Christmas travel, weird weather, mobile phones and plug-in cars all feature in our final news round-up of the year …
The unseasonably warm weather has trigged storms up and down the country, causing travel chaos for Christmas travellers. The poor weather has affected some of the 31 million journeys being made in the festive period. Those considering public transport may also have to rethink their plans, with the rail network almost completely closed down on Christmas Day and Boxing Day with only nine of the UK's 31 main rail providers scheduling train travel on 26th December. Forecasters from the Met Office are predicting a weather front of gales and rain will continue to batter the UK. The effects of Storm Frank have resulted hundreds of homes being evacuated and thousands left without power according to The Guardian.
Motorist caught using their mobile phone whilst driving may face tougher penalties if new government plans come into force next year. The reforms are part of the government's new Road Safety Plan and could see the fixed penalty rise from £100 to £150. The number of points a mobile user receives on their licence is also set to increase. In 2014, almost 500 accidents were caused by motorists who were using handheld devices. First-time offenders will still be offered an educational course but persistent offenders will be banned from the road altogether. Lorry drivers using phones illegally behind the wheel will see the number of points they receive double from three to six reflecting the potential severity of the accidents these larger vehicles could cause. "Using a mobile phone at the wheel is reckless and costs lives," said Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin. "I want to see it become a social taboo, like not wearing a seatbelt. The message is clear: Keep your hands on the wheel, not on your phone."
The Department of Transport is continuing its plug-in car grants until 2018, it has announced. An additional £400 million has been set aside to offer grants for new battery powered and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as a push to accelerate the market for ultra low emission cars. New banding levels are also expected in a bid to encourage drivers to buy the cleanest cars when looking to renew their vehicles. The extension of the incentive scheme is hoped to treble the number of ultra low emission cars on the roads. "We are determined to keep Britain at the forefront of the technology, increasing our support for plug-in vehicles to £600m over the next five years to cut emissions, create jobs and support our cutting-edge industries," said Transport Minister Andrew Jones.
Learner drivers need to be given motorway experience with an instructor before being allowed to pass their driving test — that's the message coming from the Department of Transport. New plans announced by the government could see an end to motorists passing their test in the morning and then driving on motorways — with no experience — in the afternoon. The move is aimed at improving road safety and would be backed by a £2 million research programme into driver education. "One in five young drivers has an accident within six months of passing their test, so putting the learning process under the spotlight has to be a good thing," said Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation. "Mile-for-mile, motorways are our safest roads but can be intimidating places for novice drivers. Exploring ways of letting learners have controlled access to them is welcome." The sentiment was echoed by AA president Edmund King. "The current situation whereby someone can pass their test in the morning, then drive alone on the motorway in the afternoon, without ever having driven on a motorway, is ridiculous. It makes sense that supervised learners should be allowed on motorways," he said.
And with that, we bid farewell to 2015 and wish all our readers a happy New Year. See you in 2016.
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