The number of 17-24 year olds drug-driving has doubled from 5% to 9% in the past twelve months, according to the twenty-fourth annual RAC Report on Motoring¹. Altogether, 13% of this age group have driven or been a passenger in a car when the driver was under the influence of drugs over the past year.
There has also been a 50% increase in the number of 25-44 year olds using their smartphones to access email, Facebook and Twitter behind the wheel since last year’s Report. The findings follow a two year period in which only one high profile road safety campaign has been run by Government.
Spending by the Department for Transport on road safety campaigns dropped from £18.6m in 2009/10 to just £2.34m in 2010/11². In light of this 87% decrease and this year’s Report findings, RAC today calls on the Coalition to reintroduce these campaigns as soon as possible to highlight the dangers of these illegal behaviours behind the wheel.
Commenting on the 2012 Report on Motoring, David Bizley, RAC technical director, said:
“Government cuts have meant an extremely large drop in spending on road safety campaigns in the past two years, but the 2012 Report highlights the damaging effect this is having. The growth of the new breed of motoring offences, like drug-driving and social networking behind the wheel, is highly concerning. RAC urges Government to reintroduce high profile campaigns on these issues as soon as possible.
“These offences don’t yet have the same social taboo that drink-driving now holds, which thanks to years of concerted campaigns has continued to decrease as a problem. We welcome recent announcements that Government will tighten enforcement around drug-driving, but the planned changes focus too much on penalties rather than prevention. Government funding should be directed to educating people through road safety campaigns to deter them from driving dangerously and putting lives at risk.”
Motorists’ concerns about road safety increase in 2012
Overall, the cost of motoring remains the number one issue for motorists. However, worries about road safety and the behaviour of other drivers have shot up drivers’ list of concerns in 2012.
Three of the top five concerns that drivers hold are related to the behaviour of other motorists. Levels of concern about drink-driving, mobile phone usage, drug-driving and the number of accidents on the road have all risen compared to 2011. In contrast, concerns about the condition of the roads, congestion and preparations for bad winter weather have all fallen.
This anxiety about road safety means that nearly half of motorists (44%) say they feel less safe on the roads in 2012 than they ever have previously. In contrast, only a fifth (22%) say they feel safer today.
Road safety concerns that have increased in 2012 versus 2011
Issue Level of concern (2012)
Drivers using mobile phones
Drivers breaking traffic laws 41%
Rudeness of other drivers
No. of accidents on the roads 22%
Road safety campaigner and author of the 2012 Report’s Foreword, Eddie Irvine, said:
“With more and more cars on the road, safety is now paramount in the minds of drivers. It’s clear in this year’s Report that what concerns drivers the most is the behaviour of their fellow motorists, and especially the potential for dangerous driving that puts them at risk.
“You only have to venture out onto the roads for a brief period to see that mobile phone usage is all too common behind the wheel. The rise of smartphones, with the ability to email, use apps and check social media is contributing heavily to that.
“While it’s far harder to spot someone driving under the influence of drugs, that doesn’t mean the issue can be ignored. A doubling of the number of the new generation of motorists drug-driving is highly alarming – and yet still we don’t have a viable at the roadside testing procedure in place for this.
“There is a wider point about road safety that needs to be made as well – the roads today bear no resemblance to those ten or even five years ago. The combination of more cars and the speed and carelessness of some drivers is alarming. Some people are disregarding the fundamental principles of driving and putting themselves and other cars around them at risk.”
Drivers call for stricter enforcement of the law and harsher penalties for breaking it
Given the levels of concern about road safety and increase in some dangerous driving behaviours, it is no surprise that motorists want to see tougher enforcement of the law. Nearly two thirds of motorists (61%) believe that there aren’t enough police on the roads enforcing driving laws. Likewise, 23% don’t believe they are likely to get caught if they do break motoring laws.
As well as enforcement, the majority of drivers believe many of the penalties for motoring offences are currently too light. Nearly all motorists (95%) want to see some kind of driving ban for ‘excessive’
The majority of drivers believe that driving bans should be issued even for one off instances of drug (73%) or drink driving (61%). Support for driving bans in cases of illegal mobile phone use behind the wheel is lower, though 42% of motorists still want to see some kind of ban for this offence. Only 4% believe illegal mobile phone use should carry no penalty or ban at all.
Notes to Editors
¹ The 2012 RAC Report on Motoring surveyed 1,002 motorists (i.e. those who hold a current driving licence and drive at least once a month). The research was conducted in February 2012, with the questionnaire taking around 20 minutes to complete.
² Since May 2010, only one high profile road safety advertising campaign has been run by the Government. This was during December 2011 and focused on drink-driving. The data on levels of DfT spending on road safety campaigns was sourced direct from the Department.
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