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Being safe. Feeling safe.

Modern cars are safer. Today's roads are safer. We see ourselves as safe drivers… But we feel less safe driving. How come?

Cars today are much safer than in 1988.

Air bags, seat belts, crumple zones and ABS are all standard now. They are evidence of the ever-higher safety standards to which car companies design and build modern cars.

It's not surprising, therefore, to find that three in five of us point to improved safety as the single biggest change in cars over the last 20 years.

The roads are unquestionably safer as well. According to Government statistics, since 1988 the number of deaths and serious injuries on Britain's roads has halved.

We still think of ourselves as safe drivers. Nearly everyone describes themselves as such and eight out of ten of us would go as far as to say we are very safe drivers.

And yet, despite safer cars, roads and drivers, less than a third of us (30%) say we feel 'very safe' whilst driving on the roads today.

How come?

A third of us point to 'more aggressive driving' as one of the biggest changes in motoring. Almost one in three have been a victim of road rage or aggressive driving 'to the extent that [we] felt physically threatened'.

That's nearly 10 million of us.

In 1988, the term 'road rage' was unheard of; today it's part of our everyday language. It was first mentioned in the British press in 1994 when growing stories of other drivers' aggressive driving behaviour created the need for a new phrase to describe it.

These findings echo the 2007 RAC Report on Motoring, which found Britain's motorists' concerns about driving safety to be, at over 90%, higher than for any other issue. The greatest area of concern - mentioned then by three-quarters of all motorists - was 'the behaviour of other drivers'.

The problem here, though, isn't some mythical 'other drivers' driving aggressively - it's us.

Nearly half of Britain's motorists readily admit to aggressive driving behaviour such as 'shouting, swearing and gesturing rudely at another motorist'.

That's over 15 million of us.

Over 20 years, we've got safer cars and safer roads. But we don't feel safer whilst driving.

That won't happen until we accept that we're all 'other drivers' to everyone else.

When driving, what makes you stressed or angry? Percentage
Drivers who drive too close behind you 84%
Drivers who fail to indicate their intentions clearly 79%
Drivers who use their mobile phone while driving 79%
Drivers who cut in sharply after overtaking 70%
Other drivers' road rage or aggressive driving 69%
Drivers who are not courteous in busy traffic 58%
Drivers who drive in the fast lane on motorways and will not pull over for faster cars 55%
Drivers who drive too slowly for the road conditions 55%
Congestion / traffic jams 48%
Drivers who use their cars for small journeys 10%
The number of single occupancy cars on the road 8%
None of these 1%

RAC calls for:

  • A return to more 'courteous driving'. Driving conditions have changed since the majority of motorists passed their tests 24 years ago, and so have the stresses and frustrations of motoring. We believe that driver training and re-education courses have an important role too.

What we look for in our cars

Motoring offences