Beware: Daylight Savings is Over

October 30, 2017
Local Hazards, Travel Advice

In case you missed the memo, daylight savings came to an end on Sunday morning.

This news will be coming a little late to anyone who found themselves running a little behind for work this morning…

…but it’s important to remember that there are a few extra hazards on the roads when it comes to driving post-daylight savings.

It might sound like we’re flogging a dead horse here, but it’s important to remember that there will be little to no daylight on your commute back from work now, with the sun setting as early 16:32 in the most northerly parts of England. This dramatic shortening of daylight is something that should be taken into account by all road users, as your standard commute will feel much different from this week moving forward.

Now I know what you’re thinking here: ‘Daylight savings ends at the same time every year and I’ve managed to get through each one without any kind of problem, why start worrying now?’

Research conducted in both the UK and across the pond has concluded that the simple change of one hour can have a significant effect on the way that we drive and the chances of us having an accident.

Insurance company, Insure the Box, released statistics last year detailing how the risk of having an accident rises by 30% for those driving between the hours of 5-8pm, once daylight savings come to an end. The numbers were based on a study of the company’s own customers. Over 330,000 Insure the Box customers use the company’s telematic system in their cars, allowing them to build up a bank of valuable stats on a wide cross-section of drivers.

For drivers down here in Somerset we’re given a bit more leeway when it comes to length of our days. The sun will be setting in Taunton at 16:50, but it’s important to take into account the low position of the sun when driving back and to use your sun visors where necessary.

This isn’t just a dangerous time for drivers though – fatal road incidents tend to rise between September and December.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents have gone on record to say that the current Daylight Savings system is a danger to both drivers and pedestrians. In 2015, fatal road casualties rose from 27 in September to 58 in December. The subtle effect that Daylight Savings has on our circadian rhythms could be one reason for this increase in accidents, but it’s also important to remember that adverse weather conditions are often a contributing factor.

The RoSPA has repeatedly lobbied for a permanent change in the Daylight Savings systems, suggesting a transition to Single/Double Summer Time instead, which would increase evening sunlight all year round. They are convinced that this simple change in the way that our country functions could potentially save hundreds of lives, as the extra hour of sunlight would aid visibility and combat low-levels of concentration that often hamper driving performance later in the day.

Whenever or wherever you’re driving this month, make sure to take it easy and be extra vigilant!

Ongoing Somerset Road Works & Delays

August 15, 2017
Local Hazards, Travel Advice

Somerset: famous for it’s delicious ciders, traditional farmer’s markets and historical pubs.

Unfortunately, our county also has a nasty reputation for slow moving vehicles, disruptive farm yard creatures and, inevitably, delays on the road.

On top of these cliches, the good men and women servicing the roads of Somerset have a huge job to do in terms of keeping the surfaces up-to-date and smooth. Many towns in the county have ongoing construction works, updating gas and water lines, causing delays that can easily be avoided…as long as you know they’re taking place.

We’ve collected a few of the main offenders that are blocking up traffic here, so you can avoid them and make your drive that much easier:

A38 gas works

There’s good news for the people of the Wellington Road and Heatherton Park Road areas of Taunton – 3.6km of old gas lines are being replaced, guaranteeing the area a safe and reliable gas supply for many years to come. Beginning the 24th July, WW Utilities will be starting the mammoth task of pulling up the roads and pipes, so that they can fit new plastic replacement parts.

The bad news is that the work is going to take around 13 weeks and the majority of these lines lie under the A38, one of the major traffic routes of Taunton. Although the good people at WW Utilities have promised to minimise disruption where possible, delays are almost guaranteed – diversions will be in effect, but you’ll want to leave yourself with extra time regardless.

Monkton Heathfield

Big changes are going down in Monkton Heathfield. Nearly ten years after receiving the go-ahead for a raft of new road improvements in the area, Persimmon and Redrow are moving ahead with developments that should see the completion of a master plan that has seen a complete re-haul of the A38 and the creation of an Eastern Relief Road. Local councillors are hoping that this relief road, in conjunction with new slow-areas, should help reduce congestion and make the roads safer for children walking to the recently relocated West Monkton Primary School.

Work on a new bus gate, which will limit traffic on the original A38 to busses only, will be taking place throughout the summer holiday and should be completed for the start of the new terms.

Bath Market every Sundays from 10:00-16:00 – 21 May to 30 November

On the last Sunday of the month from March to October, the Bath Artisan Market takes place in Queen Square. This Artisan Market is a great opportunity for locals to mill around and explore up to 70 stores selling unique food, vintage clothes and lots more. For those not enjoying this monthly event, roads will unfortunately be closed, so if you’re looking to travel in and around the city you might want to consider avoiding the area altogether.

Thankfully this disruption will only occur once a month, if you’d like to check out Bath’s other Independent Market then you can go to the Brunch Market on the 2nd Sunday of the month in the less difficult location of Green Park.

For more information head on over to the official Travel Somerset site to get a complete up-to-date map of the area and the current delays.

Summer Road Trip Safety Tips

August 1, 2017
Travel Advice

Winter may be all but a distant memory now, but that doesn’t mean that you should let your guard down.

Planning on taking a road trip in the heat of the summer?

There is a whole new raft of risks come into play that you need to be aware of.

Firstly, don’t forget your Emergency Roadside Kit.

No road trip should be taken without one of these in your boot.

Although there’s no definitive list of what should be in this pack there are a few key bits and pieces that wouldn’t go amiss. No one travels these days without a mobile phone, but these are often prone to running out of battery, especially when you’re using them to play some road tunes. Pack an AC to DC power supply to channel your car’s power into your phone – a spare set of jump leads, duct tape, water, maps and a torch are also recommended!

Check, check, check

If you’re taking your car on the road for a long time then you should make some thorough safety checks on your vehicle before you hit the road. The basics, such as your battery, oil and water levels go without saying. With a long road ahead of you though, you might want to inspect your tyres (not to mention your spare) to ensure that their tread and air pressure are up to scratch. The under carriage of your vehicle is also at risk of damage so make sure to take a look at any exposed belts and hoses that might already be suffering from the heat – look for any cracks or small tears that could worsen under pressure.

It might just rain…

No one likes to prepare for the rain when you’re planning a summer holiday, but this is England and sometimes the worst can happen. Your windscreen wiper blades after the brutal winter months (not to mention the lashing rain) might well be completely ragged with being overuse. These tired wipers are even more susceptible to the heat of the sun and might lead them to be completely ineffective should the rain eventually pour down.

If the sun does stay out though…

You should prepare for the worst that the heat can deal you. Somerset summers can get hot, so prepare for your car to get a little over heated. In order for your car to stay cool during the summer heat, you’ll need to make sure that your coolant levels are kept at a good level.

Long queues and plenty of tractors on the road will no doubt lead to queues and these are just the kind of situations where your engine is likely to overheat, so make sure your water and coolant are topped up and that you have some spare in the boot.

On the subject of staying cool

If you’re going to be driving for a long time, especially through the heat of the day, then you’ll want to make sure that your air conditioning is working properly otherwise you’re going to be in for a spot of bother. Don’t underestimate the summer heat, sort out your AC before you start the journey and you’ll be able to enjoy yourself much more.

When travelling for extended periods it’s important that you don’t forget to bring water for yourselves and especially young passengers who are prone to dehydration. Also, it should really go without saying that leaving children or pets unattended in car parks during the summer months is not a good idea. Even if you think you’ve found a shady spot somewhere, that shadow could move, potentially putting your child at risk of heat stroke or dehydration.

If in doubt, take them with you.

Finally – beware of distractions!

Road trips are a great way to cover some miles with your pals and create some great memories, but you can’t let these moments get in the way of your concentration. You might be having a great time blasting out the tunes and your co-driver might be enjoying opening the road map to its full length, but you need to make sure that your attention is always focused on the road in front of you.

Enjoy your Summer road trip and stay safe!

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!