AA Logo - For the road ahead

  Welcome to the December edition of Hotspots


As we start to get excited about Christmas approaching, we've got plenty of ideas for festive days out and the lowdown on the best European Christmas markets.

There's also advice on motorcycling in winter, driving in fog, and our review of the new Porsche Panamera.

Download a free copy of our new AA book – The Money Saving Motorist – and find out about the AA's campaign on driving instructors.

Love Hotspots? You can now easily share it with your friends, via Facebook, Twitter, and other sites, using the button below. And finally, congratulations to Mrs E Bissett, from Fife, who won our AA Publishing competition last month.

I do hope you find 'Hotspots' interesting and informative. Please get in touch if you have any feedback or suggestions. Email me at [email protected]

Hotspots Editor

Social bookmarking - Facebook, Twitter, Delicious and moreYou can share this email with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, Delicious and many more sites.

Not currently subscribed? Visit theAA.com to subscribe to Hotspots.

  AA motorbike

Winter motorcycling

Stewart Topp - AA patrol of the year

The AA has patrols on motorbikes in six major cities who use their bikes in all but the most difficult conditions. Stewart Topp, AA patrol of the year and a motorbike patrol in London, is ideally placed to offer up some seasonal advice.

Have your bike serviced if you're in any doubt whether it's in a condition to cope with the extra demand of the winter season.

Your bike and bike clothing need an annual health check – the clothing is almost as important as the bike so spend as much as you can afford.

  • Layer clothing and consider investing in good thermal underwear.
  • Consider wearing sunglasses year-round, and
  • wear a high-visibility jacket as this could save your life.

Most critical are the bike's tyres. The law requires at least 1mm depth throughout a continuous band measuring at least three quarters of the breadth of the tyre. However, for the winter months Stewart recommends having no less than 2mm – to cope with standing water, wet roads, and leaves, which can be a disastrous combination for bikers.

Most bikes now have an electric starter motor and no kick start so a good battery is vital for reliability. Most motorbikes automatically run with headlights on all year round and, along with items such as heated handlebar grips, this puts quite a demand on the battery and charging system.

Another important item is the chain. Ideally you should lubricate the chain and check its tension weekly in winter. This will avoid corrosion and prolong the life of the chain and sprockets. Also consider changing the foot rest rubbers, and make sure you clean and check lights regularly.

Follow these basic steps each year, and always ride to the weather conditions, for trouble-free, comfortable and safe riding.

Advice on winter motoring »

  [ Go to top ]

Driving in fog

Fog becomes an even greater hazard during the winter months and it pays to be prepared for reduced visibility. According to the Highway Code, you must use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced – generally when you cannot see for more than 100 metres (328 feet) or the length of a football pitch.

There's no obligation to use fog lights, but they must be switched off when visibility improves. However, if your car is involved in an accident in reduced visibility and its fog lights weren't on, then it may be queried by an insurer.

Heavy traffic is challenging enough, but you should be extra vigilant when driving in fog, as visibility can seriously deteriorate in a matter of seconds.

Use common sense when it comes to fog lights. Some drivers are worried about dazzling other motorists, and some simply don't know how to turn them on.

Generally speaking, it's better to be safe than sorry, so use them when appropriate. Don't keep switching them on and off, though – this can be a distraction, so wait for a consistent improvement in visibility before switching them off.

More advice on driving in fog »

  [ Go to top ]

Car review
Porsche Panamera 4S

Porsche Panamera The Panamera is intended to be a more conventional four-door offering than the Cayenne, and one that will satisfy fans of Porsche's benchmark supercar, the 911.

The Panamera is not a small car – it's nearly 5m long – and it doesn't do the supercar 'thing' by half measures. At launch, power comes from a regular and turbocharged 4.8-litre petrol V8 engine with 400 and 500 horsepower respectively. And, save for the base 'S' model, the two other variants boast all-wheel drive and Porsche's acclaimed seven-speed PDK double clutch gearbox.

Maserati and Mercedes, in particular, are masters of the high performance sporting saloon. With Aston Martin joining the club, Porsche and its Panamera has some serious competition. In practice the concept works well; it's rapid, comfortable, versatile and enjoyable to drive. Build quality is exceptional and it's a genuine four-seater for adults and a reasonable amount of luggage. For some it's easier on the eye than Porsche's other four-seater (the Cayenne), and it delivers an engaging mix of performance and practicality.

Our ratings

Overall rating 8
Value for money 7
Costs 6
Space and practicality 8
Controls and display 9
Comfort 8
Car security 8
Car safety 9

Read the full review »

  [ Go to top ]

Free moneysaving book

Download a free copy of the AA book 'The Moneysaving Motorist', and start spending less now.

This compact guide contains everything the cash-conscious driver needs to know about saving money while on the road. It features clear, practical advice from AA experts about maintaining your vehicle, preventing breakdowns, improving fuel economy and more.

Download 'The Moneysaving Motorist' for free »

  [ Go to top ]

Eco driving tip of the month

Don't be idle – If you do get caught in a queue avoid wasting fuel by turning the engine off if it looks like you could be waiting for more than three minutes.

More eco-driving advice »

  [ Go to top ]

Is your driving instructor a learner?

Qualified instructors

Ninety-seven per cent of AA members say that learner drivers should have the right to be told if their driving instructor is learning on the job, according to a new survey.

The AA is demanding government action to force driving schools to come clean when they use trainee instructors to teach young people to drive.

The call comes as an AA/Populus survey reveals serious concerns among motorists over the safety of drivers taught by trainee instructors and overwhelming rejection of the practice of driving schools charging full price for lessons with a trainee.

Up to 7,000 trainees – one in eight of all driving instructors – are believed to be working for driving schools across the UK. Driving schools can place a learner with a trainee instructor and charge full lesson rates, without telling the pupil or their parents that the instructor is not fully qualified.

The only legal requirement to disclose that an instructor is learning on the job is for the trainee to display an official pink badge in the windscreen.

Read the full story »

  [ Go to top ]

Have your say

Skiing in snow capped mountains

The AA Zone is a hotbed of outspoken opinions on all things motoring and travel related.

Hot topics right now include toll roads, speed limits and cameras, left-handed drivers, and pet hates on the road.

We've also launched a travel forum where you can tell us about anything from your favourite restaurant to the hottest ski resorts and the best beaches for surfing.

  [ Go to top ]

President's log
AA calls for a decade of action on road safety

AA President Edmund King

I recently visited the Russian Embassy because later this month I'll be going to Moscow to campaign to combat the world's fastest growing public health emergency – not malaria or HIV, but road deaths. We'll be calling on the UN for a 'Decade of Action' on road safety. This would save 5 million lives and prevent 50 million serious injuries according to a report by the Commission for Global Road Safety.

We all remember the moving pictures that stimulated Live Aid but few people think about the global consequences of road deaths. A coordinated UN action plan for road safety is urgently needed with road crashes set to become the leading cause of disability and premature death for children aged 5-14 across developing countries by 2015.

Earlier this year I met the Make Roads Safe campaign ambassador, actress Michelle Yeoh, and F1 driver Felipe Massa, in Rome, to highlight the hidden epidemic of road traffic injuries and to urge UN action on road safety.

The 'Make Roads Safe' report, endorsed by the world's leading road safety experts, urges UN governments attending the first ever global governmental conference on road safety in Moscow, to support a 'Decade of Action for Road Safety' between 2010 and 2020. During the decade the international community should invest in a £300 million action plan to help traffic injury prevention and re-focus national road safety policies and budgets.

Road crashes already kill more people each year in the developing world than malaria, at an economic cost of up to £100 billion a year, equivalent to all overseas aid from the Organisation for Economic Co-operative and Development countries. More than a million people are killed on the roads of developing countries every year, and tens of millions are injured – a toll set to double by 2030. Road crashes are already the leading global cause of death for young people aged 10 to 24.

We'll be calling on donors to dedicate at least 10% of their road investment budgets to road safety and for the UN Secretary General to appoint a UN Special Envoy for Road Safety to raise the profile of the issue. I will report back on progress. Drive safely.

Edmund King
AA President

  [ Go to top ]

Friday most dangerous day on the road

Friday is the worst day for road accidents, according to new accident analysis from the AA and Work Wise UK.

And 'fatal Friday' could also be developing a new twist, courtesy of changing working practices. Drivers are most at risk on Friday afternoons and evenings according to casualty figures.

Interestingly, the peak morning rush hours and the period from 5pm to 6pm are becoming safer, but the afternoons and evenings are more dangerous. The late evening is particularly bad, which may reflect tired drivers, longer journeys and an increase in drink and drug driving.

Overall, 10 per cent or 3,426 more road casualties happen on Fridays than on other days of the week, although the morning rush-hour and the 5-6pm slot are safer than for the average weekday.

From 2pm to 5pm and the early evening, road casualties on a Friday are up to 20 per cent higher than the average for the other weekdays.

But, by late evening, the casualty rate has risen to twice that of other weekdays.

  [ Go to top ]

AA/Populus poll results

Last month's AA/Populus panel survey was completed by more than 13,000 AA members and focused on car buying intentions and driving instructors. Detailed results will be used to support our campaigning over the coming weeks but here's a high-level summary of what the panel told us.

Headline results from the October survey:

Car buying intentions

  • 20% of panellists said they were planning to replace their current car within 12 months
  • 34% of those planning to buy would be looking at late a second hand vehicle
  • 21% of those planning to buy would be looking at a new vehicle
  • 58% would spend below £10,000 on their next car

Driving instructors

  • 16% believed that a pink badge displayed in a driving instructor's car indicated that the instructor was fully qualified and trained
  • 7% believed that a pink badge displayed in a driving instructor's car indicated that the car was approved for use in driving lessons
  • 91% would prefer a fully qualified driving instructor to a trainee
  • 97% believed that a driving school should be required to inform a customer when a trainee is used to conduct the lesson

Disagree, or want to share your own views? Have your say in the AA Zone.

Join the AA/Populus panel to make your voice heard in future surveys.

Join the AA/Populus Panel
  [ Go to top ]   
  Santa with reindeer

Festive fun for everyone
Days out filled with Christmas cheer

Get into the Christmas spirit with our illuminating ideas for days out and evening endeavours to enjoy between now and the big day.

See Christmas lights with a bit more sparkle, meet real reindeer, go ice-skating in exciting places, try cross-country skiing or brave a ghost tour. We have lots of ideas to choose from.

Read more »

  [ Go to top ]

1001 great family walksWalk off the Christmas excesses

This exclusive extract from '1001 Family Walks' outlines a walk through Camelford, Cornwall, which takes in riverside and woodland terrain, and quiet fields.

'1001 Family Walks' features a comprehensive range of walks across the best loved areas of the country.

Walks are designed for the whole family, ranging from gentle strolls to more challenging walks and enable readers to take in the very best of Britain's varied and spectacular landscapes.

The book is divided geographically into eight regions, each with between 78 and 180 walks, and all walks are graded for their relative steepness.

Safety tips plus information on footpath signing and countryside access are included to ensure readers can walk safely in Britain. There are colour maps and photos throughout.

Download PDFClick here to open the extract from '1001 Family Walks'.
Adobe Acrobat is required to open this PDF file.

  [ Go to top ]
  European Christmas Markets

Cracking Christmas markets

If you're desperate to spice up your winter and can't wait for the festive season, book a short break abroad and experience one of Europe's vibrant cities and their legendary Christmas markets.

Why not try a self-drive holiday? The Continent is a mere ferry-ride or Eurotunnel trip away and we've got everything you need to know about driving abroad. What's more, AA Members enjoy discounted travel.

We've got the lowdown on the hottest European Christmas market destinations, including top cities in Germany, Belgium and France.

Read more »

  [ Go to top ]

Award-winning hotel

Gleneagles award ceremony A representative from The Gleneagles collects his award from newsreader Natasha Kaplinsky

The AA Hotel of the Year for Scotland has been named as The Gleneagles, at Auchterarder.

Since opening in 1924, The Gleneagles Hotel has been dedicated to elegance. Set in an 850 acre estate, it's one of Scotland's most luxurious 5-star hotels and home to three of the top Scottish Championship Golf Courses.

Its elegant eateries include Andrew Fairlie @ Gleneagles, which boasts four AA Rosettes, The Strathearn Restaurant and the new Deseo. The hotel actively promotes green tourism.

There are a wide range of indoor and outdoor leisure facilities, including swimming pools, a sauna, a steam room, a Jacuzzi, a gymnasium, croquet, putting, fishing, shooting, snooker and tennis. You can even enjoy a lesson from the British School of Falconry.

  [ Go to top ]

What's on this month

25-29 November The BBC Good Food Show »
27-29 November The Golf Show »
28-29 November Birmingham International Tattoo »
30 Nov – 1 Dec Royal Welsh Agricultural Winter Show »
1-5 December Pig's Ear Beer Festival »
1-6 December The Masters Tennis »
4-9 December Clothes Show Live »
9-12 December Spitalfields Winter Festival »
10-13 December Midwinter Beer Festival »
11 December Christmas Through The Ages »
17 December River of Light Lantern Parade »
18 Dec – 3 Jan World Darts Championship »
24 December Tolling the Devil's Knell »
26 December Tenby Boxing Day Swim »
27 December Maldon Mud Race »
28 December Welsh National »
31 December Hogmanay Gala »

Maldon Mud Race Masters Tennis Tenby Boxing Day swim

  [ Go to top ]