Another New Year, the 15th year of my Highway Patrol pages, where some subjects are new and others are old but still current. My main theme below is repeated once again, that of our vehicle visibility and safety when out on the road. Most of you have read it before and some of you have carried out various ways of making your vehicle more visible, but I make no apologies for repeating the advice for our newer members and those that need reminding. There are many new events to journey to this year, despite the increasing cost of travel, so please make it safely.
Bright lights are not just for Christmas … or… Be safe – be seen!
Readers of these columns will know that I have regularly advocated the need for high visibility for our ‘drab’ vehicles and this is especially so during the darker days and poor weather so please make sure all your lights are clean, unobstructed and, obviously, all correctly working.
Camouflage paint does exactly what it says on the tin….it makes the painted article less visible and, unless you have one of the desert sand or snow white painted vehicles, most of our beloved military vehicles are painted in that drab green that perfectly hides them into the background foliage. We also lack the chrome parts, reflective number plates and multi-glass windows of civilian motors that hint at our presence in gloomy conditions.
Over the years we have learned of tragic incidents involving older military vehicles with the loss of friends in our huge family. Even when we travel in convoy we sometimes find it hard to see the jeep or truck ahead as it becomes a dark silhouette….and we know it’s there!
We pride ourselves on the accurate finish of our historic vehicles and therefore are loathed to put high visibility markings or bright lights on them, but for our own safety we must seriously consider various options to make our vehicles more prominent, especially as we can do very little to match the average speeds of the normal traffic. The first, an obvious step, is to put your lights on and this should also be done when travelling along leafy lanes, where you perfectly blend into the background. Just switch them on when you go through the shady parts and give the approaching motorist an early warning. Simple and cheap additional bolt-on solutions are available, while for the purists there is always the option of authentic ‘blackout’ white lining to wings and bumpers.
A clip-on bicycle rear light can be bought for a few pounds and removed when not needed. They are brilliant as cheap supplementary lights, or emergency lights should the main ones fail, as they can be fitted or removed easily to various positions. However, these lights should only be set on constant and not on flashing as only cycles are allowed flashing lights, back or front. If driving in open vehicles, consider wearing high-viz jackets if you can be seen easily.
The use of amber flashing beacons is a sensible idea and a number of owners use them, especially on large or slow HGVs or where they are towing large trailers or guns, and again on some tracked vehicles but they are not strictly legal. Under the Road Vehicle Lighting Regs. any motor vehicle having four or more wheels and having a maximum speed not exceeding 25mph must be fitted, unless towing a trailer having one fitted, with at least one amber warning beacon when on an un-restricted dual carriageway. It must be positioned no lower than 1200mm from the ground, to avoid dazzle. Our vehicles are not permitted to use amber beacons but if they make your presence noticed and increases your safety, then it may be a risk worth taking as long as you know what the law states.
Another suggestion is the simple and cheap Motorhome / caravan board, displaying diagonal reflective red stripes on a white background with a red reflector in each corner. They are compulsory on the continent for campers/motor homes carrying bikes or equipment on the back and can be obtained from camping or caravan suppliers and are simply strapped over the rear spare jeep wheel or tied to the canvas tarpaulin or tail gate. They are very visible, and I’ve watched in my jeep’s mirrors since using one that vehicles approaching from the rear are moving out much earlier than before, hopefully that will continue. Anything that highlights the rear of your vehicle is important but do remember that reflective material is subject to Lighting Regulations so make sure that only red, or yellow if part of striped markings, is displayed to the rear and no red to the front. Even a white sheet, high-viz jacket or material, or board on the back of the vehicle would make a huge difference and possibly save your life.
If you are using a commercial trailer board on the back of your vehicle, with no trailer on tow, make sure you change the triangular red reflectors to square or round, the triangular ones are for the rear of trailers….hence the title.
I must also urge that those of you riding vintage motorcycles should wear high-viz jackets or vests when not essentially engaged in looking the wartime appearance, especially on busy or fast roads and when escorting, however, with a little ingenuity you could make yourself safer without compromising authenticity too much.
Motorway minimum speeds
In the UK there are currently no laws pertaining to a minimum speed limit on either motorways or dual-carriageways, unless a temporary minimum limit is imposed, shown by blue circular signs, and used to help reduce congestion or increase safety. Anywhere between 50 mph and 70 mph is considered acceptable but driving any slower would be considered a potential hazard or danger and slow-moving vehicles typically utilise hazard warning beacons to alert motorists to this.
In France, the minimum speed limit on motorways (Autoroute) is 49mph (80kmh) and all vehicles must be able to maintain this speed on the level, so most of our old vehicles cannot use them. There is no exemption for historic vehicles and the only exemption is for an official convoy accompanied by a police escort. Slow vehicles may use dual-carriageway and other roads.
Advanced Stop Lines – Entering the ‘Bike Box’
Advanced Stop Lines (ASL, also referred to as ‘cycle boxes’) are common at UK traffic lights and are put into place to give cyclists a safe place to stop at busy crossings and allow them to be positioned ahead of other traffic so they have more time to pull off as the lights change. A second white stop line forms the entrance boundary of a ‘bike box’ at traffic lights. Vehicles (including motorcycles) are permitted to enter and leave the bike box only when a green light shows, and the road is clear – no motorised vehicle is permitted to stop in the bike box. The penalties in place for running a red light also come into force where any part of a motorised vehicle encroaches into the bike box when the traffic light is not showing green.
Motorists could receive three penalty points and a £100 fine for stopping inside the Advanced Stop Lines (ASL) when pulling up to a red light. Rule 178 of the Highway Code states: “Motorists, including motorcyclists, MUST stop at the first white line reached if the lights are amber or red and should avoid blocking the way or encroaching on the marked area at other times, e.g., if the junction ahead is blocked.
Many local councils use cameras at these locations and can issue Fixed Penalty Notices for stopping at the second white line or within the box.
C1 & D1 Licence Categories
The DfT are taking evidence and consulting on whether to return to the pre 1997 situation where, when granted a car (category B) licence, a driver automatically gained the right to drive light goods vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes (C1) and minibuses over 9 seats (D1). This automatic right was lost when the C1 and D1 categories were adopted into domestic law through implementation of EU Driving Licence Directives. A post 1997 ‘B’ category driver can drive minibuses subject to certain defined conditions but not for hire or reward until a test is taken. Given Brexit freedoms, the government is seeking industry and other views in removing the need to take the additional training and tests for these categories.
A reminder for those reaching the age of 70, when your driving licence finishes you change to a renewable 3-year licence. At this time your C1 and D1 classes are automatically removed, unless you opt to keep them, subject to medical conditions. If you lose your C1 you will not be able to drive any vehicle over 3.5 tonnes MAM.
Mr Mayor’s Expansive Scheme
Those of us who live or work within the boundaries of the Greater London Authority are watching with some concern how Mayor Khan is continuing with his plans for the expansion of the existing ULEZ on 29th August 2023, resulting in serious cost if you drive a non-compliant vehicle. Despite last year’s public consultation resulting in a majority opposition to the scheme and several Boroughs planning to boycott it, he seems set on course. It will mean a £12.50 charge per day to move your non-compliant vehicle on any road within the zone or the huge cost of buying a compliant one. The offered scrappage scheme only applies to those on low income or benefits and there’s no guarantee that he will continue with the exemption for historic classed vehicles.