As winter looms ever closer and people start using their cars more, we often notice the shocking state of our local roads. New research by the RAC has revealed that the state of local roads is of the highest priority for drivers, above issues like the cost of filling up, people using their phones at the wheel and the aggressive behaviour of other motorists.

The RAC’s annual report on motoring, which takes a stratified sample of drivers from across the UK and asks them questions on motoring, has been released and reveals the issues that motorists themselves feel are the most important.

Dissatisfaction on the increase

66% of motorists agreed that over the last 12 months, road surface across all networks has deteriorated, with 78% of motorists stating the state of UK roads was “generally poor.” The widespread annoyance is not fixed on one area although those in the East of England, the East Midlands and Scotland have seen an increase in dissatisfaction year on year.

People are also unhappy that of the £4.6bn that the government raises from fuel duty alone, there is no clear long-term investment plan for local roads from that sum. Almost half of the motorists would be willing to pay more tax if they knew it meant the roads would be fixed and returned to full working condition.

Beast on the streets

After the Beast from the East earlier this year caused havoc on roads across the country, the statistics on the poor state of roads will have been affected by this. Nevertheless, earlier this year after the spell of bad weather, the Department for Transport announced a meagre £100 million extra budget available to local authorities to fix the worst of the potholes. While this may sound like a large sum, the actual amount needed to return our roads to a working state is around £9.3 billion. The £9.3 billion encompasses the maintenance backlog and was estimated by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) in their annual report earlier this year.

The annual report from the AIA showed that a fifth of all local roads are in “poor structural condition” meaning that they have a life expectancy of five years or less. This is three percent up from last year and continues with the rising trend. While some of this is due to the Beast from the East, the RAC Pothole Index, which is aggregated to remove seasonal effects, shows that the state of roads has reduced considerably since 2017.

Angry drivers on the phone

Directly behind the state of local roads, a high number of motorists listed the behaviour of other drivers as a concern for them, namely related to mobile phone use behind the wheel. The aggressive behaviour of other drivers is a major concern for drivers with it coming fourth in the list overall concerns.

Drink driving had a large statistically significant increase of people who knew or thought they had driven over the limit in the past 12 months, rising from 8% to 12%. This increase is worrying as the number of deaths attributable to drink driving increased in the latest batch of government statistics released.

The higher cost of motoring

The third highest concern for motorists was the rising cost of motoring, which includes car insurance, parking costs and any other taxes.

The vast majority of motorists say that their fuel costs have increased since last year, which reflects the rising wholesale costs, the weakened pound against the dollar and increased oil prices.

Alongside fuel prices, the only other place with an increase in concern from motorists was the cost of parking. Cash-strapped councils are charging more than ever for parking, and the cost of permits has increased as well. This could potentially be influenced by the surcharge applied by some councils, mainly in central London, to diesel cars.

What should change?

The RAC, acting as a voice for the motorist, recommended some changes based on the report. One solution they proposed was ringfencing two pence from fuel duty to go towards repairing roads. Over 10 years they estimated this would raise £9.4bn, enough to cover the current backlog. Motorists also said they were concerned with the seeming lack of a long-term plan to improve local road quality, and so the RAC recommended that the government produce a strategy on repairing roads and ensuring they can withstand all weathers.

A large majority of motorists were also concerned at the state of major roads on the strategic road network and so the RAC recommended that Highways England review their policy and processes on repairing larger roads in order to gain maximum efficiency.

As said by the road safety charity BRAKE, the RAC backed a call to lower the legal blood alcohol limit to 50mg in order to minimise the injuries and deaths that could potentially happen as a result of drink driving.

What do you think of the suggestions made by the RAC? What would you change in the motoring world? Let us know in the comments below

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