Drivers who speed or use smartphones are considered the biggest danger on Britain’s roads says a new survey – although there are big differences in how each is viewed, depending on the age of the person responding. The survey also finds most motorists admitting to having broken the speed limit, and a significant percentage saying they have let themselves be distracted while driving.
The survey, commissioned by the charity Brake, insurer Aviva and opticians Specsavers to coincide with the start today of National Road Safety Week, found that younger drivers were far less likely than older ones to consider distraction as the biggest threat to road safety, instead tending to highlight speeding.
Motorists aged 45 and over, by contrast, were more likely to pick distraction as the number one danger, and less likely to choose speeding.
In the survey of 1,000 people, drink/drug driving was seen as the third biggest danger across all age bands, other than the 18-24s who put it second ahead of distraction.
Failure to wear a seatbelt, impaired and uncorrected vision, and vehicle emissions were all chosen as the biggest danger by a handful of each age group – although younger people were particularly concerned about the latter.
Despite speeding being seen as the second biggest danger on the roads, almost two thirds of respondents agreed that they sometimes speed, with older drivers more likely to admit having done so.
Meanwhile 13 per cent, around one in eight, admitted to driving while distracted by using a mobile phone or other device, with these motorists more likely to be in the younger age groups.
“What drivers believe is the biggest threat, and the bad behaviours they engage in, don’t match up,” Brake noted.
“Older drivers are more likely to admit to speeding but say distraction is the biggest threat. Younger drivers are more likely to say they drive while distracted, and say speeding is the biggest danger.
“This is suggestive that people are inclined to think their own risky behaviour is not the most threatening: it’s someone else’s, different behaviour that is the problem.”
Gary Rae, director of communications and campaigns for Brake, commented: “Road Safety Week’s theme is action-orientated. Anyone can make and share the Brake Pledge – individuals, businesses and community organisations.
“Our survey shows that drivers are aware of the threat of risky behaviour by other drivers, but are inclined to play down the riskiness of their own behaviours.
“Everyone who drives has to step up and take responsibility. If every driver vowed to slow down, never drink alcohol or take drugs, never use their phones or other devices, always use seat belts and child restraints, drive when fit to do so, and minimise driving, then our roads would be safer places for everyone.”
Chief Constable Suzette Davenport, the National Police Chiefs' Council Lead for Roads Policing said: "In recent weeks police forces across the country have been running new and innovative operations to target some of the most dangerous motorist behaviours, including mobile phone use at the wheel.
“But this problem can't be solved without making people take responsibility for their actions while driving. We are delighted to support this Brake campaign and urge all road users to sign and share the Pledge, but also to think seriously about the promises you are making.
“We need to change attitudes because a few moments' distraction at the wheel can and does cost lives. This is about more than just identifying the problem – you have to think about what you are doing, and the risks you are taking.
“Don't put others in danger. Keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road."
Despite a crackdown last week by police forces in England and Wales on motorists using mobile phones, official figures show that the number of drivers fined for the offence has plummeted over the past decade – the result of insufficient resources to enforce the law rather than increased compliance with it.
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.