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UK drivers ‘among safest in Europe’

UK drivers are less likely to enjoy driving fast, less likely to have had a speeding ticket and less likely to have made a mobile call from their car than most of their continental neighbours according to European research by the RAC Foundation.

They also believe strongly in the need for seatbelts and estimate that their own driving is only slightly safer than the European average – in spite of the fact that the UK, along with Sweden, actually has the best road safety record across the continent.

Its findings has prompted the RAC Foundation to question some of the road safety tactics currently used in the UK and to urge the Government to explore new and innovative methods of cutting death and injury.

The SARTRE 3 (Social Attitudes to Road Traffic Risk in Europe) study was carried out among 1,000 drivers in each of 23 countries across Europe. The survey provides information on driver attitudes, behaviour and experiences. It shows:

  • 29% of UK drivers admit that they like to drive fast. The only nationalities less likely to find speed appealing are the Irish (18%) and Croats and Finns (both 26%). The European average is 36% and the largest proportion of drivers to admit to a penchant for fast travel are Germans and Swedes (both 43%), Cypriots (44%) and Poles at 45%.

  • 9% of drivers were penalised for speeding in the UK between 2001-2004. The European average is 18% with the Netherlands highest at 46%. Only France is lower than the UK with 8% of drivers incurring a speeding ticket.

    Sue Nicholson, head of campaigns for the RAC Foundation, says: "These are interesting findings and point up some real differences in attitude and experience across Europe. The UK has one of the best records for road safety – it’s surprising that drivers don’t hold their skills in even higher esteem.

    "Rising road deaths, an increase in drink driving and growing dissatisfaction among motorists with speed camera policy means, however, that we now need to look at some more radical solutions on how we cut our casualty rate even further. Putting all the road safety eggs in one speed camera box just isn’t thinking flexibly enough.

    "It’s time to stop criminalising drivers and use more effective methods."

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