Driving standards have always been a passion of mine and in the ten years since I became president of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, I have had the opportunity to see at close quarters the work that the IAM, the RAC and other leading campaigners do to raise driving standards and improve safety on our roads.
Motorists taking part in this year’s Report on Motoring survey clearly recognise the contribution that improvements in the cars we drive have made to the impressive reductions in casualty numbers that we have seen over the last 20 years. The motor industry is to be congratulated on this and of course a number of the safety features that we see in the cars we drive today owe their origins to developments in motorsport, something I benefited from in my motor racing career.
Motorists are probably feeling a bit better about life than they were a year ago with fuel prices down and the Government committing more funding to improve our motorways and major trunk roads than we have seen in a generation. What this year’s RAC Report on Motoring shows, however, is that motorists remain particularly concerned about driving standards and the behaviour of other motorists.
But respondents to the survey also told us that driving standards are deteriorating rather than improving, so all of us involved in campaigning on this subject still have much work to do.
The 2014 road traffic accident statistics have shown a further small increase in casualty numbers, suggesting that the trend of year-on- year casualty reductions, to which we have become accustomed, may be faltering. In recent years I have become increasingly concerned at the tragic toll among younger drivers. Over 10% of those killed or injured in a car accident are involved in a collision with drivers aged between 17 and 19 and yet 17 to 19-year-olds only make up around 1.5% of the total number of licensed drivers in the UK. Despite these statistics, the research for this year’s report suggests young drivers are surprisingly far down the list of motorists’ concerns.
This is where my interest in driving standards and my interest in helping young people to realise their full potential come together. For the last 16 years I have been president of UK Youth, a charity that tries to ensure that young people are able to develop into adults with the tools they need to become happy, healthy and valued members of society, no matter how difficult their backgrounds. Safety is implicit in this and as a society we have to find ways of reducing casualties in accidents involving young drivers, whether by the use of technology in our cars such as telematics and automatic emergency braking systems, or by other measures such as the introduction of graduated licensing. I hope that by the time the 2016 Report on Motoring is published, the Government will be at one with this.
A large majority of the UK’s adult population are motorists, and for more than a quarter of a century the RAC Report on Motoring has provided a perspective on the major motoring issues of the day. The 2015 report is no exception and I am delighted to have the opportunity to introduce it and I commend it to you.