Test your knowledge of winter driving with a short quiz featuring Vicki Butler-Henderson and Peter Rodger on YouTube: Click here.
Here's the scenario: you're driving along, minding your own business, when you become aware of emergency sirens and a set of flashing blue lights in your rear-view mirror. It might be a fire engine on its way to a shout, or maybe an ambulance taking an injured person to hospital. What do you do to let them past quickly, safely and legally without creating danger for yourself and others on the road? There's a useful 5-minute video called Blue Light Aware which you can watch on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=btRHvQEIkcU or on the Blue Light Aware website at www.bluelightaware.org.uk.
Peter Rodger, head of driving standards at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, recently gave advice to a consumer magazine on how to deal with other motorists who follow you too closely. Here's what he said:
"This depends on whether your tailgater is a passive or an aggressive tailgater. An aggressive tailgater has the clear intention of passing you. They will actively drive up your rear in a fashion that says 'Get out of my way'.
"A passive tailgater is a different beast entirely. Normally they have no real intention of passing you. They're quite happy for you to take the lead, but simply drive too close. This is most likely an unconscious choice. It's more that they're not really concentrating, and not thinking about leaving a safe braking distance. And as different beasts, they require different approaches."
This one's simple. As soon as you can, and it's safe to do so, let them pass. That's it. Not everyone will agree, and aggressive tailgaters clearly press a lot of motorists' buttons. It can be tempting to hold them up, wind them up, think up tricks that will make them mad. But it's just not worth it. No-one benefits and there's nothing to be gained by doing so. The thing is with these drivers, they're already aggressive. So they're not about to back off. Anything you do to try and make them back off will just make them more unpredictable. So not only is there nothing to be gained by getting your own back on tailgaters, but you're potentially creating an extra problem. You could easily trigger road rage, which is only going to make the situation worse. If you're just further enraging the driver behind, it's difficult to see how anyone's going to win. Don't feed the trolls.
Dealing with passive tailgaters requires a bit more thought. "Always leave plenty of space in front," says Peter Rodger. As much as it may be tempting to try and put some space between you and the car behind, you don't want to create the same situation for the car in front. If the car in front were then to suddenly brake you'll end up the unwitting filling in a sandwich. He adds: "Avoid braking sharply. Flashing your brake lights isn't going to help. It's better to just ease off your accelerator." This is because if you repeatedly brake, the flashing of your brake lights will start to lose impact. It's better to slow down gradually with your foot off the juice. Then, if you do need to brake suddenly, the brake light should hopefully prompt the tailgater to take some evasive action. This won't entirely eliminate the risk of getting rear-ended but at least there'll be less damage at a slower speed. And, in the event of a car insurance claim or the police getting involved, you're unlikely to be found at fault. And finally:
"And there's one last tip," says Peter Rodger. "Don't be a tailgater yourself." After all, only a fool breaks the two-second rule.
The IAM's Chief Examiner, Peter Rodger, shows the BBC's Richard Scott how to deal safely with a stuck accelerator pedal. Click here for the BBC News video and click here for the IAM's news release (PDF format).
When you are waiting in a queue of traffic at traffic lights (or elsewhere) and other vehicles are waiting behind you, you shouldn't sit there with your foot on the footbrake as it can dazzle following drivers. Here's what the Highway Code says about it (Rule 114):
Additionally, the same rule says:
Motorway driving can sometimes be confusing for even experienced observers. As an example, please consider the following situation:-
You are on a three-lane motorway approaching a junction and have just completed an overtaking manoeuvre in lane 2. It is now clear to move back into lane 1. The road ahead is a slow sweeping left hand bend and traffic is light. What should you do?
Under these conditions, you should remain in lane 2 because the vehicle is most stable "in a straight line" and changing lanes is a hazard that contributes towards collisions. By remaining in lane 2 you are avoiding moving lanes twice and you are giving motorists a clearer run into lane 1 from the slip road and demonstrating your intention to assist them in joining the motorway. In addition, you will also get a better view around the left hand bend and any vehicles joining the motorway at the slip road will also be able to see you sooner and plan accordingly. This is a clear example of forward observation and advanced thinking. Once you have cleared the slip road, this is the time to move back into lane 1, provided it is safe to do so.
However, if traffic is heavy and by remaining in lane 2 after overtaking you are holding up faster moving vehicles approaching from behind, it MAY prove safer to move into lane 1.
What this clearly shows is that one size doesn't fit all - it is very much "horses for courses". The important thing for observers to stress to associates is to consider each element of the system in turn on the approach to each and every hazard and to plot the safest route through the hazard.
We have all been lost at some time or other, stopped and asked a stranger for directions and have been given them with plenty of local landmarks for easy reference points. Another easy one is to be enticed to visit some wonderful retail emporium and have either a newspaper cutting or computer printout off Google to get you there. On that you will normally find road names, road numbers and other useful local landmarks to assist.
If you are ever so unfortunate to have to call one of the breakdown services they will ask the usual questions regarding the vehicle, occupants and more importantly, your exact location. That is either common knowledge to you or can be confirmed by local landmarks and or road names.
Now consider what happens if you break down, suffer a puncture or feel unwell on the motorway, so that you pull up on the hard shoulder and contact the emergency services. Exactly where you are will be critical for both the attendance of the recovery agent and for your well-being and safety. Now, how do you know where you are on any motorway?
All motorways run north, south, east or west and have either an alpha or bravo carriageway and ALL have marker posts at 100-metre intervals. That it runs north or is the alpha carriageway is not so important but if you do know then so much the better; what they really need to know is the marker post number nearest to your location. Some breakdown services ask you for the number of the nearest Emergency Telephone Box (ETB) but more of that later. Knowing between which junctions you have stopped is always a great help.
To those of us who work on the Motorways, marker posts are our junctions, landmarks and points of reference and are our stock in trade. Marker posts start at the point where the motorway starts and go 00/0, 00/1, 00/2 and so on. For example, 17/5 can be found right on the apex of Barton High Level Bridge on the M60 and can be read as 17 point 5 or 17 over 5.
So if you had been involved in a collision or had broken down and given the location as M60 motorway and at a marker post near to 17 over 5 or 17 point five, the only question we would have to ask is, in which direction are you travelling and then a patrol would quickly be on the way to the correct location.
Marker posts are always found to the nearside of the carriageway. A trial is under way of a new type of marker sign on the M6 motorway in this area. It's a large, reflective blue square sign showing the motorway number, the direction (A or B) and full and half kilometres which can very easily be read, especially from lane 3 or 4 (outside lane). These are very useful and helpful and will hopefully be introduced on all motorways.
Some bridges and gantries also have marker post numbers detailed on for convenience. Now this system is used by every police force that patrol motorways and is a major part of the training for those wanting to join the motorway unit. It comes as no shock when the majority of motorists regularly use the motorway but some still have no real knowledge of where they are when it comes to an emergency and the need to give relevant information.
Take, for example, the M62 motorway westbound near to Birch Services (click here for map). When it crosses junction 18 at Simister, it then becomes the M60 and carries on to Eccles where it joins the M62 towards Liverpool at junction 12. At junction 18 you can either carry straight on onto the M60 towards Manchester Airport OR you can bear left onto the M60 towards Manchester Airport. In doing so you have just passed junction 19 of the M62 (signed Middleton/Heywood). When bearing left onto the M60 you then approach junction 19 of the M60 (also signed Middleton).
We are continually sent to the wrong location and have to trawl from junction 20 M62 (Rochdale) through to junction 20 M60 (Middleton/Blackley) which is no good if someone is stuck in a live lane. Too many junctions 19s and 20s in so close a proximity !!!!!!!!
All this sounds so simple, trivial and "what the hell is he talking about" but if you ever get stuck in a live lane and have traffic coming at you at 70 mph, the wind/traffic noise making the simplest of conversations a shouting match, confusion in location and then you wonder why it is a matter of life or death. You will sometimes only get one chance and you will have to get it right first time.
To put it into context, for training purposes, those with no previous traffic background who join GMP Motorway Unit go through 40 actual days of training and several evaluations with a final test, while those who are off a traffic unit, have to undergo 28 actual days of training. All done by selected and specially-trained experienced Motorway officers and this relates to ALL ranks. If you have not been trained and certified then you cannot work on the motorway, because everything happens fast and quick.
Next time you are on the motorway, just have a look at the marker posts and you will see what I mean. On the ETB boxes, you will find the corresponding number plus an A or a B to denote which carriageway.