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The Driver's Perspective by Neil Greig, the AA Motoring Trust - Meeting of Tuesday 25th October 2005

Mr. Neil Greig of the AA Motoring Trust addressing the meeting.d

Mr. Neil Greig of the AA Motoring Trust addressing the meeting.

© John G. Fender 2011

Starting with a brief history of the AA, celebrating it's centenary this year, Mr. Greig pointed out that from it's beginnings as an organization that was formed to help motorists avoid police speed traps, the AA had evolved into an organization that represented all aspects of motoring until the members voted to sell the organization to Centrica, who last year sold the company to a firm of venture capitalists.

When the AA was sold to Centrica, the AA Motoring Trust was set up. This is an independent charity that conducts research into motoring, produces reports on various topics, runs campaigns and lobbies parliament on motoring issues as well as promoting the views of the motoring public. There are three key areas that the Trust looks at, these being safety, congestion and the environment. Mr. Greig pointed out that in the UK, some 90% of transport movements are by road.

The AA Motoring Trust uses information from a variety of sources including commercial information and is a member of other motoring organizations around the world. It undertakes in house analysis of government statistics and uses market research to find out what views the motoring public have. It also commissions research from a variety of organizations, for example NOP and Mori.

Campaigns are an important part of the AA Motoring Trust's activities and a recent one was the campaign to reduce the number of incidents when motorists put the wrong type of fuel into their vehicles. Research has shown that there are some 44,000 cases of this annually. The research has shown that 85% of cases involve petrol being put into a diesel vehicle, 60% of vehicles are driven away from the forecourt before the mistake is discovered, 53% of cases involve fleet or hire vehicles and 66% of the drivers are male. The "Use Your Nozzle" campaign was designed to reduce the number of misfuelling incidents and sponsorship was received from the Petrol Retailers Association to help with the production of some 500,000 leaflets.

Research undertaken by the trust has shown that, compared with Europe, the UK has the best road safety record, but we spend more time commuting and suffer the worst congestion, have a sparse motorway network, pay most for fuel and are least likely to use alternatives to the car. Analysis of statistics relating to accidents involving children and young persons has shown that the most vulnerable age groups are first year secondary school pupils and 16 year old girls who are often passengers in cars driven by older boyfriends that are involved in accidents.

Looking at the customer, the UK has some 32 million motorists across all sections of the community and research shows that generally motorists drive the best car they can afford. There are between 1 and 2 million "vulnerable" motorists where motoring accounts for an important part of their budget. Motorists have to pay for insurance, servicing, tolls, loans, parking charges in addition to paying for fuel and road fund licences and the effect of taxation is felt by most motorists. Taxation accounts for around £1 in every £6 spent on motoring. Taxes on fuel accounts for around £8 out of every £10 spend on petrol or diesel. Motorists often feel victimised by these high charges and 94% of motorists are concerned about the costs involved. Surveys have shown that motorists think that the UK's fuel taxes are excessive, especially when compared to the rest of Europe.

Looking at road safety issues, figures have shown at 69% of motorists find speed cameras acceptable, but public support for these devices is fragile. In 2002 the percentage of motorists who felt that speed cameras were acceptable was 75%. It has been estimated that 25% of all motoring households now have a driver who has been issued with a speeding ticket and, although there are very strict criteria that have to met before a speed camera can be set up, many people view speed cameras as a method of raising revenue.

Technology has raised other concerns amongst motorists and perhaps the most controversial is the proposal to introduce road charging using a "black box" in each vehicle, linked to a GPS system. This would record every journey made and a charge would be made depending on the roads used and the time of day the journey is made. Whilst motorists are in favour of reform of the way we pay for using the roads, most do not want a "black box" approach owing to concerns about privacy. Interestingly, the recent trials by a leading insurance company of charging insurance premiums based on the journeys made and using a "black box" recorder to monitor the journeys has met with approval. The difference is that the benefits are very clear in that motorists can benefit from lower insurance premiums. Most motorists accept that payment needs to be made for using roads, but they would prefer the existing system to be refined rather change completely changed.

Mr. Greig then answered questions from the audience and a lively debate ensued on many motoring and road transport topics. Full details of the activities of the AA Motoring Trust can be found on their website, along with all of their reports.

Report by John Fender.


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