AA/Populus Panel

Panel members don't support going metric on the roads

2 August 2008

road sign showing miles and yards

Two thirds of UK drivers are reticent when it comes to any attempts to adopt metric measurement for all things motoring, according to the latest AA/Populus poll of 18,500 members.

Millions of UK drivers happily take to Europe's roads each summer and 'vive la difference' - speed limits indicated in kilometres per hour and distances to La Plage in kilometres rather than miles.

However, when back home their reticence for UK to adopt metric signing comes out clearly in the latest AA Populus survey1 which shows 64% strongly disagree with the suggestion that speed limits should be shown in kilometres per hour rather than miles per hour and 63% feel the same way about distance measurements in kilometres in UK. Only 8% supported going metric for speed limits and distance.

However, when it comes to 'metric' fluent drivers coming into UK only putting feet and inches on bridge height warning signs can sometimes spell disaster with dozens of bridges struck each year by foreign lorry drivers. 2,000 bridges were hit in the UK last year.

At the forecourt UK drivers are well and truly confused, they price and buy petrol and diesel in litres but the strange thing is they work out their fuel consumption in miles per gallon. Support for metric fuel prices runs at 34%, so the UK's adoption of this system seems to have entered the consciousness, but 37% still disagree and would prefer a return to the gallon. In terms of measuring fuel consumption 68% oppose measuring this in kilometres per 100 litres rather than miles per gallon.

Surprisingly the strongest opposition to going metric was from the younger age groups with 83% of 18-24 year olds opposed to speed limits in kilometres per hour and 79% of the same age group opposed to distances being signed in kilometres.

Drivers in Yorkshire and Humberside were most opposed to metric measurements with 80% opposed to metric speed limits and 79% opposed to metric distances.

AA comment

Commenting on the findings, AA President Edmund King said: "Not only would going fully metric cost a fortune to implement in Britain it would also not go down well with a majority of the motoring public. As a result of keeping an eye on increasing prices, motorists now seem to understand the fuel price in litres.

"It does seem odd that we buy our fuel in litres but think about fuel efficiency in miles per gallon. We appear to be an Imperial Metric Nation.

"However, when it comes to the safety of UK drivers and travellers we have to remember that with over 1 million metric minded drivers coming into the UK each year many would benefit from having the metric measurements put up alongside our yards, miles, feet and inches, especially those driving large lorries under bridges2".


Distances in kms rather than miles

Agree – 8%
Disagree – 76% (63% strongly disagree)
Areas – Yorkshire/Humberside and the North West were most in disagreement at 79% with strongest disagreement in Yorkshire/Humberside 67%. Most support (15%) and least disagreement (62%) was from N Ireland.
Age – Most disagreement was in the 18-24 age range (79% of which 71% strongly disagreed)

Fuel priced in gallons rather than litres

Agree – 34%
Disagree – 37%
Areas – All areas totally divided and well over a quarter of panel members in all areas are completely neutral
Age – Most disagreement was in the 25-34 age range (48% and more than a third of those strongly disagreed)

Speed limits in Kph rather than Mph

Agree – 8%
Disagree – 77% (64% strongly disagree)
Areas – Yorkshire & Humberside and South West disagree most (80%) Yorkshire & Humberside showed strongest disagreement at 68%.
Age – Most disagreement was from 18-24 years

Fuel consumption in Km/100litres

Agree – 9%
Disagree – 68% (54% strongly)
Areas – Northern Ireland showed strongest support at 15% and also least disagreement at 56%. Most disagreement was from south west and Yorkshire & Humberside 71% respectively but strongest disagreement was in Yorkshire & Humberside 59%.
Age – Most disagreement was in the 55-64 age range.


1Populus received 18,547 responses from AA members to its online poll between May 23 and 2 June 2008. The AA/Populus panel has more than 40,000 members

2There are still 2,000 bridges struck each year despite numerous campaigns to prevent this. The UK Metric Association has recently reported that just days after a Slovenian driver crashed his lorry into a low bridge near Cannock in Staffordshire on the busy West Coast Main Line a Hungarian lorry hit the same bridge. Although the low clearance is signposted, the signs show only imperial units, which most foreign drivers do not understand.

AA Public Affairs - the voice of UK motorists


28 July 2008