Motorists need help. They have got to the point where they can no longer cut down on the number of trips they make in their cars. But they also accept that if the cost of motoring continues to rise they will have to make even more cutbacks.
They are being impacted by a lack of joined up thinking at the heart of Government. Raising fuel tax may add money to Treasury coffers and appease environmentalists by forcing motorists to drive less. But the social implication of this relentless assault on drivers’ wallets is being ignored.
Many motorists, particularly those living in rural areas, have no more fat to trim in terms of the number or types of journeys they make in their car. They have, in the main, already cut out the superfluous one. So if prices continue to rise unchecked, the journeys they are likely to cut out are those that make their lives fuller – visits to friends and family and maintaining their social life.
When social interaction starts to decrease there is a very real danger that society itself will start to break down and people will feel increasingly lonely and isolated. While social networking and the telephone offer a means of staying in touch with the rest of society they are not a substitute for face to face contact.
There needs to be a mechanism to cap prices so that motorist can budget for the essential journeys. Despite promises to look at stabilisation mechanisms whilst in opposition, Government has failed to do so in office.
Motorists are also concerned about other drivers. They have safe environments within their cars but are worried about the behaviour of other drivers. The issues here are two-fold. Firstly there is a lack of campaigning and education across all drivers to raise awareness of the implication of anti-social driving behaviour such as speeding or using a hand held mobile phone. Secondly motorists do not believe there are sufficient numbers of police on the roads to enforce current laws, leading to a core of persistent offenders who feel immune to getting caught and do not understand or care about the extent to which they put themselves or other road users at risk.
Life-long learning emerges as a theme throughout this report. There is strong support for inclusion of driving theory in the school curriculum and a desire for off-road driver training to start at 15 or 16. And there is a need for drivers to learn how to maintain their vehicles in a safe and roadworthy state. There is also recognition that throughout a driver’s life there is a need to constantly reinforce the messages about the dangers of anti-social behaviour (drink, or drug driving, use of handheld mobiles etc). There is support for retraining being offered as an alternative to penalties for first time offenders for a range of driving offences and there is a desire to help older drivers to come to terms with their own limitations through informing them rather then imposing more draconian constraints.
Continuous learning needs to become an integral part of a driver’s life. Being able to learn is a privilege and needs to be promoted to drivers as such.
The most immediate priority is for Government to rejuvenate its driver road safety campaigns to highlight the issues to an increasing number of motorists that have never been subject to these hard hitting adverts on TV or radio.
There is also a strong argument for a rethink of motoring penalties. The Report on Motoring clearly shows there is strong support for harsher penalties for those caught repeatedly breaking the law, but also support for less harsh penalties for minor or one off offences. This would perhaps allow police to spend more of their time catching repeat or serious offenders rather than have their time taken up with more minor misdemeanours.
Finally motorists want Government to spend the limited funds available for transport on improving the roads they drive on daily rather than on new airports or high speed rail. They also want to see public transport improved, so there is a viable alternative to the car as motoring becomes less affordable for all but the most essential of journeys.
But above all, motorists want Government to recognise the crisis that is facing them in their lives and reduce the penal taxation on fuel that is damaging society and causing genuine hardship.
RAC Call to Action
6.0 Education and driver confidence