Exhaust Pipes – Not me officer!

Thanks to Wirral Advanced Motorists’ and Tom Ashton, slightly edited.

A police officer pulls a driver over for speeding :

Officer:  May I see your driver’s licence?

Driver:  I don’t have one.

Officer:  May I see the registration document for this vehicle?

Driver:  It’s not my car, I stole it.

Officer:  The car is stolen?

Driver:  That’s right.  But come to think of it, I saw the owner’s registration document in the glove box when I was putting my gun in there.

Officer:  There’s a gun in the glove box?

Driver:  Yes sir, that’s where I put it after I shot the woman who owns this car and put her in the boot.

Officer:  There’s a body in the boot?

Driver:  Yes, sir.

Hearing this, the officer immediately called for back-up.  The car is quickly surrounded by police and an inspector approaches the driver to handle the tense situation:

Inspector:  Sir, can I see your driving licence?

Driver:  Sure, here it is.

It was valid.

Inspector: Who’s car is this?

Driver: It’s mine, officer.  Here’s the registration document.

It too was valid.

Inspector:  Would you slowly open your glove box, so that I can see if there’s a gun in it?

There was no gun in the glove box.

Inspector:  Would you mind opening your boot? I was told you said there’s a body in it.

Driver:  No problem.

The boot is opened and there’s no body.

Inspector:  I don’t understand it.  The officer who stopped you said you told him you didn’t have a driving licence, stole the car and had a gun in the glove box and that there was a body in the boot!

Driver:  Yes and I bet the liar told you I was speeding as well!

Dynamic Signs – Edited, and with thanks, from the Journal of Consumer Research

Researchers from the University of Michigan and Brigham Young University (BYU) have discovered a way to provide a little extra safety margin when it comes to near-accidents. They have found that people react significantly faster to warning signs that depict greater movement.

‘A sign that evokes more perceived movement increases the observer’s perception of risk, which in turn brings about earlier attention and earlier stopping,’ said Ryan Elder, a professor in BYU’s Marriott School of Management, and co-author of the study. ‘If you want to grab attention, you need signs that are more dynamic.’

Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 10.26.02

Dynamic signs are those that include images appearing to move at a higher speed. For example the cross- walk sign from the US, left above, with the figures apparently showing little speed of movement, has very little dynamism. The sign in the middle, from Poland, with people running, has more, and the one on the right is highly dynamic – the figures appear to be sprinting.

‘If the figures look [as if] they’re walking, then your brain doesn’t worry about them shooting out into the road,’ Elder said, ‘But if they’re running, then you can imagine them being in front of your car in a hurry.’

In one simulator experiment, researchers found that drivers reacted an average of 50 milliseconds faster to warning signs with higher dynamism. For a car going at 60 mph, that 50 milliseconds translated into an extra 4.4 feet travelled – which could make a difference in close shaves.

Advance Warning of Speed Limits

Thanks to Group member Doug Barr for his piece commending ‘slow-down zones’ with progressively reducing speed limits before a town or village 30 mph limit. Doug also floated the idea of different speed limits on each side of the road in areas like this.

For example, coming into Macclesfield from the north on the Silk Road, there is a 30 mph limit to protect the pedestrian crossing just before the Hibel Road roundabout. This is very sensible, even though the limit is commonly more honoured in the breach than in the observance. Leaving the roundabout northwards, however, especially as the road is a dual carriageway, maintaining the 30 mph limit for the southbound protection distance before you reach the national limit signs often causes visible frustration among, and unpleasant tailgating from, following drivers. In the early days of the IAM, this would have been classed as ‘driving without due consideration for other road users.’ An immediate release to the national limit after the pedestrian crossing would make complete sense.

Doug reported that some people whom he had discussed slow-down zones with had expressed the view that an aware driver should never be caught out by a change from the national speed limit to 30, but others had agreed that slow-down zones were a good idea.

On the A55 westbound (approaching Colwyn Bay?) there used to be, and perhaps still is, a 50 mph speed limit introduced on a curve, down from the national limit of 70 mph, without prior warning. One could be driving at 70 safely and realistically with regard to the traffic conditions, and able to stop within the distance that one could see to be clear, but still be embarrassed to slow down sufficiently and in good time for the 50 limit because of the risk of following traffic being caught napping. This is another situation where distance-to-go signs, like those used before the 30 limit for some villages, but earlier to suit motorway speeds, would be valuable.

For a further thought, here is an item that we first published in our May 2007 Newsletter:


Some towns and villages in Portugal have a sign saying (in Portuguese) ‘Controlled speed’. A hundred metres or so along the road is a set of traffic lights. If a vehicle enters the speed-limited area above the 50 kph speed limit, the lights go red for a short while.

How simple, and how effective. Whether a driver is over the speed limit deliberately or inadvertently, he is brought in check. If he was ‘pressing on’, he will lose more time stopped at the red than he would have done complying with the speed limit in the first place. And the system has the very beneficial side- effect of encouraging a community interest in observing the limits, because if one driver triggers a red, everyone who was observing the limit has to slow down or stop as well.

It would be good to see the IAM Motoring Trust promoting this system in this country. It would not bring in the revenue stream that ‘gotcha’ cameras 50 yards or so inside speed limit signs probably do, but as a positive measure inviting the intelligent and public-spirited cooperation of all the driving and riding community, it would be excellent.

Tim’s Tips – August 2015

Visitors to our Taster Event at Macclesfield Community Fire Station on 29th August (see Events for more details) will have the opportunity to ask questions about Group membership, advanced driving, our training programme and how the Advanced Driving Test operates. We’re also offering those attending the opportunity to have their driving checked by one of our observers over a short local route.
This month I have the opportunity to drive an F-type Jaguar at Thruxton circuit, near Andover, in Hampshire, and I have a driving lesson with John Lyon lined up to keep me honest, details to follow next month.
In the meantime, I am grateful to Martin Robinson for this interesting picture taken on the Sandbach road towards Congleton.Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 10.14.32
A 400-yard countdown marker is unusual to say the least. If you spot any unusual signs, please send a photo to me (car@congletoniam.org.uk) for inclusion in future pieces.
I wish you all safe and fun driving in the month ahead.
Tim Hawkins – Chief Observer (Car)

Snake-bite, why Towcar-trailer weight ratios matter

The caravan clubs recommend that the Maximum Technically Permitted Laden Mass (MTPLM) of a caravan should not exceed 85% of the kerbside mass of the towcar. Here is an example of the reason why:

Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 11.03.13

This classic Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow had just been collected by its new owner. He was transporting it on a trailer to Spain for a classic car rally. He was towing it behind a Toyota RAV 4 with a kerb weight, depending on model, of between 1.5 and 1.7 tonnes. The weight of the Silver Shadow would be about 2.1 tonnes, giving a weight ratio of around 125%, before taking account of the trailer on which it was being carried.

Within a few miles of the driver setting off, the trailer began to snake, and it eventually threw the Rolls- Royce off. The A350 near Stoney Gutter, Wiltshire, was closed for more than three hours while the debris was cleared. To make matters worse, the owner later discovered that the Rolls Royce’s insurance did not come into effect until midnight on the day of the accident, so that he cannot recoup the cost of the damage.

Count Down Speed Limits – Doug Barr

I was recently working in Llanelli, and rather than take the obvious M4–A449–A40–M50–M5–M6 route back to Congleton I used the A483 instead. This route isn’t any quicker, as it also takes just over 4 hours, but it is only about 170 miles rather than 220 and the scenery is more interesting.

Something which I noticed and which seemed like a good idea was that before the road passed through villages and towns there would be a couple of hundred yards of 50 mph limit, followed by a couple of hundred yards of 40 mph limit, before the 30 limit for the village or town. As the road wasn’t exactly straight it wasn’t possible to see a village half a mile ahead and slow down in advance. It seems that rather than having a situation where you come round a bend to be faced with a 30, and rather than start the 30 limit before it is needed, the traffic engineers have decided to indicate that there will be a lower limit coming up and give the road user time to adapt their speed.

The result as far as I could see was that rather than braking for a change from the national speed limit (NSL) to 30, it was possible to comply with the limits simply by easing off on the accelerator. The result was a smoother drive, less wear and tear on the brakes, and a better fuel consumption.

I didn’t notice any speed cameras in these ‘slow down zones,’ so I am happy to believe that these areas are genuinely there to improve safe traffic flow rather than to raise money. Some people that I have mentioned this to disagree and think that an aware driver should never be caught out by a change from the NSL to 30, but others have also thought that this is a good idea.

Now, to be controversial, how about having different speed limits on each side of the road? The NSL–50– 40–30 arrangement works when entering a village or town, but there is no reason why on leaving the village the speed limit shouldn’t go straight from 30 to the NSL.

Tim’s Tips – July 2015

At our recent Observer’s Meeting I set the rather pointless challenge of asking the observers how many worded triangular warning signs they could think of. The answers were verified by the usual DVSA sources and the Traffic Signs Manual. I gave them ‘Ford’ as an example and challenged them to recall four more – can you get them all?

Just to prove that some signs are not in any textbook I found the one on the right near Wigan!Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 10.57.56

On a more serious note I notice that one of the top ten reasons for learner drivers failing the basic DVSA driving test is poor observation at junctions. This is also an area where experienced drivers can become complacent.

Recent campaigns to THINK BIKE remind us to do just that, but making sure that we do this in practice is another matter. I particularly remember, when I was training to be an ADI, our trainer teaching us to make sure that our pupils really looked down the kerb to the right when emerging at junctions: a moped zipping along in the gutter towards us could easily be missed if one simply glanced along the road.

In fact, we really need to look twice to gauge the speed of approaching vehicles, but doing this can invite the driver behind to run into the back of you if the junction or roundabout you are approaching appears to have an open view. The driver behind is likely to be looking to his or her right to try to emerge, and will expect the lead vehicle to emerge promptly. If the lead vehicle pauses for a second while its driver takes a second glance to the right, the following vehicle might run into the back of it while the following driver is still looking right. It takes some skill to balance the need for thorough observation with ‘controlling’ the driver behind. Perhaps we are most vulnerable at the junctions we use most regularly, where familiarity can overcome our normal information-searching skills.

I also notice that some drivers turning left from a major road into a narrow minor road swing in over the centre (hazard) line in the minor road. This will commonly be because they are travelling too fast or do not steer their vehicle effectively, or both.

It’s good to check junction routines from time to time as bad habits can creep in and catch us out!

I wish you all safe and fun driving in the month ahead.
Tim Hawkins – Chief Observer (Car)
Four signs: ‘Try your brakes’, ‘Cattle Grid’, ‘Flood’ and ‘Gate’