Frosty morning driving

Frosty driving

Frosty morning

Frosty mornings

Autumn approaches and the leaves begin to turn. The morning dew covers the grass and the cars with water droplets that catch the early sun. As the days shorten and the night grows longer the falling average temperature leads to the first frosts of winter.

Driving starts when you open the car door and if your thoughts aren’t with what you are doing the road surface may take control before you even touch the steering wheel. Two things you need to do when a light rime replaces the soft water covering your car. First observe the surroundings, look at the road surface and then start scraping. Second, after the glass and the mirrors are clear, drive off as normal. Do not drive as if the road is covered in ice, unless you have already determined that it is because frost does not equal hard ice.

If you drive as if on eggshells you will notice a couple of things fairly soon. One is that everyone else is not doing what you are doing and are driving much faster than you are and the next thing is you’ll be late for work or your destination will seem farther away.

You need to find out if the road is slippery and the easy way to gauge this is to drive normally at first to discover the limits of grip that your tyres have and then you can adjust your style to match the conditions.

Driving out of my road is an everyday occurrence which means I know how sharp the bends are and how steep the small hill is up to the first stopping place where I join a larger road leading off the estate. By the time I have come off the first bend I know the amount of traction my vehicle has on the frosty road and can then drive safely within that limiting factor.

Here’s a thing – actually you will have more grip than you think you have for a few reasons. One is that frost turns to water usually purely because you drive onto it. I know that might seem an odd notion but it is simple physics. The pressure of the tyre and vehicle cause heat to be generated which at slow speeds melts the ice particles. Don’t believe me? Again try observing other vehicles driving over frost and see the wheel tracks behind them being melted water rather than frost. Another reason is that your tyres have gaps between the tread designed to allow water to escape from beneath the tyre .

This pattern also allows the frost, which is actually soft, almost like snow, to move out from under the tread into the gaps again caused by the pressure of the weight of the vehicle onto the frost particles. A third reason that most people don’t take into consideration is that when you compress soft water, i.e. icy particles, they harden and doing this with the tread blocks of a tyre as you corner gives you grip you don’t have on a wet road. The process is overlooked and I wouldn’t recommend relying on this to corner faster but the tiny walls of hard packed frozen water help to stop slipping sideways. The final reason you have more grip than you think you do is so basic that I’ve not heard anyone explain it but think about this for a minute – how fast do you drive when you set off at the beginning of your journey? Are you flooring the gas pedal and taking the turns at the edge of grip? Not unless you are slightly insane. What everyone does is to drive within yours and the vehicle’s limits, in fact not just within but with a safety factor somewhere approaching a tenth of how fast you could drive on normal dry road if you wanted to and because of this you  mostly do not drive any different from normal which is why that is how I begin my journey and that, more than any other factor tells me what the driving conditions are because by the time I have taken those first turns and driven away from a hill start position I know that I don’t need to slow down at all for my normal rush hour commute which is driven at way below that capacity of my driving style and the cars ability to stay on the road. Of course there are a very few days when driving normally is unsafe but the fact remains that I have tested the grip and know how to drive the conditiond that prevail.

There is one concession I make which is, as usual, not for my driving but the half-awake drivers behind me. To give them more time to react I brake a little more softly and keep looking in the mirror to check out the reaction times of those following.

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Driving for others

Man not driving

Driving for others

Over time my experience of driving has changed and some may say for the worse particularly my intolerance for those drivers who don’t have the necessary skills to exist on anything other than an empty road.

It isn’t that some people are timid or prone to exaggerated carefulness, although that is undoubtedly frustrating for those caught up in the miles long queues behind them, it is more that some folks seem to think you should be driving on their behalf. To explain by way of an example: My morning commute sees a few places where I have to create a space in order to join one road from another at a junction. As these are mainly side roads there aren’t too many other drivers waiting and I try to pick places where there is a good possibility of having space from one direction or another and sometimes both. The scenario plays out as I cross an empty lane and gently wait for the some kind person in the other line of traffic to gesture that I can get in front of them. This also plays when you are turning left into the nearer lane and the steady stream of traffic requires a little help so just a tiny slowdown gives a gap for you to fill.

Morning rush hour traffic is generally good for this as there are many people doing the same thing throughout the journey and as one good turn deserves another I would create the same space or flash up a waiting driver to indicate I will give up space for him or her.

This is not where you are driving for others but merely allowing other people the space to drive for themselves. The problem shows up where a waiting driver doesn’t know that they can go into a space and sits waiting for you to flash or otherwise indicate they can cross in front of you or take a space in front of you.

Classically where there is a driver turning right across in front of you into a road on your left and another waiting to cross your lane to take up a place in the opposite lane from that same road. Most people would see the opportunity to cross behind the vehicle turning across into the side road if the opposite lane is empty or even if it isn’t might pull forward to be ready to take a space when available, but the ones who want you to do their driving for them sit and look pathetically at you hoping you’ll give them permission to drive their vehicle for them. I’ve had occasion to flash someone up to go across, usually having to flash them several times before they get the message, which generally means they have missed the gap that was approaching and now are firmly planted across my lane waiting for someone the other side to take pity on them. I don’t generally do that anymore because if they aren’t ready they aren’t going to be in place when they need to be.

Chief culprit for this lack of driving skills is sadly taxi drivers. A cab company next to our factory has by no means the worst drivers but if I am approaching the turn into the service road and they are waiting to turn out across in front of me I will flash them to proceed. I have my indicator going to clearly show my intentions and they have clear sight of an empty road to turn into but I often have to flash them three or four times before they understand.

As I get older I feel the lack of years in front of me and often now won’t flash someone more than once and if they don’t take the hint I carry on assured that I will get there much more quickly than if I am generous and helpful.

I am sure that many of these drivers will be asking me silently, or maybe cursing me loudly for not letting them out but to them I say simply that I have my own vehicle to drive so why would I want to drive yours at them same time?


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Driving time

Driving time and cyclists

This is a repost for this blig with additional commentary regarding cycling and cyclists

This is not about the time you are on the road or how to find space in your diary but more properly I should maybe have entitled this Drive timing.

This is borne out of a few minutes driving the other day which highlighted how a very short space of time can make a huge difference to anyone’s day and also brings into question how much does luck factor in whether or not you are involved in an incident.

It was a typical morning as I left the drive to start the journey to work. Up the road to the corner and a swift check to the right (having been caught out once already) swing left and continue up the close. Then from the right a neighbour came off his drive without looking as if he would stop before I reached him. I slowed at the same instant as he slammed on his brakes stopping only a couple of feet into the road. Having decided he was going to let me past I waved generously and carried on. A few turnings later and his journey took a left whilst I had gone to the right.

The right choice

Now this piece of the track took us both towards the main road up parallel roads. I should explain the reason I used the right hand of two routes was because it was a lot easier to exit the road I took due to no parked cars obscuring the view of oncoming traffic and I had often also noticed that, for no explicable reason, this road was usually also free of oncoming unlike my experience of the other road.

So while we were both headed in the same direction but on different roads I expected to be ahead of my neighbour when I exited onto the main road. Imagine my surprise when, just as I approached the road end, a numpty brained cyclist came into view cycling on the pavement straight across in front of me! As I already had my foot on the brake and was probably only moving at walking pace it was not any problem not to run over him. He sheepishly lifted a hand in thanks for my magnanimously leaving him capable of motor functions and continued.

I speculated quietly to myself on his parentage and obvious lack of intelligence and after a car or two went past got out onto the main road then after a few yards noticed the cyclist doing the same thing to my neighbour who even more generously rolled back a couple of feet to give him room to continue to be a hazard to pedestrians for whom the pavement is intended.

It hit me then that if I had not slowed to avoid running into my neighbour as he rashly came off his drive I would have in fact been that fraction of a second earlier at the road end and would have, I believe justly, been parked on the top of the cyclist and ringing the police and ambulance to sort out the mess he would have made of the front of my car. Instead of that scenario, we were all going to get to work roughly when we had intended when we all started our respective journeys.

Driving time

Time to think about what might have occurred and to ponder why the hell adult cyclists think they have any right to ride on the path. We have enough idiotic regulations governing cycle paths, cycle boxes at traffic lights and cycle crossings which are all paid for by motorists who pay a lot of money for the privilege of using the roads and the cyclists, meanwhile, ride anywhere but in the cycle lanes. That fails to address the other issue of jumping red lights which cyclists think they can get away with because they ride on the path.

Time spent behind the wheel or pushing the spokes around on a bike is more dangerous than sitting on the sofa so using the senses to ensure safe driving or cycling will reduce the danger and maybe keep you alive.

Ohh and just as a bye the bye, I spent the first twelve years of my driving experience on two wheels powered by my own muscles before getting an engine (Royal Enfield Crusader sports) and after a short stint avoiding dipsticks got my own carriage with a wheel on each corner. (That was an Austin Healey Sprite MkII in powder blue if you were wondering)


So just in case any town planners with excess zeal about making roads safer for cyclists should be reading this I would politely ask how many miles you have ridden on a bike and if the answer is any less than 50,000 miles then contact me before you dream up any more hare-brained schemes which won’t work because cyclists mostly don’t share your romantic ideas of cycling.

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As a lot of my driving posts are rambling accounts of this and that it occurred to me to read them. Now I know that regular bloggers and people like journalists and such know the value of the post writing edit but I’m not a journo nor am I a serial blogger so this technique of writing is not ingrown or natural. Hence this new blog which includes a lot of already written pieces patched together.

So speed then hmmmmm……

Well I know that when you start to drive you “feel the need for speed” which is why a lot of young people are now being targeted by insurance companies to have a “black box” to determine if they drive outside of a set of parameters. These being set by whom? Some individual who has years and millions of miles of experience? No probably not. It is more likely that they will be set by some “speed kills” adherent or possibly even a committee of “experts”! As anyone who has ever set off to sea knows you can’t drive or sail or fly by committee. One person has to be in charge and that is the person at the controls.

Now I don’t want anyone thinking that I know better than them but I do so there. No honestly you need to find your limits and those of the vehicle you are driving and there is only one way to achieve this feat and that is by actually doing it. No other option is available, you must know how you react and think and you must know how each movement you make reflects in the vehicles response.

So by trying to go faster you can find the limits of both yourself and your car/van/lorry/motorbike or bicycle. That is not to say just get in or on and go blast the countryside away. How silly would I be to propose that?

But think on this; if you take a vehicle and go round and round a race track enough times you can keep going faster and faster until you or the car cannot manage to stay in control. Then you can go back and change a few things like line into corner, braking point, turn in point or ultimate speed until you achieve balance and the fastest lap time. Now change the vehicle and you have to start all over again with one massive but. You already have learnt or taught yourself how not to over-react which means a part of the re-launch does not need to be re-learnt.

This is how experience (that word again) is built and for any new driver the need for speed has to be tempered by the need to know what speed means and you only get that if you constantly test yourself. I still do this even though I long ago stopped needing to go the fastest because on roads the fastest is not necessarily the quickest. To explain, if you try and go 50mph in a 30 mph limit you will be forever slowing down behind drivers doing 30 and if you test this out for yourself over a given journey you can soon see all you are really doing is using fuel to gain mere seconds.

I used to drive from Margate to Bracknell every fortnight. Starting at around 5:30 am I would easily hit 95mph from the start of the A299 dual carriageway right through to the M2 at Faversham. Trying to keep up to that speed or close to it when you are on a two lane Mway means you keep coming up on HGV’s overtaking at 58mph, the resultant slowing and speeding up again uses more fuel than doing 70mph because you catch up with less slow moving folks and you lose less speed anyway and don’t accelerate for as long. So on to the A 249 to head south and pick up the M20 now on three lanes again but having now the extra traffic heading towards London at around 6:30 then you get onto the M26 and back to two lanes again and more slow moving trucks as they are now beginning their daily routines so I guess an average speed for that 6 mile or so would be around 65 mph and this is where you can check out the time gain. I’ll come back to that but to continue the journey, join the M25 at J5 and now for the fun time. This is where you really learn about motorway driving. If the motorway is moving you will find lots of people trying to go the fastest they can in the outside lane but on the M25 it probably isn’t as the weight of traffic keeps it slowing down and speeding up so you will probably get better average speed in the middle lane and from there you can drive in the correct lane when not overtaking i.e. the nearside lane. To be honest as you are going faster than the 3rd or now even the 4th lane you are technically undertaking, a manoeuvre absolutely decried by police chiefs who haven’t learnt a thing since they left the advanced driving course they went on when they joined the police. But it isn’t your job to police the roads and you cannot be held responsible for all the idiots who are hogging the outside lanes and going slower than you and let’s be fair here, it has only got worse since the introduction of 4th lanes. Now we have the police with the ability to pull over drivers in the wrong lane and giving them a spot fine, only marginally different than pulling them over and suggesting they take driving lessons with the added bonus of inflating treasury funds, we might see this changing but I seriously doubt it until driving is not allowed on motorways until you have passed an additional test

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New driving spot fines

Sadly, this will lead to more court appearances not less. The concept of policemen as judge and jury has long been avoided by not trying out this continental idea. As the current laws stand, although the offences are not new the validity of the premise, e.g. tailgating can be argued in court, but if a driver with little or no experience of judging distance, especially when looking in a mirror, complains that someone is tailgating the court can look at the driving record of the following driver and take that into account. It seems very likely that a policeman would err on the side of the leading driver.
While middle lane hoggers annoy me the concept of “undertaking” is inherently pre-judged by the use of the word. If you are on a motorway or multi lane carriageway minding your own business in the left hand lane and the traffic outside of you slows or even stops you will go past them and in some circumstances slowing or stopping yourself in order not to “undertake” could be very dangerous if you are being followed closely (but not being tailgated) by a HGV. Most drivers will assume that the ebb and flow of traffic in such cases is temporarily allowing differing speeds in different lanes and will carry on, although anyone with half a brain would realise that some of the middle and outer lane drivers will try to change lanes to gain advantage and be more aware of such manoeuvres.
The arguments heard on the Jeremy Vine show this lunchtime for allowing individuals to hog the middle lane were at best spurious (young drivers won’t let us out with our caravan), to downright pig-headed (if I’m doing the speed limit how can I be wrong?) and all were failing in one respect i.e. they can’t drive.
I have been changing lanes on all roads since I learned how to drive and it is not either dangerous or difficult if you drive with more than just your own needs in mind a.d the simple answer is – this is Britain and we drive on the left. If you don’t like it piss off to France where they drive on the right

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That’s odd why did they call it that?

I’ve thought about this for a while and finally have decided to get around to actually writing this blog.

Number 1 in an occasional series will hopefully educate anyone interested in the really odd road names in the West Midlands.

Marvel at The Darkies, gasp at The Goss and wonder at Ross. Be frankly, dumbfounded at Audnam and laugh your socks off at the truly wonderful Mincing Lane which I can tell you leads you to Bell End!

I feel duty bound to shed some light on the origins of these names where I can, but as a matter of principle, my main idea behind this is just to get the names out there in the bigger world for all to see and puzzle over.

So to start as I mean to go on we commence at the very start of the alphabet with Aaron Manby Court.

Named after the builder of the first steamship to be built of iron and prefabricated at the nearby Horseley Iron Works and shipped to Rotherhithe in London and assembled there.

Next up Abelia in Tamworth. Other than it being a genus of Honeysuckle named after Clarke Abel, a surgeon who went to China with Lord Amherst in 1816 and tried to bring back some seeds which were lost when the ship foundered.

The next street is not only a short name but also a short street being only 30m long. A B Row has a debated history but there seems a consensus that it stands for the “Row” or border between Aston and either Birmingham or Bordesley. Take your pick but don’t come along here having a go at me because I don’t have a definitive answer and neither, it appears, does anyone else.

I’m going to skip over some names as they are only a bit odd and some are there only to celebrate a long forgotten, (otherwise) local hero or upstanding member of the community.

The next street of interest is Alfreds Well. Quite why this street is called that I haven’t a clue but I runs from Nibletts Hill down to the junction with Fockbury Road and Cockshutt Lane so make of that what you will.

Allard is a slightly odd one because it is part of an estate in Tamworth where the road names are all cars. The chap who named all the streets used mainly well known names, mostly from the local car industry, but with some exotic types like Lagonda and Lotus but the inclusion of Allard and Belsize shows a historical knowledge of car makers.

The Alley in Dudley doesn’t seem to be an actual alley but a road and isn’t too far from The Straits but neither shows up on any searches except for Estate Agents pages so no further  information is available.

Back to Tamworth again for Ariane which street name goes along with Gerard, Mariner, Legrange, Cavendish, Kepler and Landsberg form part of Lichfield road industrial estates. I think it must be something in the psyche of Tamworthians, if that’s what they are called, that gives them the drive to come up with odd names.

I’ll finish this blog with Audnam because it’s just down the road from us. I can’t find why it’s called Audnam but there are several books about the place surrounding the street. Part of Amblecote between Wordsley and Stourbridge it is the name that started me on this trek. I asked myself who the hell called it Audnam and I was off looking at all the weird names in the West Midlands.

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