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Fake traffic blamed for being late

Phantom traffic jams and road closures

More than half of drivers admit to lying when late for work or social events

8 November 2018

Overall, more than half (51%) of drivers admit to telling white lies when late for work or a social event - with traffic taking the brunt of the blame, even when it isn’t true. That’s according to an AA-Populus poll of more than 20,500 drivers*.

Unusually heavy congestion is the go-to excuse among delayed drivers, with almost a third (32%) admitting to having blamed phantom queues for their tardiness and one in ten blaming a road closure or diversion that wasn’t there.  

Cars get some of the fake blame too, with 9% admitting to having claimed that their car wouldn’t start and 6% blaming a flat tyre.

Busy city centre dual carriageway junction

Edmund King, AA president, said: “Heavy traffic and roadworks are such common features on our roads, it’s no surprise these are used as the most believable excuses for running late. In fact, congestion and diversions are more likely to be blamed for lateness than childcare issues, illness or oversleeping.” 

congestion and diversions are more likely to be blamed for lateness than childcare issues, illness or oversleeping
Edmund King, AA president
Londoners and younger drivers most likely to lie

Drivers in London are the most likely to lie about being late, with 57% admitting to making up an excuse to cover their tracks. 

Younger drivers are most likely to admit to fibbing in the past, with 74% of 18-24 year olds having done so. By comparison, only 40% of drivers aged 65 and over say they have ever lied about why they were late.

Drivers who want to really avoid traffic or roadworks can check beforehand using Route Planner or the free AA app, which can also be used to find nearby fuel stations and car parks, report a breakdown and get exclusive discounts at thousands of family restaurants and pubs.

Which excuses have you used?

Which if any of the following excuses have you ever used for being late to work or a social event even though it wasn't true?

  1. Unusually heavy congestion on the way  32%
  2. Temporary road closure or diversion on the way  10%
  3. I was ill  9%
  4. I overslept 9%
  5. My car wouldn’t start  9%

Just less than half (49%) said they'd never lied about being late.


* Populus received 20,569 responses from AA members to its online poll between 11 and 17 September 2018

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