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RAC

2.0 Who is the motorist?

Sat Nav StatDespite volatile fuel costs, British motorists are still wedded to their cars. They may be using other modes of transport more as part of an overall cost cutting programme, but they still love their wheels.

Motorists' continued dependence and affection for their cars offers a real challenge to any Government wanting to reduce car usage. It is as yet unclear whether the trend towards motorists leaving the car at home for some of their journeys is a sustainable trend, or one that will fall by the wayside once the economy improves and they can afford to pay for the increasing cost of fuel. So what has been happening to the motorist over the last year?

  • Four in five motorists would find it difficult to live without their car.
  • 65% would use their car less if public transport were better.
  • A third think most people in cars could use public transport instead.

Couple in front of car

2.1 What Motorists are Driving

The type of cars motorists are driving has changed marginally over the last 12 months, with fewer top end cars on the road. A third still drive a mini or super mini and nearly two in five a small or medium sized car. But the number of people driving a people carrier or 4x4 has dropped slightly to just one in ten and the number of drivers of luxury or sports cars has almost halved to just one in 20. Rising fuel prices and higher car tax are likely to have played a part in this decline.

Just over half of households have one car and over a third two. One in 10 homes has three or more cars sitting on the drive or in the garage.

The car scrappage scheme has had an effect on the age of the cars motorists are driving with 9% of motorists driving a car less than a year old, up from 8% in 2009. But more noticeable is that the number of motorists driving a car more than 10 years old has fallen by 5% to 12%. This is due in large part to the car scrappage scheme in place until April this year, which took more than 400,000 cars over 10 years old off the road . Now the average age of the cars on the road is 5.5 years, a month younger than last year.

Paul Everitt, SMMT Chief Executive "The scrappage scheme has been successful not only in terms of generating increased car sales but also through the knock-on effects of the higher environmental and safety standards of the new cars bought under the scheme."

RAC calls for initiatives that encourage motorists to drive more up-to-date vehicles.

2.2 Driving Habits

While many motorists feel they are driving more - this year they estimated they drive an average 9,335 miles a year, an increase of 725 on 2009 - the reality is somewhat different. Motorists are actually driving less. According to Department for Transport figures car traffic fell by 3% in the first quarter of this year against the same period in 2009 and all types of traffic fell by 2.1% over the same period.

One of the more interesting changes this year is the type of journeys taken. Almost three in five motorists now amalgamate shorter journeys into one longer one, leading to 51% saying they make fewer shorter journeys. Department for Transport figures confirm this trend with a rise in the number of medium length journeys - these are defined as being between five and 25 miles. More than 40% of drivers have also cut down on the number of longer journeys they take - with 18% doing so for financial reasons. In line with the trend seen last year, the reduction in driving is not environmentally motivated for the vast majority of motorists - only 4% gave this as a reason to cut down the number of longer journeys. But hopefully the environmental benefits of fewer miles being driven will be maintained if drivers perpetuate this change in driving habits after the recession ends.

2.3 Changing Driving Behaviour

Last year's Report on Motoring saw a huge shift in driver behaviour motivated by economic conditions. This year, while their behaviour is still being modified, the changes are less dramatic.

This year two in five motorists have changed their driving style to conserve fuel - against just over half that said they changed it last year. More than two in five are walking more and 11% are car sharing more than last year. More surprisingly, one in 10 has sold their car and is opting to use other modes of transport and one in six has reduced the number of cars in their household. The number of cars per household has fallen steadily over the years. In 2005, 47% of households had two cars; this has now fallen to 37% as the cost of keeping a car has made it less affordable.

There is a long term trend for drivers to use buses, coaches and trams more - a steady increase from 50% in the 2007 Report on Motoring to 66% this year. Train travel has also increased in popularity over the years, with two thirds of motorists now using this mode of transport. It has already been noted that motorists are making fewer journeys, and drivers say they are less likely to be a passenger in a car (typically driven by family or friends) down 5 points this year to 87%.

3.0 Motorists' concerns

1.0 Introduction