e-newsletter October 2010
  Welcome to the October edition of Hotspots  

This month we've got news for motorists about car insurance premiums, convertible cars and motorway madness. Find out why drivers are in the dark over streetlamps and motorway lights, and what the AA thinks about cutting speed cameras.

There's a spooky extract from our new book 'Haunted Britain', ready for Halloween, as well as ideas for half term including interactive museums and autumn walks.

Find out which eaterie is Scotland's new Restaurant of the Year and why; and plan some fun with friends on four wheels for National Liftshare Week.

AA President Edmund King explains why now is a great time to buy a new car, we've got details of what's on this month, and a review of the new Nissan Juke.

I do hope you find Hotspots interesting and informative. Please get in touch if you have any feedback or suggestions.

[email protected]

Hotspots Editor

Share the stress

Share the stressLiftsharing is a great way to save money on motoring and it helps ease congestion.

Liftsharers each save £20 per week, on average. And travelling together reduces driving stress and effort, cuts congestion and emissions, and makes parking easier.

It's National Liftshare Week from 4 to 8 October, so why not give it a try.

Read the full story »

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Premium prices pushed up

A rise in car insurance fraud is contributing to the fastest-ever increase in car insurance premiums.

This follows a report suggesting that 1 out of every 20 motorists aged under 35 has 'staged' an accident to make a fraudulent car insurance claim.

As a result, young drivers are finding their premiums rising much faster than average.

Read the full story »

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Fun-loving females

Fun-loving femalesWhen it comes to driving with the roof down, it's fifty-something women who are firmly in the driving seat.

Research from the AA's one million car insurance customers reveals that while the number of convertible cars on Britain's roads appears to have fallen slightly, the proportion owned by women – and especially those aged over 50 – is going up.

In fact, women are a third more likely to drive 'topless' than men and it's those in their fifties who are most likely to choose a convertible.

Read the full story »

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Car review : Nissan Juke 1.5 dCi Tekna

Nissan Juke 1.5 dCi TeknaA recent change of heart has seen Nissan take many bold steps. The Micra is a perfect example from a design perspective, while the niche-busting Qashqai proved to its critics that the urban crossover could sell.

The Juke aims to repeat this success and it's something of a head-turner. This high-rise hatchback boasts a clever blend of supermini and SUV styling cues. The subsequent lofty driving position is a bonus, as is the easy cabin access. Thankfully the car is also good to drive. A polished ride compliments the willing petrol and diesel engines, although there are marginally better alternatives elsewhere if CO2 and fuel economy are a priority.

Sceptics will maintain that the Juke is a niche too far, but Nissan's quirky little crossover possesses enough substance to easily make the leap from fashion item to family helper. Modest running costs and a versatile cabin back up this assertion. In reality the Juke is treading the same path as its bigger brother the Qashqai, and the success of that model forced all rival car makers to sit up and take notice.

Our ratings

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

Read the full report »

Read more than 1,200 other car reviews online »

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Motoring tip of the month

Motoring tip of the monthTractors don't have to be fitted with brake or indicator lights unless used at night – in daylight be prepared for them to stop or turn without warning. Also, tractor drivers often have sound-proofed cabs or wear ear protectors, so they may not hear approaching cars. It's easy to get restless when slow-moving vehicles are holding you up, but impatience can lead to accidents.

For safe rural driving, follow our country road code:

  • Remember the two second rule – keep plenty of distance behind the tractor, in case it brakes suddenly
  • A tractor may be longer than it appears, particularly if it has a loader on the front. If you overtake it make sure you have plenty of room to get past it
  • Slow down if you come across a spillage – for example a bale of straw hit at speed can cause considerable damage to a car
  • Don't park in a gateway or passing place – they are farmers' field access points
  • Drive carefully after rain – dry mud can turn roads into a skidpan after a downpour

More seasonal motoring advice »

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Motorway madness

Motorway madnessJust how far will anxious drivers go to avoid joining the motorway? More than 600 million miles, if the past year is anything to go by.

During that time UK drivers used the AA's online Route Planner to devise more than 5 million routes specifically to steer clear of motorways. The routes, weaving under, over and alongside busy multi-lane roads, averaged more than 125 miles each. Stretched end-to-end they would extend around the world 24,000 times. Though motorways are statistically the UK's safest roads, they are a source of fear for millions of drivers including many who avoid them altogether.

An AA/Populus survey also reveals that nearly one in 10 AA members (9%) believe they would benefit from refresher or confidence training on motorway driving.

Read the full story »

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Police, camera, no action

Government road safety cuts that could result in the 'axing' of thousands of speed cameras have resulted in a public backlash rather than ending the 'war on the motorist', according to the AA.

The AA has raised concerns about this in a letter to the Transport Secretary and will raise the issue in a forthcoming meeting with transport ministers.

Many local residents in areas such as Oxfordshire have voiced their fears of the consequences of these moves.

The AA is concerned that the views of motorists are not being reflected accurately in this debate and that ultimately lives are at risk.

Read the full story »

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Drivers in the dark

Drivers in the darkAcross the country councils have started switching off lights, and the Highways Agency has switched off some motorway lights. There is a fear that in some areas this could lead to more crashes and crime.

Instead, AA president Edmund King believes that environmentally friendly lighting is the way forward.

An AA study shows that driving outside of daylight hours is more dangerous – only a quarter of all travel by car drivers is between the hours of 7pm and 8am, yet this period accounts for 40% of fatal and serious injuries.

Read the full story »

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Populus survey results

Last month, several thousand AA/Populus panel members were surveyed on the hot topics affecting motorists right now. The top level results are as follows:

Supervising learner drivers
50% of AA-Populus panel members had supervised a friend or family member who was learning to drive.

Almost a quarter (23%) of AA members were not aware that it was a crime to speak on a mobile phone when supervising a learner driver, rising to 29% among 18-24 year olds.

Private car parks
Almost 4 in 10 (38%) panellists preferred private car parks that were operated by a well-known brand to those that weren't, a proportion that increased among older participants (46% of panellists aged 65 and over say this).

MOT testing
19 out of 20 panellists (95%) regarded the MOT test as important or very important to road safety in the UK, including 71% who said it was very important.

And 41% would worry about there being more unsafe cars on the road if the first MOT was carried out at 4 years rather than 3 years.

Summer driving
Panellists were most irritated by congested holiday routes (54%), road signs covered by foliage (42%) and crowded tourist spots with inadequate parking facilities (42%) when driving in the summer.

Join the AA/Populus panel »

Have your say – join in the debate in the AA Zone »

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President's log

AA President Edmund King

Despite all the doom and gloom that the country seems to have faced during the past few years there are still some glimmers of hope for drivers.

Fuel prices have increased and vehicle excise duty has also increased for most cars. But there are deals to be done, particularly on new cars. Anyone in a position to purchase a new car should certainly do it before the January increase in VAT. In terms of value for money the new car of today is far better value that the new car of 10 or 20 years ago.

For a start today's cars are much cleaner, greener and safer than the cars of yesterday. I remember being horrified by the way the Rover 100 fell apart in the first Euro NCAP crash tests more than a decade ago. Today most small cars get 4 or 5-star NCAP ratings.

Fuel economy and safety features such as airbags, ABS brakes, and electronic stability control have also revolutionised even smaller cars. The average car today is more reliable, more comfortable and more fun to drive.

But perhaps one of the biggest changes is the brilliant warranty deals that you can now get on many new cars. You can buy a small car that depreciates by less than £1,000 per year, and some come with a full (and fully transferable) warranty covering the vehicle for five years or more. These cars represent unbeatable value.

Vauxhall now offers a "lifetime" warranty with a 100,000-mile restriction. So Vauxhall is taking on Hyundai, Kia and others with these longer term warranties. So get out there and start haggling for an even better deal before the VAT man takes his 20% cut in January.

Our online Car Buyer's Guide features countless car reviews, plus details of running costs, tax, crash tests, used car values, buying tips and lots more. The AA also offers loans to help you buy your chosen car.

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Museums are fun!

Museums are fun!Museums used to be daunting, dusty places where you had to whisper and you couldn't touch anything. But that's all changed.

Museums are now exciting – fun places where children can touch, take part, question, and, above all, enjoy themselves.

Why not explore some this half-term?

Read our roundup of the most exciting museums in Britain »

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Autumn walks

Autumn walksWhy choose between a day out walking in town, and a day in the country?

We've rounded up a selection of lovely autumn walks around attractive market towns, where you can stroll, browse and even shop, before walking straight into the countryside.

No need to move the car, but don't forget your boots.

Read the full story »

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Star of Scotland

Star of ScotlandThe AA Restaurant of the Year for Scotland has been named as The Peat Inn at Fife.

The Peat Inn is one of Scotland's top dining destinations. Cooking is classically French, with a focus on quality local and Scottish seasonal produce. Ingredients are imaginatively paired and balanced to bring out the maximum depth and flavour.

The food looks stunning, while the atmosphere is elegant and refined, with friendly and attentive service.

And you can even stay the night. Simply stumble upstairs fully satiated after your memorable meal and sleep at the Peat Inn itself – from £115 per night.

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Exclusive extract

Exclusive extractThis month's spooky extract – from AA Haunted Britain – explores two incredibly spooky places to visit.

Kilchurn Castle, in Argyll and Bute, is said to be home to a sobbing spectre, and an emaciated figure has been spotted at Guildford Castle, in Surrey. You'll find full details of both in the extract.

AA Haunted Britain contains details of almost 100 spooky places to visit and details their stories – from weeping ladies and phantom footsteps to disembodied voices, this has it all.

The ghostly ratings for each location, similar to the AA's hotel ratings, range from 2 to 5 ghost marks indicating the likelihood of experiencing spooky goings on.

AA Haunted Britain is written by Richard Jones, one of Britain's foremost ghost-hunters, and carries a foreword by former Dr Who Tom Baker, who himself is no stranger to ghostly goings on.

Download PDFClick here to open the extract
Adobe Acrobat is required to open this PDF file.

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What's on this month

8 Oct 2010 Book It! Children's Book Festival
12 Oct 2010 International Caravan & Motorhome Show
14 Oct 2010 Brighton Comedy Fringe
16 Oct 2010 Festival of Fantastic Films
18 Oct 2010 Manchester Comedy Festival
19 Oct 2010 Wildscreen: The International Festival of Moving Images from the Natural World
21 Oct 2010 CAMRA Beer Festival – Stoke
21 Oct 2010 Apple Day Celebrations
22 Oct 2010 Sci-Fi London Oktoberfest
23 Oct 2010 York Ghost Festival
23 Oct 2010 Newbury Races – Armed Forces Day
24 Oct 2010 Birmingham Half Marathon
24 Oct 2010 Robin Hood Pageant
24 Oct 2010 Poetry International
27 Oct 2010 Dylan Thomas Festival
28 Oct 2010 Global Weekend
28 Oct 2010 The Wine Show
29 Oct 2010 Bath Film Festival
29 Oct 2010 The Yoga Show
30 Oct 2010 World Travel Market
31 Oct 2010 Darlington Fireworks Spectacular
31 Oct 2010 Diwali in Trafalgar Square
5 Nov 2010 Bristol Charity Fireworks Fiesta
6 Nov 2010 Sparks in the Park
6 Nov 2010 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run
7 Nov 2010 Cake International – The Sugarcraft & Cake Decoration Show
Until 7 Nov 2010 Blackpool Illuminations
8 Nov 2010 Weston Park Bonfire & Firework Extravaganza

Search our online events and attractions database for many more things happening around the UK throughout the year.

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20 October 2010