Sorry, that’s probably not what you want to hear! But according to Confused.com and Towers Watson Car Insurance Price Index data, car insurance cover has increased by up to 27% over the last year in the UK.
Not great news. Although you’re better off getting fully-comp than third party, fire and theft, as comprehensive car insurance prices ‘only’ rose by 12.3% compared to the 19.9% increase for third party cover.
And it’s grim up North, too. Unusually, it’s Northerners bearing the brunt of price hikes, with a whopping 27% price increase in Bradford and Oldham, bringing average premium prices to around £1,400. It’s clearly time to move to Scotland, where prices, on average, rose less than 1%.
Year-on-year price hikes are making insurance a real investment, though there are certainly other ways of saving money on your car. First of all, keep your car well-maintained, serviced and avoid unnecessary MOT and repair charges. Take your car to a garage you can trust, like a FastFit Station, where good old-fashioned service still stands. Try to avoid unnecessary journeys if possible, and when you do drive, keep below 60mph and don’t accelerate, corner or brake aggressively – all these things will help improve your fuel-economy and save you money on petrol.
Taking advanced driving courses can also help to reduce your premium – some can lower your car insurance prices by hundreds! Because these courses aim to improve drivers’ anticipation skills, insurers see advanced motorists as less likely to cause an accident, which can make a big difference to the cash you pay out for your cover.
And finally, do your research when looking into car insurance. Often, sticking with your current provider isn’t the cheapest option. Shop around for the best deal to try to avoid being stung by the price increases.
Car insurance is something of a ‘distressed purchase’ as it is something we have to pay for rather than something we choose to buy. However, it is something all drivers need; not just from a legal perspective, but because accidents do happen, and uninsured drivers actually drive the premiums up for the rest of us.
The dangers of texting while driving have been well-documented in the news lately, showing just how much fiddling on your phone can affect reaction times and braking distances, increasing the risk of accidents. Texting while driving is illegal in the UK, and could saddle you with a fine of £60 and three points on your licence. If using your phone is causing you to drive dangerously and you are caught, the fine increases to £2,500 and you could face ‘dangerous driving’ charges and be sentenced to two years in prison.
Texting or emailing on your mobile phone while you’re driving doubles your reaction time, according to a recent study, making you much more likely to miss a red light, other cars changing lanes, braking or pedestrians and other hazards. Even just having a switched on mobile phone in the car can distract you, particularly if you are waiting for an important call or text to come through.
Smartphones and mobile use has become such a part of daily life that many motorists still ignore the law, sending and receiving texts, checking facebook, even downloading data while driving. But even fiddling with the MP3 player on your phone can cause a potentially fatal distraction.
Researchers tested their theory by asking drivers to drive along a 17km test course and stop when they saw a flashing light. The subjects did this twice; once while sending or receiving text messages, and once while concentrating solely on the road. Their reaction time doubled when they were using their mobile phones and the researchers found that a distracted driver was 11 times more likely to completely miss the flashing light.
It may be a difference of only seconds, but when driving at speed on a motorway, you can travel the length of a football pitch in just three or four seconds. Texting also makes drivers less able to drive straight, and more likely to swerve in and out of their lane.
There’s really no reason to use your phone while driving. If you desperately need to make or receive a call or text, then the best way to do this is to find a safe place to pull over, or wait until you reach your destination. Hands-free kits are cheap and easy to install, so you can even talk on the go. And if you use your mobile as your music player, ask at your local FastFit Station about kits and hookups that you can have installed to make this possible in your car.
Whether you drive long distances regularly or it’s a one off, it is a good idea to make sure both you and your car are prepared for the trip. The first thing to make sure of is that your car servicing schedule is fully up-to-date, and there are no outstanding car repairs required. The second is to make sure your car is stocked with the essentials!
What should you pack?
Particularly in the winter, it is a good idea to have some washer fluid in the boot, as well as a warm blanket and a torch in case you break down. A few bottles of water and some snacks will come in handy even if you don’t have any problems. You should also definitely have a map of your route, just in case your sat nav stops working.
If the roads are likely to be icy or snowy, a shovel and a scrap of carpet to lay on the road can help give your tyres enough grip to get you moving again. Apart from that, some entertainment for you (music of some sort to play as you drive, or a book to read if you break down) is nice to have, as is a phone charger in case your phone needs charging up before you can call a breakdown service!
Even with a freshly serviced car, it is always worth doing a few of your own checks before you set off. Make sure your windscreen, wipers and mirrors are all clean so you can see as well as possible. And obviously, make sure you have a full tank of fuel.
Check your tyre pressure and tread depth to ensure you’re safe and legal. Having properly inflated tyres and a decent amount of tread on your tyres actually helps to increase your fuel economy, which could save you some cash on a long journey. Ensuring your tyres are in good condition will certainly help to keep you safe, at the very least.
If your car is anything like mine, it accumulates junk. Get rid of it before you leave – you’ll be spending a while sitting their, so it’s worth taking time to clean it out. Make sure that the things you do need in the car (food, water, CDs, etc) is within reach. If you are driving on your own, that probably means putting them on the passenger seat as you don’t want to be rummaging through the glovebox while driving down the motorway.
The Ministry of Justice have announced a new offence of causing serious injury by dangerous driving. While we wish serious accidents didn’t happen, the current disparity in sentencing options needed to be addressed. Currently, even if the accident results in something as extreme as permanent paralysis or brain damage, the maximum possible sentence is two years. Even then, offenders frequently only serve six months.
This new offence will bridge the gap between the offence of causing death by dangerous driving, carrying a maximum prison sentence of fourteen years, and other dangerous driving cases for which the maximum penalty is two years in prison. The maximum penalty of the new offence will be five years.
As ever, drivers should not only take care to ensure they have no outstanding car repairs or car services due, but also that their driving skills are up-to-date and they don’t put themselves in situations which may result in dangerous driving. This means not only avoiding drink driving, but also driving when tired or taking some prescription medications.
Dangerous driving isn’t just about avoiding driving when you are intoxicated or tired – checking your mobile phone, or even wondering if you are going to receive a text or a call takes part of your concentration away from the road. It only takes a second’s distraction for an accident to happen
One of the most common causes for automotive accidents is worn out or improperly inflated tyres. This is something that can be so easily avoided if drivers took just a minute to check their tyre tread depth, inflation, and general condition of their tyres before a journey. If you need your tyres checked or replaced, you can book a free check at FastFit Station, or arrange for tyre fitting in one of our three Milton Keynes garages, or at a place that suits you via our mobile tyre fitting team.
Now the weather has started turning colder, it is time to start thinking about preparing ourselves, and if you remember the snow which practically stopped the entire country last winter, you’ll understand why that preparation needs to include your car. It really is best to take the time now and carry out a few winter checks, to prevent any little niggles that could cause big problems once the temperature drops.
The first step is to visually inspect your car to see if any parts need replacing. Nothing complicated, just start by checking that all the lights work, and make sure your tyres have sufficient tread (remember, the roads will likely be wet a lot of the time, if not icy and slick tyres have even less chance of gripping). If you need to be able to drive no matter how bad the weather gets, you may want to consider winter tyres.
Worn wiper blades will have a hard time clearing snow, and you can even replace them with winter blades to make certain they will be able to keep your screen clear. Ensure your windscreen washer fluid is filled with a fluid that won’t freeze solid, and clear any grime away from the nozzles with a pin. Any chips in your windscreen should be dealt with now to prevent cracks forming.
It is also recommended that you keep a little emergency kit in the boot in case you break down during heavy snow. A blanket, some bottled water and some biscuits, as well as a shovel and an old bit of carpet to help if you get stuck on an icy patch, is good preparation just in case.
You can also book your car in for a FREE winter check at any FastFit Station across Milton Keynes. We will give your vehicle a thorough checking over, ensuring that your fluid levels, antifreeze, brakes, thermostat, battery and heater are all as they should be. Simply call, email or use our online booking form to book your winter check today.
At FastFit Station Milton Keynes we’re great fans of F1 and our local Red Bull team, so we’ve been watching their progress avidly during the recent Japanese and Korean Grand Prix races. And we’ve not been disappointed! On Saturday, Sebastian Vettel of the Red Bull formula one team was crowned world champion for the second time!
Seb started the race declaring that he was “going for glory” and ended up in a 3-car race at the front with Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso. And despite Jenson winning this particular battle, Seb was still declared the season winner.
Team-mate Mark Webber achieved 4th place and helped secure optimism within the Red Bull team that
Webber congratulated Vettel, pointing out that the win makes him a well-sought minority: “This now places him amongst an elite group of drivers who have realised not only a double Championship – but back-to-back World Championships.”
Vettel has won 19 F1 races to date, 18 of them with Red Bull Racing, and recorded a total of 27 pole positions over his career. And now with champion status under his belt for two years in a row, he’s certainly one-to-watch in the upcoming events in Korea.
Here’s Seb’s reaction to Saturday’s success, and a nod to the Milton Keynes staff who made it all possible:
“A lot of people have been quite confident about the title, but one of the important things was that we didn’t allow ourselves to drift away with the thought too much. Instead we concentrated on every single step and everything we have done this year and everything we have achieved – then wow. I want to thank all the guys and girls in the factory in Milton Keynes, as it’s not just us here pushing very hard, it’s them as well – from the post office to the design office to the engineering office here at the track, their effort is just incredible. It’s hard to imagine you know, we have two cars and two drivers only and we carry that weight on our shoulders every time we go on track. Sometimes we don’t treat the cars as good as we should, but we always try to get every single bit out of them every race weekend. But it’s phenomenal what’s happened – we set ourselves the target to win the Championship this year and so, to win it by Japan with four more races to go, is difficult to put into words – it’s as confusing as the first one. I never imagined I would win one Championship and so to win this second one is amazing. I have a lot of good memories from Formula One, from watching it when I was young, to now and I feel fortunate and blessed to experience today. There were so many excited people when we did the drivers’ parade today and that was my last thought when I put my helmet on. For drivers, it doesn’t get much better than this, a sunny day and all the fans excited to see what you do – I think that’s what life is about. And so, to wrap up the Championship here is difficult to put into words – it’s more than fantastic.”
As with any cars, Formula One cars have to be well maintained in order to achieve their staggering speeds. As Vettel said, it takes a whole team of people to win a race, not just a driver.
Transport secretary, Philip Hammond, has revealed plans to launch a consultation to raise the British motorway speed limit from 70mph to 80mph in 2013.
Aside from reaching our destinations sooner, what are the potential consequences of increasing the speed limit on our economy as a whole?
Opinions are divided, with road safety campaigners and environmentalists raising the issue that fuel efficiency at higher speeds is much lower, which in turn will cause oil prices and emissions to increase.
Hammond’s stance is one based around the economy and encouraging the government to stop demonising motorists:
“Britain’s roads should be the arteries of a healthy economy and cars are a vital lifeline for many.
This government has already scrapped the M4 bus lane, cut central government funding for money-making speed cameras and announced new measures to crack down on boy racers and reckless drivers while standing up for the decent majority.
Now it is time to put Britain back in the fast lane of global economies and look again at the motorway speed limit which is nearly 50 years old, and out of date thanks to huge advances in safety and motoring technology.
Increasing the motorway speed limit to 80mph would generate economic benefits of hundreds of millions of pounds through shorter journey times. So we will consult later this year on raising the limit to get Britain moving.”
Hammond blames the Labour government for over-penalising motorists and is looking to see the government move on the side of the ‘average driver’ in the future – arguing that cars are significantly safer than they were in 1965 when the 70mph limit was put in place. Perhaps a less publicised opinion is that nearly half of all motorway drivers regularly flout the 70mph speed limit as it stands.
A senior transport campaigner from Greenpeace, Emma Gibson, replies: “The Saudi oil minister will rub his hands with glee when he learns of Philip Hammond’s decision. At a time when North Sea oil production is going down and we are ever more reliant upon unstable regimes and fragile environments to fuel our cars, the transport secretary’s decision will raise oil consumption and carbon emissions when we need to cut both.”
Health secretary, Andrew Lansley, has also raised concerns that if the 10mph increase policy is passed we will see a rise in both pollution and road casualties.
At FastFit we know that to achieve better fuel efficiency, driving below 70mph (or preferably below 60mph) greatly improves the amount of petrol you can get for your money, and of course that braking distances increase vastly the faster you drive. And though we all dread and despise those watchful yellow speed cameras, surely the government would raise more money for its coffers by keeping the limit at 70mph if an estimated 49% of us are breaking the law already?
Or perhaps we should be taking advice from German autobahns, where the recommended speed limit is approximately 81mph (though on unrestricted sections there is no actual imposed speed limit)? Road safety on autobahns is apparently comparable, or even better than many of its European counterparts. But then again, there are many more laws that come with this unrestricted speed limit, such as compulsory winter tyres during the colder months and the requirement of first aid training to obtain a driver’s licence.
Another very simple way to increase road safety is to ensure that your vehicle is regularly serviced and maintained. If your MOT isn’t due for a while, consider booking in for an interim or full car service to keep your car running smoothly on the road. It’s important to check your tyres regularly, too, as worn or wrongly-inflated tyres count for a high number of fatal road accidents in the UK. If you need mobile tyre fitting, FastFit Station now offer our speedy mobile tyre fitting vans across Milton Keynes, Northamptonshire and Greater London.
So, what are your thoughts? Do you believe the 70mph limit to be out-dated? Or do you think the increase would be detrimental to both environment and road safety?
A car is a complex piece of machinery, with many different parts that work together to ensure your car is as safe and comfortable as possible. As such, it is very important that you regularly bring your car into a garage for a full car service. In a short series of blog posts, we intend to give you an overview of the main parts of your car, and why they are so important.
How Your Suspension Works
Your suspension is there to assist with two basic functions of the car; road isolation and road holding. Together, these functions give your car a smooth, safe, stable ride. You may not realise it, but suspension is as much about safety as it is about the comfort of the driver and passengers.
Road isolation is the term that describes how well (or badly) the body of the car is isolated from the road. Your car’s suspension acts as a middle man between the car’s frame and its wheels. Every bump and imperfection in the road causes each wheel to bounce up and down, and without proper suspension to absorb it, that bounce will be transferred to both the frame and the passengers inside it!
Road holding is the car’s ability to keep its tyres on the road whether it is moving in a straight line or cornering, braking or accelerating. All these movements will exert a force on the wheels that tries to lift them from the road. In a straight line there will be bumps on the road, around corners the car tilts to one side and when braking or accelerating either the nose or rear of the car will try to lift. The suspension helps minimise this lifting by absorbing it as much as possible, and this will maximise the friction between the tyres and the surface of the road. This isn’t simply a requirement for comfort, it also improves the stability and handling of the car. As anyone who lives in Milton Keynes knows, we spend a lot of time driving around roundabouts, and it’s your suspension that helps keep all four wheels on the road!
Suspension is something that can easily be affected by any sudden jolts or jarring motions. This isn’t just in case of an accident, simply bumping a kerb or driving over a pothole can knock the suspension out of alignment. The end result may be as little as a slight pull to one side, or it could dramatically change the comfort and holding ability of the car.
If you have driven over a pothole, or bumped the kerb, it is well worth taking the time to bring it in to your local FastFit Station in Milton Keynes to have your suspension checked. Any issues with your suspension will affect your ability to control your car and keep it on the road.
We offer interim and full car servicing which will help you to keep your vehicle in excellent condition and save you money on unnecessary repairs and breakdowns. You can even book your service online – just put in your vehicle make and model or registration number, choose your preferred FastFit Station, date and time, and we’ll see you there for some Good Old Fashioned Service!
As well as having your car serviced and MOTed regularly, there are things you can do to ensure its smooth running. You may think your exhaust is part of the car that you can safely ignore until it needs servicing or repairing (when you should book in your car service at our Milton Keynes FastFit Stations!), but actually there is a lot you can do, or avoid doing to keep it in good condition.
One of the most important parts of your car’s exhaust system is the catalytic converter (CAT), which helps to minimise the impact of your car on the environment. The CAT can only function properly to reduce the pollutants released into the atmosphere when the engine is running with a specific ratio of fuel to air. That means that if the engine management system or the fuel supply is faulty, the CAT could sustain damage. A CAT is an expensive part to replace, so it is well worth taking care of it.
As the exhaust sits underneath the car, it is highly susceptible to knocks and bumps which can dramatically reduce its efficiency by damaging the ceramic monolith in the catalytic converter. Grounding out a car on a speed bump may not seem like it does much damage but it may mean you need to replace part or all of your exhaust system.
There are some things you can do, or avoid doing, that will keep your CAT working efficiently. Always make sure your car is serviced at the proper intervals and to the right standard. For a good old fashioned car service in Milton Keynes, try a FastFit Station. You should only ever use unleaded fuel. As little as one tank of leaded fuel can deactivate a CAT. It probably goes without saying as no one wants to be stuck on the side of the road with a car that won’t start, but avoid running out of fuel. One you may not be aware of is that you should never bump-start a car with a CAT – jump-start it instead.
The guys at your local FastFit Station will do their bit too. CAT performance is part of the MOT emissions test for petrol-engined vehicles. FastFit Station have the necessary equipment to perform these ‘Green MOTs’, and can replace faulty CATs if necessary. You have two options for this, a standard ceramic model that is guaranteed for one year, or a shatter-proof metallic monolith which comes with a three-year guarantee.
At FastFit Station we offer FREE exhaust checks – simply fill in our online booking form with your vehicle details, your preferred Station, date and time, and we’ll give your exhaust system a free check over! If you don’t want to book in for a full service, or if your MOT isn’t due for a while, it might be a good idea to get a free exhaust check in the meantime to ensure things are running well. Book online or give us a call at any of the FastFit Stations to speak to a technician.