Speeding has become an acceptable offence according to RAC report

Article date: 9 November 2007

Speeding causes three times as many accidents as drink driving but has become socially acceptable - over half (51%) of the UK's drivers admit to speeding on the nation's roads.

With just one-sixth (16%) of motorists having been convicted of speeding in the last five years, the new figures from RAC's 2007 Report on Motoring highlight a gap between the high numbers of drivers speeding and the low numbers of motorists convicted.

Consequently a fifth of the nation's drivers believe they won't get caught if they commit motoring offences. One in seven even say that the benefits of breaking minor driving laws far outweigh the risks of getting caught. But nearly a quarter (23%) of motorists say they  would bend driving laws less frequently if there was more chance of getting caught.

However, despite motorists admitting to speeding themselves, 62% accept that it is a serious offence, highlighting a disconnect between what drivers think is serious and their own driving habits. Indeed, when asked what steps drivers would willingly accept to reduce speeding offences, many drivers were supportive of tough measures to tackle the issue:

  • Speed cameras that photograph the driver (59%)
  • More traffic police (64%)
  • In-car speed limiters (49%).

RAC road safety consultant, Robin Cummins, OBE, comments: "There's been great progress over the last 20 years in highlighting the problems of drink driving but more needs to be done to tackle motorists driving too fast. Speeding needs to become socially unacceptable if drivers are to change their attitudes to this potentially lethal habit.

"Too many drivers take a blasé approach to speeding, seeing '30 miles per hour' signs as targets, not limits.  Many motorists are suspicious of speed limiting measures, especially cameras, viewing them as revenue generators rather than a means of improving road safety. We believe the Government needs to educate motorists that such measures are in place to protect, not inconvenience them. 

"But it's not just about changing mindsets - if drivers don't think they will get caught, they will continue to bend the rules. There's an obvious need for more policing and measures like speed cameras that measure average speeds if drivers are to be encouraged to drive responsibly. Other initiatives, such as reducing speed limits in bad weather, would help to lower the 7,000 road accidents on our roads each year caused by excessive speed, many of which are fatal."

The Report on Motoring statistics show a clear need for Government to get tougher to reduce road deaths:

  • Nearly half (48%) would welcome a 20mph limit in built up areas. Six out of ten drivers would like a 10mph limit to be introduced near schools and parks
  • Nearly a quarter would like driving licences to be immediately confiscated from anyone who is caught driving more than 15mph above the speed limit
  • Nearly a quarter think an automatic one year licence disqualification is acceptable for anyone who drives above the speed limit.

And speeding is not the only unsafe driving behaviour that motorists admit to in RAC's Report on Motoring. Other regular un-safe behaviours include:

  • One in six (14%) motorists admit to driving when tired
  • One in six (14%) say they have gone through a red light
  • 16% admit to tailgating
  • One in five (18%) have succumbed to road rage.


RAC Press office contacts:
Liz Kennett 01603 688263/07800 699667, Jon Day 07800 690555 or Lexis PR Jennifer Hardisty 020 7908 6465 or Sonia Clarke 020 7908 6550.

Notes to editors:

* Source: article 4, table 4b in the DfT's 2006 Road Casualty Report .

Based on 23,338 (the sum of "exceeding speed limit, 7,258, and "travelling too fast for conditions, 16,080 ) compared with impaired by alcohol, 7,697.

23,338/7,697 = 3.03

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, windscreen repair and replacement, 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 Auto Windscreens, RAC Direct Insurance and HPI.

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 per cent.

RAC's news releases and a selection of images are available from the internet press centre at http://www.racnews.co.uk.

About the Report on Motoring
The most comprehensive report of its kind, the RAC Report on Motoring 2007: Driving Safely? is based on the views of 2,029 British motorists (defined as currently having a valid driving licence and driving at least once a month). The drivers, who were nationally representative on age, gender and socio-economic groups, were interviewed by Quadrangle, in person, in their homes between February and March 2007.

The quantitative research was supported with qualitative research provided by seven focus groups representing the following key motorist types:

  • Young/ new drivers
  • Elderly drivers
  • Company car drivers
  • Driving for work
  • School run Mums
  • Offenders
  • The ‘Average' motorist.

Two further groups were held with pre-driving teens aged 15-16: one group of girls and one of boys.

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.

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