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More road rule breakers than a decade ago

Couple in car

When driving, it’s common to see other drivers doing things they shouldn’t at the wheel, such as talking on their phone, drinking and snacking, etc.

According to GEM Motoring Assist, a survey has revealed that thousands of drivers are flouting the law. More specifically, while driving 10% admitted to using a mobile and 60% admitted to eating and drinking. You only have to drive past an accident to wonder how it happened and perhaps the answer lies in the results of this survey!

Thousands admit to incidents when they were adversely distracted by chatting to passengers, looking out for the kids in the back seat, changing radio channels/CD or lighting up. 40% admitted to reduced attention levels and, worryingly, these motorists believed they were more distracted nowadays than 10 years ago, which leads us to believe that our driving standards are seriously slipping.

The irony is that more that 70% of drivers would like to see a greater police presence on the roads and stricter policing to clamp down on law-breakers. However, the survey definitely shows double standards at work as far as doing one thing and expecting others to do another. The GEM survey questioned several thousand members so the results are very credible and represents a cross-section of the UK’s drivers.

Controversially, motorists want to see safer conditions on the roads with tougher action against those who flout the law but these motorists are the same ones who are now slipping into bad driving standards/habits.

Clearly, enforcement authorities have a big job to rescue this situation before accident numbers soar to levels that make driving on our roads a risk many of us won’t be prepared to take. You only have to encounter a near miss for your confidence to be knocked, putting you off driving and taking the pleasure out of being on the roads.

We’re all aware of various safe driving campaigns over recent years such as anti drink-drive and drug promotions. Achieving a nationwide commitment to making our roads safer appears to be a government and policing priority yet those who enforce the law face a huge challenge when our bad driving habits have become so entrenched. Re-educating motorists is especially difficult when the survey results show that 16% of respondents accepted that being distracted behind the wheel was acceptable because it hadn’t caused them any issues.

This shows that some drivers can be blind to risks when driving. Unfortunately, technology in our cars is a mixed blessing. One survey respondent made the perceptive comment that car manufacturers are continuously improving in-vehicle communication such as Bluetooth devices, making it easy for motorists to engage in conversations and fiddle with technology while driving. Although using a hands-free device isn’t illegal, you have to wonder whether it really is a good idea when it comes to the precious concentration levels needed when driving. The temptation to use all the available technology in a car is very strong and, in many cases, the law can’t stop it.

Increasing policing on the roads is difficult for authorities already hard-pressed to afford this. The process is partially automated in some cases, with fixed speed cameras helping to reduce speeding. However, the survey showed that opinion was divided on the merits of enforcement cameras. Just over 30% want more cameras, around the same number were satisfied with existing automated enforcement and another 30% want fewer devices.

Change in the law for drivers who accumulate points on their licences could help to reverse the increasing amount of bad driving. There are regular reports of drivers who are allowed to retain a licence even though they have 12 or more points. More than 65% of those surveyed would like to see harsher penalties for such motorists

It’s not just other motorists who are at risk from bad driving. Any road user is a potential victim with cyclists, motorcyclists, pedestrians and horse riders among those who need to be protected against falling driving standards.

A change in attitude is needed to reverse the trend. This is clear from the survey showing that around 65% of motorists questioned said they paid attention to safety when driving but only because they were worried about having to meet the costs and deal with the implications of getting a fine and/or penalty points! This is clearly something of an unhealthy attitude.

Perhaps the solution is for the government to set a new priority for road safety with new, inspiring messages and driver education to encourage drivers to get rid of distractions when driving. This should be tempered with more traffic police to clamp down on the riskiest drivers.

The eye-opening survey into the UK’s slipping driving standards appears in the 2016 Good Motoring summer edition, available to GEM members.

About Mark Lean

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