AA says Britain's drivers get worst deal in Europe

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The Independent Online
THE HAPLESS British motorist suffers the worst road congestion in Western Europe, pays the most for vehicles and is the most likely to be the victim of car crime, according to the AA.

However we enjoy the safest roads, drink and drive less than the French, and are "less wild" than the Portuguese and Italians. The AA's 48-page report The Great British Motorist 2000 published yesterday, shows that we pay the most for fuel and in tax, spend the most time commuting to and from our jobs and are the least likely to find an adequate alternative means of getting to work such as public transport and cycling.

The document, which is the result of a year-long investigation involving more than 4,000 drivers across Europe, found that the risk of being killed in Greece and Portugal was almost four times that for the United Kingdom. Contrary to popular stereotypes the Portuguese and Italians go through amber lights less often than just about anyone except the Austrians and Belgians.

The report also found that we have lower car ownership than the rest of Europe - 376 cars per 1,000 persons compared with 450 - and are less loyal to domestic manufacturers. Britons were also found to be the most likely to say that our cars were "extremely or very important" to us and we make the least use of "non-car" modes of transport.

John Dawson, the AA's policy director, said the British got a bad deal out of driving and transport generally and it was getting worse.

"At the root of this depressing picture lies the crisis of investment. The pitiful low levels of money spent on the UK's crumbling transport infrastructure have weakened every link in the chain, from poor maintenance to bad day-to-day management."

He called for a "formal structure of workable projects" to reverse the decline.

Sir Brian Shaw, chairman of the AA's motoring policy committee, said that a generation ago the British motorist made derogatory remarks about the quality of French roads.

"They squeezed the last expensive drops of low-grade French fuel from their tanks on the drive to Calais and then queued to fill up as they came off the ferry at Dover.

"Today the picture is reversed. Britain has the most expensive fuel in Europe and we fill up on the French side. And the trip to and from the British channel ports will be characterised by roadworks and hold-ups on Western Europe's most congested roads."