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70 years of driving – then and now as we celebrate the Jubilee

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As the country celebrates the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, we look at the iconic changes in motoring during the course of the Queen’s reign.

On the Road

The first thing a driver would notice in 1953 was the lack of traffic; there were four million cars on the road, 70 years on there are 40.3 million and they are not all petrol or diesel thirsty. The latest report from the Department for Transport shows record new registrations for electric cars

While some makes are still familiar today, like the Mini, many classics such as the Morris Minor and Ford Anglia are a distant memory. Over 1.5 million each of the latter two were built during the 50s and the years either side. More than 5.3 million original design Minis were built.

If you have a well looked after 1950s make in good condition, it could be worth a pretty penny; an Austin Mini could be worth £16,000 today.

But one thing that will stand out is that they are all British made. By 1950 the UK provided 52% of the world’s exported cars. Unfortunately, many from the 1950s didn’t last the distance, such as Hillman. 

The first Mini off the production line in 1959 (Image: Defacto / Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

Safety

Driving is much more safety conscious now and rightly so, with measures such as the Maximum Legal Drink Drive Limit (Road Safety Act 1967) that made it illegal to drive if alcohol blood levels were above the prescribed amount – enforced by the introduction of the breathalyser.

Seat belt legislation has been a slow road, requiring them to be installed came in 1968 but was only compulsory for the driver and front seat passengers to wear them from 1983 and then compulsory for children aged 14 and under to wear a seatbelt in the rear from 1989 followed by adults in the back in 1991.  Shockingly, car seats for children were only introduced in 2006 and applies to all children until they are 12 years old or taller than 135cm. (4ft 5 in)

Speed cameras were introduced in 1991. They might be something many complain about but an LSE study found they reduced fatalities by between 58% and 68% within 500 metres of the cameras and by adding another 1,000 cameras to British roads they could save up to 190 lives annually, reducing up to 1,130 collisions and mitigating 330 serious injuries. 

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Fuel and costs

Fuel was a limited choice in 1953, there were two grades available – Standard at 74 octane and Premier at 93 octane.  Leaded petrol was eventually banned in Britain under EU rules at the start of 2000 – leading to a significant drop in levels of lead pollution. 

In the coronation year, a gallon of petrol cost four shillings and six pence – that’s just 22p in today’s money (£3.92 with inflation), compared to nearly £6.35 a gallon today. 

Greg Wilson, Founder of car insurance comparison website Quotezone.co.uk, comments:  “Demand for our classic car insurance surged throughout lockdown, it’s great to see renewed interest in preserving these beautiful motors. 

“Vehicles from the coronation year are still popular amongst our customers, with the Ford Zodiac, Wolseley Apr 44 and the Jaguar XK among the favourites. 

“With the Queen’s Jubilee this summer there might be fresh interest in the British classics – and the picnics that go with them. 

“The next 70 years of motoring should be fascinating, with the rise of electric motoring, hydrogen fuel possibilities and even autonomous vehicles and AI technology.”

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The 10 iconic cars from the 1950s

1Morris Minor more than 1.6 million were built of this popular motor.
2Ford Anglianearly as many built of this classic as the Morris Minor.
3Ford Popularwhen launched it was Britain’s lowest priced car; it’s still a steal today although buyers will probably be looking at around £10,000.
4Ford Prefect this popular model was an upmarket version of the Anglia and Popular.
5The MiniSir Alec Issigonis’ design classic that is still going strong after 70 years.
6Hillman Minx popular, but unfortunately the make did not survive.
7MG MGA something sporty, why not try this classic?
8Aston Martin DB4who doesn’t want a DB4? But it might cost six or even seven figures to buy one.
9Jaguar Mark VIIa classic from 1951 onwards.
10Rolls Royce Phantom IVThe Queen’s car of choice in the first years of her majesty’s reign.

(Lead image: Charles01, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

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Motoring

Summer of thunderstorms warning for motorists

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As weather forecasters predict the country could be in for a summer of thunderstorms, a leading insurance comparison firm warns motorists to check their insurance policies before venturing out. 

The Met Office says a ‘hotter than normal’ summer will bring outbreaks of torrential downpours, hail and thunderstorms as temperatures cool after heatwaves.

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A glimpse of what could be a blistering summer, with high temperatures, heavy downpours and thunder and lightning was seen last weekend – particularly in the south.

Heavy and thundery rainfalls are predicted for the coming weekend, especially in the west.

Quotezone.co.uk, a leading car insurance comparison website, says any damage to cars caused by driving through flash floods might not be covered by insurance policies. It warns motorists to carefully check their policy exclusions, and even if routes are partially blocked, drivers should think twice before using waterlogged roads.

If drivers find themselves stuck in the car during a thunderstorm, official advice from the Met Office is to wind up the window and stay inside the vehicle – the metal frame of the car should act as a conductive Faraday cage, passing the current around the passengers and into the ground, should it be struck by lightning.  Open or soft top vehicles are best kept under cover. 

Greg Wilson, Founder of Quotezone.co.uk, comments: “Motorists who have taken out third party only or third-party, fire and theft insurance wouldn’t be covered for any storm damage to their vehicles – only fully-comprehensive policyholders are likely to be protected in those cases.

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“If a storm is predicted, look at official flood warnings, avoid roads that are likely to flood and allow more time for your journey, note you may have to pull over and wait it out if the downpour starts to affect your visibility – not forgetting to put on the hazard lights.

“Unfortunately, if motorists do decide to drive through waterlogged roads, there’s a very real risk that they won’t be covered for any resulting water damage to the car – even fully-comprehensive drivers.”

Greg also warns motorists that have to go out, to make sure their cars are roadworthy before setting off, which includes checking tyre tread and windscreen wipers.

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More than 20,000 people seeking to share a lift amidst rail strike chaos

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As commuters are hit with the largest rail strike in 30 years, leading UK car-share platform, Liftshare points to car-sharing as a practical solution to growing commuter frustrations and rising traffic levels.

Over 40,000 rail workers walked out in protest on Tuesday 21st June, with more strikes planned for the following Thursday and Saturday. Commuters have been advised not to travel, as services are suspended across the country.

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“Commuters being asked not to travel is just not practical, with reports of hospital staff staying overnight to avoid endangering patient safety. Car sharing is a real untapped resource when it comes to making these essential journeys. There are more than 47m empty seats on our roads every rush hour and that’s only set to increase as more people are forced into their cars during the rail strikes.” said Ali Clabburn, Founder and Chairman of Liftshare Group.

“For those that can drive, we’d ask them to consider sharing a lift. There are over 20,000 people looking to car share on our liftshare.com community site. It’s free to join and connect with people making the same journeys. This makes driving more affordable, which is ideal with the added pressure of rising fuel costs.”

Traffic levels have reportedly increased in a number of UK cities, exacerbating commuter emissions which account for 5% of the UK’s total emissions – 18 billion kg of CO2e annually.

President of the AA, Edmund King, spoke to Radio 4’s Today Programme about the ease and environmental benefits of Liftshare. “You just go to the website, put in the journey you want to take and see if other people are going the same way. It’s a very efficient and environmentally friendly way to travel.

“As the rail strikes cause huge disruption to people across the UK, sharing a car is a sustainable and cost effective solution to the disruption of the rail strikes. Over the last 20 years, we have seen spikes in car sharing interests correlate with strike action. The cost of living crisis means more people are actively seeking to reduce their travel costs permanently and car-sharing is a simple and effective solution to this.”

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Nearly 90% of drivers break speed limit in 20mph residential areas

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As many as 87% of Britain’s car drivers routinely break the speed limit in 20mph residential areas, according to the latest figures from the Department for Transport.

The new statistics released earlier this week, compiled throughout 2021, also show 51% of drivers still go over the 30mph limit.

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Even though speeding came down from a spike of 63% during the first lockdown, the return to pre-pandemic levels of traffic looks to have had no long-term impact on driver behaviour.

The data also reveals that 48% of motorists broke the speed limit on motorways, although this fell to 11% of cars for single carriageways last year.

Drivers exceeding the speed limit by more than 10mph hovered around 5-6% last year, while 10% went over the speed limit by at least 10mph on motorways.

Only 1% of car drivers on single carriageways broke the speed limit by more than 10mph.

Respondents who admitted to exceeding the speed limit gave the top excuse as: ‘I drive according to the speed of other road users’. On 20mph roads, users most often cited the speed limit as being ‘inappropriate’.

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Other popular reasons given for breaking the speed limit were: ‘It’s sometimes safer to go faster’, ‘pressure from other drivers’ and ‘I don’t look at the speedometer enough’.

The government figures are based on driver behaviour on roads with free-flowing traffic where there are no impediments such as bends or steep climbs.

Responding to the new data, Greg Wilson, Founder of leading car insurance comparison platform Quotezone.co.uk, says: “It’s staggering to realise that half of all motorists are still breaking the speed limit in residential 30mph zones and there is no encouraging longer-term downward trend. Residential areas are one of the areas drivers should be most cautious, given the high volume of pedestrians and children playing so it’s worrying that this is still an issue. 

“While many drivers might think it’s a minor fault breaking the speed limit by a small margin, the law takes a different view. There’s no ‘look the other way’ if motorists go over a speed limit by less than 10 percent – that’s a myth.”

Motorists can face a fine of £100 and three penalty points on their licence if they break the speed limit – which can increase to six points and a fine of up to £1,000 if they’re doing more than 41mph in a 30mph zone.

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Wilson says penalty points can add anything from 5% to car insurance premiums for the first three points on a licence, which can rise to 25% for six points.

Wilson continues: “If convicted, it’s important to be honest and fully disclose the offence to your insurance provider, because failure to do so can result in the policy being invalidated, meaning you won’t be covered.  Some providers do offer car insurance policies with competitive rates for convicted drivers, which can help motorists find an affordable premium, but it probably goes without saying that the best way to keep your car insurance price low is to obey the speed limit.” 

Last year, the Welsh Government announced plans to make 20mph the default speed limit in residential areas, with eight areas trialling the scheme, including Llanelli in Carmarthenshire, St Dogmaels in Pembrokeshire and Cilfrew in Neath Port Talbot.

At the time, Lee Waters, Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport, said: “Making 20mph the default speed limit in residential areas is a bold step that will save lives.

“We have made progress on reducing deaths and serious injuries on our roads over the 21 years of devolution, but despite our considerable efforts the highest proportion of all casualties – 50% – occurred on 30mph roads during 2018. This cannot be tolerated, so a reduction to 20mph on our residential and other busy pedestrian urban roads has to be the way forward.

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“Decreasing speeds reduces accidents and saves lives, and alongside this the quality of life will improve, making room on our streets for safer active travel. This helps reduce our environmental impact and has a positive outcome for our physical and mental wellbeing.”

Sgt Ian Price, from Go Safe – Dyfed-Powys Police Road Harm Reduction Unit, said: “Dyfed-Powys Police, with the support of Go Safe, is working with our road safety partners to help change driver attitudes in recognising a cultural and potential legal change, regarding restricted road status from 30mph to 20mph.

“Historically we have grown up to know that streetlights mean 30, but potential legislative changes in Wales in 2023 will default a restricted road status to 20mph. Too many people are being killed or seriously injured in existing urban areas, in which a reduction in speed limit along with compliance, can only reduce the number of these incidents. We can also make our communities safer places to live by walking and cycling those short journeys.”

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