One in 20 drivers at junctions could have been thrown forward or through the windscreen if they had to make an emergency stop, the AA’s army of volunteer Streetwatchers has found.
Observing junctions and roundabouts across the country, AA Streetwatchers logged 40,000 vehicles and found 4.92% of drivers not to be wearing seatbelts. This represents the biggest-ever street survey of driver behaviour carried out in the UK.
If drivers had smashed into the back of the car in front, it may not have been entirely their fault as nearly one in 25 (3.6%) of cars had broken brake lights.
However, 9.57% were judged to be going too fast while negotiating the junctions and would have made a collision even worse.
The use of hand-held phones while driving was better than most AA members expected. A complementary AA/Populus poll, responded to by 11,548 members, found that 83% expected to see 5% of drivers using a hand-held phone, while AA Streetwatchers observed only 0.23% to be doing so at the junctions.
Again a difference emerged with cars considered to be going too fast. Nearly two thirds of AA members in the poll believed that more than 20% of cars at a junction near their home would be driving too fast. However, the AA Streetwatchers reported only half that level at 10 per cent of vehicles going too fast.
Perception followed reality more closely with seat belts. The observed 4.92% of drivers not wearing seat belts was predicted by 36% of AA members in the member’s poll, with another 34% expecting the problem to be worse. Twelve per cent of observers witnessed some action they deemed to be road rage. Whilst there were some worrying trends, overall most drivers were reported to be acting responsibly.
Commenting on the second AA Streetwatch survey, Edmund King, the AA president, said: “AA Streetwatch observations show that 5% of drivers are still not wearing seatbelts despite this contributing to 30% of road deaths. Many of those un-belted were taxi and van drivers who should be aware that they are potentially more at risk due to their higher mileage. It is of great concern that 5% of drivers are still haven’t got the ‘cluck click every trip’ message.
“The survey does show that in many cases respondents perceived road safety infringements to be much worse than they actually were.
“If ‘localism’ is going to influence the use of road safety resources, local authorities better be sure that reality matches perception. Perhaps the biggest worry is that one in ten drivers was observed to be going too fast at junctions. Almost one third didn’t indicate when turning, however some observers have reported that their junctions had filters or different lanes for turning left.
“AA Streetwatch reveals many regional variations (see Notes to Editors) but also raises questions for future analysis. These include whether the use of hand-held mobile phones is less at junctions or outside business hours. One can also question why running a red light was perceived as being less serious than using a hand-held mobile phone while driving. The AA is grateful to our dedicated Streetwatchers for conducting this important survey as their findings will be used to help influence road safety policy.”