Raise respect not road rage says RAC - Bonnet lifted on motoring's biggest changes since 1988

Article date: 9 July 2008

  • Brits remain wed to their cars despite rising fuel prices and road rage

Aggressive driving has beaten off competition from increased congestion, speed cameras and roadworks to be one of the biggest changes in motoring over the last 20 years, according to RAC's annual Report on Motoring.

Celebrating 20 years as the "voice" of the motorist, this year's report shows that road rage - a concept that didn't even have a name in 1988 - is second only to the cost of motoring which is seen as the biggest change in motoring since the report began.

Nearly one in three of the British motorists polled for the 2008 survey* say they've been a victim of driving behaviour that has left them feeling physically threatened. Yet almost half of motorists admit to shouting, swearing and making rude gestures themselves.

In support of drivers' concerns, RAC is calling for better education to ensure motorists know how to drive responsibly and respectfully. The motoring organisation believes that the key to changing behaviour is by teaching these principles in primary and secondary schools, so that when it comes to actually learning to drive, courtesy and respect will be second nature.

Adrian Tink, RAC motoring strategist, comments: "As numbers of cars and drivers on our roads increase, so will the motoring frustrations that lead to aggressive driver behaviour - unless we all make a conscious effort to respect our fellow motorists.

"All eyes are focused on rising fuel prices, but there's another menace on our roads that we can control - our own behaviour. It's worrying that millions of motorists are victims of a driving behaviour that didn't even have a name 20 years ago.

"But despite being victims themselves, it's shocking that even more drivers are prepared to admit to swearing, rudely gesturing and shouting at other drivers. This worrying behaviour becomes downright dangerous when you consider they are behind the wheel of a tonne and a half of metal.

"By calling for better education for drivers, RAC hopes motorists will think twice about the effect their own behaviour has on others while having the knock-on effect of making their own motoring experience more pleasurable."

The 2008 Report on Motoring shows we are becoming a nation of increasingly impatient drivers, with the top causes of motoring stress including:

  • Motorists driving too close behind (84%)
  • Using their mobiles while driving (79%)
  • Drivers who don't pull over for faster cars on motorways, or who drive too slowly for road conditions (55%)
  • Congestion (48%).

These stressful conditions are causing a fifth (22%) of motorists surveyed to say that driving is now less pleasurable than in 1988.

One success over the last 20 years has been the campaign against drink driving. Just  4% of those polled admit to driving while over the alcohol limit, but the Report shows there is public appetite for measures to get tougher - three quarters believe the UK's drink drive limit should be reduced from the current 80mg of alcohol to 50mg, to bring it in line with other EU countries.

Adrian Tink explains: "The campaign against drink driving has been one of the success stories of the last 20 years, and RAC shares the clear public appetite for Government to get even tougher with a lower drink drive limit. This reduction should be accompanied by random breath testing and continued focus on the most serious offenders."

The report shows, however, that stress and fuel prices are not yet pushing motorists off the road. Nine in 10 motorists say Britain remains a car dependent society (92%). Over half (51%) expect gridlock in the next 20 years, while 73% of motorists say they would find it very difficult to adjust their current lifestyles to being without a car.

But the types of journeys we do by car are changing - a third (33%) of motorists say they do more shorter journeys than they did 20 years ago, almost half (48%) say they are more reliant on a car for more journeys, and 43% are more reliant on the car for leisure trips. Astonishingly, one in 10 drivers admit they now never walk anywhere.

British drivers' annual mileage has also dropped by 1,190 miles (10,200 in 1988 compared to just 9,070 in 2008) with parents now clocking up an average 12 miles on each round trip on the school run, and over 1,000 miles each year driving children to leisure activities.

Commenting on some of the report's other findings, Adrian Tink adds: "There have been some startling changes in motoring over the last 20 years and the car is now an integral part of everyday British life. These days cars are safer, more affordable and more reliable, and bring us greater choice in where we live, work and how we spend our time.

"You realise just how much has changed when you consider that back in 1988, the car most drivers aspired to own was the Ford Capri whereas 20 years on, the top brands we aspire to are BMWs, Mercedes-Benz and Audis.

"However, as the report shows, some things haven't changed for the better, which is why RAC believes action should be taken to address motorists' concerns."

To help improve the driving experience, RAC is calling for:

  • Better - and earlier - education to encourage improved driver behaviour
  • A reduction in the drink drive limit from the current 80mg of alcohol to 50mg, to bring it in line with other EU countries. This should be accompanied by random breath testing and continued focus on the most serious offenders.
  • An increased and more highly visible traffic police presence to act as a deterrent against aggressive behaviour and other motoring offences.


Download RAC Report on Motoring 2008 (PDF 1,730KB) (RAC Report on Motoring 2008 is no longer active)

RAC Press office contact:
Liz Kennett 01603 688263 / 07800 699667, 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 and is based on the views of 1,116 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 online by Quadrangle, between March and April 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 organizations, 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.

RAC is committed to providing the very highest levels of service to its members and has been ranked first for customer service by JD 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's news releases and a selection of images are available from the internet press centre at http://www.racnews.co.uk/.

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