency brake assistance that help drivers avoid crashes,” she said.
 
But, while fleets could play their part by making some safety systems mandatory in company vehicles, it’s the Government that most experts are calling on to take action.
 
“Ministers should take this as a serious warning,” said the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) chief executive Simon Best.  “Cutting road safety education, scrapping casualty targets, and reductions in local authority spending all suggest that road safety isn’t a major priority for this Government.”

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Vauxhall reveals the new Adam city car

11 July 2012

Vauxhall released the first official pictures of the new Adam, hoping to rival the Fiat 500 as part-car and part-fashion accessory.
 
Using upmarket materials the Adam is a three-door, four-seater that will be unveiled at this year’s Paris Motorshow, before appearing in UK showrooms early in 2013.  The Adam incorporates a ‘floating’ roof which is visually disconnected from the bodbut it also retains design signatures from other Vauxhalls, such as the line around the door handle (Astra GTC), the wing-shaped chrome grille bar (new Astra) and the blade shape in the lower doors.
 
The Adam offers a high level of personalisation options. Available in three trims from launch – Jam (fashionable/colourful), Glam (elegant/sophisticated) and Slam(racy/sporty), while there are almost unlimited visual combinations, with a wide variety of exterior colours – including two different roof colours - interior colours, equipment and materials. Customers can even choose their headlining, including an LED-lit starlight roof trim.

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Wet weather highlights need for tyre checks

04 July 2012

With the UK suffering its wettest second quarter since records began in 1910, the need for adequate tyre tread to stay safe on wet roads all year round is more important than ever, says TyreSafe.
 
“Spring felt more like autumn this year with its unusually high rainfall, yet what it does show is that tyre tread depth should be checked regularly, whatever time of year, to make sure they can cope properly with wet roads.  And there is at least one silver lining to these continuous clouds and that’s the free advice from TyreSafe, which is urging drivers to inspect their tyres simply by using the 20p tread depth check. It’s easy to do and could pay dividends,” said Stuart Jackson, chairman, TyreSafe.
 
The test involves inserting a 20p piece into the main grooves of the tyre. If the outer band of the coin is visible, then the tyre tread may not have sufficient depth and should be inspected by a qualified specialist.  Adequate tread depth is essential for good grip on wet roads as the tread pattern helps to remove water from the road surface. Drivers with insufficient tread depth face longer stopping distances, reduced grip and an increased risk of aquaplaning.
 
When checking the tread, TyreSafe advises that drivers should also give their tyres a visual inspection for any cuts, lumps or bulges, while also making sure the air pressure is correct.  Tyre safety is about protecting the ones you love, as well as having respect for other road users. However, if that’s not enough to spur people into action and to regularly check their tyres all year round, then the heavy fines for driving with illegal tyres certainly is,” added Jackson.
 
Current UK law requires car drivers to have at least 1.6mm of tread across the central three-quarters of the tyre, around its entire circumference.  Drivers who fail to comply with the regulations face a fine of up to £2,500 and three penalty points for each illegal tyre.

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Drivers put cost first in salary sacrifice schemes

04 July 2012

Drivers put cost considerations ahead of all other factors in their reasons for deciding to acquire a car through a salary sacrifice car scheme and in making their car choice, according to new research.
 
A survey of over 1,000 drivers, who have recently acquired a new car using a Salary Sacrifice scheme, found that four of the top five most appealing key benefits of the scheme related to its low cost.  This reflects the rising cost of motoring for drivers and the need for an alternative, more cost effective way to acquire a car, such as a salary sacrifice car scheme.
 
Drivers said the key reasons for opting to use salary sacrifice to acquire a new car were the provision of an all-inclusive fixed monthly cost for a car, followed by a cost effective way of acquiring a car and a hassle free way of getting a car.
 
Getting a more fuel efficient car and obtaining tax and National Insurance savings were also very important benefits for drivers, the research found.  When it came to actually choosing a car through the scheme, the most important factor drivers considered was the monthly cost.
 
The second most important factor was that the car was fuel efficient, followed by its ability to match the respondents’ lifestyle needs in terms of the number of seats, space and size.  Drivers were also concerned about the cost impact of CO2 emissions on their benefit-in-kind tax bills, rather than the environmental impact.
 
“It is clear that the rising cost of motoring is having a profound effect on the reasons why drivers elect to acquire a new car through a salary sacrifice scheme and on their actual choice of vehicle,” said a spokesperson.  “They like the fact that a salary sacrifice car scheme gives them an all-inclusive way of acquiring a new car with a fixed monthly cost and that there are no unexpected costs or hidden surprises. Fuel efficiency and carbon emission levels are also important but more from a cost than an environmental viewpoint.”
 
To help fund their new acquisition, the survey found that 73% of drivers sold their old car, while a further 14% gave it to a family member or kept it as a second car (13%).
 
Of drivers surveyed, some 48% had initial concerns about entering into a salary sacrifice car scheme, whereas 52% had no concerns at all.

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Sight check app to support drivers’ eye health

02 July 2012

A free sight check app has been launched by Specsavers Corporate Eyecare
 
Using the latest technology, the app has been developed to include a series of tests that help employees to take an active interest in their eye health.  Should the app recommend a full eye examination at the end of the test, the user can book one directly via the internet.
 
The app also features a slimmed-down version of ‘Ask the Optician’, Specsavers existing eye health advice tool.  Users can type in a question relating to eye health and then search an extensive database before having their answer delivered in text or video format.
 
Designed by David Thomson, Professor of Optometry and Visual Science at City University London, the app is available at both the Apple App Store and the Android App Store.  Professor Thomson said: “It has been designed to raise awareness of eye health in a current and instantly accessible way.  While it can’t replace a comprehensive eye examination, it does provide a reading test, a visual acuity test and a fan test for astigmatism.  It then uses computer intelligence to read the results of these tests and then describe user’s vision, risk factors and what action they should take.”
 
Jim Lythgow, director of strategic alliances at Specsavers Corporate Eyecare said: “This offers extra support to employers who have fleet drivers.  From our experience one in three drivers would fail an eye examination and part of the problem is that drivers don’t realise their eyesight has deteriorated.  The sight check app gives a quick assessment that will direct them to a full eye examination, if needed.”

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