Drivers who are speeding or distracted (for example by a mobile phone) are considered to be the biggest threats on our roads, according to a survey by the road safety charity Brake, Aviva and Specsavers, marking the start of Road Safety Week 2016 (21-27 November).
Brake’s Road Safety Week survey asked 1,000 drivers to identify which driving behaviour, from a list of six, they thought posed the biggest danger. More than three quarters (76 per cent) ranked speeding or distraction most highly.
Drink- and drug-driving was also ranked highly. Almost one in five drivers (18 per cent) thinks drink- and drug-drivers are the biggest threat.
Only three in 100 respondents (3 per cent) consider vehicle emissions to be the biggest threat faced. Just 1 per cent ranked not wearing a seat belt wearing as the biggest danger and 2 per cent rated poor vision as the biggest risk.
Brake, Aviva and Specsavers are calling on everyone to sign the Brake Pledge in Road Safety Week. The Pledge aims to raise awareness of the importance of drivers staying slow (drive under speed limits), silent (never make or take calls, read or type), sober (never drive after any alcohol, or illegal or impairing drugs), sharp (stay focussed and don’t drive tired or with a health condition that impairs you. Get eyes tested every two years), secure (make sure everyone is belted up correctly) and sustainable (don’t use a car if you have the option to walk or cycle or can use public transport).
The age of respondents was significant regarding whether speed or distraction were placed top. Younger drivers (44 and under) said speeding is the biggest threat, while drivers aged 45 and older rated distraction as their biggest fear.
Age of respondents in the Road Safety Week survey was also significant regarding the perception of vehicle emissions. While only 3 per cent of drivers questioned rated this the biggest threat, more than three times as many (10 per cent) of the youngest respondents (aged 18-24) rated it the biggest threat.
The Road Safety Week survey also asked drivers which risks they would admit to taking on the roads themselves. Nearly eight in 10 (79 per cent) admitted to taking risks. Almost two thirds (63 per cent) confessed to sometimes speeding. More than four in 10 drivers (45 per cent) admitted they drive distances that they could easily walk. Nearly one in eight (13 per cent) admitted to driving while distracted and nearly one in 10 (9 per cent) confessed to not wearing a seat belt or their passengers not wearing a seat belt.
Age was significant regarding admissions of risk-taking. Older drivers (aged 45 and above) were more likely to admit to speeding than younger drivers. Conversely, younger drivers (aged 44 and under) were more likely to admit to driving distracted, driving on alcohol or drugs, or failing to belt up.
What drivers believe is the biggest threat, and the bad behaviours they engage in, don’t match up. 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, said: “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.”
National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Roads Policing, Chief Constable Suzette Davenport 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.”