Looking back over the past 20 years has told us a great deal about how motoring and Britain has changed.
Motoring has changed dramatically over the last 20 years, and today we are more reliant on our cars than ever before. This year's Report on Motoring has shown that there are now more drivers, more cars and more traffic, yet less road space than 20 years ago, leading to a surge in congestion. The journeys we make are shorter and more localised, and delays are more likely to cause us stress. The effect of this has been a sharp rise in aggressive driving which, combined with growing levels of congestion, has meant that the vast majority of us no longer enjoy driving.
This year's report also reveals that despite the perception that the cost of motoring has spiralled, it has in fact increased at a much slower pace than the cost of living (inflation) - even when rising fuel prices are taken into account. The belief that the cost of motoring is rising sharply is therefore a myth - particularly compared with the rising cost of using public transport. The reality is that motoring has never been more accessible.
Whilst we have safer cars and see ourselves as safe drivers, many of us now feel less safe on the roads. We blame other motorists for this - yet we are all 'other drivers' to everyone else. There is a need for motorists to accept responsibility for their actions and RAC is keen to foster a return to more 'courteous driving', and intends to contribute and lead this debate over the coming months.
Over the past 20 years, there has been a sharp reduction in the number of motorists who drink drive. We are now in the position to take this further. Our research showed motorists want to see stiffer penalties combined with greater detection to further stamp out the problem. RAC believes there should now be a reduction in the drink drive limit to 50mg. RAC would also like to see the introduction of random breath testing, combined with increased education to help motorists better understand the 'morning-after' effect of drinking and driving.
While motorists accept the present speed limits on urban roads they want to see a change to the limit on motorways. In addition, many motorists see the rise in speed cameras and fixed penalty notices as revenue raising devices rather than improving road safety. It is clear that there needs to be an education programme about speeding and road safety. But before this, RAC believes there should be an audit of speed cameras to ensure that each one can demonstrate a proven effect in reducing accidents and those that cannot, are removed.
Having analysed the key changes, the key question is now: how can we make motoring more sustainable over the next 20 years? Despite the fact that our research indicates attitudes and behaviour are gradually changing, motorists have a bleak outlook and are increasingly accepting congestion as inevitable. To resolve this paradox, RAC believes that a combination of encouraging smarter driving techniques, enabling lifestyle choices and better use of existing road capacity, through active traffic management, will have a positive impact on congestion.
Overall this year's Report on Motoring shows we are at a crossroads. Levels of congestion and concerns about the environment mean that retaining the status quo is no longer an option. Britain's motorists, all levels of Government and others need to come together to formulate a long term plan that addresses environmental and capacity changes, and offers a viable and affordable range of transport options for motorists and non-motorists alike.
Appendix A: about this report
Our views on the future