Motorists’ biggest fear is other drivers as data reveals one in three has witnessed a physical attack

Phone use, aggression and drink-driving among major concerns highlighted by RAC survey

Monday, 14th October 2019, 12:01 am
Updated Monday, 14th October 2019, 12:02 am
One in three drivers has seen a physical assault on the roads (Photo: Shutterstock)

More than a third of drivers say that other motorists’ dangerous or illegal behaviour is their biggest concern when on the road.

The equivalent of 14 million motorists say that actions such as speeding, tailgating, drink-driving and mobile phone use scare them more than anything else on the road, according to a study by the RAC.

The study also found that a shocking three in ten had witnessed physical abuse of another driver in the last year and almost half - the equivalent of 20m - had seen or been subject to verbal abuse.

The figures were uncovered in the annual RAC Report on Motoring, which questioned motorists on their own and other drivers’ habits and what concerns them about driving on the UK’s roads.

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It shows that concern around antisocial and dangerous behaviour is at an all-time high but that many of those surveyed admitted to driving illegally themselves, either by using a phone at the wheel, speeding or being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Mobile menace

Half of under-25s said they had made handheld calls at the wheel and a third had sent text messages (Photo: Shutterstock)

Fear over aggressive behaviour has doubled in the last year - to eight per cent - but other drivers using a handheld phone was the single biggest concern. Twelve per cent of motorists cited it as their number one worry, but twice as many admitted to committing the offence.

The study found that despite drivers’ fears and tougher punishments, 23 per cent still said they occasionally or regularly used a handheld phone to make or receive calls and 17 per cent checked texts, emails or social media.

Young drivers were far more likely than other age groups to commit the offence, with half of 17-24-year-olds saying they had made or received calls in the last year and 35 per cent admitted to texting or checking other messages.

10 most common concerns for drivers

  1. Drivers using handheld mobile phones
  • Cost of fuel
  • Condition and maintenance of local roads
  • Aggressive behaviour of other drivers
  • Cost of insuring a car
  • Drivers under the influence of drink
  • Drivers breaking traffic laws
  • Drivers without tax or insurance
  • Traffic congestion / slower journeys
  • Cost of parking

Younger drivers were also the most likely to confess to drink-driving. Forty-four per cent of under-25s said they thought or knew they had driven while over the drink-drive limit, compared with 19 per cent of all those questioned.

Worryingly, despite drink-drive deaths reaching an eight-year high last year, almost a quarter of the motoring public – equivalent to nine million - said that they normally consume at least one small alcoholic drink whenever they drive to a social occasion.

Unpleasant confrontations

RAC road safety spokesperson Simon Williams said: “All the fears associated with the behaviour of other drivers on the road have never featured as highly in our research as top motoring concerns as they have this year. This is primarily due to double the proportion of people ranking the aggressive behaviour of other drivers as their top concern this year.

“Drivers using handheld mobile phones, drink-driving, drug-driving and breaking traffic laws remained as number-one concerns for similar proportions of motorists to last year’s research. This means people must have experienced some very disturbing aggressive behaviour on the UK’s roads in the last year for them all to rank in top spot together.

Fear of other driver's aggressive behaviour has doubled since 2018 (Photo: Shutterstock)

“The most likely explanation must surely be a combination of factors including the pressure of modern life, reliance on the car for so many journeys, record volumes of traffic and congestion leading to never before seen frustration at the wheel.

“Perhaps it is also the case that our tolerance of other people who make mistakes while driving is falling. A quick sorry in the form of an apologetic wave could go a long way to taking the heat out of a situation, but unfortunately all too often it is a hand gesture of another sort that leads to an unpleasant car confrontation.”