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July 2020 News Roundup

News

Here at the PassMeFast Blog, we’ve endeavoured to keep you up to date with all the latest developments throughout these turbulent times. That’s why, in recent months, we’ve put our monthly updates on hold, focusing instead on posting breaking news as it happens. With the world starting to reopen, however, we’re happy to say that our news roundup is back!

This July, the biggest story (at least for us driving schools!) was the resumption of driving tests for the first time since March. Elsewhere in this roundup, we’ll take a look at the proliferation of 20 mph speed limits across the country, as well as the end of the MOT extension scheme. We’ll also reveal England’s favourite (and most hated) motorways, as well as what kids think of their parents’ driving. Finally, we’ll offer our Highway Code tip of the month. Let’s dive in!


Driving tests restart for non-key workers for first time since March

Photo © David Hillas (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Back in mid-March, theory and practical testing across the UK came to a juddering halt as the coronavirus pandemic took hold. Since then, only those working in critical sectors of the economy have been eligible to sit tests, with lessons restricted by social distancing rules.

As part of the broader reopening of society, however, this month saw non-key workers able to return to driving for the first time in months. Driving lessons in England resumed on 4th July and in Wales on 27th July. Theory tests have restarted in both England and Scotland, while they will resume in Wales on 3rd August. At present, driving tests have only restarted in England; they will start in Wales from 17th August.

The government announced that they would take a ‘phased approach’ to the resumption of testing, with practical tests only available initially to those whose test had been cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Emergency testing remains available to key workers, but the booking system has not yet opened to new applications from the general public.

Here at PassMeFast, we’re pleased to say that we’ve been able to help learners get back on the road this month. Check out our top customer reviews and pass photos from July, read inspiring stories in our key worker Hall of Fame, and check out what we’re doing to keep driving lessons safe.


Is 20 the new 30?

20 mph road sign
Photo © Neil Turner (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Most drivers will be familiar with the old rule of thumb: if you see street lights, and there are no signs telling you otherwise, assume the speed limit is 30 mph. Indeed, for decades, the 30 mph speed limit has been synonymous with built-up areas. Now, that may be in the process of changing, as 20 mph limits are becoming increasingly common across the UK.

A report in The Times claims that a third of the UK’s population lives in areas that either already have 20 mph speed limits, or will implement them in the near future. It comes in the same month as the Welsh Parliament signalled they would make 20 mph the default speed limit in residential areas in Wales.

Reactions to the move have been mixed. Road safety charity RoSPA welcome the lower limits, claiming that the risk of fatalities resulting from a collision are five times lower at 20 mph than at 30 mph. However, AA President Edmund King felt that while “targeted 20 mph zones outside schools, parks and residential areas work well”, “blanket 20 mph zones can backfire”.

Tougher measures are also being brought in to enforce the lower limits. In one example, Avon and Somerset Police handed out 25,090 notices to drivers breaching 20 mph limits in 2018—compared to none at all in 2017. We’ll be looking closer at this topic in the months to come and gauging how drivers across the UK feel about the switch from 30 to 20.


MOT extension scheme coming to an end

Ace MOT test centre
Photo © Elliott Brown (cc-by/2.0)

Earlier this year, the lengths of all MOTs were extended by 6 months in a bid to stop motorists making unnecessary journeys to testing centres during lockdown. With these measures easing, however, the Government announced that this scheme was to end early. Now, instead of applying to all MOTs, the extension will only apply to MOTs due to expire before 1st August.

Here’s what you need to know about your MOT:

  • If your MOT certificate was due to expire between 30th March and 31st July, its validity has been extended by six months. The DVSA has applied this extension automatically. If you were due to take your car for its MOT test in July 2020, for example, then you should now do so in January 2021.
  • If your certificate was set to expire on or after 1st August, there is no extension. You should take your car in for a test by the original date.

Remember that your MOT is due on the third anniversary of the date your car was first registered, and then every twelve months. To learn more about the changes, read our article on the MOT extension scheme ending.


England’s most loved and hated motorways revealed

Each year, the watchdog Transport Focus surveys drivers, passengers and road users across Britain to reveal what the nation really thinks about its road, rail and bus networks. One of its most anticipated releases is the Strategic Roads User Survey. This is where motorists get to have their say about motorways across England. Now, we can reveal which they loved—and which need some major improvements.

Road sign-style graphic with a motorway symbol and the text "M11 92%" Map of the M11 motorway

Let’s start with the good news: top of the heap was the M11, which scored an impressive 92% in overall satisfaction. This motorway, which runs between London and Cambridge, did well across the board, with 83% pleased with the quality of the road’s surface, 93% happy about their journey times, and 95% stating that they felt safe. Other strong scorers were the M40 (91%) between Birmingham and Oxford, and the M61 (89%) between Manchester and Preston.

Road sign-style graphic with a motorway symbol and the text "M20 63%" Map of the M20 motorway

On the other end of the scale was the M20. Despite linking London to Dover, it seems many motorists feel this road is no holiday, with a satisfaction score of just 63%. Buffeted by roadworks during its conversion to a smart motorway, as well as having barriers installed as part of no-deal Brexit preparations, only 69% of drivers were satisfied with their journey times. The M23 between London and Crawley was similarly unloved, with a score of 64%, while the London–South Wales M4 rounded out the bottom three on 70%.

The survey also asked drivers their opinions on Britain’s A roads. Here, it was the A66 that came out on top, with the road linking Northumberland to Cumbria garnering an overall satisfaction rating of 90%. Indeed, Yorkshire and North East posted the highest scores of any region in England, at 86%. Meanwhile, motorists in the South East were the least happy with their local roads, with a 77% satisfaction score. For full details, check out the results of the survey at Transport Focus.


Kids share their opinions on parents’ driving

There have been countless attempts over the years to settle the battle of the sexes in the field of driving. Men have long had the advantage when it comes to passing the practical test, while evidence shows women are safer drivers overall. One angle we’ve never seen before, though, is to see what children make of their parents’ driving. Motoring marque MG set out to answer the question once and for all: who’s the better driver—mum or dad?

In a poll of over 1,000 children, there was good and bad news for both parents. Kids deemed dads as the best at parallel parking, reverse parking, and parking in tight spaces. They also came out on top when it came to switching lanes on the motorway and changing a tyre, as well as being most families’ main driver. However, they also earned some unwanted accolades, as the parent more likely to break the speed limit or show signs of road rage.

Meanwhile, most kids said they enjoyed being in their car with their mum more than with their dad. Mums also won out when it came to their music taste, and were more likely to join in with car games than dads. As a further feather in their cap, kids were most likely to say that their mum was happy while driving.

There’s just one final score to settle, then… who did kids rate as the better driver overall? Well, in the end, 43% went for dads, 29% said mums, and the remainder said there was no difference between the two. So, it’s dads who take the trophy! Take a look at MG’s Mum vs Dad survey for full details.


Highway Code tip of the month

Photo © David Dixon (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Having revealed England’s favourite motorways, now’s the perfect time to brush up on rules regarding lane discipline on multi-lane carriageways. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Before changing lane, use your mirrors, and take a quick glance to ensure you won’t impact other road users. When it is safe to do so, signal, then move over when the road is clear.
  • Follow signs and road markings and get into the lane as directed.
  • Don’t change lanes unnecessarily in congested conditions.
  • Merging in turn is recommended at low speeds (e.g., when approaching road works), but not at high speed.

News in brief

  • Thanks to generous subsidies from the government, car-buyers in Germany can get an electric Renault Zoe for free (Bloomberg)
  • On July 4th, rented e-scooters became legal on public roads in England, Scotland and Wales (The Independent)
  • Service station operator Moto is trialling an 8p per litre price cut on fuel at three of its locations (Bradford Telegraph & Argus)
  • The speed limit for cars travelling through motorway roadworks has risen from 50 mph to 60 mph (WhatCar)
  • Japanese car manufacturer Mitsubishi announced plans to exit the UK and European markets (This Is Money)
  • UK councils could face legal action after closing or narrowing roads without public consultation (Auto Express)
  • Some speed camera locations are chosen because they are ‘good hunting grounds’ rather than due to a history of collisions (Chronicle Live)

That’s all for this month’s news roundup! Be sure to subscribe to notifications to get all the latest news from the PassMeFast Blog as it happens.

By Andy Boardman

Andy has been part of the PassMeFast Blog team from the very beginning. 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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