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Our views on the future

The bad news is that, unless things change, we can't see an attractive future for motoring in Britain. The good news is that our concerns about congestion and the environment are now coming together to create a force for change.

Two different motoring issues are coming together to change attitudes and behaviour.

The first issue is long-term worries and frustrations about rising congestion. Today, not only do most of us think that 'congestion seems to be getting worse every day', but even more of us expect it to get worse in the future.

The 2008 RAC Report on Motoring asked Britain's motorists what measures they think will need to be in place 20 years from now to manage traffic. They said:

  • Drivers will have to pay to drive in all cities - 58%
  • There will be tolls on all motorways - 58%
  • Gridlock on our roads will become the norm - 51%
  • Cars will not be allowed into city centres - 51%
  • All roads will have speed cameras - 46%

This view, that congestion is bad at the moment and will be worse in the future, takes us to two quite different places.

On one hand it takes us towards the changes in attitudes and behaviour we've started to see in recent years as we question the sustainability of our driving habits.

On the other is a near-stoic acceptance that we've just got to learn to live with congestion. This, in turn, feeds an increased acceptance that much harsher traffic management measures will be necessary.

Essentially unless things change - we can't see a particularly attractive future for motoring in Britain.

On their own - and no matter how strongly we say we feel - our concerns around congestion haven't been enough to bring about any significant change in our attitudes or behaviour. But that may be changing. Over the last few years our concerns about congestion have started to combine with a growing awareness of our environmental responsibilities in all areas of our lives, not just motoring.

But motorists' differing attitudes to the sustainability of current car usage highlights how far there is still to go. When questioned about how sustainable we think our use of cars will be in the future:

  • Two-thirds of us (65%) say 'our dependency on the car' is sustainable
  • Two-thirds of us (66%) say 'the increasing number of cars on the road' is un-sustainable.
  Our dependency on the car Increasing number of cars on the road
Not sustainable(1-2)%
Not at all sustainable
Not very sustainable
Fairly sustainable
Very sustainable
Completely sustainable
Total Sustainable (3-5)%
Mean Score (1-5)

Measures to manage traffic and reduce congestion

The last 20 years have seen a host of new initiatives being introduced by the Government and local authorities to manage congestion.

These range from hard-shoulder running and car sharing lanes to road pricing.

Although the majority of motorists believe 'tougher steps should be taken to reduce congestion', views on implementation differ. Three in five see road widening and hard shoulder running as having the greatest impact in reducing congestion. Bus lanes and speed cameras (27% and 22% respectively) were seen as the least effective.

Four in ten people disagreed with 'the principle of road pricing in order to reduce traffic' against three in ten that agreed with it. Similarly, its effectiveness was questioned, with almost three quarters saying 'road pricing does not reduce traffic, it only creates the same problem elsewhere'.

RAC calls for:

  • A better informed debate on the various alternatives to deal with congestion.
  • More done to enable lifestyle choices that reduce congestion. For example, increased investment in safer cycle routes to schools, to measures to incentivise car sharing schemes.
  • Hard shoulder running and lane expansion to be rolled out on all suitable motorways, with thorough feasibility analysis and targeted public communication and driver training.
  • Confirmation from Government that profits from any road pricing schemes will be re-invested in roads and public transport - no ifs, no buts. This should help to address public scepticism about road pricing and enable an open debate about the difficult challenges we face.


A changing picture?