■ A third of UK drivers ignore ban on using mobile phones in cars
Many motorists are still using their phone behind the wheel illegally despite increased punishments and high-profile police campaigns.
Research suggests that 34% of drivers are using a mobile phone without a hands-free device. A similar study carried out by the RAC in September last year indicated that the figure was 31%, up from 8% in 2014.
The figures show that the increased penalties introduced four months ago, when the punishment doubled to a £200 fine and six points, aren’t discouraging drivers from using phones while driving.
The new survey of 2,043 motorists indicated that 26% use their smartphone as a sat nav, 19% read texts and 12% send them. Nineteen % said they took calls while driving, with 16% admitting to making calls without going hands-free.
Those aged between 18 and 24 years old are nearly three times as likely to use a phone behind the wheel.
Roger Griggs, communications director at Kwik Fit, said: ‘The findings of this study are very worrying indeed.
‘While car manufacturers have made great strides in improving safety, it is vital that drivers remember that they are the most important safety feature in the vehicle.’
■ The Bollinger B1 is a fully electric 4×4 with ‘exceptional’ off-road ability
A New York-based start-up has revealed what it claims is the ‘world’s first all-electric sport utility truck’ with ‘exceptional off-road capability’.
The Bollinger B1 is a clean-sheet design that uses an aluminium architecture to keep weight low – the perennial nemesis of electric vehicles. The company also says the truck’s weight is distributed 50/50.
The full-time all-wheel-drive system is powered by an electric motor on each axle, with a combined output of 362bhp and 640Nm of torque. This dual-motor set-up is a popular option in long-range electric cars such as the Tesla Model S and X, which feature two motors on the fastest, longest-range models.
The production variant of the Bollinger B1 will be offered with two battery options: the 60kWh model will have an estimated range of 120 miles, while the larger 100kWh option will go for 200 miles. This puts it on a par with most existing electric vehicles, though it might be lagging behind by the time it hits the market in a few years as battery technology continues to evolve.
Much like the simple, boxy exterior, the interior has a minimalist design. The use of aluminium continues through the cabin, with ‘only the necessary controls to operate the vehicle’ included. It’s a far cry from the move upmarket seen by many established SUVs such as the Land Rover Discovery and on some Jeep models.
The company is yet to announce pricing or manufacturing targets, but says that it will be equivalent to a ‘nicely equipped’ SUV sold in small numbers – not cheap, then.
Prospective owners can reserve a spot now through the company’s website, with $1,000 (£760) deposits being taken from January.
■ Tunnel vision could shield homes from harmful emissions
Motorways could be covered by tunnel-like structures with pollution-absorbing panels, the government revealed yesterday.
Highways England says it is investigating building canopies over motorways that run past homes in an attempt to protect residents from harmful emissions.
It is working with Dutch authorities on the feasibility and effectiveness of the structures, which have been tried out in the Netherlands.
In the organisation’s air quality plan, which was released yesterday, it says: ‘We are also investigating if we can reduce the costs to construct a canopy, which is a tunnel-like structure designed to prevent vehicle emissions reaching our neighbours, to make this a viable solution.’
However, the news has been met by scepticism by some. RAC roads policy spokesman Nick Lyes questioned whether this was the ‘right way to deal with the problem’.
He said: ‘All this will do is concentrate potentially toxic air over the road, which will have an impact on those inside their vehicles who breathe in the trapped pollution.
‘The solution should be about reducing levels of pollution by accelerating the transition to ultra-low and zero-emission vehicles and encouraging better traffic flow through variable speed limits – something Highways England has started doing on smart motorways.’
The move is an extension of Highways England’s ‘air quality barrier’ project, which is being tested on a 100-metre section of the M62. A six-metre-high roadside barrier has been fitted with ‘an innovative material with potential to clean the air’, and its effect on local pollution levels monitored.