The RAC uses the results of its annual Report on Motoring to inform its campaigning activity and identify the key issues which matter most to motorists. Our 2018 ‘calls to action’ below focus on the biggest of these concerns.
Cost of motoring
Fuel duty: The cost of fuel continues to be a major concern for drivers and an increase in duty would have a detrimental effect on economic growth. The RAC reiterates its call to the Government not to increase fuel duty for the entirety of this Parliament, giving motorists and businesses further clarity and certainty on costs.
The increasing uptake of ultra-low carbon vehicles will result in a longer term decline in Treasury revenues from fuel duty and the RAC calls on the Government to lead a public debate on how best to restructure motoring taxation in a way that is fair to road users and maintains Treasury revenues.
Insurance Premium Tax (IPT): The RAC urges the Treasury to freeze IPT for the remainder of this Parliament as insurance costs continue to be a top concern for motorists. The RAC also calls on the Government to reduce the IPT rate for those younger drivers who take up telematics ‘black box’ insurance policies.
State of the roads
Local roads: The condition and maintenance of local roads is the top concern for motorists in 2018. The vast majority of all journeys begin and end on local roads and their upkeep is essential to the UK’s economic health and to minimise safety risk and costs for all road users. The RAC believes the Government should develop a long term strategy to bring local roads back to a state that is fit-for-purpose over an agreed period of between five and 10 years, and that the Treasury should ring-fence additional funds for this.
The RAC estimates that ring-fencing 2p from the existing 57.95p fuel duty paid by motorists on every litre of fuel purchased over 10 years would earmark £9.4bn for local roads – enough, according to the recent survey of councils conducted by the Asphalt Industry Alliance, to largely eliminate the maintenance backlog on roads in England and Wales.
Major roads: There has been a sharp rise in the number of motorists who believe the condition of the strategic road network has deteriorated over the last 12 months. We urge Highways England to re-examine the criteria it applies to determine when preventative maintenance is required and to put in place processes capable of responding more rapidly to fix surface defects when they arise following periods of extreme weather.
Air quality and the environment
Local measures to improve air quality: With local authorities across many towns and cities drawing up plans for Clean Air Zones, we continue to encourage authorities to prioritise targeting the most polluting vehicles covering the most miles in urban areas. We strongly urge authorities to adopt an evidence-based approach when creating measures for diesel vehicles. For example, we would discourage local authorities from implementing parking surcharges for diesel vehicles as there is no evidence of their effectiveness.
We also call on local authorities to publicise and enforce anti-idling measures that encourage drivers to switch off their engines when stationary.
Online emissions look-up: With many local authorities developing plans for the introduction of Clean Air Zones in areas with poor air quality, it is essential that individuals and businesses have access to a database which allows them to look up the Euro emissions standard for any vehicle by entering registration details. The RAC calls on the Government to develop and introduce such a system as a matter of urgency.
Vehicle choice: Given the confusion among motorists and businesses highlighted in the Report over the best environmental choice for their next vehicle, both to improve air quality and reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the RAC calls on the Government to:
- Maintain a technology-neutral position recognising that one technology solution will not offer the best option for all user requirements
- Recognise that an adequate charging infrastructure across the UK is a pre-requisite for mass-market take-up of pure electric vehicles and that common standards for recharging of electric vehicles are needed before stakeholders will have the confidence to invest in mass recharging facilities
- Include road user representation in all initiatives aimed at accelerating progress on the Government’s ‘Road to Zero Strategy’ which aims for at least half of new cars to be ultra-low emission by 2030
- Follow the lead given by Norway and create more attractive financial incentives to switch to ultra-low emissions vehicles, such as reduced VAT rates for new zero-emission vehicles. The Government should also reintroduce worthwhile reductions in vehicle excise duty rates in years two to five for plug-in hybrid and extended-range electric vehicles
Enforcement of traffic offences: The RAC encourages the Government to review the guidance given to local authorities on the implementation of bus lanes and particularly on signage requirements where bus lanes operate. More generally, we call on the Government to review the penalty charge notice system for certain ‘moving’ traffic offences, such as driving in bus lanes and through bus gates, and to consider promoting tiered penalties where first-time offenders are issued with a lower than standard penalty.
Handheld mobile phones: The RAC remains concerned by the stubbornly high level of handheld mobile phone use evident in this year’s Report on Motoring despite the introduction of stiffer penalties in 2017 and enforcement campaigns initiated by the National Police Chiefs’ Council. We urge the Government to continue investing in high-level public awareness campaigns to highlight the dangers and to give further consideration as to how new technology can assist in enforcement. We also encourage police forces across the UK to step up the number of high profile enforcement campaigns so there is a greater probability that motorists will be caught if they flout the law on handheld mobile phone use.
Drink-driving: The number of motorists admitting to driving over the limit immediately after drinking appears to have increased. The RAC calls on the Government and police forces to continue communicating the dangers and that enforcement is given sufficient priority so that offenders can expect to get caught. The UK Government should also reconsider reducing the blood alcohol limit to 50mg/100ml.
Driver re-training: Recent findings have demonstrated that drivers caught speeding who attend speed awareness courses are less likely to reoffend than those who do not. Research for this year’s Report also shows that 90% of those who have attended such courses claim to have reduced their speed. The RAC therefore calls on the Government to consider making attendance on courses for those caught speeding and similar offences compulsory for first time offenders.
Highway Code: Few drivers appear to update their knowledge of the Highway Code with any regularity. There is majority support for drivers being required to demonstrate a knowledge of the Highway Code every 10 years as part of the process of renewing a driving licence and the Government should consider the cost/benefit case for introducing such a process.
Roadside safety: The recent fatal accident involving an RAC patrol working at the roadside and other accidents involving roadside technicians have served to reemphasise the dangers to vehicle occupants and roadside assistance providers at the scene of a breakdown. The RAC calls on the Government to introduce guidance in the Highway Code to encourage drivers to ‘slow down and move over’ if it is safe to do so when approaching a broken-down vehicle. The RAC also calls on all stakeholders to work together to further improve red-X compliance, particularly on smart motorways, and for Highways England to consider further reducing the distance between emergency refuge areas on new smart motorways.