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Britain: a nation of 'vanophobes' – time to give van drivers a break?

08 May 2014 at 12:13

'White van man' no more likely to have an accident than a car driver

The RAC is urging motorists to give van drivers a break after a new study* found Britain is a nation of ‘vanophobes’.

More than half of those surveyed (57%) believe van drivers’ reputation for bad behaviour at the wheel is deserved with 54% thinking they take less care on the road than other road

However, RAC analysis of Government accident statistics has found that van drivers are no more likely to be involved in a reported accident** than car drivers as both have a less than 1% chance of being involved in an accident.

And, in terms of accident frequency, van drivers actually do better as one in 146 cars were involved a reportable accident*** in 2012, compared to one in 261 vans. This is because Britain’s 3.3m**** registered vans were only involved in 12,575 accidents of all severities compared to 28.7m**** cars being involved in 197,388 accidents.

Statistically, bus and coaches have the most accidents as one in 26 had one in 2012 – 166,297 vehicles and 6,318 accidents. This equates to a 4% risk of each vehicle ending up in an accident but this may be affected by the large number of hours buses and coaches spend on the roads each week. Heavy goods drivers have a 1.5% accident risk with each vehicle having a one in 68 chance of being involved in an accident – 6,720 accidents among 460,616 HGVs.

Ironically, the research carried out by RAC Van Insurance to understand motorists’ views towards van drivers, found that in spite of their reputation for being a menace to other road-users, 54% of motorists believe van drivers play an important role in the economy. And, more than one in 10 (15%) of motorists think the UK would be worse off without the much-maligned ‘white van man’.

Recent RAC Foundation analysis of Department for Transport statistics found the number of vans on Britain’s roads has been rising more than 2.5 times faster than cars to the point where every tenth vehicle on the road is now a light commercial vehicle. Between 2002 and 2012, the number of vans increased by 29% to 3.3m whereas the number of cars rose by 11% to 28.7 million over the same period.

The RAC research also revealed motorists’ suggestions for what ‘white van man’ could do to improve his reputation:

  • 43%  said they should drive more carefully and with more consideration
  • 17% said they should pay more attention to the rules of the road
  • Just 3% said they will always have a bad perception of van drivers, giving hope to the ‘white man van’ for the remaining 97% who would be willing to change their minds

RAC Van Insurance spokesman Simon Williams said: “While ‘white van man’ has been used as a generic term for van drivers for years it now seems to have become very much associated with bad driving too. Our research clearly paints us as a nation of ‘vanophobes’ which seems harsh when you look at the accident statistics and see both van and car drivers have the same statistical chance of being involved in an accident. In fact, you could argue that van drivers are less likely to have an accident as one in 146 car drivers will have an accident compared to one in 261 van drivers.

“Van drivers – plumbers, builders, electricians, plasterers and delivery drivers – are the life-blood of the economy and yet motorists continue to hold this opinion, regardless of their driving experiences. This judgement seems a little unfair which is why we think it’s time to give van drivers a bit of a break as well as some recognition for their significant contribution to the economy.”

For more information on RAC Van Insurance visit:


If you are a journalist and would like further information, please contact:

Bray Leino PR: 0117 906 4557 /
Simon Williams: 0161 452 4242 / 07725 822107 /

Notes to Editors

*Research conducted on with 1,218 respondents.
** Department for Transport Reported Road Casualty statistics (RAS40004) 'Reported accidents, vehicle user and pedestrian casualties by area type and combination of vehicles’ 2012
*** All severities – includes fatal, serious injury or slight injury accidents
**** Department for Transport Licensed vehicles by body type, by region and per head of population, Great Britain, annually: 2012 - Table VEH0104

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