Motorists call for tougher phone driver penalties

RAC researchers revealed almost half of motorists believe the current combination of a fine and points for illegally using mobile phones whilst driving is insufficient for a punishment.

Over 2000 motorists were surveyed, with 52 per cent feeling that the current penalty of three points and a fine of £100 for phone-using drivers should be increased. Only 41 per cent of respondents believed that the current penalty is sufficient.

However, nearly a third of respondents did not believe that changing the penalty would alter the behaviour of those motorists who are happy to break the law in this manner.

Of the 52 per cent of motorists that believe the penalty is not enough, a fifth (21 per cent) believe that both the number of penalty points issued and the fine should increase. 12 per cent believe the just the fine should rise and 6 per cent stated that an increase in points would be enough.

One-in-ten (11 per cent) respondents took a harsher view, believing that disqualification from driving was the only course of action likely to actually have an effect on driver behaviour.

Over two-thirds of the motorists surveyed by RAC stated their wish for more police officers on the road in order to catch offenders.

Survey respondents offered a number of strong views, with 76 per cent believing mobile phone users were putting other people’s lives at risk and 60 per cent calling the use of a handheld phone whilst driving ‘selfish and irresponsible.’

Almost two-thirds (61 per cent) of respondents who believed the offence should carry a higher fine called for an increase to at least £200 and 36 per cent believed it should be at least £450. Of those who called for an increase in penalty points, 61 per cent called for a rise to 6 points, with 14 per cent in favour of more than this.

On 15 March this year, the Government closed its consultation on raising the fine from £100 to £150 and on increasing the penalty points for non-HGV drivers from three to four. The results of the consultation are due to be published imminently, with motorists around the UK keen to see the results.

Just over a quarter (27 per cent) of respondents to the RAC survey said they believe the changes are a good idea, with a 61 per cent majority believing that the legislative changes would have no impact on the minority who continue to use their mobile phones whilst behind the wheel.

Simon Williams, RAC spokesman, said: “There is a very strong feeling from law-abiding motorists that something needs to be done to make drivers stop using their phones while driving.

"But while people want the penalties for committing this offence to be beefed up there is also an acceptance that nothing is likely to change due primarily to a lack of enforcement.

“From 2010 to 2015 England and Wales experienced a 27 per cent decline in the number of roads police officers.

"The number of fixed penalty notices issued for using a handheld phone while driving reduced dramatically from a high of 125,500 in 2009 to 52,400 in 2012.

"In line with this, our own research has found that motorists believe there is little chance of being caught by a police officer (as opposed to a camera) for a driving offence.”


Confidential driver data was accessed by accident management firms

A new investigation by RMIF National Association of Bodyshops (NAB) has revealed that driver data - including both phone numbers and addresses - may have been accessed by third parties not involved in the repair of vehicles.

The bodyshop repair firm has spent several months investigating potentially serious leaks of confidential information by repairer management systems, with personal data being released to third-party legal firms and other accident management companies.

Jason Moseley, the executive director for NAB, said: “We have direct evidence that data entered into bodyshop systems has found its way, in a matter of hours, into the hands of third party organisations.

“We have been analysing, with our members, the terms and conditions of the various agreements in place with repairer management systems, whether they are entitled to do this and the nature, scope and validity of such activity.

“As part of an internal investigation, one of the bodyshops involved entered fictitious data into the system to attempt to draw out a reaction. Within a few hours of this data entry, a call was received from an accident management company trying to leverage a compensation claim.”

The NAB has already informed the legal authorities and begun to work with them behind the scenes in order to obtain more information on what could be one of the UK aftermarket industry’s most alarming cases.

Mr Moseley said: “We do not yet know if these actions are legitimate disclosures, the result of a cyber-attack or a physical breach of such systems, so we have taken no chances and launched an investigation.

“We will be pushing hard with our members to bring more transparency and collaborating with the necessary authorities. We must get to the truth.

“Addressing this particular issue forms part of our overall strategy to ensure that bodyshops, and consumers, are treated fairly.”


Car makers seek to cut structural weight

Both Nissan and Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) are to make use of a £38.2 million government fund to cut down the structural weight of their vehicles.

Structural weight accounts for 15-20% of a vehicle’s gross weight, but the overall aim is for the manufacturers to cut up to 60 per cent from their fleet overall.

The two manufacturers will receive £1.7m to research ‘light-join’ technology: a technique found in both Formula One cars and space satellites.  It’s hoped this will enable the creation of cars that are lighter and more efficient.

Cars like the Nissan Leaf could potentially lose more than half their weight through use of the new techniques, resulting in their maximum distance being extended to more than 200 miles from the current maximum of 155.

Both manufacturers are already part of a consortium that uses components made from composites, which can reduce weight when used strategically in the right areas of the vehicle.

Light-join technology could enable weight reductions of around 30 per cent when compared to an all-aluminium alloy structure and 60 per cent when compared to an all-steel structure.

A spokesman for JLR noted their intention is to use the technology in all their vehicles if testing proves successful, rather than just on their hybrid and electric vehicle (EV) lines.  Working prototypes are expected to be finished by 2018, with the techniques reaching passenger cars by 2020.

Nissan’s Intelligent Driving System (IDS) concept has an estimated range of 340 miles and it’s already been hinted that it’ll be used in the next-generation Leaf, a vehicle that could well also benefit from the weight-saving techniques.

The light-join consortium also includes a number of other companies: Gestamp, Stadco, Scott Bader, Granta Design, TWI, Far UK and WMG.

A range of different tests will be carried out on vehicles using the new technology, including safety checks, crash simulations and measurement of engine noise and vibration.

JLR also highlighted the potential value that light-join could offer regarding EU fleet average CO2 emissions.

Their spokesman said: “Light-join is the latest example of our approach. In other programmes we’re optimising the internal combustion engine, producing advanced hybrid and battery-electric propulsion systems, and introducing more new, lightweight materials.”

“We are on a very positive trajectory to reduce vehicle emissions and improve fuel economy through more efficient and downsized engines and alternative powertrains, lighter vehicles and improved vehicle energy conservation.”


Registrations open for first driverless vehicle trials

Members of the public are now eligible to apply to take part in the UK’s first public driverless vehicle trials, which will be held in Greenwich later this year.

The trials form part of Greenwich Automated Transport Environment (GATEway), an £8 million research project created to analyse acceptance, perception and use of driverless vehicles amongst the general public.

The new vehicle trials will take place at the UK Smart Mobility Living Lab in the Greenwich area and will be carried out by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL).

Drivers chosen to be a part of the tests will be given the opportunity to use one of the driverless vehicles and will be asked to provide their views on the experience. They’ll also be interviewed on their views regarding autonomous vehicles before and after the test, in a bid to find out if the experience had a positive or negative effect on their opinions.

Sajid Javid, Business Secretary, said: “Making driverless cars a reality is going to revolutionise our roads and travel, making journeys safer, faster, and more environmentally-friendly.

“Very few countries can match our engineering excellence in the automotive sector or our record on innovative research, and this announcement shows we are already becoming one of the world’s leading centres for driverless cars technology.”

Professor Nick Reed, director at TRL, as well as being the technical lead for the GATEway project, said: “The move to automated vehicles is probably the most significant change in transport since the transition from horse drawn carriages to motorised vehicles.

“Testing these vehicles in a living environment, like the UK Smart Mobility Living Lab, takes the concept from fiction to reality.

“It gives the public a chance to experience what it’s like to ride in an automated vehicle and to make their own mind up as to how much they like it, trust it and could accept it as a service in the city.”

Members of the public also have the option of registering to take part in workshops to help visualise the future of autonomous vehicles in the UK as a whole.  These workshops will take place from June 2016 and will aim to try and better understand people’s attitudes towards driverless cars in general.

In addition to debating and discussing the technology, debate participants will also have the opportunity to discuss the creative side of the industry with designers and researchers from GATEway’s academic partner, the Royal College of Art.

GATEway partner, Commonplace has developed and managed a new sentient mapping tool, and anyone with experience and knowledge of the Greenwich area has been encouraged to provide feedback on how they think driverless technology could impact the area.

Mike Saunders, the co-founder of Commonplace, said: “The aim of the site is to give those familiar with the Greenwich area a chance to provide input on where and how driverless vehicles could work in and around Greenwich.


Parking permits increase to force diesel cars off the road

Photo by Edinburgh Greens (CC BY 2.0)A number of local councils are raising the price of parking permits for diesel vehicles that were previously regarded as environmentally friendly due to reduced CO2 emissions.

There are increasing fears amid Government officials that diesel vehicles actually lack the green credentials that they had been previously been given.

Following a report from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, it is believed the diesel vehicles actually emit too many small polluting particles which can damage the air quality of inner-city areas with high levels of traffic.

The paper also encourages the Government to encourage “small, modern petrol vehicles, petrol hybrids and electric vehicles in urban areas in place of diesel vehicles”.

A spokesman for Environmental Protection UK, said: “Local authorities in the most polluted urban locations must start encouraging residents to choose petrol over diesel. This could be achieved through simple measures such as differentiating between diesel and petrol vehicles for residents’ car parking charges.”

However, diesel vehicles account for a quarter of the cars on the road and automotive experts are opposed to the idea of penalising diesel owners.

Edmund King, the AA’s president, said: “Punishing someone for owning a diesel car that produces up to 20 per cent less CO2 than the petrol version is ludicrous. Councils are plundering residents’ parking for money to balance their budgets.”

It is unknown whether this crackdown on diesel vehicles as local air pollutants carries much weight, but some owners of older diesel models may be tempted to scrap their vehicle in exchange for a newer, greener petrol model.

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