Almost half of motorists are cutting back on journeys for financial reasons, according to a survey by the RAC.

The cost-of-motoring impact is likely to get worse with car users feeling isolated, particularly those in rural areas, the poll found.

Almost all (92%) those surveyed reckoned the condition of local roads had deteriorated in the last 12 months.

And 84% thought road improvements should take priority over "big, expensive schemes" such as the Government's proposed HS2 high-speed rail project.

Of the 1,002 motorists surveyed, 48% were reducing car journeys on cost grounds.

A total of 40% of rural drivers and 32% of urban ones were cutting back on short journeys, while 34% of rural drivers and 23% of urban ones were reducing long trips.

As many as 86% of rural drivers, and 69% of urban ones, said they would find it very difficult to use their cars less, with two-thirds of rural drivers saying they had no option but to use the car for journeys to work.

Also, 62% of rural drivers said they could only maintain their social life by using their car.

A total of 9% of drivers had given up taking their children to school or to social activities because of rising fuel prices, while 25% would consider this if fuel costs continued to rise.

The survey also showed that just 14% supported HS2, only 7% wanted additional capacity at regional airports and as few as 4% supported increasing capacity at London airports.

Nearly 25% were concerned at preparedness for bad winter weather, while 75% of wanted a speed limit of more than 70mph on motorways. But only 16% backed higher limits on 30mph roads.

A total of 16% knew, or suspected, they had driven over the alcohol limit in the last 12 months, and 80% would support a lowering of the present drink-drive limit.

RAC motoring strategist Adrian Tink said the survey findings "show the tough choices being made by many motorists, with rural drivers hit the hardest as they have little alternative but to use their cars".

He went on: "People's ability to live their lives and do the most basic of tasks, such as visit family and take their children to after-school activities, is being threatened - and it looks like it's only going to get worse.

"UK drivers want action from the Government. They already pay the highest duty and tax on fuel in Europe. At the very least, we are calling for fuel duty to be frozen and scheduled inflationary rises to be scrapped.

"In addition the Government should look again at the fair fuel stabiliser so that increased revenue from high oil prices can be passed back to drivers."

The RAC survey follows an AA/Populus survey released yesterday which found more than three in four motorists are cutting back on spending or driving due to rising fuel prices.

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