Reducing congestion

Major finding of Transport Select Committee report is a red herring

15 September 2011

Major finding of Transport Select Committee report is a red herring

Major finding of Transport Select Committee report is a red herring

The AA has welcomed the Transport Select Committee report “Out of the jam: reducing congestion on our roads” but questions whether one of the major findings is a red herring.

Amongst a host of measures, the report calls for a tougher driving test, which the AA accepts might be needed on road safety grounds but argues it would do little to reduce congestion.  Even the most experienced driver may be caught out by some of the hazards that can cause a road incident, such as breakdowns, faulty lights, ice and snow, potholes and poor drainage, spilt diesel and road debris, deer, or unsighted and wandering left-hand drive lorries.

The report alludes to drivers causing congestion by accidents/incidents and ‘inappropriate road use’ including road rage, undertaking, and bad lane discipline.  Whilst it is true that some congestion is caused by inappropriate driver behaviour the AA questions whether a tougher test would actually change this behaviour.

Whilst the AA would agree with the committee that there is a need for people to learn to drive, not just to pass the test, so much of how they behave after their test lies in their attitude to driving, not in the toughness of the test.  Too many drivers choose to forget what they have learned and drive how it suits them.

For some this means they drive in a risk taking way that they believe impresses other people or which is "fun" to them.  Others are very happy to ignore traffic rules if it helps them get to their destination faster.  The ways to tackle this lie in using education - from junior school on - to instil the right attitudes in drivers.  But there is also a role for enforcement and education later in the driving career.  People who drive badly need to feel there is a risk of action being taken against them.

Drivers tend to hog the middle lane because they are inconsiderate rather than because they don’t know the rules of the road. Some drivers get involved in road rage because they have anger management problems not because they don’t know the highway code

Edmund King, AA President

The AA supports measures to improve access to traffic information, publicise changes to the Highway Code, roll-out of a free Highway Code app, reducing the time roads are closed after incidents and further regulation of streetworks.

Commenting, Edmund King, AA President, said: “This report contains some good suggestions to reduce road congestion.  The report did not consider road building but we believe it could have placed greater emphasis on junction improvements and traffic light phasing.

“We do question why the first recommendation in the Committee’s press release for reducing congestion is a tougher driving test. Whilst a tougher test might be needed on road safety grounds it would do little to reduce congestion. In terms of getting out of the jam a tougher test is a red herring.

“Drivers tend to hog the middle lane because they are inconsiderate rather than because they don’t know the rules of the road. Some drivers get involved in road rage because they have anger management problems not because they don’t know the highway code.”

(30 September 2011)