Driving Test Changes for 2017

L Plate

L Plate

I posted about the consultation on changes to the driving test previously but the results from that little experiment are starting to filter down. Whilst some of the things I agree with, some of them I have major issues with.

As a learner driver now, my experience is very limited, too small to be statistically relevant. I will of course update this with a new post at a later point and reference this one once I have more input.

Change Is In The Air

There are a few major changes, some are good and some appear to be minor tweaks, and one is questionable at best.

  1. An increase to the ‘independent driving’ part of the test from 10 to 20 minutes.
  2. Asking the candidates to follow directions given from a SatNav during the ‘independent driving’ part of the test.
  3. Replace the ‘reverse around a corner’ and ‘turn in the road’ manoeuvres with more real-life scenarios such as driving into and reversing out of a parking bay. Parking on the right side of the road.
  4. Ask one of the two vehicle safety questions (known as the ‘show me, tell me’ questions) while the candidate is driving, such as asking them to use the rear heated screen or use screen wash and wipers to clear the window.

The replacing the manoeuvres is a little eek, we already have the “Bay Park” which is reverse parking into a bay, on top of this they are planning on adding forward parking as well. I’m not sure this counts as real-life scenarios, but I guess its a start.

The using SatNav is a definite plus, and honestly its about time this were in there, so I guess on balance its ok. 

What’s New

Motorway Speed Light Lines

Motorway Speed Light Lines

One of the things suggested by Transport Minister Andrew Jones is actually really very good. He wants learner drivers to be able to take driving lessons on motorways before passing their driving test. Just when you think its getting good, it turns out these lessons will be voluntary. It would also be up to the driving instructor to determine when they learner driver is competent and safe to have motorway lessons. 

Currently the only way to get motorway lessons is pay for them after you have passed your test or as some new drivers do by completing the also voluntary Pass Plus or similar scheme.

Its complete madness yet again by not making them mandatory. Sooner or later you MUST use the motorway so you should be trained to use them.

High speed driving is a very different animal, during my first 4 driving lessons I never went over 31mph, and 51mph were the fastest speed I went in the 8/9 professional lessons I have had.  I went up to the next major town to me in a relatives car, and theres a NSL Dual Carriageway. Steering at 70-72mph is VERY different than lower speeds. If you’ve never gone 50+, the odds of you turning too aggressively are so high, and flipping the vehicle becomes a reality if not cracking something.

Making It More Modern

I mentioned changing the manoeuvres earlier to add forward bay parking and parking on the right side of the road. This is all well and good but its hardly scratching the surface of what’s needed. If you drove like you are trained to, and what you MUST emulate to actually pass, you would be Schrodingers Handgrenade on the road. By that I mean at any given moment someone tests your status, and its BOOM time.

The only way you get away with it while learning is because of the L Plates, and the exceptions others make for you. Excluding White Van Man who either wants to claim whiplash off you, or is too high on paint fumes to realise how much danger they are causing. If ever there were an advert for dash cams it should just be a picture of a white van in your rear view mirror.

Round About Lane Discipline

Round Abouts No Left

Round Abouts No Left

Today while I were out, one of the techniques I was taught and expected to use went wrong, horribly wrong. The round about technique is essentially if you are going left or straight ahead, you approach just left of the curb or in the curb lane. You then have to follow the curb around to the left and steer with the curb around to the exit and off. 

This works amazingly well on multi-lane round abouts, but as soon as you have a single lane, which is wide enough for 2 or more vehicles such as this one. In this google maps image, you can see a few cars have parked at the bottom.

I drew in the white line to show its wide enough, there are no lines though. What are you supposed to do, is in blue. While I followed the blue line, another car came up and followed the red line. The brown splat is where the others Christmas tree air freshener became ineffective against the load in his pants.

There is an argument the other guy shouldn’t over-take on a round about, but there also an argument that sticking to the curb is nuts in such circumstances. A more defensive road position would have solved this potential collision. I can see the point of instilling lane discipline on round abouts, but single lane round abouts need some work. There are slightly different rules for mini roundabouts, laned roundabouts, and normal roundabouts, so why not for single lane vs multiple lane ? 

Co-incidentally, the red line would be what is called “Straight lining The Round About”, it would fail your driving test, should a police officer be really kinky and enjoy the punishment of writing reports it can be an endorsable offence. While talking about this, Straightlining a mini round, as in driving over the hub, is a 3 point offence. Rule 188 prohibits it, but doesn’t expressly prohibit using a mini round about as a U-Turn location. 

3 Point Turn vs Turn In The Road

Austin Powers 3 Point Turn

Austin Powers 3 Point Turn

The 3 Point Turn has been renamed Turn In The Road some years ago, which is probably good, since its not always possible to do a 3 point. However as I understand it, you can still earn minor faults for doing more than 3 points. There are actually about 5 different ways to fail during a turn in the road manoeuvre. 

If its a 3 point turn, then call it that. The name Turn In The Road implies that as long as your observation, control and technique are on the ball then 3 or 6 should still be acceptable. There also needs to be a point where you are performing a 10 point turn, and holding 200 cars up, that you simply accept if the curbs low enough, its safe to do you, you have to mount the curb as its safer to do that.

I ended up on a new build housing estate where they hadn’t quite finished the road, the madness they hadn’t even lowered the curbs for drive ways, it were double parked and a nightmare. I hadn’t been prepared for that kind of turn, trying to use standard techniques I would have hit another car, mounted the huge 9″ curbs, or something worse.

 Reversing In General

While reversing, you’re expected to look out your rear window for about half of your time going in reverse. I can’t see much of anything out of my rear window, so I had to literally take my eyes of the road, and look into space. I may as well have been checking my phone and texting for all it helped. 

This needs to be updated, the technique for vehicles without a rear window needs to be taught and then the option given. I could see more by using my left, right, interior and checking my side (front and rear/blind spot) than I could in the rear, the rear window check made me feel like I were taking my eyes off the road.

The vehicles I have learned in have both had rear cameras, so the odd glance at that revealed a better rear view than any rear window glance ever could. While they are adding technology like SatNav usage, they should also include the usage of Parking Sensors and Rear View Camera’s. You should absolutely learn how park and reverse without using technology but you should also be taught how to use it too. 

I could go on way more, but hopefully this update is just the start and other updates are coming, more useful ones. 

 

Highway Image by Tookapic, Map Image by Google and Austin Powers image by New Line Cinema / Warner Bros.

Samantha Cameron Starting A Fashion Label

Samantha Cameron

Samantha Cameron


I don’t really want to get into political posts, but since my take it somewhat humorous I thought I’d go ahead. I read in the paper a few weeks ago that Samantha Cameron (Ex-Prime Minister David Camerons Wife) wants to run a fashion label / company.

I’m not big on fashion, and remember being as equally bewildered over the commentary of Kate Middleton’s dress sense as I was about the various times Samantha’s keen fashion sense were wrote about. All I remember is they were both praised for using high street and off the hook brands. A quick search shows lots of posts and articles about this, many of them appear to suggest she is behind her outfits and often the fact she has a degree in fine art and a history of working in fashion design is sited.

I read another story more recently, about how various “Camerons Cronies” were getting OBEs and the likes. These included her Barber, Spin Doctors and Nutritionist, but one name caught my attention. Isabel Spearman, various people have suggested she’s just a PA, and such but I were interested in what were listed as some of her jobs and astounded by her pay packet. 

Isabel were responsible for handling Mrs Camerons diary, appointments, correspondence and one article suggested dialing her phone and wiping after toilet. Many stories were a little sexist, and playing up the toff angle, even more talked about the fantastic pay, roughly £300 PER DAY!!.

Amongst the list of things on her job list were managing Samantha’s wardrobe, purchasing her clothes, arranging discounts with clothing suppliers and planning her outfits. It also listed attending fittings with various suppliers to enable accurate purchasing and fitting. 

Given Isabel Spearman wa responsible for Samantha Camerons reported excellent dress sense, NOT the woman herself, yet now she seems to believe she can run a fashion company. 

The Tory’s Secret Range

What tickled me some what is this fashion range, will include a Lingerie collection, and I have an idea or two for Samantha to include.

I’m thinking there should be some of the sort of underwear which is kinda tight fitting, not much substance, kinda thin, digs in, really rides up and gets right up, deep into you’re arse crack, and generally uncomfortable. You know the type you constantly need dig out to stop it getting too at home in your bum. 

She should call it the “The David Range” or perhaps The “Tory’s Secret” range 😛 

Photo By Lawrence Jackson, White House Photographer – Public Domain.

Shoulder Surgery and Driving Test

Austin Powers 3 Point Turn

Austin Powers 3 Point Turn copyright of Warner Brothers.

January is turning in to somewhat of a monstrous month on the whole, and February is shaping up to be chock full of pain and misery. The first 3 weeks of 2017 have been monstrous, and the next month is shaping up to be equally horrific.

Welcome to 2017, its not exactly year I had in mind… in any way, shape or form. 

Shoulder Surgery

My Pre-Op and Surgery have clashed not once but twice with my driving, and now the surgery classes badly with some work related issues; same day to be exact. The surgery clashed with my Driving Test, and the hospitals waiting list manager were shall we say unsympathetic and unwilling to change the date. This may end up being a moot point as I’m getting ill, I have a sore throat, and shivers. I seem to be coming down with a cold or flu and less than 2 weeks til the surgery. Again the waiting list people don’t seem concerned even though all the NHS Documentation paints a very grim picture. 

Aside form that, there does seem to be a little discrepancy, the lady who also weren’t very sympathetic told me I were having slightly different surgery to what the surgeon / consultant told me. They did confirm the two biggies which are Subacromial Decompression and AC Joint Excision. I assume once they open it up they will do whatever else is needed which were debridement and clean up stuff. I’m still praying my Rotator Cuff and Glenohumeral something are in good condition and don’t require any intervention.

Driving Lessons and Test

I finally got around to sorting driving lessons, literally after 1 lesson I got the notice for surgery and it all clashes, so I’m not going to have time to fit it all in and get to 100% test standard. Since then 1 lesson were cancelled due to snow, and 2 needed to be cut a little short due to traffic. Better to bank the time than sit in traffic.

I’m struggling with two things, one of them is alluding me and its not getting easier, the other is procedure. Bizarrely the things most people struggle with (3 point, parallel and bay parking) I have nearly nailed. 3 point I have never once hit the curb.

Even when I had to go all Austin Powers (Spy who shagged me) and do a 10 point point in a narrow road. Seriously, The instructor actually compared the amount of turns to the above clip, and still didn’t hit the curb. Other more simple stuff but potentially more important isn’t coming easy. I need more time on the actual road, a longer gap between lessons to practice.

I think the added pressure from the surgery and other stuff has just left me not in the best mindset. I left it too late I fear to actually sort enough lessons or perhaps not enough time to practice due to the lemon car I purchased.

The Future

The pisser is I’m not sure I will have recovered in time for Body Power 2017, which I think will the first one I will have missed since it started 🙁 This year its in the middle of May (19th-21st) at the NEC in Birmingham. A little bit sucky as I already things in place and moved work around so I can do the show again. Every year I end up getting a different bit of work and missing at least 1 day, this year I’ve planned it all bang on and now surgery is just a few months before the show.

On a side note, this post has left me really wanting to watch Austin Powers, I think I need to check if I its on Amazon Movies or order the boxset

Austin Powers video and still capture used for commentary and comedy purposes, I do not own copyright to either of them. I am using them under the fair use clause to parody an event which happened. If you are the rights owner (New Line / Warner Bros) and wish me to remove them, please use the contact form.

Konstantine Janashia the Georgian Giant

Konstantine Janashia Known As The Georgian Bull

Konstantine Janashia Known As The Georgian Bull – Img by WSM

I posted way back in August that Konstantine Janashia aka the Georgian Giant or Georgian Bull if you listen to Colin Bryce is one to watch. Watching him perform were a little tarnished, not because of anything he did or his performance, but because there were so much spectacular new talent in this years Worlds Strongest Man.

It were bordering on biblical, with the 4 Horsemen riding in to town to challenge the old guard, upon the ashen horses rode Mateusz KielszkowskiGrzegorz Szymanski, Martins Licis and Konstantine Janashia.

Lots of new blood in Worlds Strongest Man this year, lots of potential and this experience will have given many a new set of goalposts and without raised them up. 

I’ve just re-watched it again, which makes it about the third time now. 

A Quick Round Up

In the 825lb Frame Carry event, Janashia destroyed Brian Shaw by a huge 6 seconds, and Hafthor Bjornsson, well you’d need the Hubble Space Telescope to see across the 30 seconds gap between them, only the above Kielszkowski who pretty much sprinted the 30 meter course 11 seconds faster than Brian Shaw. 

In the 100kg Circus Barbell, he beat Brian Shaw again, Brian looked to be struggling and I think Janashia still had 1 more rep but ran out of time, Shaw looked struggling to match him. 

In the deadlift, Konstantine matched Bjornsson at 420, with only Eddie Hall, Brian Shaw and JF Caron beating him by 25kg. That 25kg did make it a new world record but you can see thus far how Konstantine Janashia is making some pretty big waves for a WSM Débutante. 

In the 40 Tonne plane pull, he were just 40cm between Eddie Hall, and 85cm behind taking first place, and the Kettlebell Throw he scored just 5 seconds behind Eddie Hall to gain 5 over the bar.

Lastly in the Atlas Stones you saw him come unstuck, he were only just getting to the 4th Stone up while Eddie Hall had near completed all 5, Hafthor, Shaw and Eddie all completed the full 5 stones up to 210kg in the time it had taken Konstantine to do just 4.

The Stones is a big event based on technique, and skill to wield the strength, and he has shown he has the power, strength and speed, he just needs to hone his skills and nail that technique. You could see in this grand final that he were standing toe to toe and took a bit of a beasting but still he stood toe to toe.

Another Way

There were the odd event variance, where they used a Viking Press with Canoes, or Fingals Fingers for example, had ALL the competitors had the exact same -semi-final events, I think the Grand Final may have had 1 or 2 different faces.

It really could have gone another way if some of the shorter contenders had Fingals, or some the weaker endurance guys the car carry. If there weren’t an injury or two during the semi’s the finals would have looked different for sure, and if Big Z weren’t out I think the Podium would have certainly been different. 

Really looking forward to seeing Konstantine and the other 3 horsemen excelling, I just hope this event has given a sample of the good stuff and increased their hunger. I remember feeling this way when Savickas showed crazy strength potential, the same moment when as a kid I saw Kazmaier do the original Crazy Eyes and you could see the raw passion, the same as when Pudzianowski went full on Berzerker Rage and earned the name The Dominator, exciting times. 

 

Image from Worlds Strongest Man.

Ex-Police Car Insurance Tips

KP10NXY Vauxhall Astra

KP10NXY Vauxhall Astra

I have had a nightmare getting insurance for my last car, I no longer have the car since Ex Police Car Specialist in Manchester who sold it me, basically sold me a lemon and were dicks about the Consumer Rights Act, more on that another time. Lesson learned, if a dealer won’t, or can’t take credit card, I’d walk away.

I’d already started writing this article, and figured it contained some useful information for others buying ex-Police cars from honest dealers. So I went ahead and posted it anyway. 

Almost ALL the main comparisons websites didn’t carry my car’s Trim and Spec (Astra Special 1.3 CDTI) hell most of them couldn’t even find my number plate (KP10 NXY).  When I visited the main dealer (Bristol Street Motors), they put my number plate in and were sure it weren’t a real car plate.

I don’t think a single one of the the big boy comparison sites got it right straight off the bat, and only Mustard.co.uk off the top my head found it at all, I think Asda were able to manually look it up.  The story were the same with most of the major direct insurance companies, only a handful actually found the car.

Average Quotes

KP10 NXY Barebones

KP10 NXY Barebones

Most my pre-purchase quotes were around £800-1000 on a provisional license, and around £1,800-2,400 on a full license. I decided given my previous experience hunting quotes that I would tweak the options a little using the many accounts I had made until I found the best combination. 

There were some outside the above range quotes, my biggest quote were around £5,000 with a £3,000 Compulsory Excess but with some fiddling and jigging, I managed to find an Excellent Deal.

Top Tip: Make a second account with a fake name, who lives nearby (same postal code range, same age, date of birth, job etc, but diff email). The reason for this is, insurance companys record EVERY quote you make. If you test the price for parked on the road, then try parked on the driveway and its cheaper.  If your car is broken into it, and it were on the road but you choose on the drive they can cry about it and refuse to cover it. Experiment with a fake account but very very similar details. Remember don’t enter your drivers license number on this accounts 😉 

Now if you have an Ex-Police Car this list will save you a heap of time as it gives you an order to work again, an save you a heap of time. 

Insurance Companies Break Down

Its set out in order of most useful down to shocking and couldn’t help at all. I’m going to have a little rant about Hastings Direct and a Kudos to the company I chose in the end, but here’s the run down. Good Luck!

Detected The Trim AND All Engine Sizes
This means they had the make, model, trim and its selection of engine sizes (1.3, 1.7, 2.0).
Admiral (and Bell, Elephant), More Than, Asda, Mustard and Tesco Bank.

Had The Trim but Not All Engine Sizes
These were unable to detect the reg plate, but manually did have the make, model, trim but usually only the 1.7 engine size, not the other two. If you have the 1.3 of the bigger engine, no point trying these.
Zurich, Liverpool Victoria, uSwitch, Go Skippy, Swinton Insurance, Co-Operative Bank, Kwik-Fit Insurance, Quote Me Happy, Swift Cover, Diamond and John Lewis.

Had Car but Unable to Quote or Didn’t Do Online Quotes.
I can’t say don’t try these, only that you need to phone them or them phone you, but were too much hassle.
TheAA and Allianz

Comparison Sites Failed Catastrophically
Confused, Compare The Market, Money Supermarket and Go Compare,

Didn’t Have The Trim FULLSTOP!
Hastings Direct, 1st Central, RAC, Direct Line, AXA, eSure, Churchill, Endsleigh, Sainsburys, Adrian Flux, Post Office, Marks and Spencer, NatWest, Prudential and Privilege.

As you can see I literally spent hours upon hours trying to find a bargain, and I found one in the end, just not the one I expected before I purchased the car. 

Hastings Direct Sucks

Hastings Direct Logo

Hastings inDirect Logo

I’m giving Hastings Direct a special mention / kick because this were the company I really wanted to go with, their Hastings Direct Premier Insurance ticked all my boxes. The key fact were I was assured that provisional drivers could earn no claims bonus with them. I were quoted around £700 as a provisional, and then up to £2,100 the day I pass the test. I would have to pro-rata this, since I intended on passing in about 6 months at the time (September 2016), my first year would cost me £1400. This £1400 would be made up from 6 months as a provisional and 6 months as a qualified driver, the break down is below for completeness.

Provisional Driver: £58.33 per month multiplied by 6 months = £350.
Qualified Driver: £175 per month multiplied by 6 months = £1050

On the same phone call I confirmed the Provisional NCB, I were told the fact the insurance couldn’t find my actual trim, but the Reg Plate returned the Exclusiv Spec, which had the correct transmission, engine size, bhp, etc I were told “We’ll be able to cover you, we’ll just need to add the ‘special’ name to your policy.”, so I worked on the basis of this being accurate and would be plain sailing.

I regrettably bought the wreck of a car, I get an estimated delivery date, all I need to do now is call to get my car insured. This is where it all went to hell. On this second call, I were told “Underwriters don’t speak to customers directly, sorry nothing we can do to help, its not something we do”, they wouldn’t even ask the underwriters or whoever themselves or pass me to someone who could.

F*#k You very much Hastings, I spent 2 weeks thinking I had it all planned and were ready to roll before you kicked the stool from under my feet.

Tesco Rocks

Ask MID (Motor Insurance Database)

Ask MID (Motor Insurance Database)

Since I kicked Hastings in the nards, I thought I would give Tesco a special mention. In the end it were them which saved the day. A provisional license holder, parking the car on the road, on a 2010 Astra Special 1.3 CDTi and the quote was a mouthwatering £540.

A whole £160 less than Hastings Direct, which I thought were a good deal.

I nearly snapped their arm off before they changed their mind, an off I went happily insured… so I thought.

The day the care were delivered, I’m sat in the gym, cooling down before a shower. I thought I’d tax the vehicle it showed me the link for Motor Insurance Database (MID) and suggested you check the insurance status before you pay. When I did this, it came up with the wrong trim. It showed Vauxhall Astra Exclusiv CDTi (see right), which meant technically my insurance were invalid. 

Tesco definitely showed the correct spec and trim searching with my number plate, and it still does right now. I checked my quote emails, and confirmation emails and they all matched up saying Astra Special. I checked my documents, and blow me if it didn’t say Exclusiv on the certificate of insurance, GRRRR. 

Tesco Insurance Correction Letter

Insurance Correction Letter

I phoned Tesco Insurance up, which has a UK Landline phone number (01332093098), the advisor on the phone checked all my quote references, and said it shows Exclusiv on their side. He checked it on MyCarCheck and it showed as Astra Special, and he checked Tesco’s customer site and agreed it said Special. So assured me now I had notified them I were fully insured until its sorted and safe to drive. I would need to send in documentary evidence of the cars specification, and the quotes saying special so they could add it to the system.

At this point I were expecting a repeat of the Hastings Fiasco and finding I had no insurance. I emailed in photo’s of the documents, the Tesco quotes, Tesco emails and everything else, and waited nearly a week before a letter arrived from Tesco.

This letter (see left) basically confirmed although the MID says Exclusiv, Tesco has added a note on their systems to ensure the correct model is insured and I’m legal. 

This is effectively what Hastings Indirect had promised they would do, so I have no idea why they couldn’t do it, but kudos to Tesco for actually sorting it out. 

The Bottom Line

If you’re buying an Ex-Police car, Tesco, Admiral (Bell/Elephant), More Than, Asda and Mustard are the top pics, given mustards best price promise, it should be a no brainer. Earlier I mentioned their lowest price promise, and as best I can find, this is provided by Adrian Flux who usually are the go to for modified cars. If I had added a DTUK or other tuning box along with a K n N air filter etc, I’d have probably tried them, so maybe worth a look.

I also found it dropped the price by about 20% by adding an experienced named driver, in my case my poor old Mother were added as a Named Driver, this dropped the insurance about £100 for me. So adding a more experience driver, may save you big money, just use one with no convictions, no accidents, no points, basically a clean license.

 

KP10NXY Car image by Cobalt271, who has a hell of a collection of service vehicle images. He also has quite a bit of information about the cars usage, due to the stream of images. If you’re considering a car which appears in his images, a polite message via Flickr may be invaluable.

Updating the Drop List Download Application

I received an email from someone who wanted to download the output of an MySQL Query from a DropList Database, but it were to use on a windows client. The code snippet series I posted used /n instead of the /r/n, and would require the use of unix2dos, even a simple str_replace, but while looking for a solution on another project I came across Stream Filters, which can be applied in this instance quite elegantly.

I would have gone around the issue by processing the query output before producing the download. However this email weren’t asking for that, so I thought of a different solution, of which I came up with 2 or 3 different ways. I always think of Larry Wall the creator of PERL who once said “Theres always more than one way to do it”, which is nigh on a PERL Mantra but in PHP there are usually half dozen different ways to do it, then a dozen more overkill ways on top. 

I hadn’t really used Stream Filters that much, and only then for handling affiliate feeds which are CSV files. This function’s code is by a chap called Torge, and can be found on this StackOverflow post Fputcvs and New Lines. Bending and fusing the function to this purpose is actually quite elegant… and I like it.  

The above fusion of Torge’s code and my code creates a windows encoded text file based on the MySQL query output and starts/prompts a download of said file. It could be neatened up, and for public deployment certain needs some bomb proofing. 

How you modify the date / change the query is down to you. I would perhaps use a form with a submit via post with some sanitising, but this works for a simple download todays list script.

Extending The Drop List Application

You could even modify the download aspect and have it write to a file or email the download to you or a client.

In a similar tool, I have something like this which runs on a cron at midnight to create a downloadable file, which also becomes a historic record for the days list. This way multiple people can download the list without the server having to process the MySQL and increase the server load every time.

Before I used a Cron like above, the first user of the day ran the query and subsequent users downloaded the output. The problem were the first user could end up loading it during a critical time or it would take too long. 

I used a simple if…FileName…Exist…PromptDownload…else…RunQuery type switch, ultimately the CRON method is faster and better to maintain, the code above can be modified this way.