IAMRoadSmart Inform: Weekly News quotes a recent report by Halfords that 200,000 motorists are fined each year for using a hand-held mobile phone while driving, with one in four drivers admitting to using a phone illegally at least once a month.

The report comes on the fifth anniversary of revised legislation regarding mobile phone use while in control of a motor vehicle.  Drivers caught using a mobile phone while driving or riding can now expect an automatic fixed-penalty of a £60 fine and three penalty points: the Government is proposing to increase the fine to £100, but so far the stricter penalties appear to have done little to reduce in-car mobile phone use. Over 171,000 fixed-penalty notices were issued in the 12 months leading up to last October, according to police figures, making it the fifth most common traffic offence.

Halfords’ figures suggest that the number of drivers who admitted to using a mobile phone illegally has risen by 10% over the last year, with men being the worst offenders (67%). Despite this admission of illegal behaviour, 88% of the drivers questioned by Halfords recognised that use of a mobile phone without a hands-free kit while driving is a danger to themselves and other road users.

As the law currently stands, it is illegal to use any kind of hand-held device to send and receive calls or written messages, view images, or access the internet while driving or riding a vehicle, when waiting at traffic lights or in a queue of traffic. [Strictly speaking, that includes using a smartphone satnav or GPS speed app.] Drivers can only legally use a handheld device in these circumstances if it’s in response to an emergency when it’s unsafe or impractical to stop, or when parked.

Hands-free kits are legal to use while driving, but this doesn’t remove the risk of the same three-point penalty if the police believe a driver is not in proper control of their vehicle.

The life and work as a DVSA Vehicle Examiner

Neil Mitchell of the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) PastedGraphic-24will give us a presentation on his life and work as a DVSA Vehicle Examiner – with videos and photos of defects on all types of vehicles, and other dangers, that he has discovered.



Wednesday 27 June, 7.30 pm, Astbury Village Hall.

Refreshments as usual. Families and friends welcome.



On the 70th anniversary of the debut of the original Land Rover, The Telegraph recently featured Jaguar Land Rover (JLR)’s industrial-scale restoration works and classic car collection.

It reported that JLR had always maintained a collection of historic cars, but for many years it was run on the proverbial shoestring. However, things began to change after Tata took over JLR from Ford in 2008, and Jaguar Land Rover Classic Works now has two brand new halls on the site of the old Rootes-Talbot-Peugeot factory at Ryton, near Coventry.

PastedGraphic-23Veteran staff and apprentices work together to build brand new 1955 Jaguar XKSS ‘continuation’ cars, using serial numbers earmarked for the original production versions, and rebuild the ‘Reborn’ Land Rover Series 1, from £75,000, Range Rover Classic, from £140,000, and Jaguar E-type Series 1, from £295,000. Two full-time buyers scour the world to buy suitable project cars for restoration and exceptional cars not requiring restoration from as far afield as Australia, New Zealand, South America, Asia and India.

The photo is of one of the three original Land Rovers shown on 30 April 1948, which is being restored. You can find more articles and image galleries on Land Rover’s 70th anniversary at telegraph.co.uk/cars.


After the annual Civic Service at St Christopher’s Church, Pott Shrigley, the Editor had an interesting and wide-ranging conversation with the chauffeur of a Bentley Flying Spur awaiting his passenger.

While it is widely known that Formula 1 cars transmit telemetry data to their pits and factory, it is less well known that some road cars do something similar. Bentley engines are of course very quiet at idle. Apparently the Company rang one owner to tell him that his car’s engine had been running for 15 hours without the car moving: he had put the car in his garage, but got out without switching the engine off.


The MoT Test changed on 20 May (except in Northern Ireland, which has a separate system). Defects that would previously have been marked ‘Fail’ are now to be classified as ‘Dangerous’ or ‘Major.’ A car with a ‘Dangerous’ defect or a ‘Major’ one that renders it unroadworthy must not be driven at all until the defect is repaired.

Some extra items are now included in the test: headlamp washers and reversing lights for cars first used from 1 September 2009, and daytime running lights for those first used from 1 March this year.

To get the full story, go to https://www.iamroadsmart.com/docs/default-source/inform-documents/mot-changes-factsheet.pdf.


The Telegraph recently ran an article on the increasing complexity of the laws governing the towing of caravans and other trailers. (It didn’t specifically mention Boeing 747s, but there you are.)

In brief, drivers who passed their DVLA car test after 1 January 1997 gained a B licence, which is much more restricted for towing than the B+E licence issued previously.

PastedGraphic-18DVLA figures tell us that over five million drivers have passed their test since that date, but only 1.2% have passed a towing test to upgrade to a B+E licence. Just by towing a typical family caravan with an SUV, a young driver with only a B licence could be risking a £1,000 fine and three to six penalty points.

Towing skilfully is very rewarding. Both the Caravan and Motorhome Club and the Camping and Caravanning Club run courses to equip drivers to tow well and confidently. (There was some spare time after the Editor’s course years ago, and those who wished to were able to practice reversing through a slalom course of cones – with the caravan hooked up. Tip: to avoid jack-knifing, keep your steering corrections gentle and small.) You can find the exact licence privileges and restrictions for towing at https://www.gov.uk/towing-with-car.

Tim’s Tips

Tims tipsDo you remember the M6 closure due to a bus fire on 11 April? I do. I was held up for three hours in the traffic jam which ensued. So I emailed Highways England (HE) as follows:
I was one of the drivers delayed by over three hours yesterday on the M6 southbound between Congleton and Sandbach due to the bus fire. What I don’t understand, or appreciate, is the lack of communication which could have prevented me joining the motorway in the first place, thereby adding to your problems and ruining my day.
At the point of entry (Junction 17) at about 11.15 there was no warning of the congestion ahead and traffic had not backed up to that point to give me a visual clue. As soon as I joined the carriageway I met the congestion. I counted two overhead message boards during my journey which were both blank.

Burning busThey could have informed drivers of an estimated delay time, diversion arrangements or the fact that all traffic would be leaving the motorway at the next junction. This latter arrangement was not signed at all – drivers were just left to see it for themselves. Much lane changing was the result of drivers guessing what was happening.
You let us down badly that day. And not for the first time. I regularly encounter situations on our motorways where information is inadequate or not provided. I appreciate that motorways are fast changing environments but you are supposed to be professional and competent in managing traffic. I remain to be convinced.
This was HE’s reply:
[May I] take a moment to explain a little about the type of signs that we set on the motorway network.

There are two roles fulfilled by the Variable Message Signs (VMS) in use on the Motorway Network; ’tactical signals’ that warn of incidents less than 5km (or two junctions) ahead of you, or ‘strategic signals’ that warn of issues beyond the range of tactical signals.
The tactical signals are set by the appropriate Regional Control Centre (RCC) based on information provided by the maintenance contractor, traffic officers on the ground, data feeds or from CCTV observations. These are the signs that warn of ‘Debris’ or ‘Workforce in the Road’; immediate dangers to the road user.

The strategic signals are set using pre-set signing plans by our National Traffic Information Centre (NTIC). The strategic signs are put in place to warn long-distance travellers that their chosen route may be compromised and giving these road users the opportunity to choose an alternative. They use a combination of pre-supplied plans from contractors and data from the RCCs.

These are set when the closure is confirmed from the roadside, as each closure is confirmed; signs are set for each closure.

We do not have any strategic VMS placed on slip roads or roundabouts prior to entering the motorway, so are unable to warn drivers that way. By the time you had entered at J17, it was ‘too late’ for the use of strategic warning signs as traffic was already committed to their route, and there was no alternative available. This was compounded by the fact that there are several VMS that are out of action between J17-J16 due to the ongoing Smart Motorways work (J16-J19). VMS closer to the incident were working, but were being used for safety-critical tactical messages, which were in place to help with queue control.
I replied asking why there are not strategic signs warning motorist at the point of entry. It seems contrary to everything Highways England purport to stand for to allow motorists to join a well established, lengthy traffic jam. The incident was one hour old when I joined the motorway.
This was HE’s further response:
The main reason that we cannot place VMS on motorway roundabouts or slip roads is that we are prohibited from doing so by the Department for Transport (DFT), due to the potential safety implications.
We do not want to place motorists in a position where they may decide to switch lanes on a busy roundabout at the last minute, or even turn around on a slip road – which has happened on occasion. This obviously raises several safety concerns. You may have noticed that at certain locations there are speed VMS just prior to joining the motorway, unfortunately this is the most we can do.
Another problem that we have is that in most cases, motorway roundabouts do not come under the jurisdiction of Highways England, instead being looked after by the local council. It is down to the local council to instal their own VMS on any appropriate feeder roads.
The M6 through Cheshire is now high on my list of motorways to avoid (joined by the M25 and most of the M1). And Highways England? Well I agree with Jeremy Clarkson.

Smart motorways

IAM Smart Mways adjThis was clearly a very topical subject locally – our meeting on 28 June had been advertised in the Congleton Chronicle, and we had 62 people there, of whom 22 were visitors, and so we had to do a quick shuffle to move out of the small side room at Astbury Village Hall into the main hall.

John Philips, the Project Manager, and Arun Sahni, both civil engineers for Highways England who are working on the project to convert the stretch of the M6 from junction 16 to junction 19 into a ‘smart motorway’, came to talk to us about the work involved.
Arun started off by explaining with the help of pictures and graphics some of the civil engineering and technology that goes into such a huge project. The work on the J16-J19 length of the M6 was originally scheduled to take two years, but unforeseen problems such as the discovery of a huge wall of concrete buried underground alongside the carriageways near J19 had added considerably to the timescale – this concrete all had to be dug up because the new surfacing would be made of flexible material, so could not be laid on a solid base. The old concrete had all been recycled, so that some of it would be used in the current construction and some used elsewhere. Highways England was able to report that 98% of the waste from the site had been recycled and re-used on the same project.

Incidentally, Arun informed us that when this new technology was originally proposed, the term used was ‘Managed Motorways’, but the Transport Minister at the time used the term ‘Smart Motorways’ and unfortunately this inaccurate description – the motorway itself doesn’t do anything – stuck.

Highways England manages 1,700 miles of motorway and 2,700 miles of trunk roads in the UK, which still only comprises 2.4% of the entire road network. Traffic density is forecast to increase by 44% by the year 2035, which is why they have to try to increase road capacity wherever possible. Converting the hard shoulder means the road can carry more vehicles without impacting on the environment, as no additional land is needed.

Several years ago, the M42 around the outskirts of Birmingham became the pilot motorway during peak hours for what was then called Dynamic Hard Shoulder Running. Traffic officers used cameras to check that the shoulder was clear before opening it to traffic, and if there was any obstruction at all they put a red cross on the gantry for that lane, with arrows to move traffic across into the live lanes. Gantries were constructed at intervals of 500m or less to facilitate early warnings of problems. It was found that journey times improved by up to 24%, and the personal injury accident rate dropped by 55.7%. Noise and pollution levels also went down, as traffic was no longer crawling or stop-starting in the worst areas. It was noticed, however, that only 12% of the vehicles that could use the hard shoulder were actually using it, presumably because people didn’t understand how it worked.

The new term for the stretch through our area is ‘all-lane running’, where what used to be the hard shoulder is in use all of the time provided there are no obstructions, and there are refuges built in at approximately one- to one-and-a-quarter-mile intervals for vehicles to pull into if they or their passengers have problems. The matrix signs will usually overhang lane 1 where there are no gantries. They will show open lanes in yellow, closed ones in red, arrows to direct traffic into adjoining lanes, advisory or compulsory speed limits, and have two lines at the bottom of the sign for a limited amount of written information (restricted to 12 characters per line).

Highways England have commissioned about 100 miles of ‘smart motorway’ so far, and have installed cameras that provide 140% coverage of the carriageway area – the reason for the over-capacity is that if a camera breaks down there should always be other cameras to cover the same area. The cameras also have infra-red lenses so that the operators can see equally well at night in rural areas like Cheshire, where there is no road lighting. Highways England operate their own cctv coverage of the stretch at their Sandbach HQ because the existing camera network has had to be taken out of commission.

John then took over to talk about the work being carried out on existing structures such as over- and under-bridges, many of which are at least 50 years old now and suffering decay caused by road salt. The opportunity was being taken to survey all such structures, carry out repairs, and add protection for the future. All of the existing drainage system was equally old and time-expired, so it had to be replaced and extended to cope with the extra width of the carriageways. The new lanes had to be moved across as much as possible so that the new infrastructure could be fitted into the left side of the existing hard shoulder. The new lanes 1 and 2 would be the same width as the present ones, but the new lane 3 would be narrower than the existing one, and lane 4 would be narrower still, as lorries and coaches would not be allowed into that lane in normal circumstances.
In order to fit the four lanes in where there were only three plus a narrower hard shoulder previously, some space also had to be stolen from the central reservation, which meant that both the shoulder and the central reserve had to be strengthened to withstand having traffic running on them constantly. The old steel central barrier was being replaced by a concrete one, which was either created on site by a machine or could be brought in ready for installation. The method used depended to a certain extent on the road layout – bends were easier to cope with using the machine that made the barrier as it went along.

The work on the J16-J19 stretch commenced (rather appropriately) in March 2016, and was now due to finish in March 2019. This 30km length of carriageway carried some 120,000 vehicles a day, and current statistics showed that 60% of cars that broke down in the roadworks area were moved within 30 minutes. Sixty-five HGVs had broken down or stopped in the same section during the work period to date, often due to their digital tachograph systems running out.

The next section of the M6 in this area to be converted will be from J15 to J13, but that work will not commence until the current stretch is finished and working.


Councillor Olivia Hunter, Mayor of Cheshire East, presented the Spirit of Ecstasy Trophy for the Best Car Associate on Test to Phil Hughes (left, above).IAM 2017 AGM Spirit

Sareda Dirir, Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, presented the Mullock Shield for the runner-up in that category to John Sherratt.2017 AGM DPCC plus Mullock reduced

The Bentley Trophy for the Best Young Driver on Test was won by Richard Greatorex, who was away at university, so Councillor David Brown, Congleton Town Mayor, presented it to his father.KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Sarah Sillars, Chief Executive Officer of iAM RoadSmart, presented the Best Biker Trophy to Andy Lumley. On his Advanced Riding Test, Andy achieved our Motorcycle Section’s first iAM F1rst pass.IAM 2017 AGM Best Biker adj

Our 2017 Annual General Meeting, held on Wednesday 26 April at Astbury Golf Club, was a great success and our key note speaker was CEO Sarah Sillars.

Sarah opened her keynote address to the AGM by commenting that she was both impressed and energised by the commitment of iAM RoadSmart’s volunteers. Out of 92,000 RoadSmart members, 5,000 were active volunteers. (The Trustees were volunteers, too.)

It was a measure of the iAM’s standing that we were the only road safety charity invited on to the Department for Transport Minister’s Forum. The Minister had told Sarah, ‘Don’t tell me what we need [to have or to do to improve road safety]: you take control and do what you can about it.’

Our commercial customers included BP, E.ON and the Health and Safety Executive. We were the nation’s biggest provider of road safety rehabilitation courses: we were in effect a ‘Driver Retraining Academy’.

Sarah introduced the different skill levels of learning a foreign language as a parallel to what we need to provide for drivers and riders. Our Advanced Tests were the equivalent of degree-level language studies. But just as many people going overseas wanted only enough language skill to be able to get around in another country, so many of our potential customers wanted only to improve their driving or riding, without having to go all the way to Advanced Test level. These people didn’t want our present product: we needed to offer lower levels of guidance as well, which would make us more accessible.

Modular training courses would help us to achieve this: we must maintain our standards, but communicate with more people. Sarah’s target was that we should raise our number of ‘involved’ members to 121,000 this year.

Before Sarah became CEO, the IAM had a 23-page strategy document. Now, our strategy was defined in seven bullet points.

At present, while 95% of drivers and riders among the general public thought they were good or very good, we had only 4% market recognition. Sarah was emphatic that this needed to improve. We needed to move online with a popular site like Mumsnet and Gransnet to attract interest from the wider road-using public. We needed to capture not just the ‘Saturday and Sunday evening’ market, but the ‘Monday to Thursday evening’ market as well. As part of this process, we were introducing new online training modules.

Overall, Sarah set out a prospect of a refreshed and re-energised iAM, and after the meeting she expressed her appreciation of our members’ positive support of the direction we are moving in.