RAC calls for a return to campaigning

12.00 | 24 May 2012 | | 2 comments

The number of people either driving under the influence of drugs or while using a smartphone has risen dramatically, according to a new survey by the RAC.

The survey shows that the number of young people (17-24 years) who drive while under the influence of drugs has risen from 5% to 9% in the last 12 months. It also reveals that 12% of respondents in the same age group had travelled in a vehicle driven by someone who had taken drugs.

The survey also highlights a 50% rise in the number of drivers aged 25 to 44 years using their smartphones to check emails and social networking sites while driving.

The RAC cites a lack of investment in road safety awareness campaigns as a possible reason for these increases in dangerous behaviour, and is calling for campaigning to be reintroduced “as soon as possible”.

In a news report on the same issue, The Sun says that spending by the DfT on road safety campaigns dropped from £18.6m in 2009/10 to just £2.34m in 2010/11.

The RAC study also found that just 22% of respondents feel safe on the road, and 44% feel less safe than they ever have. 61% of respondents said there are insufficient road traffic police officers.

David Bizley, RAC spokesperson, said: “For many people in their 20s and 30s it’s become all too natural to use a phone behind the wheel, despite the risks. We’re so used to using our mobiles as and when we want to that it’s easy to forget how distracting they can be on the road.

“At 70mph, checking your texts or Facebook for three seconds means you can travel nearly 100 metres without looking.

“The problem with drug-driving is that it’s much harder to check for than drink-driving. The tests for it are basic compared to the breathalyser, although things are improving.

“Drink-driving is less of a problem now because of years of campaigns which show the dangers of it. It’s become a taboo but the same hasn’t happened yet for drug-driving, which is why some young drivers still see it as okay to do.”

Click here to read the full RAC report.


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    It would be interesting to compare the results of the THINK survey with the RAC’s survey results. Asking people for their opinions is one thing, asking them to self report their behaviour is another. You can only hope that their responses are honest. “Hope” is not fact. The answers can be interpreted in many ways but in the end the responses can only be used to “suggest”, not prove. A major study to observe, record and analyse actual behaviour (smartphone use) would be extremely difficult, time consuming and costly but probably a more accurate reflection. If the majority of the motoring public perceive there to be less on-road policing and increasingly observe violations (mobile phone/Smartphone use) some motorists will wrongly perceive a legitimacy (social norm) for certain behaviours. Road safety campaigns should attempt to change that perceived legitimacy, but should be devised and evaluated in that respect. Fewer traffic police and a significantly reduced publicity budget don’t help. We may be striving to have the safest roads, but what about the safest road users? There needs to be some serious nudging backed up with some serious roads policing but it needs resourcing properly.

    Robert Smith, Dorset
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    It’s undoubtedly a good thing that the RAC and the Sun have highlighted this issue. But I will be truly impressed when I see them and others like them using their government-toppling influence to make a difference. In the words of JFK, “Ask not……” (Google it if you don’t know the rest)

    Tim Philpot, Wolverhampton
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