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Car-tious Brits: One in three motorists are anxious and scared about rising traffic levels due to threats from aggressive drivers and their own rusty driving

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After more than a year spent under lockdown restrictions, Co-op Insurance’s ‘Covid and the Car’ report has revealed that more than one in three (35%) British motorists are feeling anxious, nervous and scared as traffic on the nation’s roads returns to normal levels.

Research shows that almost four in ten UK drivers (39%) admit that their main fear is other drivers being aggressive, with a further 30% claiming their own driving skills are ‘rusty’ and ‘out of practice’.

The insurer has already seen a jump in claims relating to bumps and accidents from the week commencing 12 April – when step two of the UK’s roadmap out of lockdown kicked in – compared to the week before, highlighting the increased risk of incidents as more drivers get behind the wheel.

As test centres open up this week, it appears that young drivers aged 16 to 24 years are the most anxious group to emerge from the pandemic, with two-thirds (64%) saying that busier roads are a major concern for them and a further 32% of these claiming they haven’t been on a motorway during lockdown.

Similarly, almost half of females polled (46%) confess to being nervous about busier traffic levels, compared to 25% of men – with 38% of female drivers saying they dread hostility from antagonistic drivers. And one in ten women (11%) admit to being concerned about driving on busier roads with a new baby on board, compared to 4.6% of males.

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When it comes to car maintenance, a worrying one in four (26%) car owners confess to not having carried out a MOT, service or other essential checks on their vehicle in the last six months.

The way Britons get around on a daily basis is also at a Corona-crossroads according to the report, which shows that Covid has turned people off using public transport, with almost four in ten (37%) of those polled stating they’ll use it less than ever. Reasons cited are that they fear it will be too crowded and there is less chance of catching Coronavirus while in their car.

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It’s not all doom and gloom for motorists, with over a fifth (21%) saying they’re excited to get back behind the wheel. And almost a third of those polled said they are planning to buy a new vehicle in the next 12 months, with one in three set to splash out on a hybrid vehicle (31%) and one in four on an electric car (27%). Only 15% planned on buying a fossil fuel vehicle, showing that petrol and diesel are falling out of favour with today’s more eco-conscious drivers.

On average, men are prepared to splash out a staggering £27,403 on brand new wheels, whilst women will spend £20,326.

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It also looks like two-car households across the country are set to decline – 9% of respondents have already stopped using a second car, 20% say they’re considering it to save money and 11% want to do so to reduce their carbon footprint.

A third of those surveyed said they were planning on buying a new car in the next 12 months

Charles Offord, Managing Director, Co-op Insurance, said: “It’s concerning to hear that many of the nation’s drivers feel anxious about busier roads and aggression from other drivers. We’re urging people to reacquaint themselves with their car before embarking on longer journeys and to check that it has had all relevant checks and services. Knowing your car is safe and roadworthy should offer drivers peace of mind and help to boost their confidence. And it goes without saying that all motorists should show consideration to other drivers at all times.”

Racing driver and car fanatic, Jodie Kidd, added: “For me there’s nothing like the thrill of the open road and setting off on a road trip is just as exciting as arriving at the destination! It’s great to hear that many British motorists share in my excitement but also understandable that the last year may have changed the way many of us feel about driving, particularly those who have been learning to drive on quieter roads or those who have welcomed a baby and might not have ventured too far. My advice to anyone who is feeling apprehensive is to build up your confidence with regular trips on familiar roads before heading out onto the motorway.”

Last September, Co-op Motor Insurance launched the ‘T’ plate to help young or newly qualified drivers with telematics to feel safer on the road. Like an ‘L’ plate, the ‘T’ plate is displayed on the car to indicate to other road users that the vehicle is fitted with a black box and the driver is being monitored.

It also launched a pay-by-mile trial with By Miles to offer customers whose driving habits have changed, greater flexibility. Rather than paying an annual premium, drivers pay a fixed amount each year to cover their non-driving risks, such as theft and vandalism, then pay for the rest of their cover monthly, based on how many miles they drive.

And for those who are working at home and haven’t been behind the wheel as much, the insurer, alongside car care specialist Fixter offers a convenient MOT and car servicing option for car owners. Vehicles are picked up at home and returned at a place and time to suit.

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Motoring

New research shows smart electric vehicle charging can cut carbon footprint by 20% and save drivers £110 a year

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Drivers of electric vehicles could save an average of £110 a year – and cut their carbon footprint by 20% – by using “smart charging” to power up their cars at the best possible times, a report by a research team involving Swansea University experts has shown.

Smart charging helps spread out demand for electricity to avoid overloading the National Grid. This is a major issue given the huge growth in the number of electric vehicles, with up to 11 million forecast to be on Britain’s roads by 2030.

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Already people can get cheaper electricity by charging at certain times, usually in the early hours of the morning. But smart charging could go much further than this. For example, it could mean charging when windy weather means surplus wind power is being generated, or having your charging automatically coordinated with your neighbours.

The report is based on research by the FRED project (Flexibly Responsive Energy Delivery). Led by Evergreen Smart Power, it also involved Swansea University energy experts from the SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre, in collaboration with myenergi, GenGame, and Energy Systems Catapult.

The team recruited 250 members of the public who already had electric vehicles and were using myenergi’s zappi charging points and software to help them charge more efficiently.

Throughout the project Evergreen managed the FRED participants’ EV charging using its smart charging software platform. The platform used artificial intelligence to shift charging times to maximise efficiency and minimise cost. Participants supported the project by providing feedback as to how smart charging affected their driving experience.

The researchers found that smart charging cuts the cost of various charges that make up the overall price of energy for consumers.

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This means an overall saving of £110 a year for an average electric vehicle driver – with even bigger savings if you drive, and therefore recharge, more than average

These savings come from various factors – for example avoiding times when network charges or energy wholesale prices are high, and switching customers to payment per half-hour rather than per hour

In addition they found that further savings of up to 45% are possible with better incentive schemes. Smart charging reduces the carbon footprint of car charging by over 20%, providing a strong environmental incentive.

Peter Bullock from Evergreen said: “Our research showed that smart charging using the platform can make a big difference, even where people are already charging efficiently. It cuts the cost and the carbon for cheaper, cleaner driving.In our emerging green energy system, the energy we generate – for example through wind and solar – can be variable. Luckily, with electric cars, it is easy to be flexible with the times we consume energy. This is where smart charging is crucial, helping us create an energy system that is both low-carbon and efficient.”

Mark Spratt from the SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre at Swansea University said: “SPECIFIC created the Active Buildings on the Bay Campus to demonstrate how buildings that generate and store electricity can have a positive impact on the grid by managing their energy intelligently.  These buildings, together with our fleet of electric vehicles, provided an ideal platform for testing the smart charging strategies of the FRED project.

“The financial and carbon savings demonstrated in the FRED project are a validation of the need for Active Buildings as we make the transition to net zero.”

The project was made possible by support from the Department for Business, Energy, & Industrial Strategy’s Energy Entrepreneurs Fund. SPECIFIC’s contribution was enabled by funding from Innovate UK and the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.

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Carmarthenshire

Union accuses Council of playing ‘Russian Roulette’ with residents safety on second day of gritter strike

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GMB union has accused Carmarthenshire Council of playing ‘Russian roulette’ with residents’ safety over a gritter strike.

The claims came as the council issued their own message reassuring residents that contingency arrangements are in place to ensure the safety of the travelling public while winter maintenance staff take industrial action.

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The strike on 5 and 6 January 2022 comes as the union accuses the council of failing to adhere to a collective agreement signed with gritting staff back in 2020. 

Trade unions asked their members not to carry out gritting on roads out-of-hours on January 5 and 6. Two further periods of industrial action are also planned between January 17 and 21, and January 24 to 28.

Unions agreed with the Council to undertake emergency cover, however this means the majority of Carmarthenshire’s Road network will remain ungritted during the dispute.

Council staff picketed at depots across Carmarthenshire, with further picket lines due to take place.

According to the council the county is heading for colder weather over the next few weeks, with a real risk of icy conditions, sleet and snow. The union claims this means there is a real risk to the safety of residents undertaking travel on all but major roads. 

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Peter Hill GMB organiser said: “Right now the council is playing Russian Roulette with the safety of Carmarthenshire residents. 

“Large chunks of the road network were not gritted last night, and it will remain the case for the next 48 hours.  

“Our members are also Carmarthenshire residents and we’re advising our families and friends to avoid the roads over the next 48 hours as many will not be gritted.  

“Rather than brandishing an agreement to deal with essential emergency work, they should be advising residents to avoid travelling unless utterly necessary”.

A picket at one of Carmarthenshire’s depots (Image: GMB union)

The council rejects the comments made by GMB in relation to the agreement, and has also put forward a revised offer.

They say the agreement, which was put in place in 2020, recognises the valuable contribution council employees make and provided them with a remuneration package which is one of the highest in Wales. 

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The package provides employees with a retainer payment for committing to the rota throughout the winter period to cover gritter driving.

Carmarthenshire Council say that in a typical winter they will schedule 310 shifts across 158 days. Employees are stood down on 201 shifts (65%) out of the 310, instructed to grit on 83 shifts (27%) and where there is uncertainty in a forecast drivers are retained on 26 shifts (8%). Employees are paid the retainer for all 310 shifts regardless of whether they need to work or not work.

The council say they have always adhered to the terms and conditions of the agreement, and in order to avoid industrial action and to secure the service, the council has put forward a revised offer, which unfortunately the union has chosen not to present to its members but have decided to ballot and implement industrial action.

Cllr Hazel Evans, Cabinet Member for Environment, said: “The council recognises and values the contribution of our employees in helping to ensure the road network is treated during the winter months to provide a safe road network for the public, businesses and the emergency services.

“The council made a formal agreement with the trade unions in 2020 to cover winter maintenance duties. The agreement recognised the valuable contribution our employees make and provided them with a remuneration package which is one of the highest in Wales.

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“The council has adhered to the terms and conditions of the negotiated agreement and has always worked to support our employees to provide a safe road network for our communities, businesses and emergency services, as far as reasonably practicable.  

“An increased offer was put to the trade unions to help secure the winter maintenance service. The offer is considered very reasonable and at the level of what the council can afford. Unfortunately, trade union colleagues have chosen not to present this offer to their members but have decided to ballot and implement a period of industrial action at this difficult time.

“These are extremely challenging times as COVID continues impact on communities and employee resource.

“The offer remains available to our employees and on the negotiating table with our trade unions. We hope that in the wider interest of our communities, our employees will give the offer due consideration.

“In the interim the council will implement its contingency plan to undertake gritting on a reduced resilient network.”

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Carmarthenshire County Council say their winter maintenance service ensures, so far as is reasonably practicable, that safe passage along the highway is not endangered by snow or ice. To fulfil this duty, the council normally treats a primary network of 17 gritting routes along our main highways ahead of freezing weather, including 13 gritting routes along county roads (23% of network) and four trunk road routes. The resilient network includes the four trunk road routes. 

Residents are being reminded to be prepared and to drive responsibly during the winter months, and in particular to be mindful of changing weather conditions.

(Lead image: GMB Union)

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Motoring

Electric car helps Swansea GP practices drive down carbon footprint

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A group of GP practices in Swansea is helping the environment as well as its patients thanks to a new electric vehicle.

The City Health Cluster, which covers eight GP practices in the central areas of Swansea, has received the electric car that will be used by its paramedic to visit patients at home.

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Keith Richards works as the cluster’s community paramedic and travels to patients’ homes to assess them as a way of helping GPs who are seeing patients in their surgeries.

“There are eight GP practices in the cluster but some of them have sister practices so I deal with 12 practices in total so I’m on the road a lot,” he said.

“If a surgery has a patient who needs assessing, they’ll give me a call and give me all of their details and I’ll go out and do all of their observations and get their medical history and background.

“If they need any medical intervention then I have a chat with the GP and decide how best to help them.

“I’m still a paramedic but I’m dealing with just one patient at a time for the GP so it’s more of a direct role.

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“I can do blood tests and ECGs and I’ve been able to help with administering flu and Covid vaccinations.”

Keith Richards in the GP cluster’s new electric car (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

Until now, Keith had been using his own diesel car to travel between patients’ homes and surgeries.

Not only will the cluster’s electric car help cut down carbon emissions, its modern technology will even help Keith in responding to calls.

He added: “Everybody wants to help reduce carbon emissions and this seemed like an easy way to do it because I do a lot of driving around so I was probably adding a lot of pollution.

“It’s more modern than my previous car and I’ve got Bluetooth which makes answering calls a lot easier too.

“It’s also more reliable so the chance of it breaking down and not being able to get to a patient’s house is reduced.

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“We’ve all got to do our bit for the environment. There’s no point in telling other people to do something if you’re not doing anything yourself.

“We’ve all got to contribute and I think this is an excellent way of doing it.”

A charging station has been installed at Keith’s home, with plans to introduce more at several GP surgeries within the City Health Cluster, which covers Brunswick Health Centre, Greenhill Medical Centre, Abertawe Medical Partnership, Kingsway Surgery, Mountain View Health Centre, Nicholl Street Medical Centre, SA1 Medical Centre and The Harbourside Health Centre.

When fully charged the car can travel up to 270 miles, with Keith charging it twice a week. From 20 per cent to fully charged takes about six hours.

City Health Cluster lead, Dr Ceri Todd, added: “The City Health Cluster Plan has developed over the last few years to adapt and meet the changing needs of our diverse and growing population.

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“We have fostered new and innovative ways of working that support practice sustainability and help ensure we have the right people in place to deliver safe and effective health care.

“This multidisciplinary approach has ensured better access for patients that may require assessment at home.

“The cluster has considered throughout its approach to the delivery of services how it can work to develop and promote net-zero health care in the future.

“With this in mind we began our approach supporting the introduction of an electric vehicle for our valued paramedic Keith.”

Lead image: Keith Richards and City Health Cluster lead Dr Ceri Todd (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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