The RAC’s 25th annual Report on Motoring – published yesterday – was packed full of insights into the minds of the driving public. Predominantly based on a survey of 1542 British motorists carried out by Quadrangle, it covered subjects ranging from motoring taxation to the general cost of motoring to younger drivers.
Safety and behaviour was a central theme. Amongst the statistics highlighted were:
- 21% of drivers admit to using their hand-held mobile phone at the wheel
- 65% of motorists admit to having broken the 70mph speed limit on motorways, yet…
- 92% say they are law abiding
There is some evidence to suggest motorists are behaving better. In 2011 there were 1.5 million fixed penalty notices issued for motoring offences, half of them for speeding offences. However the total figure was 18% down on 2010.
Perhaps one of the more noteworthy comments in the report came from the Head of Road Safety Statistics at the Department for Transport. In relation to 20mph zones – which have been increasingly rolled out across the country in place such as London, Manchester, Bristol, Liverpool and Newcastle, but most notably in Portsmouth – Daryl Lloyd said:
“No sound conclusions can be drawn on the basis of Portsmouth’s 20mph limits alone. Unfortunately there is no specific national information on where all 20mph zones and limits are located. Therefore evaluating the changing relationship between accident rates, travel behaviour, wider health impacts and 20mph zones is challenging.”
This suggestion from officialdom of a lack of hard evidence as to the effectiveness of blanket 20mph zones underlines the need for proper assessment of road safety interventions. This should be the job of those in public office – or at least the people they employ – after all they are the ones who introduce the policies which affect us all. Yet with budget, and hence staffing, cuts continuing to be made both in Whitehall and town halls, is there the will and the resources to adequately do this?
The speed camera report the RAC Foundation published last Friday was met with a storm of comment – that was to be expected. But leaving aside the benefits or otherwise of cameras, it is a symptom of a wider problem that we felt obliged to do work in an area where in the past it might have been reasonable to expect the authorities to do it.