Hastings Direct news: the significance of 1st October

Last week was fairly significant, as far as UK motorists were concerned. While 1st October saw drivers presented with a 30-day return promise when buying a new car — as detailed in last week's round-up — their right to smoke in cars with passengers aged under 18 was taken away from them on the same day. Many feel the latter legislation is long overdue, but not everyone is convinced the new law will have quite the effect the government hopes it will.

Drivers fear car smoking ban will go unenforced

Smoking driver

Few would argue that the car smoking ban, which came into force last week to protect young people under the age of 18 from the effects of second hand smoke, is anything but a good thing. However, motorists are concerned the new law will prove hard to enforce.

Drivers who continue to light-up with a young person present in the car face a £50 fine, yet much like the law introduced in 2013 to prevent drivers from hogging the middle lane, conviction numbers will be low, say the respondents of a new survey from the RAC.

RAC spokesman Simon Williams gave some explanation as to why drivers are sceptical about the new ban: "This is perhaps well-founded as traffic police officer numbers have fallen by nearly a quarter (23%) between 2010 and 2014 across forces in England and Wales, so it is hard to see how people flouting the law are going to be caught."

However, the good news is that 90% of the drivers questioned were aware of the new law.

Technology designed to spot mobile-using drivers

using phone when driving

Smoking drivers are not the government's only concern — those who persist on using their mobile phones at the wheel are equally bothersome.

Official figures suggest that some 400,000 drivers across Scotland and England are still using hand-held mobiles when driving, but experts believe the real number is much higher.

It comes as little surprise, then, that one county has turned to technology in an attempt to drive that figure down.

Funded by the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership, the pioneering new equipment can detect if a mobile phone is in use as a vehicle approaches it.

The only drawback of the technology is that it cannot currently distinguish between a driver and a passenger, but its developer, Thermotor, is confident that this hurdle will be overcome in time.

Given that it can already filter out pedestrians, and also be wired up to a Vehicle Activated Sign meaning a warning can be sent out to cars potentially breaking the law, refining the technology sounds fairly feasible.

New scam preys on motorists' good nature

engine trouble

When you pass a motorist who has broken down, do you ever think to stop to help? If you do, be sure to have your wits about you, as police have been alerted to a new scam that preys on motorists' good nature.

John Doyle from Cheshire found himself in an awkward situation when, having offered to help a 'stranded' driver to the nearest petrol station, the man asked for money instead.

Doyle told BBC Radio Five Live last week that the stranger, whom he believed to be "completely genuine" at first, had wanted £120 — saying that he would pay back double the next day.

Doyle reported the incident to Cheshire police, who told him it's not the first they've heard of such tricks.

"We are currently aware of two incidents of roadside scammers operating in Cheshire and five others across the North West," said a spokesperson for the force.

Cheshire police's advice for drivers is to note the make, model and colour of any vehicles and the number of people involved and pass this on to the police.

Less than half of drivers can change a tyre

car boot

Whilst we're talking breakdowns, is there an argument that we could reduce the risk of breaking down if we took car maintenance a bit more seriously?

A new survey by insurance comparison website Gocompare reveals that one in ten motorists cannot carry out any basic maintenance on their cars — not even topping up the oil.

Meanwhile, only 49% of the 1,570 respondents said they could change a tyre if they needed to, while exactly half said they could jump-start their car battery.

Matt Oliver, of Gocompare.com, said it's well within drivers' interests to get clued-up on how to do the basics, which would also bring some priceless peace of mind.

"Regularly checking for and repairing faults can also help you save money in the long-run," he said. "A well maintained car is less likely to break down, will run better and last longer."

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