Is the cost of motoring driving environmental change?

Article date: 9 December 2008

  • Report reveals issues impacting green driving behaviours

The cost of fuel is the single biggest influence on motorists' adoption of "greener" driving behaviours, according to RAC's latest Report on Motoring*.

Unsurprisingly in a year when drivers have been hit by record fuel prices, the report reveals motorists are more focused on saving the pound in their pocket than saving the planet. Over three quarters (77%) say they have changed their driving behaviour due to increase in cost of fuel, with half (49%) citing this as the single factor having the most impact on driving behaviour, compared to just 6% that have changed their driving habits as a result of concern for the environment.

RAC's Report on Motoring is celebrating its 20th year as the voice of the motorist. This environment report seeks to stimulate the debate on how to make motoring more sustainable, including motorists' perspectives now and what they think should be done for the future.

Motorists are calling for green incentives to be driven by cost, with over three quarters (77%) of drivers saying they would buy a more environmentally friendly car if the tax incentives were better, up from 66% in 2007. 

But despite best intentions for the future, a fifth (22%) of motorists say that they have still not made any changes to the way they drive today. The report reveals this is in part down to confusion over what constitutes eco-friendly driving, with a fifth (21%) admitting they don't know how to be a "greener" driver. 

In addition to this, there is a lack of awareness over what causes environmental damage. A quarter (27%) of drivers think that petrol has no or very little impact on the environment and 36% think the same for diesel.

Adrian Tink, RAC motoring strategist, comments: "It's clear there is a willingness from motorists to be more eco-friendly, but times are tough and despite fuel prices decreasing in recent weeks, looking after the family budget is still their first priority. Many motorists also don't know how to be greener, it's a complex issue that even the experts sometimes can't agree on. For now, what motorists can be sure of, is if they concentrate on saving fuel, they'll not only be saving their hard earned money - they'll be doing their bit by cutting emissions too."

RAC is also campaigning for better information and initiatives to help motorists become more eco-aware and reduce motoring's overall impact on the environment.  We believe that manufacturers and Government both have their part to play and as such we call for:

  • Fuel efficiency calculators to be built in as standard on all new cars and ratings to be placed on MOT certificates and road tax discs
  • Current plans to backdate the VED charges on vehicles registered post-March 2001 to be scrapped as we believe there are more effective ways of influencing motorists' behaviour and purchasing decisions
  • Increased parking provision at railway stations and further incentivising take-up of park and ride schemes, which show the car can be seen as part of the integrated package. While there will always be some reliance on the car, transport options need to be integrated to ensure people can make personalised choices which are simple, easy and affordable.

The report looks into which financial incentives would have greater impact.  Motorists recognise that taxation has a part to play and would most welcome those that encourage the purchase of "greener" cars (90%).

Tink adds: "None of motoring's stakeholders can tackle its impact on the environment on their own. Motorists are focusing on their fuel consumption but they are not in control either of the 'greener' car technologies of the future or financial incentives to use them.       

"They also need to be provided an affordable integrated public transport as a realistic alternative.

"Britain's motorists are getting there, and their message to Government and manufacturers is clear - help us do it. For now, that starts with the pound in their pocket."

In its Report on Motoring, RAC is also calling for:

  • An overhaul of the motoring tax system. At present, we believe every new tax or reform of the tax system that comes into force is simply a sticking plaster over the problem. A review of the long-term challenges ahead is required in order to find a more permanent solution.
  • The Government to implement a voluntary car-scrappage incentive scheme - whereby motorists with the most polluting cars on the road are paid an incentive to scrap it
  • The Government to include an information leaflet to explain the changes with tax disc reminders in 2009 - to ensure that every UK car owner receives the information
  • Driver training and re-education courses for motorists on "how to be green", for all drivers, not just those passing their test today.

To help motorists improve fuel efficiency and reduce cars' impact on the environment, RAC has the following hints and tips:

  1. Pump up to cut down: under inflated tyres create more resistance when your car is moving, which means engines have to work harder, so more fuel is used (the owner handbook will advise the correct pressure)
  2. Less clutter: clutter in boots adds weight, so removing it can reduce the engine's workload . Also, remove roof boxes or rails when not in use as the drag caused increases fuel consumption
  3. Driving at an appropriate speed: not only does staying at or within the speed limit increase driver safety, it also saves money on fuel costs
  4. Less stopping and starting: anticipating traffic flow will reduce fuel consumption
  5. Avoid over-revving: modern car engines are designed to be efficient from the moment they are switched on, so revving up like a Formula 1 car only wastes fuel and increases engine wear
  6. Idling is wasting fuel: if you're likely to be at a standstill for more than three minutes, simply switch off the engine.
  7. Plan ahead: don't waste fuel by going the wrong way - plan route before leaving  with RAC Route Planner: 


RAC Press office contact:
Adrian Tink on 01603 681922 / 07800 690602
Jennifer Hardisty on 0207 908 6465
Amy Funston on 0207 908 6433.

ISDN telephone interviews available. Filming opportunities at RAC Bescot, with views of the M6 and RAC's busy call centre can be arranged.

Notes to editors:

* About Report on Motoring
The most comprehensive report of its kind, the RAC Report on Motoring 2008 "Twenty Years of Motoring" this year celebrates its 20th anniversary. This third environment report is based on the views of 1,040 British motorists (defined as currently having a valid driving licence and driving at least once a month). For the environment report, the drivers - who were nationally representative on age, gender and socio-economic groups - were interviewed online by Quadrangle, between August and September 2008.

Until 1999, the RAC's Reports on Motoring were called "The Lex Report on Motoring".  Despite this change in name, consistent research methods have been used throughout.

About RAC
With around seven million members, RAC is one of the UK's most progressive motoring organisations, providing services for both private and business motorists.  Whether it's roadside assistance, learning to drive, vehicle inspections and checks, legal and financial services or up-to-the-minute traffic and travel information - RAC is able to meet motorists' needs. RAC incorporates BSM, RAC Direct Insurance and HPI.

RAC is committed to providing the very highest levels of service to its members and has been ranked first for customer service by J.D. Power and Associates' UK Roadside Assistance Study for the past two years.

Aviva bought RAC in May 2005.  The acquisition brings together RAC's powerful brand and customer base with the expertise and leading position in motor insurance of Norwich Union Insurance (part of Aviva). Norwich Union is the UK's largest insurer, insuring one in seven motor vehicles and with a market share of around 15%. 

RAC is part of  Aviva, the world's fifth largest insurance group which operates in 27 countries. 

RAC's news releases and a selection of images are available from the internet press centre at

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