Britain’s roads in ruin, AA warns

13/01/2010

“Yo, something’s wrong here. No, not again!” rapped psychedelically inclined hip hoppers De La Soul disconsolately back in 1989.

What was the cause of their displeasure?

Potholes. That’s what.

And now the self-same spatial vacancies are causing consternation among the good folks down at AA headquarters.

The twelve-step self-help group is calling for emergency government funds to help councils combat crumbling road surfaces brought on by uncommonly inclement winter weather.

Like Mr Gullit’s happily slumbering wife, phonetically speaking at least, drivers who think they are out of trouble now the snow has started to melt may be in for a rude awakening.

Last February’s heavy snow, the AA warns, pushed up insurance claims for pothole damage by more than 250%. Now, if this year’s crop of potholes go untreated, motorists, local authorities, insurers and the NHS could all be caught up in a viscous circle of calamity.

Cash-strapped councils can’t be left to fund repairs from their own meagre resources, the AA suggests. They’ll probably be too busy –logging compensation claims from disgruntled motorists and slip-trip pedestrians anyway.

Dangerous for anyone on four wheels, potholes can be fatal for those on two wheels. So they’re certainly something to be taken seriously.

Just as well, then, that the AA has handy hints on where to look out for pothole problems, e.g. places where previous repairs haven’t been carried out very well, places where the utility people have had the roads up, places where it’s been snowy for a long time, and “stretches of road that have not been salted as salt tends to melt the snow before it turns to ice.”

King Edmund of AA said: “The pothole season has come early this year. Drivers will be relieved when the snow has gone, but shouldn’t be complacent. Due to the severe winter, it could be a record year for potholes.

“Over time,” he explains, “cracks appear in the road surface, so when water seeps in, it freezes and expands, widening the crack. We are concerned that, with local authorities already stretched due to the drain of the winter, there will not be enough in the purse to heal our ravaged roads. We believe that emergency funding is required to stop the vicious circle of crumbling roads costing more in compensation, accident claims and hospital admissions.”

If anyone sees a pothole they should not approach it, but should call the AA potholeshotline on a number Bankstone News does not appear to have to hand.

Be sure to remain alert, however, or your own driving experience could be ravaged by the vicious drain of severe winter holes.


23/10/2009

Ever wished it could be summer all year long? Well soon it could, following the publication of a report by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee recommending that we no longer put back the clocks for winter.

Their logic appears to be that lots of people – pedestrians in particular – are injured due to a seasonal surge in accidents in October and November – and that this is not necessarily a good thing.

“The end of British Summer Time appears to be a significant factor,” the report says,  noting that “the period immediately after the clocks go back is more dangerous for road travel, even compared to other dark months such as January.”

The statistics also show that far more people are injured in the late afternoon and evening than in the morning.

Abolishing winter time is likely to be popular with drivers of most motor vehicles, making the evenings lighter longer and easing the transition into total wintry gloom. But, of course, it will never happen due to stiff resistance from drivers of mud-spattered quad bikes, tractors, Landrovers and other farm vehicles.

The case for making the change is bolstered by the outcome of an experiment carried out in the 1970s which appeared to show a fall in accidents involving pedestrians – and in particular children walking home from school – thanks to an extra hour of light at the end of the day.

But even summertime all year isn’t good enough for The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, who argue for something called “single double summer time” which would provide one hour’s additional daylight in summer and two in winter – sure to get the tractor men seething.


16/10/2009

Where do you turn if you’ve had an accident you didn’t like? Accident Exchange, of course. Maybe they can sort you out with a different accident – perhaps one that will work out better for you. And by the sound of it they’re going to be exceedingly busy doing exactly that this month.

October, they reckon (it says so in their press release), is the accidentiest time of year due to the sudden onset of inclement weather. RTAs can be expected to increase by 15% this month (compared with the previous six) because motorists still think it’s summer, when of course it isn’t.

RTAs, incidentally – and some Bankstone News readers may already know this – are Road Traffic Accidents, not to be confused with the more trivial CTAs (Canal Traffic Accidents), the distinctly more sinister DTAs (Drug Traffic Accidents), and of course ATAs (members of the American Tinnitus Association).

Anyway, back to the story, such as it is: one minute the nation’s motorists are blithely coasting along, gangster-leaning with the top down, picnic hamper in the back, when – quite literally out of nowhere – there’s rain, leaves (wrong kind, obviously), grease, mud and kinds of other autumnal crud too multifarious to mention all over the shop, and they’re skidding out of control with a one-way ticket to the ditch.

“Stopping distances on wet and slippery roads can double those of dry conditions,” AE claims, and Bankstone News is willing to bet they do. “A vehicle travelling at 40mph will need up to 72 metres to come to a stop,” they add. Unless of course there’s a tree, a lamppost, or a rather lovely dry stone wall in the way.

When people today are not offering or ensuring, they are often to be found delivering. The months of the year are no different, it seems:

“October delivers some of the worst driving conditions of the year as the weather changes and the clocks go back, but drivers continue as if they were in the summer months,” complains AE’s sturdily-monickered Gordon Grant.

Gordon fears drivers are losing their grip on reality, admonishing: “Motorists need to remember the basic laws of physics and common sense when the conditions under tyre change.”

A timely reminder, if ever Bankstone News heard one.

How do they do that?

08/10/2009

That’s right, that’s right, that’s right, that’s right. Mud can be a killer.

The Institute of Advanced Motorists says mud caused 696 accidents in 2008 on Britain’s rural roads.

“Mud on roads is particularly an issue around harvest time,” says IAM chief examiner Peter Rodger.

But staying alive is not entirely out of the question for motorists venturing beyond our city limits, he suggests guardedly, provided they “keep an eye out for indicators such as tractors in the fields and straw or tractor tyre marks on the roads.”

“Field and farm entrances,” he continues at the same easy pace, “or farm buildings by the roadside, are places where the landscape is giving us a clue that there could be a problem.”

A problem? What kind of problem? What do these sinister “clues” mean? “If you do find a small amount of mud,” he notes laconically, “be ready for more.”

OK (taking notes), small amount mud – prepare for more. Right, what next? “Be prepared to find yourself on a very slippery surface.” Prepare v. slippery surface. OK.

“If it rains, the result can be a very slippery film of mud, spread across the road.” Rain v. slippery – across road. This sounds really bad.

“Mud is an inevitable part of life in the country, and drivers should always expect it to be there.” That’s it: Bankstone News is never leaving town again.

“Keep away from the mud splattered up onto your windscreen,” Rodgers warns ominously. Why, is it toxic or corrosive or something? Is it still safe to use windscreen wipers? What if children or pets touch it by accident? Bankstone News is getting the fear!

28/08/2009

Several fleet publications this week carried the findings of a survey of 200 fleet managers carried out by tracking systems purveyor Road Angel Fleet which claims that more than two thirds of fleets are still without a tracking system.

The survey established beyond any possible doubt that 68 per cent of fleets have any sort of tracking system installed, and only 11 per cent have tracking installed across their entire fleet.

Road Angel in Chief Graham Mackie is perplexed but not downhearted at fleet managers’ persistent disregard for the manifest benefits of having tracking systems installed: “It’s understandable that fleet managers, and their finance departments, are hesitant when it comes to investing in a tracking system – it can involve a substantial capital outlay and the tangible, monetary benefits are often hard to measure.”

Surely he can do better than this, you’re probably thinking. Of course he can; he’s just lulling you into… well, let’s just call it lulling. Anyway, back to the action:

“Measuring how much fuel you save by reducing idle times or private mileage is very difficult, as are the productivity gains resulting from more efficient vehicle use. We have worked, and continue to work, very closely with a number of our clients to establish any potential cost savings they are experiencing by using our systems, and on average each continues to save in excess of £1,000 of fuel per vehicle, per year – and that’s not taking into account any insurance or maintenance savings. That equates to a return on investment of over 500 per cent in some cases.”

Whether Mr Mackie is available for public speaking engagements in not made clear. But Bankstone News can confirm that they do have a very interesting –not to say bizarre – website with an oddly sepulchral feel to it. Bone-white type on a raven-black background establishes the death-obsessed gothic ambience. The ghostly image of a distinctly dark graveyard angel broods over a layout that includes the cross-hairs of an assassin’s rifle and the fragile spiky peaks and troughs of a cardiac monitor – beating still, but for how much longer?

An animated screen meanwhile shows a death-wish driver (tracked by satellite of course) weaving recklessly in and out of traffic crossing Westminster Bridge before narrowly avoiding stationary vehicles in Parliament Square and finally ploughing through a line of smaller vehicles to slam (as we must always now say) into the back of a coach packed with schoolchildren.

What kind of angels, exactly, are watching over Britain’s Roads?

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