AA's Great British Motorist

150,000 drivers tell it how it is

21 June 2011

The AA's Great British Motorist report looks at motoring opinion since the start of the Coalition Government.

Potholes, parking and lack of traffic police alongside strong views on speed cameras, speed limits and speed awareness courses have been some of the critical issues on this year's AA/Populus agenda, tracking the views from 150,000 AA panel members.

Some 200 questions have been asked, ranging from serious motoring issues like drink drive limits (the majority support lower limits) to the best song to drive to ('Bat out of hell').

Fuel prices

Soaring fuel prices are rammed home as one of the big challenges facing the coalition government in its first year, according to new research in the AA's Great British Motorist Report. The proportion of drivers affected by record pump prices has leapt from 63% at Christmas to 76% now.

With just under half still blaming the Government for the high cost of fuel and a quarter blaming oil companies, the relevance of AA/Populus research as the barometer of driver opinion across the full range of motoring issues over the past 12 months is clear.


According to Edmund King, AA President, "The Coalition Government has talked about 'ending the war on the motorist' yet some of their actions appear at odds with motoring opinion, such as, not lowering the drink drive limit or suggesting less frequent MOTs. Our research shows that the majority of drivers supported a lower drink/drive limit and they felt that less frequent MOTs could hinder safety.

"The cost of fuel is top of drivers' concerns. The number of driver's adversely affected by fuel prices is now running at an all time high of 76%.

"Despite the Government ditching the proposed fuel duty increase at the budget, 42% of drivers still blame the Government for high fuel prices. If the Government really wants to get the motorist on board their policies should reflect mainstream motoring opinion."


Fuel prices

Three quarters of respondents are cutting back on spending and/or driving because of rising fuel prices. Compared with 2007:

  • 31% say they travel less by car
  • 16% say they have cut back on other expenditure
  • 29% say they have done both

Apart from driving, the main area for saving is on entertainment – mainly trips to cinema and restaurants.

Panelists think that the government is most responsible for fuel price rises, followed by oil companies and oil producing countries. While 12% blame city traders, only 1% blame individuals owning filling stations. Over 80% think there should be a body charged with monitoring the market to ensure fair prices. 72% agree that fuel retailers may not pass on all of any reduction in fuel tax that a fuel duty stabiliser may bring.

Drink and drug driving

A majority thought the drink drive limit should be reduced but the Government is not minded to lower it.

  • 43% say there should be no change to the current 80mg/100ml blood limit drink drive limit
  • 90% agree that a passenger in a car has a responsibility to stop the driver if they think he or she is over the drink drive limit
  • 60% say they believe the most common excuse a drunk driver might give when they drive is "it is only down the road"

Speed limits

There has been speculation about the introduction of an 80mph motorway limit and Government is reducing red tape to make it easier to introduce 20mph zones.

  • 63% of respondents felt the motorway speed limit should be increased
  • 23% felt any new motorway speed limit should be strictly enforced
  • 39% felt any new motorway speed limit should be enforced as the 70 limit is now
  • 56% agree there should be more 20mph zones but only on residential streets


The AA has written to the Road Safety Minister opposing changes to MOT frequency.

  • 94% of respondents felt that the MOT is important to road safety in the UK (71% said very important)
  • 62% said that extending the annual test to every other year would lead to more unsafe vehicles on the road
  • 41% said that extending the first test to the fourth year would lead to more unsafe vehicles on the road.

Road condition and winter driving

51% expected road gritting in winter 2010/2011 to be better than the winter before. After significant snowfall this fell by 19% to 32% who thought gritting had actually been any better.

44% of drivers did nothing during 2010 to be better prepared if winter 2010/11 was as bad as winter 2009/10.


Speed cameras

75% of AA Populus panel members say speed cameras are acceptable or very acceptable.

79% of AA Populus panel members agree with the idea of offering drivers courses for minor motoring offences.

Driving abroad

Last summer, a majority of respondents (56%) were changing their holiday plans for economic factors.

The most popular changes were to go on holiday less frequently (18%) or to take their holidays in the UK (17%). A significant group (14%) were taking cheaper holidays in the UK.

Car buying intentions

  • 16% of respondents will be looking to replace their car in the next twelve months, while 36% have no immediate plans to do so
  • 48% will be looking for a small family car or a supermini
  • 48% of those who may be replacing their car within 12 months will be looking to buy a diesel, and 40% petrol, with 8% undecided. Only 1% will be looking to by an electric or hybrid vehicle
  • 88% consider reliability to be a very important factor in their choice with safety (74%) and cost efficiency also scoring highly

Gender and car insurance

50% of men and 80% of women considered that an EU ruling that gender should not be taken into account in deciding insurance premiums was unfair. This ruling will raise women's premiums by about 25% while cutting men's by about 10%. Overall 61% did not feel it was fair.

Budget cuts

54% were concerned or very concerned that police budget cuts would lead to less traffic policing.

56% disagree with the statement that road safety should become less of a priority due to the falling death rate in UK.

2011 resolutions

When asked about motoring New Year's resolutions many respondents home in on ways of cutting the cost of motoring – 36% looking to drive more economically and 56% to drive less often.

Speeding less (56%) and parking legally more often (70%) also appeared in the list, and it may well be that saving money through better mpg and through avoiding fines was as important a factor as staying within the law.

Road delays

When driving over 100 miles to a fixed time event, 80% of the respondents would build in an extra hour to cope with delays.

Just over half (51%) of respondents considered that the police should give a high priority to reducing the duration of road closures after incidents.


Half of respondents are confused by parking signs – only 5% say they never are.

One in eight respondents have received a parking fine as a result of not having understood a sign.

Residential area speed limits

While 62% of respondents think more 20mph limits should be introduced on residential streets, only one in ten of these think they should be introduced on major roads.

Parking on private land

14% of respondents have had a ticket from a private parking enforcement company.

Two thirds of respondents think that private parking enforcement companies should charge penalties at the same level as councils.

Respondents are equally split on whether private parking enforcement should be licensed by local authorities or controlled through central government legislation.

Road conditions and potholes

81% felt that the condition of local roads where they live has deteriorated in the last three years.

Only 7% felt that road condition had improved.

The further north the respondent lived, road deterioration became more likely. 74% in the South East encountered deterioration, but 92% in Scotland.

In tune with the road

Only 6% of drivers don't ever listen to music while driving. As for the vast majority, the top five tunes for the road are:

  • Bat Out of Hell – Meat Loaf
  • Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
  • Dancing Queen – ABBA
  • Road to Hell – Chris Rea
  • Hotel California – The Eagles

Overall, 46% of drivers listened to pop music, ahead of 39% who prefer easy listening and rock/indie.