These Caribbean traffic islands see me motoring back and forth

A Caribbean holiday combines a trip down memory lane with a highway to the future for motoring editor Andy Russell.

Caribbean island streets are motoring past, present and future and my first sight of the forthcoming Ford Edge sport utility vehicle, above right, in the metal.

Even when I’m on holiday I never completely escape from the world of motoring but I do find checking out cars in foreign climes a real pleasure.

I’m just back from a Caribbean cruise which, while wandering round the various island ports, proved a cross between a blast from the past and the shape of things to come.

And it was rather timely – a bit like A Christmas Carol with the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future replaced by the cars of motoring past, present and future.

Turning the clock back there was a wealth of Japanese cars of various ages and conditions with almost forgotten names – such as the Nissan Sunny and Primera. And it seems the standard of driving takes more of a toll on the bodywork than any extremes of weather, especially given that there is no salt on the roads.

That said, while many of them are still being driven, I was amazed by how many homes have a dilapidated old car in the front yard in various states of disrepair, many being swallowed by the vegetation. In fact, I began to wonder if there might be more cars off-road than there are on the road. What most of them have in common is they are all on bricks – much like many of the wooden houses – without wheels.

The blossoming Korean car-makers are also playing a big part in the current crop of models and it seems the Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson – badged as the ix35 in theUK– are particularly popular. And around the harbour at Gustavia, the capital of St Barts, just about every other car seems to be a MINI Cooper Convertible.

And I was rather amused to see the smaller version of Nissan’s Murano sport utility vehicle is called the Rogue – not very enticing.

The highlight for me was seeing the Ford Edge which goes on sale in Europe for the first time next year.

The large SUV will become the third in the Ford fleet, joining the compact EcoSport and mid-size Kuga.

It’s a good-looking model which, combined with the Ford Blue Oval badge, should also make it attractive to potential buyers.

As for the drivers, I found them particularly courteous and well-mannered – just as well as I was on a cycle tour so that made life easier.

The most difficult thing of visiting a different island each day is working out which side of the road you should be on because, with British, French and Dutch influences going way back in history, some islands drive on the left and some on the right. Confused… I was!

Posted in General Motoring | Leave a comment

Removing disc from screen has become such taxing decision

It’s the end of an era and I can’t bring myself to tear up my final paper tax disc, says motoring editor Andy Russell.

Removing the now defunct paper tax disc from your car marks the end of an era.

While cleaning and polishing our car, ready for winter, I noticed the tax disc is still on the windscreen despite no longer being necessary since October 1, so ending a 93-year tradition.

Although it runs until the end of January, I could have taken it out but I don’t want to for two reasons:

1. After years of having to display a tax disc, and facing a fine for not doing so, I can’t get my head round not having one yet. Not seeing the disc on the screen might have me diving into the passenger footwell or scrabbling under the seat to find it.

Remember those tax disc-holders you rubbed on the seat cover or your clothing to create some sticky static and the self-adhesive ones which dried in the sun. The one thing they had in common was that, sooner or later, they fell off.

2. Quite simply, it marks the end of an era with ‘Big Brother’ cameras now able to process and cross-match millions of registration plates against computer records to make sure the vehicle is actually taxed.

And I am not alone. Just looking at passing traffic, it seems a good half of all vehicles still have the disc in place. One survey suggested 61% of drivers had not removed the disc – 34% couldn’t be bothered, 17% hadn’t got round to it and 10% weren’t aware they no longer needed to display it.

Women are more likely to have removed the disc, along with the younger generations.

So if not disposing of my tax disc just makes me sound like a grumpy old man, my wife won’t disagree!

I plan to dump the disc when it expires.

But there is one group of people who didn’t want to see the end of the tax disc – the velologists who are avid collectors of the old paper ones.

The demise of the paper disc is causing some velologists to despair and pushing up the prices of those being sold online.

On one site I saw lots of paper discs which either expired on 30.09.14 or during 2015 being offered for between £500 and £1,000. I doubt anyone would be silly enough to pay that kind of money for them but you can’t blame the would-be sellers for trying to cash in!

The real money is in seriously old ones – the record for most expensive tax disc was recently smashed by a quarterly issue released in September 1921 – the year a disc became a legal requirement. It started at £230 and finally sold for £1,087.80, beating the previous record of £810 which was also for a 1921 disc.

Perhaps I might keep my last tax disc after all. You never know, it might be worth something one day!

Posted in General Motoring | Leave a comment

Take care when horses meet horsepower

Horses are a common sight on our roads so it is vital drivers and riders know how to respect each other’s needs, says motoring editor Andy Russell.

If you live or drive in the countryside you have to expect to come across horses using the road.

The British Horse Society estimates there are 3.5 million regular riders and nearly a million horses in theUK.

It is important riders and drivers know how to behave what is expected to share the road safely.

Drivers also have to expect the unexpected – no matter how well a horse in kept under control, it is large and powerful and a ‘flight’ animal which makes them unpredictable and easily spooked.

A friend was riding her horse on the road when a barking dog came running across a field towards them. While she was aware of what was happening, an approaching car driver would not have been able to see or hear the potential hazard.

If a speeding car or barking dog scares a horse, its natural and sudden reaction will be to get away from it. That could take it straight into the road in front of a car for even an experienced rider could struggle to regain control of it.

Responsible riders try to avoid fast or busy roads and wear hi-vis clothing so they stand out. You are most likely to encounter horses on country roads so drive carefully, particularly round bends, to help you spot horses and riders in time and react safely.

The AA’s advice for drivers who meet a horse on the road is to:

  • Slow right down and be ready to stop.
  • Give them a wide berth – at least a car’s width – and pass slowly.
  • Avoid any actions likely to spook the horse – such as splashing them with puddles, sounding your horn or revving the engine.
  • Look out for signals from the rider to slow down or stop.
  • Don’t expect all riders to raise their hand in thanks when you drive considerately – if they are not able to take a hand off the reins and maintain control most will smile or nod their thanks instead.
  • Accelerate gently once you have passed the horse.

And drivers should be aware that:

  • The rider and horse may both be inexperienced and nervous in traffic.
  • A cyclist or motorcyclist will move to the centre of the road well before turning right but a horse and rider intending to turn right will stay on the left until they reach the turn.
  • Horse riders will generally try to avoid difficult junctions such as roundabouts. If they do use them expect riders to keep left and signal right across exits to show that they’re not leaving.  Slow down and allow them plenty of room.Rule 215 of the Highway Code says: “Be particularly careful of horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles, especially when overtaking. Always pass wide and slowly. Horse riders are often children, so take extra care and remember riders may ride in double file when escorting a young or inexperienced horse or rider. Look out for horse riders’ and horse drivers’ signals and heed a request to slow down or stop. Take great care and treat all horses as a potential hazard.”

    Rules 49 to 55 give detailed advice to riders including:

    • Riders should wear light-coloured or fluorescent clothing in daylight and reflective clothing if riding at night or in poor visibility.
    • It is safer not to ride on the road at night or in poor visibility.
    • Always ride with other, less nervous horses if you think that your horse will be nervous of traffic.
    • When riding on the road keep to the left.
    • Move in the direction of the traffic flow in a one-way street.
    • Never ride more than two abreast.
    • Ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends.
    • Avoid roundabouts wherever possible.

    So whether you are on four legs or four or two wheels, rein in the horsepower and be prepared for the unexpected to keep everyone safe.


Posted in General Motoring | Leave a comment

Seeing is believing with this potential life-saver

One cyclist will never know how grateful they should be to an innovative Volvo safety feature, says motoring editor Andy Russell.

Volvo’s blind spot information system proved a potential life-saver for an undertaking cyclist.

I nearly wiped out a cyclist last week and it was one of the most frightening driving experiences in nearly 40 years of motoring.

It would not have been my fault, but that would not have made me feel any better about it had the worst happened.

And I suspect that had I not been driving a Volvo it might not have had such a happy ending.

It was the morning rush hour and I was approaching a T-junction. There was a car waiting to turn right at the splayed junction but it was not a problem as I was indicating to turn left and there was room to go up the nearside of the other vehicle.

With nothing coming from my right I was just starting to pull out of the junction when a flashing orange light on the nearside front passenger door near the exterior mirror grabbed my attention.

Looking in the mirror I was astounded to see a cyclist, with no helmet or hi-vis clothing, coming up the inside to also turn left. Even though I had already started to move forward they continued to undertake me and then move into the middle of the lane in front of me having made the turn.

Fortunately for them, and me, this Volvo had the optional driver support pack which includes Volvo’s blind spot information system (BLIS) which uses cameras and radar to watch for vehicles, cycles or pedestrians to the rear of the Volvo who might be hidden from the driver. When something is detected, a warning lamp comes on close to the nearside or offside door mirror, giving the driver time to react.

It made me realise Volvo’s safety features are not just designed to save those inside the car but can be a life-saver for other road-users too.


Twitter @andyrussellauto

Posted in General Motoring | Leave a comment

How that puddle can land you in deep water

Carelessly splash another road-user and you could end up splashing the cash in the form of a fine, says motoring editor Andy Russell.

A work colleague was bemoaning being drenched when a passing car plunged through a deep puddle.

While it is most inconsiderate, and potentially dangerous as it could lead to the car aquaplaning at speed, it got me thinking about whether it is actually an offence.

Many motorists are not aware that splashing pedestrians is illegal. The Highway Code does not directly mention splashing but rule 227 – about driving in wet weather – says ‘take extra care around pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders’. As well as running the risk of soaking road-users and pedestrians, you could lose control or strike a hidden hazard, like a deep pothole, by driving through puddles.

If you drive too fast through low water and soak pedestrians and cyclists, the police could prosecute you if they see such an incident, especially if there has been no effort made to slow down or avoid the water if it is safe to do so.

Section 3 of the Road Traffic Act, which relates to careless and inconsiderate driving, makes it an offence that carries a maximum fine of £5,000 as well as between three and nine penalty points and possible disqualification.

The law states ‘If a person drives a mechanically-propelled vehicle on a road or other public place without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place, he is guilty of an offence’.

The Crown Prosecution Service specifically includes ‘driving through a puddle causing pedestrians to be splashed’ in its description of this act.

Police advise motorists to try to avoid driving through large puddles where possible but only if it is safe to do so. If they have to drive through a deep puddle, slow down and gently apply the brakes afterwards, when safe to do so, to dry them out.

So now you are aware of the law please also be aware of other road-users and pedestrians in wet weather to keep everyone safe and dry.


Posted in General Motoring | Leave a comment

Jaguar XJ220 had me purring with pleasure


Jaguar’s 213mph XJ220 was stunning supercar in its day – motoring editor Andy Russell just wishes he had the money to buy one coming up at auction!

When Jaguar launched its XJ220 supercar in 1992 it was one of the most stunning cars I had ever seen. With the £50,000 non-returnable deposit out of my reach, let alone the original £400,000 asking price I had to content myself with a model.

Only 281 were produced by JaguarSport, a joint venture between Jaguar and Tom Walkinshaw, between 1992 and 1994, so I was interested to learn a special 1994 XJ220 will be offered in Silverstone Auctions’ sale at the Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show on Saturday, at Birmingham NEC.

Chassis no 220693 was exported to Brunei by special order of the royal family. Part of its world-renowned car collection until 2002, it covered just 1,412 miles before returning to the UK and becoming the property of a flamboyant champagne dealer before moving on to the current owner. The car, JAZ 220, has still covered less than 6,000 miles.

With 0-60mph in 3.5 seconds and a top speed of 213mph the XJ220 was the world’s fastest road car, albeit for a short time.

Nick Whale, managing director of Silverstone Auctions, said: “Having been overlooked, these cars are beginning to catch the attention of collectors across the globe and we predict that values will continue to climb over the coming years.”

Just as well given that it is estimated to sell for £200,000 to £220,000 – a lot less than the new price.


Posted in General Motoring | Leave a comment

Pay attention or you’ll be bus-ted and paying a fine

It so easy to drive on auto pilot but it could prove costly as motoring editor Andy Russell explains.

This bus lane is in force between 7.30am and 9.30am Monday to Friday and hundreds of motorists have been caught through ignorance or taking a shortcut.


It’s strange how sometimes you can pass something day after day and never notice it.

For years I did a 25-mile round trip to work on a long, straight, boring road which had only a couple of junctions and, with little scope for overtaking, you often ended up following the same car mile after mile.

But, while you should do your utmost to stay alert at the wheel, it got to the stage where if, after arriving at work, someone asked me what car I had followed along that road I was lucky if I could remember anything more than the colour of it, let alone the make or model!

That was the point at which I started to seek alternative routes to work, even if they were further and took longer, just to add some variety. Hence the reason that so many people say that the chances are, if you have an accident, it will be on a road you know well because it is so easy to switch to auto pilot.

But it can also be costly.

A couple of friends of mine have been caught out in clampdowns at what has become something of a notorious morning rush-hour shortcut. I heard that 180 motorists were caught one morning alone.

Between 7.30am and 9.30am, Monday to Friday, a short section of the road becomes only a bus lane but hundreds of motorists have been caught flouting the law and, yes, many of them were fully aware what they were doing was wrong.

There’s no excuse for it, the no entry sign displayed between these hours is perfectly clear and there are other bus lane warning signs leading up to that short stretch of road but they don’t alway register.

One friend was caught having travelled that piece of road dozens of times – just never on a weekday between 7.30am and 9.30am while another usually walks to work so thought nothing about driving along it at the same time of the day.

Whether deliberate or accidental, the result is the same – a £100 fine and three penalty points on your licence.

You’ll certainly notice that.








































Posted in General Motoring | Leave a comment

Don’t panic – just keep calm in an emergency


Be alert to emergency vehicles but keep calm and make way safely, says motoring editor Andy Russell.

It can be daunting when an emergency vehicle – blue lights flashing and sirens blaring – comes into view even when, if it is a police car, you know you have done nothing wrong!

It’s more a case of doing the right things to let the emergency vehicle through safely.

The other day I saw a car indicate to pull to the left so an ambulance approaching from behind could get through only for a following car to pull out to pass, forcing the ambulance to slow unnecessarily. Rule 219 of the Highway Code states: ‘You should look and listen for ambulances, fire engines, police, doctors or other emergency vehicles using flashing blue, red or green lights and sirens or flashing headlights, or Highways Agency Traffic Officer and Incident Support vehicles using flashing amber lights. When one approaches do not panic. Consider the route of such a vehicle and take appropriate action to let it pass, while complying with all traffic signs.’

Here are some tips on how to stay safe and allow an emergency vehicle to pass with the least delay.

Be alert – you often hear them before seeing them. Check mirrors.

  • Try to locate the vehicle and consider the route it may take and take appropriate action to let it pass without breaking rules of the road.
  • Trained emergency vehicle drivers have exemptions to the law but you must not go through red lights or speed to allow them to pass.
  • Don’t panic or brake suddenly.
  • If possible, indicate and pull over to the side of the road, checking for pedestrians and cyclists. Don’t pull over on or near a hill, bend or narrow section of the road.
  • Don’t mount the kerb unless you absolutely have to and only if you won’t put pedestrians at risk.
  • If you are approaching a roundabout allow the emergency vehicle to leave it before you enter the roundabout yourself.
  • If about to come out from a side road, stay there until an emergency vehicle has passed, even if you can only hear it at this point.
  • On a dual-carriageway or motorway, signal to move to a nearside lane but don’t cut in front of other vehicles.
  •  If the road has a solid white line nearest you, keep a safe speed and do not exceed the limit. If you can safely pull off, signal and do so. If not, wait until the white lines end, then signal to stop, slow down or pull over.
  • After the emergency vehicle has passed, check there are no more coming before you continue.



Posted in General Motoring | Leave a comment