Mind Your Language

Not Waving But Cursing: New RAC Foundation Study Into Communication Launched Today.

Is the UK a nation of horn hogs tooting from the same hymn sheet - or are motorists a motley crew of confused communicators risking collisions with misleading signals, asks the RAC Foundation, launching a new survey today (25th May).

With millions of vehicles out on the road this May Bank Holiday weekend, communication between road users has never been so important . A toot of the horn or a raised hand can avert road rage - or provoke it. Motorists may not even be speaking the same language behind the wheel: in the USA, 35 per cent of drivers* use the horn in reaction to bad driving, while just 8 per cent use obscene gestures to make their feelings known, while previous surveys have shown that the rude hand signal is the UK motorists’ first choice**.

The RAC Foundation survey “Behind the wheel - communicating with other road users” asks motorists and other road users about the ways in which they communicate with each other - and their reaction when they are on the receiving end.

Elizabeth Dainton, Research Development Manager at the RAC Foundation said:

"Toots, hoots and waves are all part of the unofficial language of the motorist - but can be easily misinterpreted with potentially disastrous results. We hope that this survey will give us a better understanding of how the nation communicates whilst out on the road.”

RAC Foundation Communication Fact File

  • In 2005 a Taunton lorry driver who waved to motorists to warn them of a speed trap ahead was prosecuted for obstructing the police, though he was cleared on appeal as there was no proof that any driver had seen his signal.
  • In France, a driver flashing his headlights at a junction doesn’t mean “After you, Claude” but “Out of the way - I am coming through.”
  • 2CV owners wave at each other when they pass. Smart owners do the same.
  • In the USA, Harley-Davidson riders have an elaborate vocabulary of signs and signals. A biker stopped by the side of the road with their helmet on the ground needs assistance, while a biker with a safety-pin on his leathers is signalling that he is “passing through” rival territory rather than looking for a fight.

* Autovantage Road Rage Survey 2007

** EOS Gallup survey.

27 May 2007 Staff

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