2 The Research in Context

2 The Research in Context

Defining and Estimating the Prevalence of Illegal Driving Behaviour

2.1 The Highway Code3, which covers England, Wales and Scotland, sets out the range of driving behaviours which are classified as illegal and which attract driver penalties, including court and non-court disposals. Appendix B provides a list of all such offences, ranging from causing death by dangerous driving to seat belt offences.

2.2 As part of the research, an analysis of driving offence and accident data was carried out, and is presented in Appendix C, along with a review of literature relating to illegal driving attitudes and behaviours. At a high level, this analysis shows that while there has been a decrease in the number of recorded speeding offences in Scotland over time, there has been an increase in recent years in the number of 'other' offences that are being recorded. Driving under the influence and dangerous and careless driving have remained fairly static over time. It is not possible from routinely published data to say how many of these offences were committed by the same offender (i.e. repeat or prolific driving offenders).

2.3 In addition to road traffic offence and criminal proceedings data, Transport Scotland collects data on injury road accidents that are reported to the police in Scotland. In 2011, the data show that speed (inappropriate speed or speeding) was recorded as a contributory factor in accidents resulting in 26% of fatalities and 6% of serious injuries. Drink driving accounted for 11% of fatalities and 6% of serious injuries and distraction was recorded as a contributory factor in accidents resulting in 3% of fatalities and 4% of serious injuries.

2.4 Overall, criminal justice and accident statistics together show that speeding is the most commonly reported and recorded illegal driving behaviour. Although numbers of people charged with speeding offences have dropped over time, it still contributes to a sizeable number of fatalities and serious injuries.

2.5 Driver survey data supports the recorded crime data in showing that illegal driving remains prevalent among reasonably large proportions of UK drivers. The self-report survey data shows that there is a greater engagement in speeding offences compared to mobile phone, seatbelt and drink/drug driving related offences, but this may, of course, be explained by differences in willingness to disclose these types of behaviours, rather than their actual occurrence.

Segmenting Illegal Drivers

2.6 While there have been no notable segmentation studies that have specifically explored illegal driving, previous research does point towards some clustering of different types of behaviours among drivers.

2.7 The RITS survey reports some age and gender differences suggesting that men, and particularly younger male drivers (aged under 45) are more likely to engage in risky behaviours. These findings in many ways support the surveys, and official statistics such as those presented above provide some insight into who is most likely to engage in different types of illegal driving behaviours in terms of their socio-demographic characteristics.

2.8 Less is known about the association between previous convictions for driving offences, involvement in road traffic accidents and continued illegal driving behaviour. A comparison of official statistics and self-report surveys suggests that there is a large proportion of illegal driving behaviour that goes undetected, but it is not possible to say from the existing data whether those who have previously been charged with a road traffic offence are any more or less likely than their peers to drive illegally in the future.

Attitudes towards Road Safety and Illegal Driving

2.9 While survey research shows varying attitudes towards different types of illegal driving behaviours, there seems to be a general consensus across the research that illegal driving is not currently sufficiently well-policed, or penalties enforced, with a general perception that the risks of being caught are low.

2.10 The latest RAC Report on Motoring4 annual survey reports that people consider policing of road offences to be inadequate, with perceptions that this contributes to a 'hard core' of drivers repeatedly breaking the law. This is despite many of the same respondents reporting that they themselves engaged in illegal behaviours, and perhaps suggests a general perception that people will continue to carry out behaviours which they do not approve of in the absence of an increase in the chances of being caught and a likely penalty being received.

What Works?

2.11 Road Safety Scotland, along with the Scottish Government, seeks to develop and co-ordinate Scotland-wide road safety initiatives and campaigns, including those aimed at improving driver behaviour and eliminating illegal driving. In recent years, the focus of these campaigns has included speeding, seatbelts, drink driving and country road driving, including campaigns highlighting the dangers of distractions whilst driving. Evaluation literature shows varied recall of campaign materials and also shows that few drivers report that they (or their driving) are directly influenced by it.

2.12 This, alongside the official statistics and self-report survey data that show that there remains significant illegal behaviour on the roads suggests that more work is needed to understand why people drive illegally and what may work to change that behaviour. The remainder of this report presents the findings from the qualitative research that was undertaken to try and address some of the gaps in existing evidence.