e-newsletter May 2010
  Welcome to Hotspots


As the general election looms, we take a look at what each of the three main political parties is pledging for motorists. There's also news about road safety, ways to cut car theft, patrols with jetpacks, and how hayfever affects driving.

Read our review of the Hyundai ix35, and find out what our President, Edmund King, has to say about road closures.

We announce our Housekeeper of the Year, outline the hottest outdoor summer concerts, and bring you an exclusive extract on breakfast traditions.

The winner of last month's National Parks competition was Mr Sullivan from Hampshire, who receives a copy of AA National Parks of Britain and AA Big Road Atlas 2010.

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

[email protected]

Hotspots Editor

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Key to cutting car crime
car keys

Cars worth around £194m are stolen off driveways every year.

Overall, 18% of motorists have at least one conviction to their name while 4% have two or more. This compares with 14% in a similar AA survey carried out a decade ago.

Every day at least 53 householders in England and Wales discover that their car has disappeared following burglary of their home to obtain the keys, AA Insurance has discovered.

And there has been a 19% upsurge in vehicles stolen following domestic burglary – despite a 14% fall in car thefts overall.

Read the full story »

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Route to road safety

For the price of a pot of paint, lives could be saved on many of Britain's roads, according to the AA.

Annual research tracking safety standards on Britain's roads shows that, in seven out of 10 cases, simply improving road markings was all that was needed to make some of the country's most notoriously dangerous highways safer.

Improvements result in fatal and serious crashes being cut by more than a half.

Find out how »

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  wheel clamp

Halt the highwaymen

The 'stand and deliver' tactics of highwaymen clampers should be outlawed after the election, according to the AA.

New legislation was enacted just before Parliament was dissolved and is now on the statute book. And the AA says that wheel clamping firms should immediately start to clean up their act.

As soon as the next government is elected, the AA will be calling on the new Home Secretary to make regulations for the licensing of wheel clamping businesses.

Read the full story »

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Car review
Hyundai ix35

Hyundai ix35 With the industry focus shifting from SUVs to crossover models, Hyundai has replaced its outgoing Tucson with a different type of vehicle in the shape of the ix35. Combining SUV height and versatility with hatchback practicality and a compact footprint, it's also packed with equipment for value-conscious customers.

To bring something to the segment, Hyundai has gone all out with specification on the ix35 to offer even greater value for money. Heated front and rear seats, voice-activated Bluetooth and reversing sensors – with more toys present on the upper trim level – are combined with a five-year warranty to create an enticing package.

There's little to prevent the ix35 taking the increasingly popular crossover segment by storm, save for reservations about the badge. These should not hold buyers back – the model is every bit as well built as its competitors and offers genuine value for money. Practical and stylish, it's yet another model from the Korean manufacturer that's well worthy of recognition.

Our ratings

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

Read the full review »

Read more than 1,200 other car reviews online »

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Motoring tip of the month

hayfever seasonThe hayfever season is well underway and it pays motorists to be prepared. If you sneeze while driving at 70mph, you lose your vision for as much as 100 metres. Have a 'fit', of say eight sneezes in a row, and you've just travelled 'blind' for nearly half a mile. Hayfever is particularly bad in the spring and summer but accidents could be minimised if sufferers take action.

  • Only take medication that doesn't cause drowsiness
  • Get someone else to drive if you are having a particularly bad hayfever day
  • Enquire about pollen filters for your make of car
  • Keep a box of tissues on or near the dashboard for easy access
  • Slow down and drop back if you're about to sneeze
  • Wear sunglasses to block out bright sunlight and act as a barrier to pollen
  • Close windows and air vents to reduce pollen grains in the car
  • Vacuum car mats and carpets regularly during summer, to get rid of dust

More seasonal motoring advice »

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Rocket man

AA jetpack

A new AA initiative was unveiled in the Daily Mail and the Daily Express last month.

Project Apollo – which sees our patrols issued with jetpacks to beat traffic congestion and reach our members faster – was of course an April Fools' prank. The story went global with coverage being reported everywhere from the USA and Canada to Taiwan, China, Ghana and The Maldives. The video footage on our Youtube channel has been watched more than 21,000 times.

Check out the jetpack video footage »

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  coloured pumps

Party proposals

With a general election only days away we take a brief look at what the three main parties are saying about motoring issues, if elected.


  • Move away from static speed cameras, and introduce drug analysing devices
  • Make companies that dig up the roads accountable for the congestion they cause
  • Undertake a consultation on introducing a fuel price 'stabiliser' – to cut fuel duty when oil prices rise and vice versa.
  • Create a high speed rail link from London/Heathrow to the north
  • Introduce incentives to create a national electric car recharging network

Conservative party manifesto »


  • Develop high speed north/south rail link
  • Extend hard-shoulder running on motorways, alongside targeted widening
  • Increase penalties for over-running roadworks
  • No national road pricing in next Parliament
  • 100,000 electric vehicle charging points by the end of the next Parliament

Labour party manifesto »

Liberal Democrat

  • Prepare for the introduction of a revenue-neutral system of road pricing by second Parliament
  • Introduce a rural fuel discount scheme
  • Zero emissions target for all new cars by 2040
  • Switch traffic from road to rail by investing in local rail improvements, funded by cutting the major roads budget.

Lib Dem manifesto »

Read the AA's motoring manifesto here »

What do you think? Have your say in the Zone »


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'Focus Female' floating voter


Next month's election result could be swung by a new breed of floating voter – the AA 'Focus Female', according to research for the AA.

'Motorway Man' and 'Mondeo Man', motor voters – identified as key targets for political parties – may have to give way to the 61% of female AA members who have yet to decide which political party addresses their motoring concerns.

The AA's 'Focus Female', in her best-selling Ford Focus, has overtaken 'Worcester Woman' and 'Asda Mum' as the key female target in the election. There are now 20 million female drivers – just 7% fewer than males.

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:

Impact of current fuel prices
- Over a quarter of members (27%) have cut back on car use
- Two thirds of members have cut back on spending and car use

AA Road Atlas Election 2010
- Three quarters of members (76%) say driving issues like taxes and fuel price are quite or very important in deciding how they will vote
- 73% say none of the three main political parties are motorist friendly or that they don't know who they will vote for

Top three items carried in car

1. Atlas
2. Notepad and pen
3. Torch

When the car is in need of servicing or repair
- Over three quarters of members (76%) won't attempt the repair themselves
- 94% use a mechanic or garage they have used previously, or one which has been recommended by someone known to them

Join the AA/Populus panel »

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  We need your views on motoring, join the AA/Populus Panel  

President's log

AA President Edmund King Despite all the hassle on the roads, from potholes to congestion, 82% of us still actually enjoy driving. I know I do. I also enjoy the train (when it's not too over-crowded), cycling (when there are not too many potholes) and walking (when there not too many tourists slowing me down on Oxford Street).

But what I do hate is being stuck in gridlocked traffic for ages because the road ahead is closed. An ongoing AA study shows that motorways and main roads were closed due to accidents and incidents at least 1,700 times in the first eight months of last year. This equates to more than 5,000 hours or 208 days of closures.Top 10 Motorways closed 2009 (Jan-Aug)

Motorway Hours closed
M25 206
M1 189
M6 179
M5 153
M40 124
A1(M) 74
M4 73
M62 53
M2 48
M11 41

The AA is calling for measures to improve the situation:

  • A review of decision-making process to close motorways after accidents (traffic management should be a consideration)
  • Speeding up procedures to remove crashed vehicles
  • More technology to speed up forensic tests and accident investigation.
  • Variable Message Signs at junctions to warn of closure ahead (to avoid drivers joining a closed motorway)
  • Alternative routes signalled in advance
  • Traffic on closed motorways to be erted via the central reservation onto the other carriageway or turned around
  • Emergency provisions and more information for those stuck – water, and blankets to be provided
  • Highways Agency radio to be available on AM/FM and not just digital radio

Obviously we understand that if there has been a fatality on the roads then it needs to be closed as the police investigate a possible crime scene. However, we believe that in many cases the procedures could be sped up. We must be smarter and address the growing problem of motorway and main road closures.

We need to combat the chaos of congestion as it harms commerce, costs and climate change. This does not need to cost the earth. We must fight against delays caused by un-co-ordinated street works and road works. We must remove pinch points and redundant traffic lights.

While new high-speed rail links are seen as the panacea, they come at a high price and do little or nothing to combat traffic congestion. We need to remember that rail caters for only 6% or 7% of passenger journeys so we cannot overlook problems on the roads.

Other ways to reduce congestion and emissions:

  • reduce and speed up road works or streetworks
  • synchronise traffic lights
  • remove road pinch points
  • encourage cycling
  • park & ride
  • bus routes
  • parking policy, red routes

Despite problems on the roads, 79% could not imagine life without the car. Could you?

Have your say in the AA Zone »

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Sizzling summer nights

Henley FestivalWill Young From open-air theatre to seasonal celluloid, and classical concerts rounded off with fantastic fireworks, there are plenty of summer events to choose from this year. Buy a ticket, pack a picnic and pray for good weather.

Here's our pick of the best open-air concerts and outdoor events for 2010 – book your ticket now.

Summer events »

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Housekeeper of the year

Housekeeper of the yearThe AA has named Jovita Kit, Executive Housekeeper at the Egerton House Hotel in Knightsbridge, London, as the AA Housekeeper of the Year 2010.

The annual award recognises outstanding commitment and performance, identifying finalist housekeepers who continue to bring something extra to their role, and whose constant diligence merits recognition.

Read the full story »

Pictured, left to right, are Rudi Plaut Chairman of Northmace & Hendon, Jovita Kit, and Simon Numphud, AA Hotel Services manager

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Rate it or slate it

ploughmansYou don't have to be a petrol-head to be part of our forum. We want to know what you think about a wide range of issues, from potholes to clamping, and hotels to child seats.

Tell us about your favourite restaurants, recommend and rate events and attractions, and tell us about the best skiing spots, your favourite places to surf, and much more.

Have your say in the AA Zone »

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AA Zone - add your voice to ours

Exclusive extract

Bed & BreakfastThis four-page extract from AA Bed & Breakfast Guide 2010, exclusively for 'Hotspots' subscribers, is about breakfast customs.

Find out where people kick off their day with a goat omelette, and learn about the subtle differences between a 'full English' and a 'full Welsh'.

This comprehensive B&B guide has been fully updated for 2010, with an impressive new format and design to celebrate 40 years of AA B&B inspections.

More than 3,400 establishments have been inspected and rated for quality by the AA's professional team of inspectors. Useful symbols highlight the very best breakfasts and evening meals. Plus, there are up-to-date details of room prices, credit cards, family suitability, leisure facilities, websites, parking and directions throughout.

Download PDFClick here to open 'Full English'
Adobe Acrobat is required to open this PDF file.

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  What's on this month
16 Apr – 3 May Glasgow International Festival Of Visual Art
17 Apr – 3 May World Snooker Championships
19 Apr – 15 May International Dance Festival
19 – 30 May Perth Festival of the Arts
25 Apr – 3 May Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival
25 Apr – 3 May Stratford-upon-Avon Literary Festival
28 Apr – 2 May Manchester European Short Festival
28 Apr – 3 May Cheltenham Jazz Festival
28 Apr – 3 May Sci-Fi London Film Festival
28 Apr – 3 May Oxford May Music Festival
29 Apr – 2 May Highlands & Islands Music & Dance Festival
30 Apr – 3 May Badminton Horse Trials
1 May Spalding Flower Festival
1 – 3 May Bath International Dance Festival
1 – 3 May Bath Spring Flower Show
3 May North Somerset Show
5 – 16 May Cheltenham Festival of Performing Arts
6 – 9 May Malvern Spring Gardening Show
7 – 22 May Bristol Mayfest
8 – 9 May Ludlow Spring Event
12 – 16 May York Spring Festival
12 – 16 May Royal Windsor Horse Show
14 – 16 May International Guitar Festival
15 – 16 May International Horse Trials
15 – 16 May Winchester Mayfest
16 May Gloucester Dragon Boat Regatta
21 – 23 May The Baby Show
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