Follow The RAC Media Centre

Report on Motoring 2014: 3. Driving lifelong learning

Blog post   •   Jun 24, 2014 08:56 BST

All data attributable to RAC Report on Motoring 2014 unless otherwise referenced

The Highway Code has been essential reading for anyone who wants a driving licence, even before the introduction of the theory test back in 1996.

How much do motorists remember once they’ve consigned their L-plates to the bin and to what extent do motorists keep up with any subsequent changes to motoring laws once they have passed their test?

3.1 Knowing when to stop

Most of us recall trying to memorise the stopping distances for different speeds and driving conditions for our driving test, but just how much of it do we recall once the test is a distant memory?

Worryingly, we found that the vast majority of motorists underestimate the distance for their car to come to a complete stop when braking in an emergency.

When asked about driving on motorways at 70mph, just 16% of motorists remembered the stopping distance quoted by the Highway Code for a car travelling at 70mph is 24 car lengths. Around half of respondents thought the stopping distance was 10 car lengths or less. 

Similarly, around 50% of motorists thought the stopping distance at 30mph was two car lengths or less, which is a third of the six car lengths quoted in the Highway Code. It is not surprising, therefore, that we see so many ‘rear-end shunts’ if motorists have such a poor understanding of how much distance to leave between themselves and the car in front.

3.2 Legal or illegal?

We set out to establish whether today’s motorists actually know what’s legal and what isn’t? Which offences do motorists’ believe are against the law?

3.3 Getting away with it?

So, what do motorists expect to get caught for? On the whole, the majority of motorists expect to get away with most motoring offences. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that they would like to see a greater police presence on our roads to enforce motoring legislation more effectively on other motorists, which in turn would act as a genuine deterrent.

3.4 Caught in the act

So what offences are motorists actually getting caught for? The facts show that motorists are spot on when it comes to what they think they will be caught for and how they actually gain points on their licences.

  • 10% of motorists surveyed said they had points on their licence. Of these:
  • 49% of motorists who acquired points were caught speeding by a speed camera
  • 6% were issued points for using a mobile phone while driving
  • 10% gained their points for running a red light

3.5 A safer environment

The research for this year’s Report on Motoring suggests that the majority of drivers soon lose touch with road law and driving best practices once they have passed their test. Such behaviour would be regarded as unacceptable or detrimental in many professions where colleagues are encouraged or obliged to keep abreast of best practice, technology updates and even legislation with ongoing training or refresher courses. Drivers of HGVs, buses and coaches are required to undertake training in order to demonstrate their professional competence, however, we appear to regard it as acceptable for motorists, who are driving a potentially lethal weapon, to remain on the road without the requirement to undergo any further training or assessment.

Just as continuous professional development is now seen as normal in many workplaces and often a requirement for continued practice or to operate potentially dangerous equipment, it may be time to instill a similar approach to driving. This need not be onerous, costly or punitive but there is a potential benefit to all road users if drivers were required to complete a simple computer-based knowledge assessment, say every 10 years.