Company car drivers are accident-prone and ignorant!

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The RAC's Report on Motoring: Going too fast, going too slow? reveals, among other findings, that company car drivers are the most accident-prone group, and that they are ignorant of tax changes relating to driving. The report compares drivers' perceptions of risks, conditions and costs, with statistics. The highlights are presented below, provided by the RAC.

Company car drivers and accidents
Company car drivers believe that driving too fast and lack of attention are the main causes of road accidents, but more than any other group of drivers they admit to speeding, have more points on their driving licences and do not believe their companies should provide driver training.

The vast majority of company car drivers agree that cameras are the most effective deterrent to speeding, and almost half of those questioned admitted to have sped past a camera. More than a third have been "flashed" and 30% of those have been convicted as a result – the single highest conviction rate amongst any group interviewed. Unsurprisingly, significantly more company car drivers have points on their driving licences - a fact that is likely to have a direct impact on corporate motor insurance premiums. While backing speed cameras, and also calling for more to be installed to prevent red light "jumpers", company drivers felt strongly that cameras should be more visible and painted bright yellow or orange. This is justified by their view that cameras cause drivers to slow down dangerously quickly when approaching them – an action many admit to themselves.

As with motorists generally, company car drivers believe that driving too fast is the primary cause of accidents (41%) with distractions and inattention also major contributors. They also support the majority’s perception of young people as the highest accident risk, rather than themselves. But the reality appears to be very different. A quarter of company car drivers questioned for the RAC report admitted to having had at least one accident in the previous three years – 13% higher than private motorists and 11% more than the 17-34 age group. According to the report, company car accidents have increased proportionately (even when taking their higher mileages into account) – as have accidents for drivers over 55 – while young driver accidents have actually fallen significantly.

Company car drivers are extremely honest when it comes to owning up to their accidents. When asked, 37% admitted that their last road accident was mainly their fault, 13% higher than private motorists. However, in the vast majority of cases, company drivers simply informed their employers, insurance or accident management companies and left the process to be handled entirely by them.

Despite their honesty in terms of speeding and accidents, company drivers appear unconcerned about wanting to improve the situation. When asked whether they thought drivers should receive training through their employer in relation to their car, 58% of company car drivers said "no". However, there are more encouraging responses when considering how they could reduce their personal risk of having an accident, with more company than private car drivers recognised that training could help.

There would appear to be some change in attitude by companies themselves to ensure their employees receive training. Although as many as 62% of company car drivers still claim to have had no road safety or driving skills training of any kind (and a further 5% did not know if they had received training or not), this is a significant improvement on the report’s findings in 2001.

Company car drivers and costs
Whereas other drivers have responded to changes in new car tax legislation, company car drivers have not changed their vehicles or driving habits, regardless of financial or environmental implications. Close to a quarter of company drivers are not aware of any changes at all. Of those motorists who are, only 40% of company drivers know about emissions-based taxation even though this will have arguably the most significant impact on the tax burden for their company cars. Although the vast majority are aware of the change in VED, private drivers are still more knowledgeable. When it comes to finding out about the changes, only 15% of business motorists have been informed by their employer – the same proportion as those who found out from friends or relatives. Their primary source of information is the media. Among those company drivers aware of the tax changes, a quarter intend to change the size or type of their vehicle within the next three years because of them.

The report shows that despite the tax changes, a significant percentage will not change their vehicles and appear poorly informed. For example, while fuel prices have actually fallen by 10% in the last year, more than half of business drivers believe they have risen - but have still done nothing to change their driving habits to save fuel.

General findings
1a) Going too fast: speeding
Speeding is seen as the main cause of accidents. Motorists say that most people exceed the speed limit, an opinion backed by the government's own statistics for actual driving speeds. Around a half of motorists believe that the speed limit should only be broken in exceptional circumstances on motorways, but rather more feel this rule should be applied in towns. Generally drivers are in favour of speed cameras and think they are a good way of stopping speeding and that they should be painted bright colours, although they do feel that people slow down dangerously at cameras.

b) Going too fast: accidents
Road casualty rates have been falling steadily despite the large increase in traffic - because of safer cars, safer roads, seat belts and the reduction in drink driving. Speeding is now perceived to be the main cause of accidents on the road (45%). Drink driving is mentioned by only 9% of drivers, compared with 33% in 1994, showing how effective campaigns have been in highlighting this problem. Young drivers are thought to be most to blame for accidents followed by elderly drivers. In reality, company car drivers remain the most accident-prone group even taking into account their higher mileages. Accidents involving young drivers appear to have reduced, with older driver accidents on the increase.

Although mobile phones are only mentioned by 5% as the main cause of accidents, 42% of drivers want the Government to ban their use in cars as a priority to reduce accidents, followed by increased enforcement of motoring offences,
changing drivers? attitudes and increased training. When asked how drivers could personally change behaviour to reduce accidents, they said they should drive more carefully and considerately, allow more time and drive more slowly. Motorists are strongly in favour of periodic refresher training for all drivers typically every five to ten years.

2a) Going too slow: the problems of congestion
Drivers remain as dependent as ever on their cars with 85% of passenger kilometres being by car and 83% saying they would find it very difficult to adjust their lifestyle to being without a car. 36% of drivers would consider using public transport if it were better instead of their car.

Almost all drivers surveyed believe that congestion is generally a serious problem in London and large cities, although those who actually live in these areas do not feel it is such a big problem. Congestion is perceived to be
caused by the volume of traffic (60%), road works (19%) and poor public transport (10%). The main contributors to congestion are claimed to be parents making the school run and commuters.

b) Going too slow: reacting to congestion
Congestion causes people to be late, produces stress and forces them to allow extra time for their journeys. Motorists say that congestion is less of a problem to them personally because they adjust to it by leaving more time,
choosing a different route or changing the time of the journey. Many motorists simply put up with congestion and very few avoid it by giving up the journey, using public transport or walking.

Motorists believe strongly that improving public transport is the best solution for reducing congestion, although nearly as many mention widening or improving roads.

The Report highlights the continuing task faced by the government, local authorities and other interest groups to persuade motorists to use alternative methods of transport to reduce congestion.

3. Living with the car
Drivers have a pretty good idea of the costs of fuel for their car but tend to underestimate the running costs. They consider that fuel is the most expensive cost, but in fact it is depreciation, which is a hidden cost until the car is sold. A year on from the September 2000 fuel crisis, motorists perceive that petrol has gone up, whereas in reality it has fluctuated and is now over 10% cheaper than last year. Few drivers, however, have changed their behaviour as a result of "high prices".

Awareness of the change in car taxation is now widespread compared with last year and about a tenth of new and used car buyers over the past year claim to have switched to a smaller car because of the change. More drivers are
considering alternative fuels such as LPG over the next 3 years.

The condition (maintenance and potholes) of local roads is generally rated as fairly good, but they are perceived to be getting worse. Main roads and motorways were viewed as better. There is strong support for 24 hour working to
speed up roadworks, but not if it is outside motorist's houses.

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