According to recent research it seems a majority of us start our car journeys with a slight feeling of trepidation.
A new study commissioned by IAM RoadSmart, the UK’s leading independent road safety charity has revealed that potentially millions of drivers are worried about driving on Britain’s roads.
The organisation asked 1,004 motorists which roads they are most worried about driving on, with 60% admitting they were sometimes worried about getting behind the wheel. If those numbers hold true that potentially means up to 24 million drivers in the UK often have reservations about being on the road.
One third (33%) of those surveyed reported that they are most worried about driving on smart motorways, making them the road type motorists fear driving on the most. By comparison, only 6% of drivers are worried about traditional motorways with a hard shoulder.
Statistics may prove that smart motorways have fewer fatal crashes than conventional motorways, but the research shows that many drivers still don’t feel safe on them. Since they were first introduced in 2006, smart motorways have seen journey times reduced by 22% and personal injury accidents have more than halved.
In contrast, only 14% of drivers stated that they are worried about driving on rural or countryside roads, despite the fact that these are where the most serious accidents often occur.
As is often the case when dealing with human beings there can be a disconnect in people’s minds between reality and perception.
Smart motorways can feel more dangerous because the safety net of the hard shoulder has been removed but the reality is they are safer than a traditional motorway. Rural roads may feel safer because the speeds are lower and there are fewer cars around but they are also the roads that are more likely to punish mistakes with serious or even fatal consequences.
Neil Greig, Director of Policy and Research at IAM RoadSmart, said:
“Our research has laid bare the staggering number of people who feel worried about driving on Britain’s roads. We would encourage drivers to do all they can to re-educate themselves, especially during National Road Victim Month, on how to navigate the unique challenges and considerations each road type presents.”
Whichever type of road you happen to be driving on you should always drive appropriately for the conditions. If you’re on a smart motorway that means matching your speed to the other vehicles, maintaining safe distances, and keeping an eye on the signs so you know what’s happening ahead. If you’re driving on a rural road it means not pretending you’re a racing driver and always being aware that there could be a tractor/horse/cyclist/herd of cows around the next bend.
And if you do find yourself on one of those scary smart motorways the Highways Agency has a few tips to ease your worries.
Tips for driving on the UK’s roads
- Never drive in a lane closed by a Red X.
- Keep to the speed limits shown on the signs.
- A hard shoulder is always identified by a solid white unbroken line - if there’s no speed limit displayed above it or a Red X is displayed, do not use it except in an emergency.
- A broken white line indicates a normal running lane.
- If the hard shoulder is being used as an extra lane, use the designated emergency areas for emergencies.
- If your vehicle experiences difficulties, eg warning light, exit the motorway immediately, if you can.
- If you break down, put your hazard lights on.
- Most breakdowns are preventable - keep your car well maintained, check your tyres, and make sure you have enough fuel for your journey.
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