Motorists are backing a radical shake-up of the system for taxing driving so that the £42 billion raised was paid for through fuel taxes – putting the burden on those who use most fuel and cause most damage to the environment.
Research by the RAC shows that motorists consider the current taxation system to be unfair and that it does precious little to halt the growing problem of 1.25 million uninsured drivers and 1.75 million cars without a valid tax disc.
Despite the fact that incremental tax increases on fuel provoke anger and dismay from many motorists and haulage companies, 64% of 1,000 drivers interviewed – including 250 company car drivers – believe that if motoring taxes were simplified by putting all tax on fuel, it would shake up the current antiquated system and make today's tax cheats pay up by charging them at the point of use and according to how much they drive.
The findings, detailed in the 'RAC Report on Motoring 2004: Counting The Cost, Cutting Congestion' showed that in order for motorists to be confident that a new tax system on fuel would be fair for all, they would need to develop a more accurate sense of how much money they currently pay for petrol.
The RAC's report shows that only 54% of motorists are confident that they know how much their annual fuel bill totals.
In reality, the average motorist spends £964 per year on fuel. The report shows that even if motoring costs and taxes were increased by £1,500 per year, only 30% of drivers would definitely switch to an alternative transport method. This would mean that petrol would have to almost double in price before motorists would switch.
If all motoring-related tax is put on fuel, drivers may find it easier to accurately track how much they spend.
An RAC spokeswoman said: 'If the cost of motoring is to be used as a lever to coax people out of their cars, fuel taxation does not seem to be such a sensible option.
'Our research shows motorists have become anaesthetised to fuel-based tax – they just don't think about how much they end up paying. Road traffic congestion is reaching crisis point. Many parts of the country are simply grinding to a halt. Future taxation must be designed to do two things. First, raise enough revenue to fund a high quality transport system of roads, buses and trains. Second, include cost-based disincentives to dissuade motorists from using their cars for non-essential journeys.
'A simplified tax system which charges in a much more visible way – and one which is more difficult to pay than just filling your tank with petrol – needs to be implemented if we are to attempt to change the way journeys are made.'