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Drivers support wider use of average speed cameras on motorways – despite more than half admitting to breaking the 70mph-limit

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More than half of drivers (56%) admit to breaking the speed limit on motorways with a third (34%) of those confessing to having travelled at speeds in excess of 80mph, research from the RAC reveals.

Three per cent say their fastest speed on a motorway was over 100mph while 4% believe their top speed was 91-100mph. While the vast majority – two-thirds (66%) – state their highest speed on a motorway was 71-80mph, a quarter (27%) claim to have driven at 81-90mph.

When asked why they broke the speed limit on a motorway, most drivers (39%) said they were simply following the example set by other motorists, although three-in-10 (31%) say it was because they thought it was safe to travel faster than 70mph. Other common reasons for speeding on a motorway were: nothing else being on the road (28%); the speed limit being inappropriate (27%) and feeling pressure from other drivers behind (26%).

In terms of what form of speed enforcement drivers think is best for ensuring speed limit compliance on high speed roads where the speed limit is 60mph and 70mph, 58% of the 3,000-plus motorists surveyed for the RAC Report on Motoring said they favoured ‘average speed cameras’ which measure speeds between cameras rather than at a single, fixed location like traditional speed cameras. Nearly a fifth (18%) felt fixed position cameras are most effective while 12% said it was mobile speed traps, with a similar proportion not offering an opinion.

While average speed cameras are used on a number of A-roads, on motorways they are currently only used in sections of roadworks. More than half of drivers (54%), however, said they would like to see them used in general motorway conditions enforcing the 70mph-limit. Only a quarter (26%) disagreed with this idea, with 18% unsure.

Average speed cameras were also preferred by the majority of drivers for use on 40-50mph limit roads with 46% saying this, compared to 29% for fixed position cameras. On 20-30mph limit roads however, fixed position cameras came out top with 43% of drivers saying they were best and a quarter (25%) opting for average speed cameras, only just ahead of police officers operating mobile speed traps (21%).

While compliance on roads with lower speed limits is far better than the 54% who admit to exceeding the 70mph-limit, an alarming four-in-10 (39%) still admit to frequently disobeying 20mph limits. This rises to a third (33%) on 60mph country roads – statistically some of our least safe roads – and to 36% on 30mph urban roads.

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Very worryingly, 11% of limit-breakers claim to have driven above 40mph in a 30mph zone while 10% have exceeded 30mph in a 20mph zone. In the case of the latter, 45% of those who speed at least occasionally say this is because they believe the limit is ‘inappropriate’ for the area or stretch of road in question.

RAC road safety spokesman Simon Williams said: “Despite more than half of drivers admitting to regularly exceeding the 70-mph speed limit, road safety statistics clearly show that motorways are our safest roads.

“With so many motorists admitting to driving much faster than they should on the motorway, it was interesting to see such strong support for average speed cameras to be used more widely to enforce the 70-mph limit as opposed to just in roadworks, as is currently the case. We believe drivers see these cameras as being very effective at reducing speeds over longer distances and controlling traffic flow as well as being fairer than fixed position ones as they aren’t instantly punished for a momentary transgression.

“Our research shows speed limit compliance on all types of road has improved on previous years, but as our study was carried out during the pandemic we suspect this has partly been brought about by the reduction in the number of journeys carried out for the purposes of commuting – or for other business purposes – where drivers feel greater time pressure and may be more tempted to break the law by speeding.”

(Lead image: RAC)

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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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