Three in every 10 motorists (30%) say they have personally witnessed some form of physical abuse related to a driving incident in the past 12 months, with fears over road rage now standing as the fourth highest motoring concern.
The data – published by the RAC in its 2019 Report on Motoring – shows that the proportion of motorists who say that their single biggest motoring concern is the aggressive behaviour of other drivers has doubled – from 4% to 8% – over the past 12 months, placing it just after handheld mobile phones, the cost of fuel, drink- and drug-driving.
In fact, almost half of the 1,753 drivers surveyed for the study – the equivalent of around 20 million drivers – claim to have seen verbal abuse dished out to another motorist this year, while 60% of drivers say they see a greater number of road-rage incidents now than they did 10 years ago.
The latest RAC Report on Motoring also shows that handheld mobile phone use by other motorists is drivers’ issue of greatest overall concern in 2019, with 12% of respondents, the equivalent of around five million people, saying it is their biggest worry. This means it has returned to first place after dropping to second place last year..
The RAC’s research also indicates a significant hardcore of motorists who admit to still using their phones without hands-free kits while at the wheel, despite the stronger penalties that were introduced in 2017. Almost a quarter of all drivers questioned (23%) – the equivalent of just under 10 million motorists – confess to making or receiving calls on a handheld phone while they are driving at least occasionally. But the problem appears to be particularly acute among those aged between 17 and 24, where this rate is more than double at 51% – a figure unchanged compared to 2018.
Meanwhile, 17% of all drivers – and a shocking 35% of under-25s – say they check texts, email or social media while driving.
The RAC research also found 11% of drivers say their biggest concern in 2019 is other road users under the influence either of alcohol or drugs (drink-driving 7%; drug-driving 4%). Together with the condition and maintenance of local roads, this was the joint third ranking top concern to motorists behind drivers’ use of handheld mobile phones (12%) and the cost of fuel (12%).
The RAC also found that significant number of people appear happy to take the risk of driving with alcohol in their systems with a fifth of motorists (19%) – equating to more than seven million individuals – admitting they think or know they have driven while over the drink-drive limit in the past 12 months, either shortly after having a drink, or the morning after drinking.
This proportion rises to just under half (44%) of motorists aged under 25, and 27% of those aged between 25 and 44.
Commenting on the report, RAC road safety spokesperson Simon Williams said: “All the fears associated with the behaviour of other drivers on the road have never featured as highly in our research as top motoring concerns as they have this year. This is primarily due to double the proportion of people ranking the aggressive behaviour of other drivers as their top concern this year (4% to 8%).
“The most likely explanation must surely be a combination of factors including the pressure of modern life, reliance on the car for so many journeys, record volumes of traffic and congestion leading to never before seen frustration at the wheel.
“Perhaps it is also the case that our tolerance of other people who make mistakes while driving is falling. A quick sorry in the form of an apologetic wave could go a long way to taking the heat out of a situation, but unfortunately all too often it is a hand gesture of another sort that leads to an unpleasant car confrontation.”