A Journey Up North

November 7, 2016
Local Hazards, Travel Advice

Taunton local, Jim Read (54) thought that he was an experienced driver who had ‘seen it all before’ however, on a trip up North to catch a flight, he soon found out how easy it can be to lose your way and get into serious troubles on the roads of Somerset and beyond…

” I like to think I’m a pretty confident driver.

Before I had my accident last year, I’d had over 30 years of driving incident-free – you could say that I’d got a little complacent…

I passed my driving test, in my lifelong home of Taunton, when I was 18.

first-car-passed

I’d passed first time and spent my first summer zipping around the back lanes of the Blackdown Hills with my friends, relishing the freedom that owning a car gives you. Of course, my parents warned me of the dangers of joy riding and how the most dangerous element of the roads were the other drivers, but this mattered little to my young teenage mind. I escaped my teens (and my twenties) accident free and, as a result, entered into adult life as a confident driver – perhaps too confident.

teacher-view-blogLast year, I was due to take a holiday to Dubai. My daughter, Sarah, works out there as a teacher and I was looking forward to soaking in the foreign environs and spending some quality time with her.

The flight I booked was from Liverpool John Lennon Airport, a 4-hour drive from my home town.

My flight was in the early afternoon, meaning I’d have to drive through the morning rush hour to make it to check in on time.

I felt that I’d prepared as much as I could. My route, a simple jaunt up the M5 then onto the M6, had been planned. My bags had been packed and my Liverpool Airport Parking had been booked (I was planning on leaving my car at the Airport for the week I was away, and driving it back home after) – as far as I was concerned, nothing could go wrong.

I’ve always stayed within the speed limits, firm in the belief that, with proper planning, I can always reach my destination without the need to speed.

Of course, sometimes others don’t think the same.

It turns out that a certain businessman driving a Mercedes Class-C had, perhaps, not planned his journey as well as me. Halfway between Bristol and Birmingham this hurried traveller, clearly dissatisfied with the progress that he was making at a meagerly 80 mph, decided to push his sports car to the very limit. I was breezing along at 60 in the furthest left hand lane, whilst a Ducati Monster safely passed on the right, when this man on a mission hurriedly zoomed by at over 100mph – grazing the biker on my right.

class-c-merc

The speeds at which both vehicles were travelling at caused a chain reaction that caused my car to be tangled in a 10-car pile up. The man in the Mercedes got away. The biker did not – he lay motionless 100-feet from his crumpled vehicle until the ambulance arrived to carry him away.

It took me over 30 years to be involved in my first RTA and the incident was caused through no fault of my own.

I can’t say that I’ve never broken the speed limit, but after that day I’ve made sure to stay well within it.”

RoadSafetySomerset.org.uk thanks Jim for his contribution to the website. If you’ve got an interesting or informative story on a treacherous journey that you’ve undertaken in Somerset, or elsewhere, then click through to our Contact page and send us a message in the comment box.

5 Hazards of Our Beautiful Roads

November 7, 2016
Local Hazards, Travel Advice

Although we’ve got some wonderful roads to drive on here in Somerset – the beauty can come at a cost…

Rural roads make for gorgeous scenic drives on sunny days, but with the remoteness of the certain lanes comes the risk of deteriorating roads and unusual hazards.

Before you risk damaging your vehicle or, worse yet, yourself – take a look at this list of hazards to watch out for:

Tractors & Trailers

Any frequent traveller of Somerset’s rural roads will be more than familiar with the plethora of farming vehicles than can clog up country lanes and keep you from getting to your destination on time. Whether it’s a Land Rover dragging a horse cart or a 2-tonne combine harvester – these vehicles are large and powerful. They can often force smaller vehicles onto the sides of the verge and even pose risks to cyclists.tractor

If you face an agricultural vehicle coming in the opposite direction – stop – take a look around and find the nearest place to pull up, so that it can make it’s way safely past you.

Horse Riders

Something that city dwellers rarely have to deal with, but is almost second nature to drivers of Somerset’s rural roads – horse riders may be common, but that doesn’t make them any less of a hazard. Animals, no matter how well trained, have the potential to react in strange, alarming and dangerous ways – it is almost always a good idea to give them an extremely wide berth. You don’t want to risk damage to your car, or the horse (it might just be worth more than your vehicle!).

horse-riders

An oncoming horse must be treated with care, reverse slowly back, indicate and make sure to smile and wave at the rider.

Pot Holes

Although rogue pot holes are soon becoming a thing of the past, with several ‘Spot That Pothole’ apps informing Local Councils as to where there lethal holes can be found, they can still pose a significant threat to both you and your car. Before you lose a wheel, or send yourself flying into a verge – take extra caution when driving through remote back roads. The quieter the road, the more likely it is to be littered with dangerous divots and holes.

pothole-fixing

Take extra care when driving in the rain or at night and drive slowly over potholes if they can’t be avoided.

Flood Water

Old rural roads can often be lumbered with less than ideal drainage – the roads can be uneven and agricultural waste can often severely block water outlets. When the rains come (and they can fall pretty heavily in our county of Somerset!) these back roads can sometimes be covered in thick flood waters that provide significant hazard to vehicles driving at speed. At times, when the rains are at their heaviest, you may find that fords are have water flowing at over half a metre.

water-on-road

When approaching water on the road, always take caution and approach slowly. If the water is running fast, consider an alternative route or risk the consequences!

Rocks & Debris

Driving in rural roads has it’s benefits and it’s risks. The price we pay for gorgeous greenery and a variety of landscapes is that sometimes the countryside may invade the roads. Whether it’s rocks tumbling down from hills, branches being blown from trees or even the trees themselves blocking the road – anything can happen on a Somerset back road, especially when the wind’s blowing up a storm. Even loose animals can pose a threat in these conditions, so it’s important to remain vigilant at all times.

Pay close attention to road signs, these will help warn you of upcoming roads that may prove risky and always keep an eye out for rogue sheep…

Sports Cars In The Snow – Too Risky?

November 2, 2016
Events, Local Hazards, Travel Advice

Sports cars are considered to be ‘death machines’ by people who don’t own them, or even ‘status symbols’ by those who, perhaps, can’t afford them.

The culture around them is a mixture of movie style glamour and classless taste. On the one hand, you have James Bond in his Aston Martin and on the other you have Vin Diesel in his souped up 1970 Dodge Charger – two very different ends of the spectrum that represent the very limits of what driving sports cars can mean.

dogge-charger-vin-diesel-auto-universe

Now the winter months are settling in, is it time that time to retire your trusty metallic steed to the garage in favour of a sturdier vehicle?

Of course not, in fact, we might just be entering in the safest time of year to be inside a high powered sports vehicle! Sports cars tend to cost a great deal more than your average budget vehicle, as such they’re equipped with technology and parts that can make them ideal transport options for the icy winter months. Steering controls tend to be finer, grip on the road is increased through having a lower centre of gravity and stability is often boosted with Anti-Lock Braking Systems.

This doesn’t mean, however, that you should be flying out of your garage at top speed, like Batman from his cave every morning. If you’re going to be taking your Audi or Merc out on the road this winter, you need to make sure that it’s ready to handle everything the weather is going to throw at it. The wet weather can cause roads to become unexpectedly slippery, so you may need to swap out your summer tires for something a bit more grippier.

snow-driving

Always try and find a specialist to source and fit your Sports car with the necessary winter gear. For example, if you’re looking to equip your trusted 911 with some steelies, don’t leave it up to your local garage – contact a trusted Porsche dealer, such as Tech-9, to find the parts and fit them with the best techniques. Whilst you’re there, it’s always a good idea to protect the underbelly of your vehicle from the corrosive effects of de-icing salt, a quick protective service will allow you to drive with confidence, knowing your not constantly decreasing the value of your precious motor.

For those of you who fall into the the majority camp of drivers without a luxury sports cars, these rules still apply, if not more. More standard vehicles are a lot heavier on their wheels, they don’t have sophisticated braking systems and often lack the luxury of 4WD steering (unlike the sturdy Audi TT or Porsche 911 GTS) – therefore you need to be a great deal more careful when you’re out on the ice.

However, just because you don’t own a sports car yourself doesn’t mean you can’t spend a few hours ogling one. If you’re looking for a fun day out looking at lovely vehicles, the Footman James Classic Vehicle Restoration Show will be on from the 5th-6th November at The Royal Bath & West Showground in Shepton Mallet. The annual show of privately owned displays and club stands have a wonderful variety of vehicles – if you’re looking to spend there’s also an auction on the Sunday that had cars to suit all budgets.

You might well be firmly gripping the icy roads in a brand new sports car this winter after all!

Winter Is On The Way, So Prepare For The Worst!

October 19, 2016
Local Hazards, Travel Advice

Winter Is Coming – Don’t Get Caught Out

There’s still a few more weeks left before Winter truly settles in, take the time to prepare for icy roads and windscreens – you’ll save yourself time and money in the long run.

Here are 5 courses of action you can take to avoid getting frozen up when the ice finally settles on the fair roads of Somerset:

Check Your Tires

Before you even think of setting off on the roads this winter, your tires need to be ready for the changing conditions.

Somerset’s rural tracks, and even some of the bigger A-Roads, are liable to ice up before the rest of the country and this can put you in some slippy scenarios – if your tires aren’t up to snuff. Make sure that you hit up an air pump once a fortnight and check your tread depths (1.6mm is the legal minimum but you’ll be thankful for  3mm when the black ice kicks in).

Prepare For Icing

The roads aren’t the only only things getting iced up in the winter, don’t forget to set aside time to clear your windscreen each morning.

Save time in the morning by chucking a full kettle of hot water on your windscreen each morning. At this time of year, it’s best to invest in all the tricks of the trade – that means grabbing a decent de-icer spray and a trusty scraper. Spending more money in the short term will always save your time in the long run. Don’t forget to switch out your screen wash to deal with the temperatures below zero too!

Your Engine Needs Care

Your windscreen might well be clear, but don’t forget about what’s under the hood!

It can be all too easy to forget about the effect that the cold has on the interior of your car. If you’re not careful, you might try and set off one day to find that you car’s innards resemble a lost fantasy kingdom. Avoid hassle by topping up your anti-freeze in your coolant system (a 50-50 ratio is the ideal blend), this will help keep your engine ticking over nicely and help you stay on the road.

Always Check Your Battery Before Leaving

Nothing worse than getting stuck with a flat battery on a cold winter’s day.

We all like to live on the edge at some point or another, but there’s absolutely no need to take risks when it comes to your car battery. Keep an eye on your gauges and if you’re running your battery down, find a replacement or at least keep it charged up over night.

Load Your Car With Emergency Essentials

A breakdown in Winter can be a cold and stressful experience, but it really doesn’t need to be.

Sometimes you simply can’t avoid a breakdown in the middle of winter, but there are plenty of ways you can help make it a less unpleasant experience. Start every journey with a fully charged battery on your phone, pack a spare blanket for warmth, extra jumpers and emergency food supplies (chocolate bars and nuts are always a good idea). Most importantly, always have your insurance details on hand!