Six Recent Driving News Stories You May Have Missed

Have you seen the driving news recently? If you’re anything like us, then you’ve been neglecting that all-important road-related stuff.

Maybe it’s been all the other news on lockdowns and vaccines and US elections — or our part-time work as international men of mystery — but we just haven’t had time to keep up.

Until now, that is. Here’s our round-up of six driving news stories you may have missed.

Stonehenge Tunnel Controversy

Let’s start with one hot off the press: in the last week, it’s been announced that the Transport Secretary has approved a plan for a two-mile tunnel next to Stonehenge. The £1.7 billion project would take the busy A303 underground as it passes the neolithic site.

Now, we know that stretch of road, and it’s often a nightmare for drivers. The existing single lane carriageway can back up for miles, not helped at all by tourists rubbernecking out of their cars as they pass the stones. Supporters claim the scheme will remove traffic from near the site and speed up journeys (the road will also be widened to dual carriageway). So the tunnel is a winner for everyone? Not so fast, say archaeologists. Some claim that putting a tunnel so close to a precious archaeological resource  — which is also a world heritage site — is even worse than the existing road. That’s one reason that the proposal was opposed by the government’s own Planning Inspectorate.

It looks likely that the next stage will be a lengthy court battle.

Rubberneckers Rounded Up

Speaking of rubberneckers, Essex Police announced their intention to contact around 20 drivers who were seen filming the aftermath of a crash on the A13. Drivers slowed down to film the scene on their mobile phones, breaking the 2003 law which restricts phone use when driving.

The police tweeted ominously that “we will be in touch”. It’s pretty depressing that they needed to. Even without the safety implications, it should be obvious that it’s not right to film other people’s misery for a quick bit of entertainment.

Video Calls & Driving

Video on mobile phones also made the RAC’s news site recently. According to their Report on Motoring:

almost one-in-five (18%) of drivers aged 17-24 admitting to taking part in video calls while behind the wheel…Younger drivers are more than twice as likely to say they make or receive video calls while driving – on average 8% of all UK drivers say they do this, with the figure rising to 13% among those aged 25 to 44.
The report goes on to say that 9% of 17-24 year-olds also admit to playing games on their phones whilst driving, which is three times the UK average.
Those are pretty worrisome statistics, but let’s not forget there are plenty of great young drivers: careful, skilled and super-courteous. And every other age group has its driving no-no’s…

10,000 Tailgaters in a Fortnight

…Take tailgating, for example. This equal opportunity driving sin seems to transcend all age groups and demographics. Tailgating made the driving headlines recently when new cameras caught rather a lot of people doing it. Around 10,000, in fact. In just two weeks.

Highways England and the police are currently having a joint push to tackle tailgating. The research shows that it’s a contributory factor in “around one in eight casualties on England’s motorways and major A roads.”

However, it looks as though the agencies have taken a gentler approach than the Essex police (see above): the government site tells us that those caught will receive, “letters advising them they were too close to another vehicle and highlighting the dangers of not leaving safe braking distances.”

We’re Almost as Good as Sweden

With all this rubbernecking, phone use and tailgating going on, you could be forgiven for thinking the UK’s roads are more dangerous than a tiger on amphetamines. Not at all. In fact, the good news is that the UK has the second safest roads in Europe. Figures from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) recently revealed that the UK’s rate of fatal accidents was 28 per million. That compares favourably with Spain (39), Germany (also 39) and France (51).

The only country to do better — and only by a slight margin — was Sweden (25). And there’s nothing there but trees and IKEA!*

Petrol and Diesel — a 2030 Swan Song?

To complete our news round-up, we’ll finish on another story that’s bound to really divide opinion. A few days ago, the Financial Times reported that Boris Johnson will probably call for an end to new diesel and petrol car sales by 2030. The move will, it’s thought, form part of a raft of new measures to both tackle the climate crisis and support a ‘green recovery’.

A fossil fuel vehicle ban had already been put in place for 2040, and in February the Government moved this to 2035. The latest move is a response to criticisms that the targets lacked ambition. What to make of it all? Assuming the report is true, that sounds like a good one to discuss on here sometime down the line.

That’s it for this news round-up. Stay tuned!

*This is a joke. We know that there’s much more to Sweden than trees and IKEA. There’s ABBA too.

The Welsh VW Specialist blog covers a wide range of automotive topics, from the contentious to the light-hearted. We are an independent garage specialising (as the name suggests!) in all the VW group marques, including Audi, Volkswagen, Skoda and SEAT. Welsh VW Specialists provide services, repairs and MOTs, delivering a main dealer level of care at affordable prices. To book your vehicle in, or for any enquiries, get in touch.