Traffic congestion is now the top concern among UK motorists, overtaking other drivers on mobile phones. However people checking social media on the move is still seen as the biggest risk to personal safety.
These are the main findings of IAM RoadSmart’s eagerly awaited fourth annual Safety Culture Survey, published today (15 November).
Each year since 2015 IAM RoadSmart, the UK’s biggest road safety charity, surveys over 2,000 drivers about their worries, fears and attitudes. For the past two years safety concerns around other drivers using hand-held mobile phones has topped the list – but this year there is a new top worry.
More than three-quarters (76%) of those surveyed say that congestion is a bigger problem than they experienced three years ago. Some 73% of those surveyed still say mobile phone usage is a problem across the same period, but this is down from 80% who said this last year. The third biggest concern was aggressive drivers, which more than a third (68%) of people said was a bigger problem than in 2015.
Worries between the sexes are broadly similar; however women are more likely to find drink-driving and speeding a greater concern, while men are more worried about aggressive cyclists.
However when asked what motorists feel is ‘a serious threat’ to their safety while driving, drivers checking or updating their social media or texting outstrips other worries to top the charts, with 93% of those surveyed saying this.
Other major concerns were people driving after using illegal drugs (91%), people driving after drinking alcohol (90%), drivers speeding on residential streets (89%), drivers talking on mobile phones (89%) and drivers ignoring red lights (88%).
Drivers’ attitudes towards speeding and using hand-free mobile phones showed how some illegal and distracting habits are being seen as acceptable by some. Almost half (48%) thought driving 10mph over the limit on a motorway was acceptable, while some 45% still think it is alright to talk on a hands-free mobile phone.
In other worrying findings, slightly less than a quarter (23%) are willing to drive at five miles an hour over the limit in a residential street. Some would also drive without a seatbelt (11%) and drive at five miles an hour over the limit near a school (9%).
Talking about their own bad habits in the previous 30 days, only 15% admitted to regularly driving five miles an hour over the speed limit on a residential street, with a similar percentage saying they had driven 10mph over the limit on a motorway.
Some 5% admitted they had regularly talked on a mobile phone while driving, while 4% said they had regularly driven while drowsy or tired in the previous 30 days.
When asked what traffic police should make a top priority to reduce bad driving in their area, drink and drug driving was significantly the biggest choice, with more than a half (59%) placing it first. Next up was driving using hand-held mobile phones (12% saying it should be top police priority), speeding on local roads (10%), aggressive/intimidating driving (9%) followed by uninsured/taxed/unlicensed drivers (8%).
Finally the survey lifted the lid on the UK’s widespread issue of potholes. A staggering 90% of those surveyed had had a pothole issue of some description. Some 65% of respondents said they had to steer away or brake hard to avoid potential pothole damage, while more than a quarter (29%) said they changed their route to avoid a heavily potholed route.
Mike Quinton, IAM RoadSmart Chief Executive Officer, said: “UK drivers still have many worries when it comes to daily life on the road and there is ample time to think about them, considering the time they are spending in traffic jams.
“They still find the smartphone culture dangerous when mixed with the job of driving a car. Our ever busier roads need every drivers’ full attention if we are to make them safer for everyone and it’s clear those who responded to this survey recognise the extent to which mobile phones can distract a driver.
“However, despite recognising the risks, we have tracked drivers’ attitudes for four years now and it is clear that they are not shifting. Simply informing drivers about risks and trusting drivers to ‘do the right thing’ would not appear to be effective. There is a high level of support for stronger sanctions and more high profile policing, to ensure that the fear of being caught is a reality.”