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Spencers Solicitors shortlisted for Law Society Excellence Award

August 28, 2014 at 9:57 AM

Law firm Spencers Solicitors has been shortlisted as a finalist in the prestigious Law Society Excellence Awards, beating competition from across the UK. Spencers, whose offices are located in Chesterfield, Derbyshire were nominated in the category for 'Excellence in Practice Management', and officially confirmed as finalists on 6th August 2014.

The category was open to law firms who have achieved the Law Society's Lexcel Accredited status, their practice management standard only awarded to those firms meeting the highest standard of client care, legal case handling and risk management.

Out of over 10,500 law firms in England and Wales, only 15% have been awarded Lexcel accreditation, and of these only eight have been selected as finalists for the 2014 excellence award.

Spencers Solicitors Chief Information Officer Martyn Gilbert commented:

"Being shortlisted for this prestigious national award is real honour for us, as we pride ourselves on the ability to provide an efficient and quality legal service of the highest standard. Our clients are at the centre of all we do, and we see it as a priority to make sure the compensation process is made as straightforward as possible, and they receive the justice and support deserved in the aftermath of injury."

 

The finalists will be judged by a specialist panel of industry experts alongside the Law Society president, vice president and deputy vice president, with the winners being announced at a ceremony in London in October.


Law Society Excellence Awards logo - focussed on sucess

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Which of these common driving habits is illegal?

August 20, 2014 at 2:40 PM

Most of us are aware of the need to avoid distractions when driving, but many people still find it tempting to use their car journey as a time to grab something to eat or catch up on phone calls.

You may be surprised by one survey from 2013 that found nearly 50% of women apply cosmetics when driving, which insurers estimate leads to 450,000 car crashes annually.

Police have begun using more covert methods to catch increasingly bizarre acts from those behind the wheel. Through this, one police authority in Hampshire released a video of a lorry driver actually brushing his teeth behind the wheel!

But which common distractions, while not actually illegal, are still pretty dangerous, and could result in a driving without due care and attention charge?

Illegal Driving Habits

Over the last year the law has changed, with police now holding the power to hand out fixed penalty notices for careless driving, and the level of penalty for most motoring offences now being set at £100.

One of the key issues is that although most people are aware of the law against driving and mobile phone use, many drivers still find it impossible to avoid this distraction.

Using your phone is only legal if you are safely parked or calling 999 in an emergency and unable to stop. In most cases, punishment is at least three penalty points and a £100 fine, but in serious cases it could mean a driving ban. Even if you were using hands-free, if police believe you were distracted while driving then you could still be penalised.

It is now common knowledge that seat belts are a legal requirement, and most drivers are quite happy to conform to the seat belt rule. However, it may be surprising to some that failing to wear a seat belt is enforced by a fine of up to £500.

woman with hand out of the car smoking

Careless Driving Offences

What many road users find confusing is that there are things that may be technically legal but that could very well lead to a 'driving without due care and attention' offence, including:

Smoking

Trying to read printed maps or directions 

Eating behind the wheel
Road safety charity Brake found that nearly a third (29%) of motorists have opened and consumed something behind the wheel. A similar number had something that was passed to them and opened by a passenger, while the majority (62%) had eaten while driving in the previous 12 months.

Driving in flip-flops
And while footwear may seem irrelevant to some, last summer a survey by a major insurance company found that flip-flops are more hazardous to drive in than high heels. Yet a third of drivers admit wearing them, even though a tenth also admitted they'd had a near-miss while doing so. Most worryingly, the fact that they can slow braking times by 0.13 seconds means that at 60mph you'll travel more than three metres further.

Careless Driving Consequences

Even though many of these activities aren't actually illegal, the consequences can still be severe - both in terms of financial loss and the risk of serious injury on the road.

To some people the thought of having penalty points slapped on their licence along with paying out a fine and increased insurance premium, is a sufficient deterrent. Sadly for others this is not, and so it is important they take time to consider the potential consequences and keep these habits out of the car - not only for their own safety, but for that of their passengers and other roads users.

I feel the message is clear. If you're driving, don't use the time to do your make-up, have lunch or chat on the phone, and please wear a proper pair of shoes!

 

What driving habits do you think are the most dangerous and should be made illegal? Let me know in the comments.

 

About the author

Janet Guerriero photoJanet Guerriero is a team manager at Spencers Solicitors and has more than 30 years experience in handling injury compensation claims, specialising in those caused in road accidents.

Janet's last blog was what's being done to deal with uninsured drivers?

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London's Cycle Hire scheme: Four years on, what's the verdict?

August 15, 2014 at 8:35 AM

The Barclays public bike-hire scheme in London, popularly called 'Boris Bikes' after Mayor Boris Johnson and based on a similar Paris model, marks its fourth anniversary this month. As part of the fourth birthday celebrations, on the weekend of August 16-17 there was free cycle hire for 24 hours.

Yet has it been an unqualified success?

With the sponsorship of Barclays Bank ending next year, and Transport for London currently looking for a new partner, what does the future hold for the scheme?

Row of Bicycles in London

Cycling in London - Statistics

Over the last four years membership of the scheme has grown to 196,000, with 11,200 bikes and 18,500 docking points across London. Since the launch there have been 30 million cycle hires, or well over 578,380,000 minutes of cycle rides, and these have mainly been for leisure use.

In the last decade cycling in London has almost trebled, and cyclists now account for almost a fifth of all road-based traffic within the capitals centre. Against this wider backdrop many users of the Boris Bike scheme are also full of praise and enthusiasm for it.

In a recent poll, more than three quarters of Londoners were found to be aware of the cycle hire programme, and almost a fifth said they'd used it in the last month, so it has undoubtedly achieved a very high profile.

Boris Bikes Criticism

Yet the scheme is not without its detractors, with critics citing that taxpayers contribute anything from £1,400 to £4,000 per bike per year towards the cost of running the scheme. This is in stark comparison to New York and Montreal, which are fully funded by their sponsorship, or the Paris scheme that actually makes nearly £13 million per year for the city council.

Cycle hire in Paris

It has even been pointed out that the yearly taxpayer subsidy would actually buy every annual member of the programme their very own bike.

There are also the safety worries surrounding thousands of unfamiliar cyclists taking to the roads and getting themselves injured. However research published earlier this year in the British Medical Journal found that the medical benefits for those using scheme do outweigh any risks, and that cyclists riding with the scheme were at no greater risk from injury than cyclists not using it.

Dr Goodman from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine commented:

"When the cycle hire scheme was introduced, there were widespread concerns that increasing the number of inexperienced cyclists in central London would lead to higher injury rates. On the contrary, our findings suggest that the scheme has benefited the health of Londoners and that cycle hire users are certainly not at higher risk than other cyclists."

 

Wider Benefits of Cycling

The health benefits of biking are well-known, with regular cyclists on average having the fitness of someone 10 years younger. Cycling is therefore also worth some £128m to the economy annually, when calculated in terms of prevented absenteeism.

And despite the cycle schemes need for taxpayer support, there are still very real economic benefits. The Transport for London sponsorship proposal is targeting a 20% increase in current cycling levels by 2015, which could save the economy £207 million in terms of reduced traffic congestion and £71 million in terms of lower pollution levels.

London Cycle Hire Review

In my opinion the London cycle hire scheme has been an unmitigated success, and its birthday should be celebrated by cyclists around the country. While there is rightly criticism of the unforeseen taxpayer contribution, raising serious questions about how the scheme's original sponsorship was setup, compared to the cost of other methods of transport it's a drop in the ocean. This is even before we consider the potential £400+ million upside provided to the economy overall.

For me any investment in cycling infrastructure that allows a commuter, tourist or enthusiast to choose to make their journey on a bike, thereby receiving both the environmental and health benefits that go along with it, is well worth the cost.

Cycle hire has become part of London's transport landscape and, with nearly a third of Londoners saying they are likely to use the scheme in the future, there are plenty of reasons to feel cheerful about 'Boris bikes' as the scheme turns four.

 

Are you for or against the London cycling scheme? What changes would you make, or would you like to see a similar scheme in your town? Let me know in the comments.

 

About the author

Helen Reynolds photoHelen Reynolds is a Chartered Legal Executive within Spencers complex injury team. Helen is extensively experienced in personal injury law having been working with injured people for over twelve years, specialising in claims involving serious injuries and cycling accidents.

Helen's previous blog was Michael Schumacher and Traumatic Brain Injury.

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