Half all drivers are targets of road rage

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The Independent Online

Transport Correspondent

Road rage has reached epidemic proportions, with almost half of all drivers experiencing some form of attack or abuse over the past year, according to a new report.

The survey of 1,000 drivers estimates that last year one in six had been in confrontations prompted by road rage. Half of these involved people being forced to give way or to leave the road, and, more seriously, there were 800,000 instances where people were physically threatened, half a million where they had their cars deliberately driven into, a quarter of a million where they were attacked by other drivers, and another quarter of a million where their cars were deliberately damaged by another driver.

The annual Lex survey on motoring found that people in cities and younger drivers were more likely to have been road rage victims than those in the country or older drivers. The report said that the things that particularly annoyed motorists were drivers who cruised in the middle lane, those who overtook on the inside and people speeding in urban areas.

Edmund King, campaigns manager of the Royal Automobile Club, called for government action to counter aggression and violence on the road, arguing that attempts to deal with the phenomenon had been met with obfuscation and buck passing. He said: "In repeated meetings with the Department of Transport and the Home Office, the RAC presented practical measures to address the problem. But the DoT passed the matter to the Home Office who in turn passed it to the police who still deny the existence of road rage as a problem."

The RAC recently brought a successful private prosecution against a motorist who had attacked a patrol officer. The officer was towing a car, belonging to a woman with a baby, to a garage when a driver in a car sped past the van, stopped, and attacked the patrolman, pushing him to the ground. The police had refused to take up the matter.

Road rage is just part of a wider phenomenon highlighted in the report which boils down to the fact that drivers do not seem to like other motorists much. The report found that one of the public's main dislikes about owning cars was the behaviour of other drivers. Drivers also disliked the cost, traffic congestion and air pollution.

Yet, when it comes to their own behaviour, drivers consider themselves mostly as little angels. The survey found that one-third say they never speed. Moreover, most seemed to have an altruistic bent with 43 per cent seeking improvements in public transport, 37 per cent wanting more park- and-ride schemes and 18 per cent even wanting better cycle facilities. Only 3 per cent, however, wanted motorway tolls to be introduced.

Drivers are even on the side of the protesters against road projects, with 59 per cent agreeing with campaigns against roads being built through the countryside.

Only 26 per cent agreed with the protesters' methods, however. Even more, 82 per cent of those polled, supported protests against traffic congestion and pollution in cities.

9 Lex report on Motoring; Lex Services, 17 Connaught Place, London SW2 2EL; pounds 295.