7 July 2016

This week’s hot motoring topics

In the week that Chris Evans quit Top Gear and Wales’ Euro 2016 dreams finally came to an end, The Root looks at some of the motoring issues being discussed in the media to see what lessons young drivers can take from them.

Be careful at T-junctions

Contributed to by organisations including the AA, British Insurers Brokers Association (BIBA), IAM RoadSmart, Road Safety GB, Thatcham Research, Honda and Leeds University, the Older Drivers Task Force has been busy researching road safety and has revealed that drivers are more likely to be killed at T-junctions as they get older.

Mirroring the same trend observed in the USA, a study of British drivers between 2012 and 2014 found that the fatality rate on or near junctions increased from 20% to 50% for drivers over 75. However, the percentage of crashes at roundabouts and crossroads doesn’t increase with a driver’s age.

T junctions more dangerous for older drivers over 75


The report suggests converting the nation’s busier T-junctions into mini roundabouts, which account for a low percentage of accidents, but this idea will no doubt be criticised by some drivers, as mini roundabouts can sometimes cause hesitation.

Although statistically less likely to crash at T-junctions, young drivers insured by Carrot are nevertheless encouraged to take care when approaching such points in the road as it could be an older driver in the car in front or in the car pulling out of a junction up ahead.

Life after the UK voted for Brexit

With the UK having voted to leave the EU, the clear message from financial experts like Martin Lewis and the former Bank of England Governor, Mervyn King, is not to panic. For starters, the official process of leaving the EU hasn’t been started yet and looks like it won’t happen til around at least October onwards, taking about two years to be completed after that. How might drivers be affected in the meantime, though?

Fuel prices have risen by 1.5p in the last month according to the RAC, who reckon Brexit may result in around £2 being added to the average petrol fill-up. To summarise what’s happened in simple terms, Brexit made the pound’s value in relation to the dollar and euro slide as fast as a theme park ride, but the complicated way fuel prices are determined and the fact oil prices dropped at the same time means fuel prices haven’t increased as much as some feared. If they do rise in the future, it’s not likely to be by much and they will probably level out again quite quickly. Anyone interested in the subject can read this news article, focussing on the comments made by Simon Williams from the RAC. Our young driver customers can benefit by registering for free with fuelprices.com to find the cheapest garages in their area.

Brexit fuel prices


Car prices may be affected in the medium term but there is again no need to panic. Although new car prices may increase in a few years’ time once the UK has officially left the EU, because of factors such as import taxes on foreign cars and possible rises in the cost of importing European materials and parts, we need to remember that the UK is still a very important market for EU car makers like Citroen and Volkswagen. In fact, we’re the German car industry’s largest customer, so they wouldn’t want to ruin that. When it comes to used cars, which our young customers are more likely to be able to afford, Colin Tourick, a professor from the University of Buckingham, reckons prices may actually fall. Speaking to FleetNews, he said: “If people are concerned about their jobs, rising interest rates or the rising cost of replacing their car, this will drive down used car prices”. Check out our top tips for buying a used car and where to look for one.

Car insurance premiums shouldn’t be affected by the UK leaving the EU for at least a few years, either, although nobody’s sure whether the EU Gender Directive law that began in 2012 preventing insurers from using a person’s gender to determine their insurance price will still be followed in spirit.

The world’s first fatal self-driving car crash

As part of a technology company ourselves, we’ve always taken a keen interest in autonomous cars so it was sad to hear of the death of a Tesla Model S owner in the USA. His car drove under a lorry’s trailer, partly because the car’s various computers and sensors failed to detect the trailer against the brightly-lit sky. Despite Tesla’s amazingly clever electric cars having covered 130 million miles before this tragic accident occurred, compared to the 94 million miles on average between deaths in normal cars driven by humans, it’s got to be appreciated that self-driving cars still aren’t perfect – something their owners need to remain aware of.

Tesla Model S fatal crash July 2016


Some reports claim the driver was watching a Harry Potter film on a portable DVD player when his Tesla, running in Autopilot mode, drove into the trailer. Tesla has always advised drivers to keep their hands on the wheel or to at least remain alert – advice which doesn’t seem to have been taken on board in this case. Other reports say the car was travelling very fast indeed, once again showing that autonomous car owners still need to be responsible until we’re sure cars have become capable of fully looking after themselves in all situations.

Chris Evans on the dole again

Well, not quite, but the TV star has quit Top Gear after just one series after it proved a ratings flop compared to the Clarkson days and he kept being criticised by many over his shouty presenting style. Many viewers felt he tried too hard to imitate Jeremy and his enthusiasm came across as too overpowering for others. Still, at least Chris’ passion for cars was clear and some of the features we were treated to were fantastic, like the 4×4 group test, Matt driving the Aerial Nomad, and the race to Venice with Eddie on the Orient Express. Okay, some of the humour shared by Chris and Matt was very forced and awkward but the same could be said of Jeremy, James and Richard at times, who were also guilty of some pointless antics that became boring at times, mainly involving caravans.

Chris Evans quits Top Gear


Whether Matt LeBlanc will take the lead in series two of the new Top Gear format is anyone’s guess, but the media is currently in overdrive with speculation that a star like James Martin, Jenson Button or Steve Coogan might fill Chris’ boots. A lot of people feel that new presenters Rory Reid and Chris Harris did so well in their mainstream TV-presenting debuts that they should be promoted to the fore alongside Matt. Perhaps Chris should have stayed and just restrained his enthusiasm for series two, but the main concern amongst Top Gear fans now is that the show won’t become like the One Show or Have I Got News For You, with different presenters every week.

If you have any questions or comments on the news stories covered in our blog this week, we’d love to hear from you on Twitter or Facebook.

Oliver Hammond

Written by Oliver Hammond

Oliver is an established freelance motoring writer, published journalist and automotive copywriter based in Manchester. He regularly reviews cars and covers events and launches as editor of petroleumvitae.com and his articles appear in various magazines each month. No relation to Richard from Top Gear, he’s got a weakness for luxo-barges, proper 4x4s and oddball cars.