What the RAC has done, and is doing, for the benefit of drivers

Our work for drivers

We know how much drivers depend on their vehicles and how stressful and expensive running a car can be. That’s why we campaign on the issues that matter most to everyone who drives.

Whether it’s taxation, the cost of fuel, road safety, vehicle standards or the condition of roads, we highlight important issues in the media and speak to the Government and policymakers to ensure drivers’ voices are heard.

We regularly ask drivers about their motoring concerns as well as finding out their thoughts on new government proposals so we can represent them at the highest level.

Our aim is to give drivers complete peace of mind whenever they get behind the wheel – whether that’s rescuing them at roadside or ensuring the Government knows their views.

Fuel prices


RAC Fuel Watch logo

 

We continually monitor fuel prices through RAC Fuel Watch to ensure drivers get a fair price at the pumps. We study the wholesale prices of petrol and diesel to keep an eye on retailer margin. When we see that lower wholesale costs aren’t being passed on at the forecourt, we highlight the issue in the media and call on retailers to cut their prices.

Over the last decade, we’ve campaigned to stop the Chancellor increasing fuel duty which has helped keep it frozen at 57.95p a litre since 2011. Every year, we write to the Treasury ahead of the Budget to argue the case for not increasing the tax burden on drivers at the pumps.  

Find out more on the RAC Fuel Watch page

Potholes and the condition of local roads


If there’s one issue that irks drivers more than any other, it’s potholes. In the 30-plus years we’ve carried out research for the RAC Report on Motoring, the state of our roads has regularly topped the list of drivers’ biggest concerns. Due to the strength of feeling about the condition and maintenance of local roads we now use our own breakdown data to find out whether road surfaces are continuing to get worse or actually improving. The RAC Pothole Index analyses the number of pothole-related breakdowns, such as damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs and distorted wheels, our expert local patrols attend. We publish our results every quarter and send the findings to the Department for Transport.

Our campaigning on the poor state of the roads has helped secure:

  • £2.5bn pothole fund
  • £296m pothole action fund
  • Funding for new ways to help find and fix local roads

We continue to call on the Government to change its local roads strategy by providing long-term funding for councils so they can proactively resurface roads rather than just patching potholes as they appear.

Report a pothole online now

Smart motorways


Ever since the concept of using the hard shoulder as a lane for traffic was first mooted, we’ve campaigned for safety to be paramount.

We’ve always had serious concerns about all-lane-running smart motorways, which permanently remove the hard shoulder, as drivers who break down or are involved in collisions are often left struggling to make it to an SOS area. Sadly, these refuge areas have been placed further apart as the schemes were rolled out, reducing drivers’ chances of being able to reach them.

We continue to favour the ‘dynamic hard shoulder’ smart motorways as these offer the benefit of increased capacity at busy times while still giving drivers a hard shoulder to stop on at all other times.

We’ve made both our concerns and drivers’ fears about all-lane running smart motorways clear to the Government on numerous occasions. We've also:

  • given evidence to two separate Transport Committee inquiries
  • met with Ministers to discuss changes
  • campaigned for the introduction of stopped vehicle detection technology, enforcement of the red X, closed-lane signs and for more SOS areas

Handheld mobile phone use


Handheld mobile phone use at the wheel remains one of drivers’ top concerns. We have long campaigned to break this dangerous habit:

  • The alarming levels of illegal phone use at the wheel revealed in the 2016 RAC Report on Motoring sparked two national newspaper campaigns and led to the Government doubling the penalties for the offence to a £200 fine and six points on a licence
  • More recently, we successfully called on the Government to close the loophole in the law which meant drivers previously caught using handheld phones at the wheel for ‘non-communication purposes’, such as filming videos, playing games or scrolling through playlists, were able to avoid the full penalties for the offence. In 2021 the Government confirmed they would change the law
  • We continue to call on the Government to look at effective enforcement measures, including using camera technology to reduce incidents of illegal phone use at the wheel

Electric vehicles (EVs)


We’re committed to helping drivers make the switch to electric. We’re campaigning to ensure the public charging network grows in line with the number of EVs coming on to the road and that more rapid and ultra-rapid chargers are installed so that drivers can make longer journeys easily and conveniently, especially if they can’t charge an electric car at home. We also believe it’s vital that public charging is made as easy and convenient as filling up a conventional vehicle. Prices should also be clear, fair and affordable without the need for drivers to have to use a mobile phone or sign up online for an account. We don’t believe it’s fair that VAT on electricity is charged at 5% at home while it’s 20% at public charging points.

So far, our research and work has helped the Government:

  • commit to new chargers always accepting contactless debit and credit cards
  • look at introducing a ‘standard’ price of pence per kw/h unit to make it clear to consumers how much they will be paying
  • consider the needs of less mobile drivers by ensuring chargepoint design is easily accessible.
  • keep plug-in vehicle grants going until at least 2023

What’s more, we’re leading the breakdown industry in being able to boost flat or severely depleted EVs from RAC vans using our unique, UK-developed lightweight charger as well as helping drivers to go electric affordably by taking advantage of our competitive EV leasing deals.

A replacement for fuel duty


With the journey to electric speeding up, the way the Government taxes drivers will need to change as the Treasury’s income from fuel duty declines.

A replacement for fuel duty – the 57.95p charged on every litre of fuel bought at the pumps – is inevitable. The RAC will campaign for any new system that doesn’t increase the tax burden on drivers, who already contribute billions to the Government every year. We’ll continue to ask drivers for their views on how vehicles should be taxed and lobby the Treasury and the Department for Transport for the fairest possible system to be introduced.

Among the ‘road pricing’ ideas that could be considered to replace fuel duty are systems using annual mileage and fees for using different types of roads at different times of the day.

So far, we know from our research that the majority of drivers are willing to be taxed based on the number of miles they drive and that they’re very much against paying higher rates per mile to drive in peak periods, and less per mile during off-peak periods.

Parking


We’ve fought hard for drivers who have fallen foul of the questionable practices of some private parking operators.

Our campaigning work for a fairer system in relation to parking on private land led to Sir Greg Knight MP putting a private members bill before Parliament. This made its way easily through both houses and, as a result, the Parking (Code of Practice) Act 2019, introduces a national code of practice and single appeals system to the private parking sector. The code of practice was published in February 2022. Alongside this, a cap of £50 (reduced from £100) on parking charge notices outside of London will be introduced, with a higher cap for more serious breaches such as incorrectly parking in a blue badge space. Debt recovery charges will be banned.

The code and single appeals system will ‘go live’ by the end of 2023, though parking operators are expected to implement the changes specified in the code of practice throughout 2022.

Headlight brightness


Research we conducted in 2018 found that two-thirds of drivers said they were regularly dazzled by oncoming headlights, with the intensity and brightness of some lights causing them genuine difficulty when out on the road. Since then, we’ve been contacted by large numbers of our members who remain concerned.

Headlight brightness is a complicated topic, but there is an international group – led by the United Nations – that looks at the issue. We’ve regularly called on the UK Government, which is part of the UN group, to give drivers reassurance that their concerns are being acted on.

In February 2021, the Government told us:

“The Government acknowledges that due to road geometry there will be unavoidable instances where oncoming vehicles can cause temporary dazzle or discomfort. However, Police recorded collision statistics do not show any discernible trend over time that would suggest an underlying road safety issue linked to advances in lighting technology or deficiencies in the current regulated requirements.

"Nevertheless, the United Nations informal working group established to simplify international road vehicle lighting regulations is now considering proposals to reduce the occurrence of glare by refining the headlamp aim criteria.”

The RAC continues to act on drivers’ behalf on this important road safety topic.