Maria McCarthy

I'm a journalist, author, broadcaster and media consultant

Blue Badge Scheme: eligibility, how to apply and where Blue Badges can be used

On 30 August 2019, the Blue Badge scheme changed, making people with 'hidden disabilities' such as autism and dementia eligible for the scheme. We reveal everything you need to know about the changes and how to apply for a Blue Badge. What is the Blue Badge scheme? The Blue Badge scheme was introduced as a way of helping people who are blind or have physical mobility problems park closer to their destination. The badge is linked to the disabled person rather than a vehicle. It can be used fo

4 ways to stay safe when driving alone

Whether it's being targeted by road-ragers or facing the nerve-wracking experience of picking up your car from a deserted multi-storey car park late at night, staying safe on the road as a woman can feel challenging at times. But there are plenty of practical steps you can take to increase your personal safety and feel more confident. When driving somewhere unfamiliar plan your route and where you're going to park in advance. Always have a fully-charged mobile phone with you. Having a dash ca

4 ways to cut car use

Whether you'd like to give up or cut down on your car use because you want to live a greener lifestyle, save money, get fitter .. or a combination of the three, the summer is the perfect time to try it out. Walking and cycling are more enjoyable when the sun is shining and once you've got the car-free habit you'll be more likely to continue for the rest of the year. According to environmental charity Sustrans, if four out of five short journeys were made by foot, bike or public transport drivers

Fight back against plastic in your weekly shop

Almost two thirds of UK shoppers say they are either ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ concerned about the amount of packaging on the products they buy - and the amount of plastic packaging, in particular. What's more, almost a fifth of us now take into account the amount of packaging on a product before we decide whether or not to put it in our shopping trolley*. We are right to be concerned. Each year, the UK uses 5 million tonnes of plastic, just under half of which is used in packaging, government figu

Do you do these 5 safety checks before you drive?

Even if dealing with anything vaguely mechanical feels out of your comfort zone, and you tend to view what goes on under the car bonnet with a certain amount of fear, there are still some essential car checks that every motorist should be able to carry out. To make things easier for the car maintenance novice, we've put together everything you need to know to complete the POWDER sequence of checks below. You should carry out out this routine once a fortnight and before any long journey.

Have you considered becoming a volunteer driver?

If you enjoy driving and have some spare time then maybe you could consider becoming a volunteer driver. The opportunities are many and varied. For example, The Red Cross needs drivers to transport elderly and disabled people, to collect deliveries for their shops and to help out at their event first aid service. The National Trust has opportunities for drivers at heritage sites such as Powis Castle in Wales and Greenway House near Torquay. Their role is to drive a minibus or buggy transporting

Busting the myths around female drink-driving

We all know drink-driving is wrong. If we're out drinking cocktails at a friend's birthday party or celebrating till the small hours at a wedding, a designated driver will have been arranged or a taxi booked. But what about when we're having a cold beer at an afternoon barbecue, or a glass (or two) of wine at a book club? Many women feel that with 'just a glass' they will be safely under the limit and that all will be well. But is that really the case? How much is safe? Lauren Booker, an alco

How to buy the safest car

Although we all say we want to stay safe on the road, when it comes to actually buying a car, it isn't a priority for many motorists. Matthew Avery, director of research at Thatcham Research, the motor insurers' automotive research centre, says, 'Surveys show that cost, brand and colour are important considerations for car buyers – whilst safety features are about seventh on their list. We want to educate motorists about the importance of investing in safer vehicles and show them that it's possi

How to park with ease

Some motorists are naturally confident and capable when it comes to parking. They pride themselves on being able to squeeze into a tight urban space and are unfazed by the tight turns and pillars of multi-storey car parks. Others used to be confident but their skills have declined. This typically happens when a city-dweller moves to the suburbs or the countryside and gets out of practice. And then there are drivers who have always found parking troublesome. But for those of us who took our dri

Why you should be driving a car with AEB

Would you buy a car that wasn't fitted with seatbelts? Of course you wouldn't. But strange as it seems now, there was a time when such a vital piece of safety equipment was seen as an 'optional extra'. In the UK the legal requirement for front seat belts to be fitted in all new cars didn't come in until 1967 and wearing them wasn't compulsory until 1983. It is estimated that over 2,000 lives a year are saved because of car occupants wearing seatbelts. Matthew Avery, Head of Research at Thatcha

Keep the road in your sights

Almost 300 injuries on UK roads each year are estimated to be caused by drivers with poor vision. The Association of Optometrists (AOP) are running an ongoing campaign, Don't Swerve a Sight Test, to press for changes in the laws around vision tests and driving and also to urge motorists to have their sight tested regularly. 'We want to make our roads as safe as possible,' says Farah Topia, optometrist and spokesperson for the AOP. 'But currently our laws on driving and vision are among the most

Journalist Spotlight: Maria McCarthy

An interview with Maria McCarthy, a freelance motoring journalist, broadcaster and author of ‘The Girls’ Guide to Losing your L Plates’ and ‘The Girls’ Car Handbook’. Maria discusses her top tips for PRs, how she juggles her varied workload, and why she enjoys radio broadcasting so much, as well as revealing her favourite things about being a motoring writer. As a freelance motoring journalist and motoring commentator, you contribute to a variety of publications. How do you juggle your various

School crossings: Let's not lose our lollipop people

Lollipop people, or school crossing patrols (SCPs) as they are now known, have been around for many years. The first one was Mrs Hunt, who was appointed by Bath City Council in 1937 and worked outside Kingsmead School. The concept gained ground in the late 1940s and 'lolliop people' became a friendly and familiar sight across the UK. There have been sartorial changes over the years. Initially patrols wore white coats and peaked hats and carried red torch signals which were later exchanged for b

How to avoid a parking fine

According to the British Parking Association, 39% of motorists feel that finding somewhere to park is a stressful experience. Which isn't surprising as it not only involves finding a space and understanding basic parking laws but also being aware of how they can sometimes be unclear legally or vary in different parts of the UK. And that's before you even get started on trying to decipher bewildering signs or dealing with broken meters! But it's important to keep on top of parking rules not leas

How to choose a driving instructor for your teen

Remember when you were choosing a good secondary school for your teen and evenings were spent poring over Ofsted reports? Well, finding the right driving instructor isn't quite as challenging as that, but it's still the most important step to getting them through their test and making them a safe driver for life. These tips will get you up to speed on choosing the perfect one. Check their qualifications It's best for your teen to learn with an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) rather than a P

Why do petrol and diesel prices fluctuate?

Fuel is currently expensive and getting more so. On 21st September 2018 average prices stood at 131ppl for unleaded petrol and 134ppl for diesel. Both fuels had increased in price for 8 of the previous 12 months, being about 13p per litre more expensive than at the same time the previous year. Most motorists are very aware of how fuel prices have fluctuated over the past 10 years. From the eye-watering prices of 2013 when the average price for unleaded petrol reached a high of 138.8ppl, to happ
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