Category Archives: Driving

New Driving Test is Finally Here

I’ve blogged about the new driving theory many, many, many times before, but the big day has finally. The big day is 4th December 2017, its not only the theory test which changes on this day. From 4th December you’ll be able to have driving lessons on the motorway. 

L Plate

  1. A new set of 21 Vehicle Safety Questions to be added. Questions about the engine, screen wash, where controls are, etc.
  2. New Manoeuvres added such as reversing and rejoining traffic, parking on the opposite side of the road and more replacing paraelle parking and reversing around a corner. 
  3. Independent Driving increased from 10 to 20 minutes. this is where you are told to follow road signs to destination of the instructors choosing. 
  4. You must safely set your Sat Nav to a location given by your instructor, and follow the instructions as as part of your test. 

You can also now have driving lessons with a qualified driving instructor on the motorway, but its down to your instructor to decide if they feel you are ready for it. You CANNOT go on the motorway with friends or family, only instructors. 

A Manchester Based Photographer and Website Developer with interests in Strongman, Fitness and Geekery.

I Shall Pass… My Driving Test… After 33 Attempts

Not even Gandalf can stop this Barnsley man from passing. This is fairly old story, but I forgot to publish it at the time. Christian Whiteley-Mason, 42 from Barnsley has taken his driving test 33 tries and £8,000. Mr Whiteley-Mason had lessons with 14 different driving instructors, a total 85 driving lessons, over a 25 years period.

 

Christian Whiteley-Mason Finally Passed Driving Test

Christian Whiteley-Mason Passed

Christian had 56 lessons with his first driving instructor who finally told him to quit, its never going to happen, there were one Examiner who he hate seeing who would always fail him.

He took his first driving test in 1992, and took it a further 32 times over the next 11 years until 2003 when he decided to accept it and call it a day. 

In 2017 Christian got a new job which required more travel, he grew tired of taking taxi’s and relying on others for rides, so he dug out his notebook and arranged a refresher course. 

He was so determined to pass, and preyed to not get the same examiner from all those years ago, 33rd time lucky he passed. 

Christian is quoted as saying “I’m so proud of myseld. Its changed my life to be honest. I delf like I’d achieved everything I really wanted to achieve, this was the one thing left I had to do”. 

They say second time pass people are better drivers, what does that make Christian ? Perhaps it makes him the next Stig ?

A Manchester Based Photographer and Website Developer with interests in Strongman, Fitness and Geekery.

Average Speed Cameras on Busy Roads

I was reading an article about those crazy Dutch people, on the one hand very liberal with the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, Techno, but when it comes to driving they are very much the opposite. The latest idea is to use Average Speed Cameras or SPECS (for us) the type we often see around road works on the motorway with a 50mph limit but on provincial roads. This appears to include UK Equivalent of A-Roads.

SPECS Average Speed Camera

SPECS AVG Speed Camera

I did a little research and it seems the Dutch have a kind of similar system to us, only they have a version of the Autobahn called the Expressway for faster vehicles, along with Highway (Motorway) and Trunk Roads these are supplemented by the Provincial Roads, which which are a mixture of Major A-Roads (2+ Lanes) and Dual Carriageways. We in the UK are already taking this step with the Major A Roads such as the A14 and A40, but there are calls to introduce these on less major A-Roads, such as the A6. There are a few stretches between Manchester and Stockport, and Stockport and Hazel Grove which are of concern. One of them once had 3 speed cameras within 1 mile, which had an interest legal case where someone got hit by all 3 but argued it was a single speeding offence caught 3 times. 

The research has always shown that when people see a speed camera they often dangerously brake increasing the risk of causing a collision. This is part of the reason they are painted yellow, locations are listed, and in general police don’t hide when using speed guns. On a side note its worth noting the police mobile cameras get you up to 1 mile away, and only need an area the size of a door mirror to get you, so by the time you see them, they already have you. It has also been shown that many persistent and deliberate speedsters, will simply slow down for a camera and then leadfoot it right after. 

SPECS Cameras

A new type of camera were created called SPECS which are Network Cameras, oddly SPECS isn’t an acronym or anything and has no meaning, but its a SVDD (Speed Violation Detection and Deterrent) System which uses long range ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) tracking over the network of connected cameras. Specs on the A40 for example the cameras are between 950 meters and 5,198 meters (approx 1km and 5km) apart, so they aren’t always the same distance.

Inner Ring Road Manchester

Inner Ring Road Manchester

Its also been suggested that consecutive cameras are not always linked, and they can be randomly linked or clustered into groups. I’ve created a fake average speed zone on the Inner Ring Road in Manchester City Centre. If you imagine Red, Blue and Black are only connected to each other 24/7, and randomly Black Connects to Blue, and sometimes Black to Red and so on. This method is called Alternating Groups in a Many-to-Many Formation. This system I would say is to make it impossible to game the system, but also means its potentially possible you could get away with speeding if a situation like 6-7-8 existed, where 3 consecutive cameras are in  groups so aren’t connected.

There have been people who have used techniques convoys blocking blocking each others number plates at alternate cameras, so the systems evolved and the many-to-many connections makes this impossible. It won’t stop people trying their luck. A freedom of information act request has revealed that around 30% of all traffic cameras are not functional, due to damage or simply being switched off. The actual cameras which are off, are not published for safety reasons. 

This in theory means that on a major A-Road say the A6, if you were travelling from Manchester to Derby, which is about 60 miles with the vast majority being 30mph roads. You could pass 50 SPECS cameras, each one would calculate your speed over the last 1 to 60 miles depending on connections. If you passed Camera 1 in Manchester at 13:01:23 and suddenly you pass camera 2 in Adwick at 13:02:53, the system determins you drove at an average speed of 40mph between Checkpoint 1 and Checkpoint 2.

It also means you could pass camera 1 in Manchester at 12:00, then camera 27, nearly 30 miles away, at 12:50 and the system would know you had speeded. Should this happen, one would hope camera 27 would check your data points between 1-27 since you may have taken a different road which a greater speed limit. However the potential for this sort of system does exist, and the Dutch maybe about to implement it. 

 

SPECS Camera image by DeFacto, Map by Google Image, modified by Steven.

A Manchester Based Photographer and Website Developer with interests in Strongman, Fitness and Geekery.

Who Let The Dogs Out, Who?

There is talk of a law coming in UK Wide, which is already (I believe) in force in Wales, where dogs must be properly secured within the motor vehicle. This law will not only apply to dogs but to any and all animals, which must be safely secured for every journey. Obviously there will be some leeway for emergencies, and mistakes but I wouldn’t expect too much leeway. 

Rules 57 of the Official Highway Code states: “When in a vehicle, make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving, or injure you, or themselves if you stop suddenly (aka Crash)”. Having unrestrained pets in a vehicle is putting drivers at risk of being distracted. There is no official penalty (at this point) for this offence within the Highway Code or Law of the Land, should you be pulled up (currently) or cause an accident you would be charged with “Driving without due care and attention”.

Dire Consequences

This comes with Nine (9) Penalty Points and up to £2,500 Fine, and should it be an extreme or serious breach, you could be forced into a compulsory ban, and forced to get an extended re-test of both theory and practical test no matter how long you’ve been driving. If you haven’t already been subject to the New Drivers Act (2 year probation period) you would then become subject to that for a further 2 years.

This would put you a new driver with 9 points on your provisional, once you pass, it would only take 3 points to put you up to 12 points and another ban for 3-6 months. You would then need to do another re-rest. It would be a horrible situation to be in.

Even if you wasn’t banned, 9 points would put you 1 offence away form a ban, or if you already had a speeding/red light/mobile phone offence it would result in a ban too.

This isn’t even the worst of it, if you cause an accident or are in an accident which is caused by an unrestrained or unsecured animal / pet, the odds are very high your insurance could refuse to pay out. 

Basic Guidelines

There are some basic guide lines for when travelling with pets or animals within a vehicle.

1, Don’t allow your pet to ride with its head hanging out the window, its potentially dangerous and cause injury.

2, Ideally keep your pet in the rear of the vehicle with a barrier net

3, Always carry a large bottle of water (5 litres, £1 from most supermarkets) in case your pet overheats and needs to be rapidly cooled down in an emergency.

4, Keep a water bowl and water available for your pet.

5, Use Sun Shades on the windows when its warm/hot, and the sun is bright.

6, Never leave a pet in a hot car.

7, Don’t feed your pet within a few hours of travelling to avoid car sickness.

8, Pack your pets favourite toys, or blankets to give your pet a sense of familiarity.  

9, Consider carrying a pet first aid kit for emergencies. 

10, Never drive with the Pet on your knee or the drivers side of the vehicle. 

Dog out of Car Window image by freestocks.org.

A Manchester Based Photographer and Website Developer with interests in Strongman, Fitness and Geekery.

Voice Notifications while Driving

In-Traffic Auto-Reply Samsung

In-Traffic Auto-Reply Samsung

I recently posted about Samsung’s Driving App or “In-Traffic” which is basically an auto reply app which activates while in the car. Its still unclear if this app only affects SMS or covers majors apps like WhatsApp, Skype, KIK and Facebook Messenger. I have been playing with various apps which read out messages, notifications and such on my phone while I’m driving. I figured I’d share the App(s) I’m using with success and also another app which answers the question of are “Driver or Passenger” on this trip. 

I installed about 10 different apps. I choose them by reading the reviews, I also used the selector of Reviews Made with My Android / Phone Version, and mostly those which 3/5 Stars in the Google Play Store Reviews. This should avoid me giving false negatives about apps which I can’t fully try because of phone or android versions, and the reviews are usually a good indicator for app functionality. The selection process out the way lets crack on with the final app I choose, I’m not going to review the others since I’m not using them.

Shouter

The cream of the crop for me was an app called Shouter, it basically reads notifications out. The biggest thing I liked were the ability to customise the message. By default it says “Notification from *app name* it says *notification content*”, but you change that to “Message from” or anything you like. 

You can set silent hours, so it doesn’t disturb you during the night, should you use it outside of the car. 

It can get oddly embarrassing when your driving along and it reads out a message from Facebook Messenger, or WhatsApp especially when my friends have names like Scary Pants and Horny Sean etc. 

You can set the app to only read out certain applications and messages, like I only have it set to WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Facebook, SMS, Calls and maybe or two more apps but only certain things. 

You can find a more detailed review here.

A Manchester Based Photographer and Website Developer with interests in Strongman, Fitness and Geekery.

Samsung App Stops Texting and Driving

Samsung are releasing an App which will stop users from Texting and Driving, which they have called “In-Traffic“. It is currently being trialled in the Netherlands, but soon should end up global. I’m all for this app, mostly as I’ve mentioned a few times I’ve had on-coming cars nearly drive into me while holding a phone in-front of them, on top of the steering wheel.

There isn’t much information about how the app will work exactly but it seems it uses the phones GPS and various Sensors to detect if your in a vehicle or a bike. I would guess it monitors your speed over the last minute or two, and if your moving faster than say 6mph it activates. It would need to monitor some previous time frame to allow for slow moving traffic and traffic lights etc.

Voice Automation

I actually thought Voice Automation with apps like Siri, OK Google and Alexa etc would progress to the point where they would read messages and allow a response long before more draconian methods like this came into play. I had a Tom Tom 910 a long time ago which used to read text messages out, I remember a particularly embarrassing occasion where it read out a sexting while my mum was driving.

I have been looking for a decent app to move to the next track or play certain songs, or to mute my music on command, I think a driving app which allows more voice control should be the future and a huge seller. This is where Samsung should be focussing  its money rather than blocking access. 

You can almost fully use voice controls for SatNav, when I have been lost, I simply say “OK Google, Directions to X”, it comes up on the screen in the Magnetic Phone Holder, I press navigate and off it goes. I would like the ability to be able to say “Navigate” or “Go”, if you are listening Google ;). The AirVent magnetic phone holders are great for SatNav usage, I have mine charging while on SatNav so the phone gets VERY hot, having it on the cool air works brilliantly. 

One of the interesting features of Samsung Phones are the air motions. These are basically when playing music you can wave you hand to the right, which moves to the next track, or to the left for the previous track. There are a bunch of “Air Motions”, I have to wonder how they would fair in a phone mounted in a car. 

Automatic Replies

It seems the “In-Traffic” app would automatically reply to text messages, its not clear if this would include Facebook Messenger, Skype, WhatsApp, Kik and others, presumably it would be for all messengers. It either responds with a standard “Sorry I’m Driving, I’ll get back to you soon.” or it can do “Fun” replies, which are expected to be animation or possibly Gifs, I’m not sure, what the “fun” method is for. However it would be cool if the app read out the message, and replied automatically, that way you would know if it were urgent and you needed to find a safe and legal place to pull over and deal with it. 

There are lots of unanswered questions, such as how will know if you’re a passenger or a driver ? Apps like the excellent Waze do a really good job of this, and ask you if you are a passenger or driver. I would like to see this be a little more complicated. Perhaps ask you to press a number of buttons in a certain timeframe which a driver would be unable to do, I’m not sure. I expect many idiots would attempt this while driving and cause more accidents. 

Texting While Driving image by Roman Pohorecki, Sat Nav image by Pixabay.

A Manchester Based Photographer and Website Developer with interests in Strongman, Fitness and Geekery.