Catalytic converters ‘worth more than gold’, new crime wave spreads across Britain

Catalytic converters ‘worth more than gold’, new crime wave spreads across Britain

Catalytic converter thefts are on the rise across Britain with organised criminals hacking the emissions-reducing devices to steal the expensive precious metals contained inside while they are parked. It sounds like a plot from a Hollywood film, but unfortunately its very real and happening on your doorstep.

The AA say that damage caused by thieves frantically trying to strip them from vehicles are resulting in insurance claims of between £2,000 and £3,000, or in worst case scenarios some vehicles have been written off entirely.

Research by Compare the Market has shown which cities outside of the capital are already being hit by the new crime-wave, and where the greatest growth in thefts has occurred.

Analysis of the data shows London is still the hotspot for this type of theft. There were 15,237 recorded catalytic converter thefts over a three-year period in London – far more than any other city. It seems that criminals are now expanding outside of the M25 and seeking new targets in major cities.

Birmingham was the second worst-hit area with 320 thefts, while Coventry was third with 287 thefts over the same period.

Compare the Market reports that this type of theft has soared six-fold between 2018 and 2019. It found that there were 13,000 reported cases in England and Wales last year – up from 2,000 in 2018.

Catalytic converters are fitted to all petrol cars manufactured from 1993 to reduce the harmful pollutants emitted from exhaust pipes.

The converters take gasses produced and convert them into water vapour and less harmful emissions via a series of chemical reactions.

They are made up of an array of valuable materials including palladium, rhodium, and platinum. Criminal gangs are aware of this small fortune stored beneath your vehicle.

Currently, palladium is even more valuable than gold, having doubled over two years, while rhodium is more than four times higher in value than gold. Platinum is half the value of gold.

Criminals know that they can extract catalytic converters more easily that stealing a car outright, taking value that could be worth a few hundred pounds at a time per converter when the minerals are extracted.

Hybrid cars are a bigger prize because they have more precious metals stored per converter. Models such as Honda Jazz, Toyota Prius, Toyota Auris and Lexus RX are prime targets due to this.

The police and AA say that to help foil the thieves, catalytic converters can be uniquely marked in acid with a serial number.

Motorists are advised to keep their cars in garages or park in well-lit areas. Most converters are bolted on – but they can also be welded on.

And because there is often no third party to claim against, drivers using insurance policies to cover repair costs are also losing their No Claims Discount.

Toyota, one of the biggest car makers affected, said last year that it did not envisage the ‘rapid rise’ in thefts, which in turn ‘impacted our ability to source enough of the parts we need in some cases’.

technical car items

[Image source: Shutterstock, December 2020]

Ways to tackle catalytic converter theft

Drivers can purchase devices that lock in around the converter to make it more difficult to remove. Providers include Catloc and Catclamp, which can be installed on a number of different vehicles.

However, they are not cheap, with prices as high as £250 for some models, but if it saves £2-3000 to replace a stolen converter, or the prospect of the car being written off then some people may see it as good value.

Mike Hawes, chief executive at the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said that catalytic converter theft is ‘of concern both to car owners and manufacturers’.

‘Car makers are taking what steps they can to make the crime as difficult as possible – some even modifying car designs to try to tackle the issue,’ he explained.

‘The industry is providing support and guidance to customers where required and liaising with police forces to see what more can be done to apprehend the criminals and prevent further thefts.

‘In the meantime, police advice to consumers is that they should, where possible, park inside a locked garage, in well-lit areas and close to fences or walls to restrict access beneath the vehicle.’

It seems that this is yet another form of crime the motorist has to face, where the police or the car industry itself does not seem willing or capable of preventing, only providing advice of keep your car locked somewhere you can see it, where criminals can’t get under it easily.

Are you worried about this new crime wave? Are you angry this means if you claim on insurance for a stolen converter you lose your no claims discount?

 Let us know in the comments below.

60% of drivers now support pay as you drive tax system claims Ipsos Mori

60% of drivers now support pay as you drive tax system claims Ipsos Mori

According to new research by Ipsos Mori, three in five people have said they will support a pay-as-you-drive road pricing scheme if electric cars become the main type of vehicle.

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak is in favour of the scheme to offset a tax black hole when fuel duty and vehicle and excise duty based on emissions outputs are no longer applied to motorists.

MPs on the Transport Committee launched an official inquiry into zero-emission vehicles and road pricing a few weeks ago.

Ipsos Mori found that a quarter ‘strongly’ supported the concept of pay-as-you-drive road pricing, which is a massive shift when people were last polled with the same question in 2007.

In 2007, almost half opposed the idea in principle and only a third were supportive of the scheme. This time around, only 21 per cent are strongly against the idea.

In total, 911 adults were polled, while a further 102 interviews with ‘industry captains’ – the top 500 companies by turnover, and the top 100 by capital employed in the UK – were also recorded for the study.

Captains of industry were in greater support of road pricing than the public, with 82 per cent either supporting or strongly backing the scheme – ahead of the 62 per cent vote of confidence from the public.

Surprisingly, motorists were equally behind the concept of pay-as-you-drive charges; 60 per cent of vehicle owners supported the idea in principle and just 22 per cent were opposed.

Almost two thirds of the public said they would either strongly support or tend to support the introduction of schemes if all the revenues collected would be used to improve bus, train and tube services.

Similarly, the suggestion that schemes charging motorists would result in a greener and cleaner future improved the level of backing from survey respondents.

Ben Marshall, research director Ipsos Mori: ‘Media reports that the Chancellor is weighing up plans for a new national system with motorists paying directly to use Britain’s roads, have put road pricing back on the political agenda.

‘Public opinion will play an important role, just as it did in curbing previous ambitions to find a new way of funding the country’s roads.

‘The recent focus has been on a new scheme’s revenue-raising potential given a multi-billion ‘tax hole’ caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a move to electric cars.

‘But our survey shows that while both public and industry’s instincts are ‘pro’- the introduction of charging schemes in principle, practical implementation will matter.’

mpg picture

[Image: Source Shutterstock, December 2020]

Transport Committee Inquiry

The latest poll results were published on Monday following the Transport Committee’s call for evidence on road pricing, which was launched last week and is open until Wednesday 17 February.

Chair of the Transport Committee, Huw Merriman MP, said: ‘The Government decision to bring forward the ban on the sale of new petrol, hybrid and diesel cars, recently announced in the ‘Ten Point Plan’ for a green industrial revolution, is considered a vital step along the UK’s path to net zero.

‘This inquiry will help us get into the details and practicalities of the policy and the financial implications.

‘A consequence of the transition to electric vehicles is a potential £40 billion annual fiscal black hole, due to the reduction in Fuel Duty and Vehicle Excise Duty. Something will have to change.

‘We will be exploring whether radical road pricing or ‘pay-as-you-drive’ schemes can offer a revenue-raising solution to this problem.

‘We will explore the practicalities of different schemes, the level of public support for them, and best practice from other countries.

‘We will also assess whether new technologies and pricing can both be utilised to incentivise consumer behaviour change, reduce congestion and promote active travel.’

Confirmation of the inquiry followed a Treasury report released last week that said tax revenues will plunge when motorists switch to electric vehicles.

It warned that it will be forced to increase other taxes or cut funding for services to compensate for the loss in taxes on polluting cars as well as fuel duty.

‘Over time the Government will need to consider how to offset these lost tax revenues – whether through adjustments to other taxes or reductions in government spending – so that the UK can reach net zero while maintaining the long-term health of the public finances.’

What do you think about this research and its findings? Are you one of the 60% of drivers that believes pay as you drive is the right option to replace lost tax income?

 Let us know in the comments below.

Speeding tickets set to become a thing of the past as self-driving vehicles liable for speeding offences

Speeding tickets set to become a thing of the past as self-driving vehicles liable for speeding offences

Speeding tickets are soon set to become a thing of the past as report suggests self-driving cars will take over the responsibility of speeding offences.

In a new report issued by government law experts, a complex framework has been set out for when self-driving cars infiltrate Britain’s roads in the next few years. The report states that drivers will no longer be referred to as such, and will instead be named ‘user-in-charge’ in this shift of responsibilities.

It is understood that, under this new proposal, the person in the driving seat would not be held accountable for mistakes made by the car, like speeding.

Instead, these responsibilities would be transferred to the manufacturer of the vehicle or its software.

It seems that these self-driving cars would be programmed to make a journey with passengers onboard (who may only need to intervene in an emergency. This would mean that fining systems like speeding tickets would become redundant, with ‘users-in-charge’ no longer liable for the mistakes made by the vehicle itself.

The Law Commission Report states that these changes will allow ‘users-in-charge’ to relax on car journeys by reading a book or watching a film, with potential for the traditional driver’s seat to be made redundant and phased out in newer self-driving models.

The report states that: ‘Under our proposals, if a vehicle is classified as self-driving and the ADS (automated driving system) is engaged, the person in the driving seat becomes as ‘user-in-charge’ rather than a driver.’

It continues with an explanation of what this could mean for the future of driving and offences like speeding: ‘This means that…the user-in-charge could lawfully undertake activities which drivers of conventional vehicles are not allowed to do as it would distract them from driving. Examples are watching a movie or reading emails. If there is a collision caused by a vehicle driving itself…the user-in-charge could not be prosecuted for offences such as careless or dangerous driving. The user-in-charge could not be prosecuted for a wide range of other offences, including exceeding the speed limit.’

The report does state, however, that ‘users-in-charge’ would have to stay under the drink-drive limit in case of an emergency in which they would be required to take back control of the vehicle.

speed camera

[Image source: Shutterstock, December 2020]

Is this shift in responsibility a good idea?

Even at this early stage, there are concerns about the rolling out of these automated vehicles, and the report has faced opposition from the public: ‘Eventually, someone will be killed or seriously injured by an AV (automated vehicle). The victim will be a real person – their picture will appear in the media, inspiring considerable sympathy. In these circumstances, developers, regulators and politicians will need to make a case for AVs, producing figures showing an overall decline in injury rates.

The report also admits that: ‘This may not be an easy sell. Robust data will be needed.’

In 2018, the National Transport Commission (NTC), suggested that automated vehicles may need to be accompanied by an Automated Driving System Entity (ADSE) as part of a safety reassurance system. This would involve having a separate legal entity who would have to apply for authorisation for use and who could be liable for sanction in the case of any wrongdoing. This is not addressed in the new report.

However, in reinforcing the benefits of AVs, The Law Commission explains that there are 4.5 million motoring offences committed each year on Britain’s roads. With the introduction of AVs, these would become ‘regulatory matters.’ Instead, incidents would be resolved by a safety watchdog with the vehicle manufacturer.

In reinforcing the benefits of AVs and this shift in responsibilities, the report said: ‘Automated vehicles should be considerably more law-abiding, so much of this enforcement may no longer be necessary.’

It still stands, however, that a ‘user-in-charge’ will have to be ‘qualified and fit to drive’ under these new plans, and it will remain a crime to not have a licence or be unfit to drive through drink and drugs.

Transport Minister, Rachel Maclean, has spoken out to support this shift in responsibility. With several self-driving cars already being tested on UK roads with safety officers on board, she said: ‘The UK is leading the way on the regulation of this technology, supporting innovation and putting safety at the heart of everything we do.’

Would you feel comfortable handing responsibility over to your vehicle? Is this liability shift asking for trouble?

Tell us in the comments.

New cameras catch 26,000 M1 tailgaters in just two months

New cameras catch 26,000 M1 tailgaters in just two months

Over the last two months, new roadside cameras have been trialled on the M1 in Northamptonshire, designed to catch and warn tailgaters about their dangerous driving habits.

Since October, 26,000 tailgating drivers have been identified, equivalent to 419 per day. These were drivers of any trucks, vans and cars that were deemed to be to be deliberately flouting the Highway Code’s two-second minimum gap.

It has even been reported that of the total, 3,700 drivers were repeat-offenders, tailgating up to 12 times.

The new cameras, developed by Aecom, were installed along a 150 metre stretch of the M1 and operate in a very similar way to speed cameras. They identify and record number plate details that can then be used to issue warnings to offending drivers. In this case, the warning will be in the form of a letter.

The new technology also allows for readings of drivers’ distance-keeping to be recorded to determine whether the tailgating is accidental or deliberate. Only in the case of deliberate tailgating will warnings be issued.

Currently, Highways England is in the process of analysing whether or not these warning letters are having a positive impact on driver behaviour. If the results indicate this to be the case, the trial will be deemed successful, and the cameras will be rolled out across England.

Highways England wants to remind drivers of the consequences tailgating can have and said: ‘Tailgating is a factor in one in eight casualties on the strategic road network.’

It has also recently been reported that, according to new data from the Department for Transport, serious incidents caused by tailgating have soared to their highest level for at least seven years. Particular concerns about HGVs have been raised, with growing numbers of these vehicles tailgating on stretches of motorway where the speed limit is reduced to 50 or 60mph.

With this in mind, Highways England’s head of Road Safety, Jeremy Phillips, has said that these cameras have been put in place to ‘make drivers aware of their behaviour and encourage better driving.

He stated: ‘These new cameras have, sadly, highlighted just how many people are driving too close on our roads.’

While he understands ‘that most tailgating is unintentional by drivers who are simply unaware they are dangerously invading someone else’s space’, he also wants to reinforce just how dangerous tailgating can be.

‘Not leaving enough space between you and the vehicle in front can be very frightening and intimidating – it could also prove fatal.’

However, it is also important to say that while the new system does work in partnership with police, the organisation is not looking to persecute drivers. Instead, it intends to reinforce the message to leave a gap between vehicles.

cars on the motorway

[Image source: Shutterstock, December 2020]

So, what is the two-second rule?

The Highway Code states that, at all times, drivers should maintain a two-second gap between themselves and the vehicle in front. In wet conditions, this should be doubled to four seconds.

The Driver and Vehicle Standard Agency’s Chief Driving Examiner, Lesley Young explains that ‘keeping a big enough stopping distance is crucial to staying safe, particularly in fast-moving traffic when you have less time to react. Always allow at least 2 seconds from the vehicle in front, and at least double in bad conditions.’

While the rule may appear simple, there are frequent and rising reports from motorway users of dangerous tailgating. One of these reports comes from Data and Intelligence Analyst for Highways England, Caroline Layton. In describing her experience of being the victim of hazardous tailgating, she said she feared she would be crushed by a lorry continually driving too close to her vehicle on the M27, near Southampton.

She expressed her distress to The Times, explaining ‘he came up really close, just a couple of metres behind. I thought I had to slow down because if it hit me at 50mph, I would be crushed. This was very intimidating behaviour and likely to cause a crash and serious injury.’

She concluded by warning: ‘if anyone had stopped in front of me, he would have gone into the back of my car and I would have been sandwiched in the middle.’

This experience, and many others like it, have forced Highways England to take action with the installation of these new cameras. They hope that, if this trial is successful, the cameras will be used nationwide to drive down dangerous tailgating behaviours on our roads.

Have you been the victim of dangerous tailgating? Do you think these new cameras will eliminate this potentially fatal behaviour?

Tell us in the comments.


Mercedes owner shocked to see car stripped apart by thieves

Mercedes owner shocked to see car stripped apart by thieves

A high value Mercedes car has been written off after professional thieves stripped the car of its doors, bonnet, boot, wheels and seats, whilst owners slept just meters away in their home.

In the morning the owner was stunned when he discovered that his 2018 C-Class AMG had been stripped bare for parts by thieves in a highly coordinated attack.

The car was fitted with a tracker to avoid theft, but all the wheels were missing and it was stood on bricks.

Owner of the vehicle, Mr Hampton commented to the Daily Mail: ‘When I stepped outside the front door, I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing. They hadn’t damaged any panels, it’s just been stripped bare.

‘These are professionals and appear to work in teams of five or six to cut the time down.

‘Each person has their own job. They didn’t just cut the wires in the doors, they unclipped the connectors to avoid damaging it. They’ve left the remaining parts in perfect condition.

‘They didn’t leave any fingerprints because they’d worn latex gloves and it probably didn’t take them long to get everything off as they’re not your average car thieves.

‘We’ve spoken to some mechanic friends and they believe they wanted the bumper and lights because there’s a sensor inside them which makes them worth £1,000.

‘They must have been disturbed before that happened though because they only managed to get the registration plates off. More could have been taken.

‘I normally have a cup of tea with my neighbour before going to work but this morning she’d woken up and rushed over.

‘She’d seen the car boot arms sticking in the air and thought she was seeing things so when she came outside she said she had a heart attack.

‘I went to bed like normal at 10pm but obviously by 4.30am this had been done. It’s because they’re so efficient.’

Police Car Mercedes

[Image: Source Shutterstock, December 2020]

The damage done to the vehicle was worth £14,000 leaving the car written off. This appears to be part of a growing trend towards stripping high value vehicles instead of stealing them outright and stripping later.

Mr Hampton continued: ‘This is my fifth Mercedes, I’ve had them for the last 15 years. I’ve never had anything like this happen before.

‘It almost puts me off getting another one. I’d be better just having a £500 banger on the drive for them to steal.

‘I just want people to be aware this is happening. I could have done things like put the car around the back of the house but I think they’d have still done what they did.

‘They didn’t take the car, which would have been better for me probably. It’s fitted with a tracker so we could have found it.

‘When you’ve never seen anything like this before, it really does come as a shock. Some people might not be able to take the shock that I saw yesterday morning.

‘These people just don’t care. They have got no feeling for anybody. Instead of getting a proper job like everyone else, they think it is quicker to steal.

West Midlands Police were approached for a comment but did not respond to the incident in question.

While we see Britain’s police occupy their time focused on Covid 19 and policing that, we see less and less police on the UK’s roads and thieves are becoming more and more brazen about what they can steal.

Are car thieves getting more confident now they think there are less police on the roads? Let us know in the comments below.

Next generation speed gun catches speeding drivers up to a mile away

Next generation speed gun catches speeding drivers up to a mile away

After its approval for use in the UK in June of this year, a ‘new generation’ speed gun is being rolled out to police forces across the nation.

This newer, more efficient model is the successor to the original and widely used TruCam device and, although both share the same basic features – integrated lasers and technologies to measure the time and distance between vehicles – this newer model boasts an extensive upgrade.

Named the TruCam II, this device not only has a digital video camera to collect and store video evidence for speeding but also has been given an auto-adjust feature for the focus, iris and shutter speed.

Dubbed as the ‘next generation’ of enforcement devices, the TruCam II can accurately identify a vehicle, make and model, and read a number plate from up to 1,500 metres away (0.9) miles. Drivers, however,  may be reassured to know that the device is calibrated to the 750-metre maximum distance limit set out by the government.

Laser Technology, Inc (LTI), the manufacturer of the TruCam II, has explained that while the device will be used predominantly for speed enforcement, it can also be used to catch tail-gaiting, distracted driving and even motorists who fail to wear a seatbelt.

It is the hope that this most advanced hand-held speed gun to date will make the process of punishing motorists less time-consuming for police and will aid in the endeavour to keep Britain’s roads safe.

With new technology installed, it eliminates the need for officers to stop motorists to issue fines by allowing any details captured to be uploaded directly to a database. This will then trigger the automatic issuing of penalty notices to the vehicle keeper’s address.

speed gun

[Image: Source Shutterstock, December 2020]

UK police forces already making use of TruCam II

Police Speed Enforcement Departments across the UK have this week confirmed that they are part-taking in the trialling of these new gadgets, with police forces in Northumbria and Warwickshire among some of the first to test them out.

Superintendent Helena Barron, head of Northumbria Police Operations department, has hope that these new cameras will support the Northumbria Safe Roads Initiative. She states that ‘these cameras are another tactic at our disposal to tackle motorists who are unwilling to follow the rules.’ She believes that they will make a significant improvement to the safety of the region’s roads.

Northumbria Police have also trained dedicated traffic Specialist Constables to support this initiative and to ensure that the implementation of these new cameras has a beneficial impact on road safety.

These new cameras, however, come with a high price tag, currently costing an average around £10,000 each. This does not appear to be a  deterrent though, with the Warwickshire police force announcing that they have spent £20, 000 of funding from the Road Safety Fund to acquire these new cameras.

In a statement this summer, the Warwickshire Police crime commissioner explained the reasoning behind their ramped-up efforts to deter drivers from speeding. He said ‘speeding makes it more difficult for a driver to maintain control of their vehicle and the police have my full support to enforce speed limits and take action against those who break the law as this will make Warwickshire’s roads safer for everyone.’

Inspector Jem Mountford went on to praise the TruCam II, explaining that ‘the new equipment is very portable, and this means officers can easily set up anti-speeding operations on hot spot routes identified by the force, with the added benefit that officers can be more mobile and responsive to changing demands.’

Their investment in the TruCam II comes after a concerning set of data collected from a two-week national speeding campaign conducted in May this year, where police in Warwickshire issued almost 3000 speeding tickets to irresponsible drivers. The highest speed recorded was 106 mph.

Inspector Kirsty Clough further commented, highlighting the severity of the situation with a harrowing set of recent statistics; ‘In Warwickshire, between 1st January 2017 and 31st December 2019, 92 people were killed and 669 seriously injured in collisions where speed or loss of control were recorded as a contributory factor.’

The rolling out of the TruCam II, Warwickshire Police believe, will help them to drive these numbers down.

Do you think this newest TruCam device will serve to improve the safety of our roads? Will you be more aware of your speed in light of the rolling out of these new speed guns?

Tell us in the comments.