David Williams, national motor journalist and road safety award-winner
Here’s a sobering story that – while alarming for motorists – is worth remembering.
Onlookers watch horrified as a young man in a busy high street makes a complete mess of exiting a tight parking space. He reverses into an adjacent car, leaving a nasty gash in the door.
All too aware he’s been spotted he leaps out and is seen hurriedly scribbling a note to the other car’s owner, before tucking it under the wiper and roaring off.
‘What an honest driver’, thinks the crowd. But the owner returns to find his damaged car and a note reading: “Everyone thinks I’m writing out my name and address because I damaged your car but I’m not – fortunately for me it means no one is writing down my registration number.”
It’s probably an urban myth but it says much about the standards we expect from our fellow motorists.
Now a survey has put it to the test. Kwik Fit questioned over 2,000 drivers and found that generally, you can’t rely on a British driver to do the right thing, with three-quarters (74%) admitting to ‘dodgy’ driving habits, including driving without a seatbelt and applying make-up behind the wheel.
The findings are more dismal when it comes to common decency as when it comes to ‘bump and runs’; more than 2.2 million driver admit having clipped or scratched another car – and driven off.
And which of us – especially in crowded cities – hasn’t been a victim of that?
The findings also show that many may need to re-define the notion of ‘safe’ driving. Nearly three quarters (74%) of drivers admitted to one or more driving habits that could cause them to fail a driving test if they were to re-sit it again today.
The survey looked at driving habits that are commonly practised ‘innocently’, with no intent to harm or break the law. And the results are shocking.
Just over two fifths (42%) of drivers admitted to having sped up to beat red lights and more than half (52%) of full licence holders admit to having driven while they were so tired that it posed a risk. When it came to seat belts, over one in ten (11%) admitted not using them on ‘short’ trips, even though this is no excuse it you’re stopped by police.
When researchers investigated use of phones while driving, a clear gap emerged, with more than a third (35%) of 18-34 year-olds admitting to sending messages while driving (e.g. text, WhatsApp or Snapchat), compared to just 3% of over 55s.
Meanwhile 20 million (53%) Brits admitted they eat and drink while behind the wheel.
And those bump-and-runs? While over two fifths (41%) of respondents claim to have been a victim of one, only 1 in 20 (6%) admit to being responsible for such an incident, so something ain’t right. Unless 2.2 million drivers are responsible for around 15 million prangs in the UK, I think someone’s being slightly less than honest with their responses.
It just goes to show. You should always keep your dash cam plugged in and running.