Are You Up To Motorway Driving?

On the busiest weekend of the year on motorways, the RAC Foundation has revealed that one third of drivers admit to regular feelings of anxiety when driving or considering driving on them.

The vast majority of motorists, however, would support compulsory post-test motorway training - even though almost 80 per cent of them rarely, if ever, look at the Highway Code, according to an NOP Automotive poll for National Motorway Month today (26).

National Motorway Month is a joint initiative by RAC Foundation, Auto Express Magazine, IAM and BSM to encourage safer driving on our motorways. The campaign has been running through the busy holiday month of August.

The NOP survey carried out for the National Motorway Month campaign also revealed a lack of basic safety knowledge amongst motorists. Only 19 per cent of motorists know about the two second rule - the safe, recommended gap between a car and the one in front. In average traffic and fine weather conditions that gap should be two seconds. Fifty eight per cent of people think the gap should be six seconds.

The Motorway Month group is worried that motorists may be putting their lives and the lives of others at risk because they fail to understand the basic rules of the road, and fail to keep themselves updated by regularly reading the Highway Code.

The partners are particularly concerned about the potential problems this causes for those driving on motorways, because of the large number of motorists who have never received any professional motorway training.

The National Motorway Month group survey actually found that 86 per cent of motorists support compulsory post-test motorway driving training for every newly qualified driver. This suggests that many motorists feel that they would benefit from extra tuition on the motorways.

Practicing driving on a motorway with a qualified instructor could in many cases help nervous motorway drivers. The National Motorway Group are calling for the Government to conduct a consultation exercise on the possibility of compulsory post-test driver training for all newly qualified drivers.

There have always been some practical problems with this idea. For newly qualified drivers in remote rural areas of the country with no access to motorways this could mean a lengthy journey before they even catch a glimpse of a motorway.

However the survey actually shows that support for the proposal is just as high from drivers in regions without motorways (85% support) as elsewhere.

Currently about 17 per cent of drivers take a Pass Plus course after passing their test. This course includes driving in town, in all weathers, on rural roads, at night, on dual carriageways and includes a motorway driving session.

Some insurance companies offer discounts on car insurance to inexperienced drivers who have undertaken the Pass Plus course. The National Motorway Month group would advocate that more drivers should take the Pass Plus course and bigger incentives should be introduced in terms of insurance discounts for motorists who do so.

Other survey results include:

  • 93 per cent of people in Granada region support compulsory post-test motorway training, compared to 79 per cent of people in Tyne Tees - support for the idea was also high in the three areas with the poorest access to the motorway network (89 per cent in the West Country, 85 per cent in Anglia and 84 per cent in Scotland).
  • 27 per cent of motorists in the Meridian region knew the two second rule compared to seven per cent of people in the West Country.
  • 74 per cent of people in the West Country, 69 per cent of people in Harlech and Granada regions thought the recommended gap was six seconds.
  • 49 per cent of people in Wales have never looked at their Highway Code since passing their test compared to 29 per cent in Anglia region.
  • 16 per cent of people in West Country regularly look at their Highway Code compared to no-one in Anglia, and only one per cent of people in Granada and Yorkshire regions.
  • 35 per cent of Vauxhall drivers and 32 per cent of Renault drivers look at their Highway Code more than once a year. This is compared to only seven per cent of Peugeot drivers.
  • 28 per cent of over 65s have never looked at their Highway Code since passing their test.

Edmund King, Executive Director of the RAC Foundation said:

“It is worrying, but perhaps not surprising, that only four per cent of drivers regularly look at their Highway Code. It is vital that motorists do not become complacent when it comes to driving. Perhaps we need more direct ways to remind motorists of the rules of the road including more use of variable signs and leaflets at motorway service areas.

“Drivers of any age have a responsibility to ensure that they are up to the job. If in doubt a driver should take up voluntary retraining. As motorway driving involves manouvering at speed, it is not surprising that 86 per cent of motorists would like to see compulsory post-test motorway driving training for all newly qualified drivers. We would urge the Government to consider the training needs of motorists on motorways carefully.”

26 August 2005 Staff

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