Half of motorists admit breaking the law while driving, according to a new survey from Brake, which says Britain’s roads are becoming “increasingly lawless territory.”
The road safety charity, which carried out the survey with insurer Direct Line, is calling on the next government to make traffic policing and reducing casualties on the road a priority.
A quarter of the 1,000 drivers questioned say they break the law through inattention and nearly as many, 23 per cent, admit doing it deliberately because they either disagree with the law in question, or believe they can get away with breaking it.
Brake says that motorists now have a higher opinion of their own driving skills than they did a decade ago – in 2005, half of drivers believed they were better than other drivers, a figure that has risen to 69 per cent.
More than half of motorists aged 17-24 – so those with least experience of driving, and also an age group more likely than others to be involved in road traffic collisions – believe they are much safer than other drivers, with 58 per cent agreeing.
An identical percentage believe there are more dangerous motorists than safe ones on the nation’s roads, with the unsafe behaviour they see among other drivers including distraction (eg from mobile phones) and tailgating, both at 71 per cent, while two thirds cited speeding and risky overtaking.
Brake’s deputy chief executive, Julie Townsend, said: “As these figures make clear, law breaking on our roads is not just down to a minority but endemic.
“For whatever reason, many seem to feel they are beyond the law or that traffic laws are somehow optional.
“This represents a failure by government to ensure traffic policing is receiving adequate priority and to make clear the importance and legitimacy of traffic laws.
“Traffic laws exist to save lives and prevent injuries and terrible suffering.
“No matter how experienced or skilled a driver you believe yourself to be, you cannot break them safely.”
Brake is urging whoever forms the next government to make enforcement a priority, to put more resources into traffic policing following cutbacks in recent years, and to reintroduce casualty reduction targets, scrapped in 2010.
“Whoever takes power after 7 May needs to make traffic policing a national policing priority, to ensure there is a strong deterrent against risky law-breaking on roads,” said Townsend
“We also need to see road safety given greater political priority, to set casualties falling once more and deliver safer streets for communities everywhere.
“That means reintroducing road casualty reduction targets, and working harder to win the ideological battle, to ensure everyone who gets behind the wheel understands why the rules exist and accepts their responsibility to abide by them and keep people safe.”
Direct Lines’ director of motor, Rob Miles, pointed out that besides potential criminal sanctions, breaking the rules of the road could lead to higher insurance premiums for drivers, or even being declined cover altogether.
He said: “Drivers continue to flout the rules of the road without realising the devastating impact their actions can have. Traffic laws are there for a reason and breaking them puts lives at risk.
“Breaking the law whilst behind the wheel can lead to a criminal conviction and being declined for car insurance, with even minor offences leading to fines and increased insurance premiums.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.