COMPANY car users are driving in a culture of stress, tiredness, high mileage and time pressure that puts them at the greatest risk of accidents, injury and death, a new Government investigation has revealed.
The report into the attitudes of company car drivers found little has changed for business motorists in more than 30 years of the company car, despite recent warnings to firms that they must change their practices or face prosecution for road accidents occurring while drivers are at work.
It also concludes that risk management measures, such as driver training, will not solve the problem on their own. Instead there has to be a wholesale change in attitude of employers and employees in respect to work-related driving.
The report, called Behavioural Research in Road Safety, put together by the safety group at the Transport Research Laboratory for the Department for Transport, discovered that drivers who did more than 80% of their annual mileage for work were found to have a 53% greater risk of having an accident that resulted in injury than other drivers in the same age, sex and mileage profile.
Three principle aims of the researchers were to find out the size of the 'fleet driver effect' in injury accidents, the differences in behaviour and attitude between work-related and private driving and whether those differences have an effect on the severity and number of injury accidents had by company car drivers.
About half of the company car drivers polled admitted to driving frequently when under time pressure to reach a destination (48%), on long journeys of more than 50 miles after a day's work (42%), and while worrying about other non-driving issues (50%).
The report said: 'The main findings strengthen the case for action to tackle the risks of work-related driving. The study reinforces findings from earlier research which found that company drivers have an excess liability for all accidents.
'Given the existing evidence on the importance of fatigue in accidents, the relationship between speed and safety and the effects of mobile phone conversations on driver performance, these findings give a strong indication of where priorities for action should lie.'
By contrast, private motorists suffered very few of the same problems on a regular basis, with time pressure affecting only 14%, long journeys 4% and worrying about other issues 15%.
The authors concluded that the findings 'suggest that companies should not attempt to deal with work-related risk simply by introducing measures aimed at improving driver training'.
The report added: 'They need to change the conditions under which their employees drive, so that time pressure and fatigue are reduced, and attention-demanding in-car tasks, like mobile phone conversations, are strongly discouraged.'
The report warned that unless companies enforce policies, the effectiveness of programmes such as selection and training may be undermined by day-to-day working pressures.