Women Talking About Cars

screenshot-14At last. A programme where women talk about their cars putting people and lifestyle first for a change.

If you haven’t caught this yet, please do. I’m talking about Victoria Coren Mitchell’s new Radio 4 series, Women Talking About Cars, where she chats to women with attitude about the cars they’ve owned, how they affected their lives and what they thought of them.

Deliciously un-PC about things like accidents, driving too fast, competitive male jibes and embarrassing moments this illustrates major gender differences when it comes to motoring. Women are simply more honest about our motoring failings. And this approach makes us laugh because we’ve all made mistakes too.

Anyone who thinks men and women are the same when it comes to cars needs to stop, listen and learn about a completely different motoring mindset.

Victoria’s first interview was with Dawn French who modestly claims to be ‘the most excellent driver you’ll ever meet’ – despite failing her first driving test through nerves or (much more likely) inappropriate humour.

Whereas Victoria’s driving test was the more memorable occasion when she crashed her car into roadworks…

The Women Talking About Cars Formula

Cleverly thought out, the Women Talking About Cars programme includes a live audience with females adding their car stories (mostly lifestyle driven or self critical) plus hilarious blokey-written new car sales blurb ie tech commentaries about cherished cars of yonder years,read by a female for a change. The show ends with the interviewee’s choice of music to drive by.

This formula is eminently capable of transferring to TV and Victoria Coren Mitchell is the no nonsense high brow female to do this, challenging all petrol heads who imagine we should be like them (but can’t explain why…).

Between Victoria and Dawn they unpeeled the motoring formula and why so many women love and rely on our cars. Cars for women are all about being safe, feeling independent, having adventures and having a virtual home on wheels (with blankets, sweets, drinks and a shovel, just in case).

And let’s be quite honest, we’re great drivers and better navigators apparently. For example, Dawn is a better driver than Lenny Henry (she then tries to soften this statement due to his lesser experience), Victoria’s husband David doesn’t drive at all (why would he with a chauffeur) and Dawn’s second husband gets them lost because he can’t find destinations on paper maps.

Totally credible observations I’d say.

Dawn French’s Motoring Career

Told in chronological car order these are the cars Dawn has owned.

A black Morris Minor – practicality over performance – top speed 74mph
Now new at the time, this was Dawn’s first car when she was 17 and at a posh boarding school. She painted The Bomb on its back to give it character compared to other pupils’ brand new cars.

A Rover 2000 (1963) – an ‘iconic sports saloon’… plus self cancelling indicators.
Her parents were allergic to fresh air and fogged up the inside of the car as chain smokers. Whilst she and her brother fought on the back seat.

A Ford Cortina – called after an Italian ski resort to give it an ‘air of European glamour’… plus cigarette lighter

A TVR Cerbera – a big league V8 performance car that’s dominant and curvacious with ‘hellish technical faults.’
Recommended to Dawn by Jeremy Clarkson when she wanted something ‘irresponsibly fast’ who’d have guessed that TVR stood for Trevor? Dawn had to have her bum measured for tailor-made driving seats at Trevor’s factory in Blackpool.

And we all sighed nostalgically at the vroom vroom sound the engine made…

A Jaguar XK8 – a sports car that’s ‘tight and taught’ – called The Cat.
Coincidentally her Comic Strip co-star Jennifer Saunders bought the same car/model over the same weekend.

A Range Rover Sport – a SUV with a swagger.

Best feature? A fridge full of Revells.

Best roads? The M4 and M5 until Dawn got fined by both Somerset AND Devon separately for the same incidence of exceeding the average speed in a 50mph limit by doing an average 55mph. Is this fair she asked?

And I felt the audience agreed with her.

But it was Polly in the audience that made us laugh in a shocked way – when she drive her Range Rover through a 5 bar gate, without opening it first.

How many men would own up to such driving ditz I wonder?

The programme ended with a rousing rendition of ‘I’m Outta Love’ by Anastasia – that’s the sort of music that encourages us to floor the accelerator pedal even though we know we shouldn’t. What fun.

That’s what I loved about Victoria’s new Radio programme. It reminded us that motoring can still be fun.

Yes, it was gloriously irreverent and fun in what felt like an all female room.

A case of Vive La Difference in an environment where there was absolutely no need to mention or think about equality.

Because we who know about these things know that men and women are very different when it comes to cars.

So let’s get over this, stop moaning Erin, move on and get back to enjoying motoring and being ourselves.

I look forward to further Episodes on Wednesdays at Radio 4 at 6.30pm. Before it transfers to TV. I hope.

FOXY Steph

A female friendly MOT centre with a difference

Granted The Test Centre in Deptford is a FOXY Lady Approved ie female friendly MOT centre and this may make me a tad biased but this review from Stacey is precisely why they are on our network.

Hot off the press today, this female feedback illustrates the need for a network of garages that over deliver in terms of customer service, as The Test Centre definitely does.

Here’s what Stacey has to say about Deptford’s Test Centre

testventre_drinksmachine400“This was the first time I’ve taken my car for an MOT so I was really nervous & didn’t know what to expect. I was shocked that I could get a booking for 6am – this was the first thing I thought was amazing about the garage.

“When I got there I was pleasantly surprised at how clean the work space looked as well as being brand new looking – this helped ease my nerves a little.

“I went into the reception which was really warm & cosy. The receptionist was a really lovely lady with a smile on her face so early in the morning – straight away she had someone take my keys. I explained my nervousness & she took the time to explain the process to me; my nerves disappeared straight away.

“I waited for my car in a warm office with a TV & a friendly receptionist to talk to. Once the MOT was completed the service did not stop there, the receptionist was very good & friendly in suggesting more places & female friendly garages I can use if I ever need work doing.

“I normally send my brother with my car as I am always worried garages with men treat women like they’re stupid.

“I am very happy with The Test Centre’s service. warmth & friendliness. So much so, I have already suggested them to so many friends & family.”

FOXY says – Stacey is now a member of FOXY Lady Drivers Club having been given a free subscription by The Test Centre. As such she will soon be sharing other great and female friendly services that we approve so she can trust. And we’ll be spreading the word that there is such a thing as a female choice of motoring services when you know what to look for, where to go and who to trust.

Check here for your choice of female friendly garages across the UK.

And if you’d like a hand with motoring arrangements and services in future, why not join FOXY Lady Drivers Club now?

How to make a safe car choice

stop-the-crashWe asked Thatcham Research, the UK’s only accredited crash testing centre, to tell us about their work because we wanted Club members to understand their safety-related choices when buying a new car. Which they kindly did for us, as follows.

We all know we’re driving around in more protective cars than we were 10 years ago but there is still room for improvement in this critical area.

With a better understanding of how new cars are tested and the best safety options to consider, this knowledge will undoubtedly help motorists make a safer new car choice in future.

How does the EU test car safety?

Across the EU, independent organisations subject modern cars to rigorous safety testing which results in the award of a safety rating by Euro NCAP (the European New Car Assessment Programme).

All cars have to be tested in impartial conditions and Thatcham in Berkshire is the UK’s only accredited crash testing centre to carry out this important work.

Euro NCAP testing doesn’t just provide new car buyers with an overview of safety standards; it also sets future safety targets for vehicle manufacturers to aim for, ensuring that vehicle safety standards are continually improving for all even if they are only led by a few to begin with.

How are Thatcham tests conducted?

An extensive range of crash tests are conducted in a controlled environment including a track. These tests include frontal and side impact plus whiplash scenarios. Adult drivers and passengers are not the only consideration during testing; the impact on child occupants and pedestrians is also measured and influences the complex Euro NCAP rating.

Physical testing changes rapidly as modern vehicles evolve. For example, one of Thatcham Research’s most crucial roles is testing the new leading-edge technology that is designed to reduce the chances of an accident in the first place.

A good example here is the technology called ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) which plays an increasingly crucial role in the overall vehicle assessment. As vehicle safety standards rise, all manufacturers strive to keep up with the safety leaders here and to maintain their much coveted 5 star Euro NCAP rating.

To give you an idea of today’s Euro NCAP 5 star stated rating requirements, vehicles are expected to offer “Overall good performance in crash protection AND be well equipped with robust crash avoidance technology.”

What is crash avoidance technology?

One of the most important safety features to consider when buying a new car is the fitting of Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) as an ADAS. In its most basic form, AEB monitors traffic ahead using sensors fitted to the vehicle and applies the brakes when the driver is distracted or unable to, reducing the chances of a front to rear accident by an impressive 38%.

With one in four accidents being a front to rear impact, the potential benefit of AEB is evident.

Despite the safety benefits and the relatively low cost to manufacturers of AEB, this Advanced Driver Assistance System is not as commonplace as you might expect. In fact, whilst 48% of new cars in the UK can be fitted with AEB, it is only included in 21% of them (2016 figures).

So, if you didn’t know about AEB or didn’t ask for this feature at the time of order, your new car will likely be delivered without the one safety feature most likely to keep you and your family accident free in this area.

Not only does AEB contribute towards a valuable 5 star safety rating today, it can also help reduce insurance costs. Choose a car with AEB fitted and you should expect a drop of around 3-5 insurance groups which is the equivalent to saving some 10% in motor premiums.

So it’s well worth choosing a car that either has AEB as standard or asking your dealership if this is an “option” you can have fitted pre-delivery.

Which cars have AEB options?

To find out if your current vehicle is AEB equipped, or to arm yourself with the information you need to ensure your next new car is as safe as it can be, you can check safety specifications, using Thatcham’s handy AEB checker.

You may also like to see how we conduct crash tests at Thatcham Research, where you can see exactly what a crash test dummy goes through.

FOXY says: The Volvo XC90 includes AEB and leads the market with an award winning package of active and passive safety measures. This makes the Volvo XC90 Euro NCAP’s highest scoring car ever. Of particular note, Volvo Cars and the XC90 are all available at affinity discounts to Club members in 2017. Terms apply and Club members must have joined the Club a minimum of three months before becoming eligible for this offer.

Are you a distracted driver?

girl-phone-car-damageA new survey conducted by Exchange and Mart reveals that nearly 1 in 4 motorists admit to driving when distracted which is a known factor in too many road accidents.

So, they’ve developed an excellent ‘Distracted Driving’ website, during Road Safety Week, to draw motorists’ attention to this.

And we’re adding some simple tips based on our experiences to help motorists who might be affected by these distractions.

Distracted Driving – the Facts

In Great Britain there were over 185,000 road traffic injuries and fatalities during the year ending June 2016) and an estimated 139,000 could have been prevented if motorists had been less distracted behind the wheel.

Loss of concentration through tiredness, affecting driving ability, is the greatest cause of road accidents (62%) and the Exchange and Mart research confirms that nearly 1 in 4 motorists readily admit to regularly driving in these circumstances.

Jim Murray Jones, General Manager for Exchange and Mart explained that their idea of a Distracted Driving website is to encourage more people to make the Brake Pledge.

A new cause for concern is the tendency of some motorists to use their mobile phone whilst driving despite knowing this is illegal and carries a fine of £100 plus 3 penalty points. In the Exchange and Mart survey 9% of motorists said they used their mobile phone when driving, rising to a worrying 33% in the 18-24 years age bracket.

Another cause of driving accidents is ‘distractions outside the vehicle’ including the likes of eye-catching bill-board advertising and being nosy about other vehicles involved in road traffic accidents.

Regular Driving Distractions

When asked ‘Which of the following distractions are regular happenings?’ the number of reported incidents rose as did the average number of motorists of all ages to admit this.

In order of significance
+ 63% admitted to fiddling with the car radio/in-car entertainment or heating/air con
+ 40% were distracted by passengers (Mums know this all too well)
+ 36% adjusted seat belts, seat positioning and mirrors whilst behind the steering wheel
+ 35% ate and drank whilst driving.

Driver Distractions by Age Group

The following activities distracted one age group more than others as illustrated below.

Altering the car radio/in-car entertainment/heating/air con
Distracted 74% of 55-65 year olds

Eating and Drinking
Distracted 56% of 18-24 year olds

Lighting, smoking and extinguishing a cigarette
Distracted 56% of 65+ motorists

Vehicle Passengers (including children)
Distracted 53% of motorists aged 35-44 years

Loss of concentration through tiredness
Distracted 44% of responders aged 65+

Adjusting seatbelts, seat positioning and mirrors
Distracted 44% of 18-24 year olds

Mobile phone usage
Distracted 33% of 18-24 year olds

Looking at something outside, like advertisements or a road accident
Distracted 33% of 65+ drivers

Using external devices, such as Sat Nav or hands free equipment
Distracted 29% of 25-34 year olds

Tips to Counter Driver Distractions

If you recognise any of these signs, you are at risk of being distracted at the wheel.

These tips will help you stay safer whilst hopefully improving your driving concentration.

1 Commit to staying safer on our roads in future by signing the Brake Pledge.

2 Plan ahead. Always make sure your driver seat and mirrors are correctly positioned for maximum visibility and that any SatNav or info-tainment systems are correctly programmed for your journey BEFORE you set out.

3 Don’t drive if you’re too tired (and don’t have to). If you absolutely have to drive yet know you didn’t get a good enough night’s sleep, resort to strong coffee at the outset and regular stops for some fresh air, food and drink.

4 If travelling alone and feeling the need to concentrate, consider talking out loud, describing your car journey in the greatest of detail. Sounds mad but it works because you have to concentrate to do this well so you can’t be thinking about other things at the same time.

5 Put your mobile phone in the boot so you aren’t distracted by it when driving.

6 Suggest that older children assume responsibility for looking after younger children so you can concentrate on driving.

7 Remember that accidents are caused when drivers are being nosy about other road accidents. This might be human nature but it’s too dangerous for you to indulge in yet you need to be ultra alert to less savvy others.

8 If travelling with children you might involve them to help you spot the speed limit signs. This helps them prepare for safer driving too.

9 When driving on A or B roads why not play a driving game? The winner is doing precisely the lower speed limit when she/he enters a lower speed zone (as in leaving a 60mph speed limit and entering a 30mph zone). Think of this as a curtain – when you drive through this curtain into the lower speed zone you should be doing the new speed precisely… And you shouldn’t speed up until you pass through that curtain again, into a faster speed zone!!

These are all things that hopefully will help you concentrate, stay alert and avoid the most common driving distractions.

FOXY Steph

PS: Thank you to Brake and Exchange & Mart for reminding us about our driving vulnerabilities here.

Needless to say, if you would appreciate this sort of advice and support in future (or know a female who would) – to help you or them reduce motoring stress, save money, enjoy better services and become a better driver, you’ll find yourself in good company by joining The Club HERE.

Do I need winter tyres

Steph testing new runflat tyres
Steph testing new runflat tyres

We are often asked to recommend types of tyres. That’s not always as easy as it might sound because there’s a massive choice out there, it’ll depend on the motorist’s usual mileage and, often, where they live. I’m not talking about brand names here – we don’t have any deals going on with tyre manufacturers so we can be truly independent.

We’re fussy about the garages we work with of course! Please note we run a new network of FOXY Lady Approved tyre centres where women (and men) can rely on not being overcharged or sold services they don’t need.

About Winter Tyres

Winter tyres are recommended in temperatures below 7°C or if you drive in Europe on the likes of a winter-sports holiday or in mountainous terrain. They will increase your safety and make driving less risky and scary in wet, icy and snowy conditions.

Winter tyres use a different rubber compound to summer tyres. As such they don’t harden in colder weather so you enjoy better grip, shorter stopping distances and, let’s face it, less chance of having an accident in the winter.

The downside is that you need two sets of tyres, which is likely to be too expensive if you don’t drive a lot and/or can cadge lifts and leave the car at home until temperatures rise.

Different tyre centres offer different customer services. Some operate trendy titled ‘Tyre Hotels’ where you get your winter tyres fitted in October and they store your summer tyres for you until you change them back in March. And so on.

But probably the better as well as cheaper model, space permitting at home or in a garage, is to take your summer tyres home with you in October and your winter ones in the summer.

For example Micheldever Tyres, who own the Protyre garage group, give you smart tyre carriers so they’re easy and clean to carry and store.

About All Season Tyres

As the name implies, all season tyres are a combination of summer and winter tyres. They are recommended for motorists who live in particularly wet and cold weather conditions, all year round.

So if you’re short of storage space and don’t fancy the hassle of changing tyres twice a year, all season tyres may appeal more than winter tyres.

The downside is, they don’t perform as well as winter tyres in harsh conditions when you need them most. But they do better than normal tyres in cases where you’d aquaplane otherwise.

“You pays your money…”

About Runflat Tyres

An added consideration is if your car has runflats or a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). In this instance a light on your dashboard tells you when a tyre pressure level is of concern and you might have a puncture.

At which stage you can either top up an offending tyre, there and then, or know you have a range of 50 miles (at a speed of no more than 50mph just in case) to get to a garage to verify or rectify matters.

This is very reassuring for me, on a motorway, for example. In my case I don’t have a choice because runflats are compulsory for BMWs and MINIs.

But the good news is that if you have a TPMS on a car that doesn’t specify runflats you can now buy Bridgestone DriveGuard tyres with the same properties and reassuring benefits as runflats.

NB: In this instance, I’m talking about a runflat as an ordinary tyre ie neither an all season nor a winter tyre. You can’t mix them with ordinary tyres, it’s to be all four or none, but you don’t need to carry a spare wheel or know how to use a puncture repair canister (see FOXY’s earlier blog about this).

The downside is that they can be quite a bit more expensive than ordinary tyres.


FOXY tells Club members to buy the best tyres they can afford. If you don’t do much mileage then budget tyres will likely do nicely. If you ply motorways as I do, then you want the best premium (well known names) brands as their tyres will last longer.

Remember that you get what you pay for re tyres. And NEVER EVER buy cheap part worn tyres when you don’t know where they’ve been.

Hopefully this blog will help you decide what’s best for you when considering having winter or all season tyres fitted. And if you’re a Club member you can always ask us for a second opinion.

By all means let us know what you decide and your tyre shopping experiences via Twitter and @FOXYSteph or @FOXYTweets.

FOXY Steph

Tyresafe Online and Social Media Award Winner 2016

A blog for women about motoring