By Alisdair Suttie 13 June 2012
Wednesday 13 June 2012. Fleet Voice Column.
There are many competing voices for company drivers’ attention when it comes to telling us what we should and shouldn’t be doing. However, the RAC Report on Motoring does just what it says and gives us a state of the nation snapshot of what motorists think and feel each year.
It’s telling that 2012’s RAC report on drivers’ attitudes has a foreword by ex-Formula One driver Eddie Irvine, a man noted for his love of speed. Yet Irvine quickly gets down to brass tacks by saying he thinks greater driver education is needed across the board to improve safety standards.
Irvine [pictured] says in his introduction: “Respect for motoring and other motorists has got lost. We need to address this through a fresh approach to driver education and training. Drivers, both old and new, need to be taught not just to drive the car but also about greater awareness of the road around them and the courtesy that should be extended to other road users.
The report goes on to say that nearly one in 10 company car drivers (87%) admit to speeding on motorways, which compares with a significantly lower 61% of private motorists.
Some of the reasons for this attitude among company drivers can be attributed to them not funding the fuel costs of driving at higher speeds. Private motorists cite fuel cost and consumption as a major influence on their driving habits, with many saying they make fewer journeys to cut their fuel bill.
Another reason for company car drivers regularly breaking the speed limit is pointed out in the RAC’s report. It says many business drivers simply don’t see speeding offences as a major deterrent. Two out of five company car drivers (38%) think speeding fines should be done away with altogether, whereas only 29% of private motorists think the same.
Again, this attitude is attributed to company drivers’ experience and frustration at delays and traffic jams that put them under greater time pressure. In the RAC’s 2012 report, a huge majority (73%) of drivers, both private and business, said traffic congestion is getting worse and they would like to see more done to improve bottlenecks at known hot spots.
This leads on to a repeated call for speed limits to be revised to reflect the capabilities of modern cars. On motorways, in particular, there’s a call from business drivers to raise the national speed limit to 80mph.
The RAC’s David Bizely agrees, but with some qualification. He said: “It is important the speed limit is only raised on those stretches of motorway where it is appropriate to do so. Not all motorways are sufficiently modern or well designed to cope with higher speeds at the moment.”
Bizely is not blind to the frustrations of company car drivers, however, and added: “Company drivers are under huge pressure to complete each journey as quickly and efficiently as possible, so the importance of maintaining roads to a high standard is a key issue.”
He goes on to balance this statement, saying: “It is worrying that such a high number of company car drivers are breaking speed limits and view this as somehow less serious than other motoring offences.
“Good business must not come at the expense of road safety. Helping business to keep moving safely is why the RAC welcomes the Government’s consultation on raising the motorway speed limit to 80mph.”
It was also made clear in the RAC’s 2011 report that drug-driving incidences doubled between 2005 and 2010.
Combined with a more lax attitude to speeding, it’s little wonder accident statistics show young drivers are still dying while older, more experienced drivers are becoming safer.
The latest RAC report points out: “The better the driver education and training motorists receive, the better the driver they are likely to be. Driver training needs to span everything from attitudes, such as courtesy to other drivers, to the dangers of driving under the influence.
“It also needs to include sufficient training about the vehicle itself to enable a driver to ensure their vehicle is safe and roadworthy.”
Instil good habits
In a radical statement, the RAC reckons driver training should start long before new drivers reach 17-years old. As in the USA, the RAC believes driver education classes are essential to instilling good habits from the start of a driver’s career.
The RAC also says on-going education and re-testing throughout a driver’s life should be part of the everyday make-up of driving in the UK.
This approach is one I wholeheartedly support. A pilot as to maintain their standard of flying to hold on to his licence, so why should it be different for drivers when there are so many more of us on the roads than in the air?
Those who say this approach will cost too much and be impossible to implement are simply being too short-sighted. Look at the cost-savings in the long term of reduced accidents and deaths on our roads and smaller insurance premiums as a result of safer roads.
This is not something that is too expensive but a worthwhile investment in our all our futures. Consider the young driver of today is the company driver of tomorrow and it’s clear that action taken now will have far reaching benefits for British industry and all road users.
When there are so many competing voices vying for the attention of company car drivers, the RAC’s rings out clearly we need to look to the future. This future should include roads that are easier to use and reflect what modern cars can offer, but it must also be balanced by improved driving standards. Only then will we see the UK’s driving habits and attitudes truly change for the better.
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