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January 2020 News Roundup

The first month of 2020 is officially over! Yep, that’s right—it’s only been a few weeks since you set off those New Year fireworks. While January may have felt like a slog, the chances are that it still sped by quickly enough for you to have missed some top driving news. If that’s the case, then don’t worry: as always, PassMeFast is here for you.

In this month’s news roundup, we’ll cover everything from the recent controversy surrounding smart motorways through to 2019’s new car sales stats. We’ll also take a look at a new car clamping system that angered students in Oklahoma, plus the impact of Brexit on motorists. To finish off, as always, we’ll have our monthly Highway Code tip, plus some news in brief. Let’s get started!


Smart motorway deaths lead to calls for change

Photo © Bill Boaden (cc-by-sa/4.0)

Growing public concern over the safety of smart motorways has made them a regular feature in our monthly news roundups, appearing as recently as September and October. Now, they’ve hit the headlines again following the release of horrifying new statistics.

The BBC’s Panorama programme learned that, in the last five years, 38 people were killed on smart motorways. This was the first time that the government have announced official numbers, and there is plenty to confirm the fears of campaigners.

Other worrying figures include a sharp rise in the number of near misses on the road. One particular stretch of the M25 saw near misses jump from 72 in 2014, before the road become a smart motorway, to 1,485.

The results of the government review announced several months back are due soon, so we can expect to hear more about this topic in the coming months.


Third consecutive year of decline in new car registrations

New cars in Mercedes-Benz dealership
Image source: azmar za via Unsplash

A ‘perfect storm’ has resulted in new car registrations in the UK falling for the third year in a row. The figures, from trade association SMMT, show a slump from 2.36 million registrations in 2018 to 2.31 million last year.

A major factor is the collapse in demand for diesel cars. As recently as 2014, they represented the majority of new car registrations. In the wake of the emissions scandal, however, demand plummeted, and today diesel accounts for just under 23% of the market.

It wasn’t a bad year across the board, however. Though still accounting for a minuscule section of the market, electric cars are surging in popularity. Battery electric vehicles performed notably well, with an increase in registrations of over 220%.


Student outrage scuppers ‘barnacle’ clamp plan

There’s rarely any love lost between drivers and car park owners, with the latter often going to extreme lengths to enforce their rules. However, an attempt by the University of Oklahoma to introduce a novel clamping system caused even more consternation than usual.

The idea was to introduce a car clamp known as The Barnacle. Unlike traditional wheel clamps, this device affixes to a car’s windshield via suction cups. The Barnacle is linked electronically to the university’s fine system. When an offender pays, they’ll receive a code to remove the device.

Though the university claimed that the system would replace the more stressful option of towing fine-evaders’ cars, students were not impressed. Many felt it was a money-grabbing scheme on OU’s part, while others found ways to remove The Barnacle without paying.

In response, the university decided to stop the trial. The future of the controversial new system remains in doubt.


UK leaves EU—what will it mean for drivers?

Woman holding newspaper with "Get Ready for Brexit" campaign ad
Image source: Habib Ayoade via Unsplash

On January 31st, the UK finally left the European Union. Whether you’re for or against Brexit, it’s something that will impact us all—including us drivers. That’s why it’s good to know what the impact will be.

As the UK left with a withdrawal agreement, there will be little, if any, immediate change. Up until the end of the transition period, EU rules will continue to apply to the UK as before. This means you’re free to continue driving in EU countries on your British licence.

The future after the transition period ends, however, is less clear. While the UK government has committed to continuing to accept EU licences, the same isn’t true in reverse. As a result, British licence-holders may need to get additional permits if visiting the EU from 2021 onwards.

Meanwhile, UK citizens living abroad permanently are already advised to exchange to a local licence in most cases. To get full details, visit our article covering advice for UK licence-holders resident in the EU.

Whatever happens with Brexit over the coming year, the team here at PassMeFast will be on hand to provide the information that matters to motorists.


Highway Code tip of the month

Blue car parked on street
Image source: Arisa Chattasa via Unsplash

In the next few months, we’ll start to see the days getting lighter once more. Nonetheless, for the time being, most of us will still be doing plenty of driving at night.

While you’re likely familiar with the advice for when you’re behind the wheel after dark, you might not be aware that there are specific rules for parking at night. That’s the focus of this month’s Highway Code tip of the month.

Here, we’re focusing on rules 248 to 252 of the code. Yep, there are a whole five rules dedicated to this! Here’s what they say:

  • Do not park against the direction of traffic flow at night, unless in a designated parking space
  • If you’re on a road with a speed above 30 mph, you must display parking lights
  • Cars may only be parked without lights if they are in a designated parking space, lay-by, or are at least 10 m from a junction, close to the kerb and facing the same way as traffic flow
  • Larger vehicles and those with trailers must not be parked without lights
  • If you need to park in fog, you must leave your sidelights or parking lights on
  • Follow the usual rules for parking on a hill, which can be found in our guide to leaving your car in gear when parked

News in brief

  • Manchester City Council has announced the names for its new gritters, which take inspiration from the likes of RuPaul and Greta Thunberg (Manchester Evening News)
  • In Florida, a group of motorists were spotted setting up a card table at a notoriously slow-to-change set of traffic lights (Metro)
  • One woman from Plymouth credits eating bananas with her recent driving test pass after years of failure (Cambridgeshire Live)
  • An Arizona driver attempted a bizarre way of avoiding carpool lane restrictions—dressing up a skeleton to look like a passenger (BBC News)

That’s all for January’s top motoring stories! Check out this month’s top pass photos and customer reviews, and come back next month for our next roundup.

By Andy Boardman

Andy fell in love with driving while road tripping around Iceland. He'll provide you with plenty of useful motoring advice, helping you to get the most out of every trip. When he's not writing here, you're most likely to find Andy on the way to his next destination.

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