Appendix C: Research Background and Literature Review

Appendix C: Research Background and Literature Review

Defining Illegal Driving Behaviour

Roughly two-thirds of adults in Scotland hold a full driving licence, with in excess of 2 million licenced vehicles on Scotland's roads. The Highway Code9, 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, punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment to seatbelt offences, punishable by a fine of up to £500.

In Scotland, separate national protocols are also in place which allow minor road traffic offences to be dealt with at jurisdictional level by different police forces and local authorities using a range of 'direct measures' or non-court disposals. These include fixed penalty notices (FPNs) which are different from fines or criminal convictions, and can be appealed through the courts, but which are backed with a power of criminal prosecution if the penalty is not paid. These are commonly used for speeding offences with typical endorsable offences attracting a £60 fine. Police can also issue Formal Adult Warnings (FAWs) for motoring offences, although their use is restricted mostly to unlawful vehicle use. Procurators Fiscal (PFs) in Scotland can also issue FPNs, as well as Fiscal Warnings and Fiscal Fines for motoring offences, but again these are usually only used for unlawful vehicle use with more serious motor vehicle offences being dealt with through the courts. While most illegal driving is therefore defined by, and punished in line with, the Highway Code, some local controls are also in place. Additional powers are also held by the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales including the recent transfer of power from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament to set the drink driving and speed limits. Public consultation on proposals to reduce the current legal alcohol limit from 80mgh to 50mgh in Scotland have just concluded and, at the time of writing, are being considered by Ministers.

Known Prevalence of Illegal Driving

While UK laws clearly define which driving behaviours are 'illegal', it is difficult to derive a true measure of the prevalence of illegal driving since, while some illegal driving will be detected and recorded by the police, other behaviour will not. While official statistics present a picture of the numbers of people caught and charged with road traffic offences, they do not include those offences carried out which go undetected. While self-report surveys go some way to fill this gap, the subjective nature of such surveys and potential for response bias (in particular people under and/or over-reporting engaging in particular types of behaviour) means that these too cannot be considered as reliable. For these reasons, it is accepted that the two complementary sources of evidence need to be used together to provide a rounded picture of the true prevalence of illegal driving behaviours.

Official Statistics - Criminal Justice Data

National recorded crime statistics for Scotland include a classification for 'motor vehicle offences' recorded by the police. This includes dangerous and careless driving10, driving under the influence11, speeding, unlawful use of a vehicle, vehicle defect offences and 'other' offences (including mobile phone offences, seatbelt offences, accident offences and parking offences)12. Figure C.1 below shows the number of motor vehicle offences recorded for the ten year period from 2002/03 to 2011/12. It shows that, while there has been a decrease in the number of recorded speeding offences in Scotland over time, as well as reductions in unlawful use of vehicles and vehicle defect offences, 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.

Figure C.1 Number of motor vehicle offences recorded by the police in Scotland, 2002/03 to 2011/12

Figure C.1 Number of motor vehicle offences recorded by the police in Scotland, 2002/03 to 2011/12

Source: Recorded Crime in Scotland 2011-12, Statistical Bulletin, Scottish Government, Edinburgh, available at:

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).

In 2011/12, there were a total of 333, 632 recorded motor vehicle offences overall. The majority of these (except the most serious offences) will have been dealt with by non-court disposals, primarily fixed penalty notices issued by the police and Fiscal fixed penalties. While police data is not readily available, Criminal Proceedings in Scotland data is published that shows the number of motor vehicle offences which are referred to the Procurator Fiscal and which result in Fiscal fixed penalty notices (FPNs). Table C.1 shows that, in 2011/12, of all FPNs issued, most (37%) were for speeding and a further 27% were for 'other' offences.

Table C.1 Persons given fiscal fixed penalties, by main crime/offence, 2011-12
Main crime or offence Total (n) Total (%)
Serious Driving Offences 1 -
Speeding 7,886 37
Signal and Direction Offences 2,632 12
Lighting, Construction & Use Offences 1,135 5
Documentation Offences 3,686 18
Other Offences 5,702 27
Total 21,057 100

Source: Criminal Proceedings in Scotland, 2011-12, Statistical Bulletin, Scottish Government, Edinburgh, available at:

Although not routinely published, an analysis of 'other' offences provided for this research showed that, overall, 49% of all 'other' offences were mobile phone offences and 48% were seatbelt offences. This means that 14% and 13% respectively of all FPNs issued are for mobile phone and seatbelt offences, putting them only marginally behind documentation offences overall.

Of those given FPNs for motor vehicle offences, 79% were male and 21% were female. Among females, the most common offence was speeding (40%), compared to 37% of males given FPNs for this offence. One fifth (20%) of females, compared to 29% of males were given FPNs for 'other' offences (including mobile phone use and seatbelt offences). While this data alone suggests that men are four times more likely than females to be charged with motor offences, it is important to remember that these figures only represent incidents that are captured by the police and reported to the Fiscal, and do not take into account incidents that go undetected or unreported.

Two thirds (66%) of people given FPNs for motor vehicle offences in 2011/12 were aged 30 or over, with 29% in the 21 to 29 age band and only 5% in the under 21s. While proportionately the number of current drivers on the roads aged over 30 will be greater than those aged under 30, the data does show that it is not primarily younger drivers who are responsible for motor vehicle offences. The data may instead reflect that those in the older age bands are more likely to be caught and charged for such offences than younger drivers.

Table C.2 shows that, when broken down by offence type, almost three quarters (72%) of FPNs given for speeding were for those aged 30+. This compares to 62% of all FPNs for 'other' driving offences (including mobile phone use and seatbelt offences) for people in this age band. People aged 21-29 are most likely to be given FPNs for these offences.

Table C.2 Persons given fiscal fixed penalties, by main crime/offence and age, 2011-12
Main Crime or Offence Under 21
Over 30
Serious Driving Offences - 100 -
Speeding 3 25 72
Signal and Direction Offences 6 26 68
Lighting, Construction & Use Offences 14 32 54
Documentation Offences 7 29 64
Other Motor Vehicle Offences 5 33 62
Total 5 29 66

Source: Criminal Proceedings in Scotland, 2011-12, Statistical Bulletin, Scottish Government, Edinburgh, available at:

The number of people proceeded against in court for driving offences is also recorded and shows the nature and demographic characteristics of those charged with more serious illegal driving behaviour. In 2011/12, there were 40,909 people proceeded against in court for motor vehicle offences. Table C.3 shows the number and percentage of people proceeded against by offence type. It shows that, as with FPNs, the most common offence proceeded against in this way was speeding.

Table C.3 People proceeded against in court by main crime/offence, 2011/12
Main crime or offence Total (n) Total (%)
Dangerous and careless driving 3,199 8
Drink/drug driving 5,556 13
Speeding 12,598 31
Unlawful use of vehicle 9,901 24
Vehicle defect offences 1,622 4
Other vehicle crimes/offences 8,033 20
Total 40,909 100

Source: Criminal Proceedings in Scotland, 2011-12, Statistical Bulletin, Scottish Government, Edinburgh, available at:

Again, data from 2011/12 and historically show that men are more likely to be proceeded against in court for motor vehicle offences than women, accounting for 85% of people disposed of in this way, compared to 15% of women. The nature and proportionate representation of each offence type was broadly the same for men and women in 2011/12, with speeding the most common offence for both genders.

Table C.4 again shows that people aged 30+ represent the majority of people proceeded against in court for all types of motor vehicle offences.

Table C.4 People proceeded against in court by main crime/offence and age, 2011/12
Main Crime or Offence Under 21
Over 30
Dangerous and careless driving 17 32 51
Drink/drug driving 9 31 60
Speeding 5 29 67
Unlawful use of vehicle 9 37 54
Vehicle defect offences 10 34 56
Other vehicle 5 35 60
Total 8 32 60

Source: Criminal Proceedings in Scotland, 2011-12, Statistical Bulletin, Scottish Government, Edinburgh, available at:

The majority of people proceeded against in court for motor vehicle offences receive a monetary penalty, accounting for 93% of offenders in 2011/12.

Official Statistics - Accident Data

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. This injury road accident data is part of a GB wide system is known as STATS 19 data collection. The publication Reported Road Casualties Scotland 201113 data shows that the number of reported road casualties in 2011 is at its lowest level since 1947.

Although this publication does not specifically include analysis of road casualties that result from illegal driving behaviour per se, estimates of the number of drink drive accidents are produced each year. In the ten-year period between 2000 and 2010 (the latest year for which data is available), the estimated number of drink drive accidents fell by around a third, from about 780 (in 2000) to roughly 530 (in 2010). Over the same period, it is estimated that the number of people killed in such accidents fell from about 40 to 20.

Breath test data published by Transport Scotland also shows that, in 2011, of the 59% of motorists involved in injury accidents who were asked to provide a breath test, fewer than 3.4% of those drivers either provided a positive test or refused to take the test. This represented 2% of the total number of all drivers involved in injury road accidents, including those who were not asked to take a test, and this percentage has remained fairly stable over recent years.

Included on the STATS 19 injury road accident data return is an indication of factors which may have contributed to the accident, including speed (inappropriate speed or speeding), drink driving and 'distraction' (including such things as mobile phone usage)14.

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.

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 on the roads.

Drink driving incidents are far less prevalent and the numbers of such recorded offences have remained steady over time, as has the percentage of drivers breathalysed and failing (or refusing) such tests. However, with an average of 30 fatalities and 150 serious injuries over the last five years for which estimates are available (2006-2010), drink remains a serious contributory factor to dangerous driving that needs to be tackled.

Trend data does show that 'other' offences, including mobile phone usage and seatbelt offences have increased in recent years, partly due to increasing popularity and functionality of mobile phone technology, perhaps. Distraction is recorded as a contributory factor in a relatively small number of serious and fatal accidents, however, use of phones for texting and talking is far less visible as a possible contributor and can, therefore, go undetected more easily perhaps than either speeding or drink driving.

Although men feature more in the official statistics as illegal drivers than women, it seems that illegal driving behaviours are present across all age groups. It is important to stress again that these figures do not capture the true incidence of illegal behaviours, but only those incidents that are captured by the authorities.

While these official statistics provide indicative insight into the prevalence and consequences of some illegal driving behaviours in Scotland, therefore, all of these data sources are biased by potential under-reporting. Not all illegal driving incidents will be captured by the police, and many non-fatal accidents and 'near misses' may also go unreported to the police. Further, none of these official data sources provide estimates of the number of repeat or 'prolific' illegal driving offenders. For these reasons, it is important to consider self-reported illegal and accident data reported by drivers alongside the official statistics in order to get a fuller picture of the nature and prevalence of illegal driving.

Driver Surveys

The RAC Report on Motoring15 annual publication, first launched in 1988, provides one of the longest standing insights into the attitudes and behaviours of Britain's motorists. The report presents findings from a survey of drivers across the UK, and covers a variety of topics including opinions on the vehicles that people own, the reasons they drive, transport policy and the behaviour of other drivers.

Although the 2012 survey showed that 92% of motorists considered themselves to be law abiding, 83% admitted to being regular speeders. While the survey showed support for a higher speed limit on motorways (62%), consistent with previous years, most people felt that an increase to 80 mph on motorways would lead to people driving at 90 mph rather than sticking to the new limit. Motorists were more agreeable with existing 50 mph and 60 mph limits on country roads, with 30 mph on urban ones and 20 mph in urban area zones such as those around schools. Well over 1 in 3 people still reported driving above these limits, albeit with greater frequency than motorway speeding. This included 46% of motorists admitting to speeding in a 30 mph limit, 37% in a 50/60 mph limit and 36% in a 20 mph zone. The report considers that such self-reported behaviours demonstrate the belief that speeding is acceptable and is somehow less serious than other motoring offences.

In 2012, the survey also revealed that one in five respondents (21%) admitted to holding a mobile phone while either driving or waiting at traffic lights, and the same (23%) admitted texting while either driving or being stationary at lights. Fewer drivers overall (11%) admitted accessing social media, websites or emails whilst driving.

While self-reported speeding behaviours were quite prevalent, the 2012 survey showed that only 7% of motorists admitted to knowing or believing that they had driven over the alcohol limit and 5% to have driven under the influence of drugs.

The Driver Behaviour Module of the 2010 NatCen Omnibus survey16 offers a complementary source of survey data to the RAC Motoring Report on the prevalence of risky and illegal behaviours of drivers living in England and Wales. This report again showed that speeding was the most prevalent risky or illegal behaviour that drivers admitted, with 89% of respondents reporting having done this on one or more occasion in the last 12 months. Just over a third (34%) of drivers surveyed said that they had used a hand held mobile phone while driving to speak or text at least once in the previous 12 months. As with the RAC Report, far fewer respondents reported having driven whilst knowingly over the legal alcohol limit in the preceding 12 months (7%) or after taking illicit drugs (1%).

Unlike the RAC report, the NatCen survey also provides an insight into the prevalence of self-report non-usage of seatbelts. The 2010 data shows that 15% of respondents reported having driven without wearing a seatbelt, with 18% having not worn a seatbelt as a passenger. Drivers were most likely not to wear a seatbelt when travelling on roads that were familiar to them or when they were in a hurry.

The Scottish equivalent of the Driver Behaviour Module is the RITS survey17, established in 2010, which monitors driver behaviour and attitudes in Scotland in relation to a number of key road safety issues. The initial sweeps of the survey in September 2010 and February 2011 showed that 72% of drivers had adopted any risk behaviours in the last 12 months, with just under 60% self-reporting any illegal behaviours18. Data from the second year of the survey, carried out in September 2011 and February 2012, were consistent with these findings, having increased only marginally to 74% for risk behaviours and 61% for any kind of illegal driving behaviour.

Speeding was again consistently the most common behaviour reported by just over half of respondents in each survey year (52% in 2010/11 and 54% in 2011/12), and was most likely to be reported in lower speed limit areas (i.e. driving at 35 mph in a 30 mph area). Around half of respondents said that they had driven over 35 mph is such areas, compared to less than 15% driving at 90 mph on the motorway in each survey sweep.

Hand-held mobile phone use and using a mobile phone to text whilst driving was reported by around 10% of respondents in each survey year19, a figure which is considerably lower than those reported as either part of the RAC or NatCen reports. This is surprising since recorded crime statistics show that this type of behaviour has increased over recent years in Scotland. This perhaps reflects a social stigma and unwillingness to disclose this type of behaviour among those surveyed, rather than actual prevalence. It may, of course, also reflect the general mobile phone usage levels of those surveyed i.e. the sample may not have included people who regularly use their phones whether driving or not.

The numbers of people self-reporting driving over the legal alcohol limit or driving after taking illicit drugs were also consistently low in the RITS survey, and no more than 2% in all sweeps. The percentage of those reporting driving when 'unsure' if they were over the legal limit was slightly higher, at 3% or 4% in each sweep.

Consistently, around 1 in 5 respondents reported not wearing a seatbelt when travelling in the back of a car or taxi when one was available and less than 10% in each survey sweep reported not using a seatbelt when travelling in the front of a car.

The percentage of respondents who reported 'prolific' risky or illegal behaviours, i.e. more than three different types of behaviour in the previous 12 months, has been around one third for each survey sweep.

Overall, the 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

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.

Socio-demographic characteristics

The RITS survey reports some age and gender differences with more men than women reporting that they adopted risk behaviours. In particular, the RITS survey suggests that men, and particularly younger male drivers (aged under 45) are more likely to engage in risky behaviours overall.

The NatCen survey also showed that men were more likely than women to engage in risky behaviours, as were younger drivers compared with older drivers. Men and younger drivers were more likely to engage in speeding and younger drivers were also less likely to wear a seatbelt when driving. Women were more likely to abstain from drinking when driving, compared to men.

Specifically in relation to speeding, research in England carried out by Step Beyond in 200620 showed that young people aged 17-24 tend to speed more excessively than any other age group. The RAC Report on Motoring also shows that young people aged 17-24 are among those most likely to use mobile phones for any purpose, especially for accessing social media, websites or emails whilst driving.

The Step Beyond research also showed that, among 35-50 year olds, more professional drivers (of those driving mostly for work-related purposes) had been caught speeding by a speed camera than people who drove mostly for leisure or social reasons, or for the daily commute, and a greater proportion of this age group had also been involved in an accident compared to their peers. This may suggest an element of work-related pressures contributing to driving over the speed limit.

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.

Detection and accident history characteristics

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.

Similarly, little is known about the links between previous accident experiences and continued engagement in prolific illegal driving. While accident statistics show that a large proportion of accidents arise as a result of driver error, and many as a result of illegal driving behaviours, it is not possible from existing data to say whether involvement in such accidents has any impact on drivers likelihood to engage in safer driving practices.

The RITS survey suggests that just under half of drivers in Scotland have ever received a penalty for their driving, and that prolific illegal or risky drivers are more likely to have been previously penalised for driving behaviour. This is perhaps not surprising since the frequency with which people engage in illegal driving activities may be expected to be positively correlated with an increased chance of being caught. The RITS surveys have also shown that the perceived risks of being caught are not a significant factor in influencing behaviour. That is, the majority of people recognise that they may be caught for illegal driving yet still engage in it. Those adopting the most risky behaviours do not do so on account of a lower perceived risk of getting caught, perhaps highlighting a general dismissal of the need for compliance.

That said, the fact that the RITS survey also shows that, consistently, only just over half of people who report adopting any illegal behaviours in the last 12 months had previously been penalised indicates that there is a large proportion of people carrying out illegal driving activities that are not detected or recorded by the police or other authorities. This, again shows the importance of considering official statistics alongside self-reported behaviours.

Psychological characteristics

There is a considerable body of evidence to show that people's psychological characteristics also play a large part in determining likely participation in risky or illegal driving behaviours. Whilst the volume and coverage of such research is too vast to cover here, some key social cognition variables that influence drivers' behaviour are, perhaps, worth highlighting for context.

Perhaps the single biggest factor considered across the research is intentionality, or people's overall desire to perform a given behaviour. Previous work has shown that, specifically in relation to speeding, there is a strong correlation between people's intention to engage in this behaviour and their actual performance21. Intentions to speed are often accompanied by positive instrumental and affective attitudes towards speeding such that peoples' perceptions that speeding will be instrumental in helping them to achieve their goals, and will not cause any negative emotional response, are more likely to indulge.

Drivers' perceived behavioural control (over their own behaviour) and the perceived controllability of factors external to their own behaviour have also been shown to predict intentions to drive is particular ways, and the resulting behaviour22. People with a greater sense of control over both factors are more likely to undertake behaviours that may be risky, since the perceived risks of 'losing' control are slim. The Step Beyond research showed that, while the majority of drivers felt they were always in control, even when driving fast, this self-belief was greatest among the younger drivers.

Related to this, self-efficacy or confidence in one's own ability to perform specific behaviours have also been shown to strongly predict engagement. Again, the Step Beyond speeding research suggested that the main feelings experienced by drivers when driving fast were confidence, being in control, being alert and focussed.

Other influencing factors include the perceived likelihood of negative outcomes in terms of anticipated regret, or whether people will feel guilt associated with their behaviour, as well as whether people perceive that their actions will attract negative social attention (i.e. do they reflect the moral norm). These combine with people's perceptions of subjective norms, or the extent to which they feel social pressure to engage in particular behaviours, and all act as predictors of likely behaviour.

Finally, in the context of driving, optimism bias has been shown to be strongly correlated with actual behaviours, such that people who perceive that they are less likely than others to experience any negative consequences from their behaviours (e.g. being caught or being involved in a road traffic accident) are more likely to engage in risk behaviours. This optimism is often unwarranted and unrealistic.

Overall, psychological research has also shown dangerous drivers are more likely to underestimate the probability of specific risks caused by traffic situations, to overestimate their own driving skills and abilities and perceive themselves to be invulnerable to negative outcomes. Together, such factors can contribute to a sense of invincibility when driving on the roads and a propensity, therefore, to engage in risky behaviours based on the perception that there will be no negative consequences.

It is worth noting that, while there is a considerable evidence to support the influence of these factors in determining driver behaviour, self-report survey research, including the Step Beyond research, has also shown that many people who report driving dangerously say that they do so without realising it.

Attitudes towards Road Safety and Illegal Driving

Other Drivers

Despite quite high levels of self-reported illegal driving behaviours, especially speeding, research has also shown that many drivers feel unsafe on the roads, not as a result of their own driving behaviours, but because of others.

Findings from the 2012 RAC Report on Motoring showed that people generally felt less safe on the roads than ever before, and had particular concerns about road safety and the behaviour of other drivers. The main concerns were the costs of motoring (60%), worry about other people driving without tax and insurance (58%), worry about other people driving whilst using phones without a hands free kit (53%) and worry about other people driving whilst under the influence of alcohol. The latter issue was of greatest concern among drivers aged 17-24 for whom 1 in 5 rated it as the most important concern they had about other's behaviour (suggesting perhaps that they considered it to be quite prevalent).

The NatCen report also shows that nearly four-fifths of drivers felt themselves to be safer drivers than most (77%) and a significant number of those involved in the Step Beyond research (around three quarters) also considered themselves to be better drivers than most. This perhaps suggests that most people consider their own safety or exposure to risk on the roads is likely to be influenced by others' rather than their own behaviour. This idea is further supported by the finding that many in the 35-50 year-old age group who took part in the Step Beyond research were complacent, bordering on the arrogant, about their own driving skills.

Specific Behaviours

Research has also shown varying levels of social acceptability and widely different attitudes expressed in relation to the range of different illegal driving behaviours seen on the roads.

The RITS survey showed that drink driving is perhaps the least accepted risk behaviour, while speeding is the most accepted (especially in towns or on motorways compared to country road driving). It has also shown that, whilst most drivers recognise the importance of (and support) wearing seatbelts in the front of the car at all times, less strong sentiments are expressed with regards to rear seatbelt use. Over the two years that the survey has been running, there has, however, been a weakening in attitudes of the extent to which drink driving, country road driving and seatbelt wearing are perceived to be a 'big problem' on the roads.

Specifically in relation to speeding, several other studies have reported a general cynicism towards speed cameras, with perceptions that they are a means of generating revenue for local authorities rather than acting as a road safety measure. The Step Beyond research also suggested the main thing that would slow drivers down was killing or seriously injuring someone else. The thing that would have least impact on reducing their speed was being flashed by a speed camera.

Specifically in relation to drink and drug driving, the RAC Report on Motoring also showed that attitudes to driving under the influence were less tolerant than those for speeding, with 55% of respondents supporting a lifetime ban for driving regularly, or while excessively, under the influence of drink or drugs, and 95% supporting a ban of a shorter duration for the same. Support for a ban fell to 61% for drink and 73% for drugs for one-off or just-over-the-limit offenders. This provides a strong contrast to the views of those who engage in this type of behaviour with previous research to investigate the prevalence and social context of drug driving23 showing that drug drivers considered there to be a low risk of being caught by the police, and also reported they felt that taking drugs had no adverse effects on their driving performance. These, along with the perceived benefit of being able to use their own transport for convenience purposes, were given as the main reasons why people continued to engage in drug driving. Other research24 with drink drivers has also shown that, despite a general perception that drink driving is socially unacceptable, those who do engage in this type of activity consider it to be a low-risk activity both in terms of being caught and of having an accident.

Specifically in relation to mobile phone use, the RAC Report on Motoring showed that many people do not consider using hand-held mobile phones to be an offence, and fewer than half (43%) support a ban for people convicted of mobile phone related offences. Just over half (53%) support fines and three or six points on a licence for such offences. The report again links a reduction in road safety education to an increase in the number of phone related offences across the UK.

Evidence on public attitudes towards use of restraints, apart from the RITS survey, is more limited. The 2010 NatCen survey showed the majority (87%) of adults disagreed that, if you drive carefully, seatbelts are not necessary and the majority (91%) also felt that it was the driver's responsibility to ensure all passengers complied with seatbelt laws. That said, the survey also showed that 43% of respondents reported knowing others who would not always wear their restraints while driving.

Earlier research by the Transport Research Laboratory in 200825 also showed that, while the majority of people in the UK are seatbelt wearers, a significant minority (estimated to be around 14%) of the adult population were inconsistent in their use. The main reasons given for not wearing seatbelts, even when the safety advantages were known, included inconvenience and physical and emotional discomfort (feeling trapped/constrained). Setting a good example to children was one of the main social pressures expressed for wearing restraints in the front of the car, but the report also showed that attitudes towards rear seatbelt compliance were lax overall.

Attitudes towards Enforcement

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. The RAC 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.

Campaigns to Tackle Non-Compliant Driving Attitudes and Behaviours

Both official statistics, self-report survey data and wider research in the road safety field suggests that there remains a considerable proportion of drivers who fail to comply with the law in terms of their driving behaviours. 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. Each year in Scotland, there are at least two social media campaigns on road safety, supported by lower level activity in local areas.

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. A variety of different media have been developed and used to communicate with various driver populations, including TV advertisements, radio, on-line and cinema advertisements, field marketing and printed materials26.

These campaigns are independently evaluated with their intended audience and previous evaluations have shown mixed findings. The literature generally shows varied recall of campaign materials, titles and logos and, even where people do recall specific adverts, the main messages are often lost or are not seen as persuasive, particularly among male drivers. The literature also shows that, while there is a general tendency, particularly amongst males, to favour hard-hitting advertising employing graphic imagery, and that such adverts are among the most memorable, few drivers report that they (or their driving) are directly influenced by it.

Findings from the RITS survey also show that only around half of drivers surveyed recalled having recently seen or heard any advertising or publicity on topics relating to driving or road safety. The topics that had the greatest recall were adverts for drink driving, followed by those targeted at speeding. Consistently, less than one in four drivers recalled seeing or hearing recent advertisements relating to drug driving, use of seatbelts or use of mobile phones while driving.

The 2006 Step Beyond research in England also showed that participants across a range of age bands had either no or limited awareness of any anti-speeding advertisements, yet plenty for drink driving and seatbelts. The research showed this, combined with perceptions that the penalties for speeding were quite low, made some respondents feel that speeding simply was not really dangerous or indeed regarded as a serious offence by society as a whole.

The Step Beyond research also showed that different age groups reacted differently to road safety messages around speeding. It showed that young people, aged 17-24 were most likely to be influenced by campaigns that demonstrated the risks of speeding insofar as the potential to hurt or kill someone of their own age and whom they love, while 25-34 year olds demonstrated the greatest resistance to any advertising messages. That said, the main messages that did seem to work for this group were potential harm or killing of children as a result of dangerous driving, followed by hurting or killing others and loss of job, reduced employment potential or loss of driving licence. The most receptive to anti-speeding campaigns were those aged 35 to 50. The Step Beyond research concludes that effective anti-speed advertising needs to be targeted, impactful, realistic, relevant (to the age group targeted), demonstrate clear culpability, have credible action, characters and credible scenarios, and be memorable and sympathetic. Conversely, the research shows that anti-speeding campaigns should avoid use of statistics, patronising approaches, use of the 'voice of authority', mention of speed cameras and depicting teenagers as victims (unless targeted specifically at teenagers). It also encourages mixed methods for reaching young people, including TV, radio, cinema and recreational venues as advertising locations.

The 2012 RAC Report on Motoring concludes that education and training for motorists are key concerns for those involved in upholding road safety, and that "life-long opportunities" (from early education through to late adulthood) are required. This supports earlier conclusions from the Step Beyond research which also concludes that different age groups need different campaigns, with tailored messages and media, and that, within ages, sub-groups of users exist that also need to be targeted separately.

Learning from Existing Evidence and Gaps to be Filled

Examination of official statistics alongside self-report survey data suggests that only a small proportion of all illegal driving is detected and recorded by the police, and there is, therefore, a large amount of illegal behaviour that goes unpunished. The prevalence of self-reported illegal behaviour from surveys shows not only that people are willing to disclose they are not complying with the law, but that they may do so in various different ways and on numerous different occasions. Such drivers, therefore, might be seen as having complacent attitudes towards their illegal driving behaviours.

Survey findings in relation to attitudes towards the social acceptability of different types of illegal driving behaviours are mixed, and show a greater acceptance for some types of behaviour over others. Interestingly, those who report illegal driving behaviours are also among those who report that it is unacceptable, which begs the question as to why they continue to drive illegally knowing that it is both legally wrong and socially deviant. Some of this may be explained by a perceived low risk of being penalised, but this does not explain why people would continue to put themselves and others at risk, knowing the dangers.

While existing research tells us much about the characteristics of those who get caught for different types of behaviours, and who are prepared to self-report the same, there remain some gaps in the evidence around what motivates some segments of drivers to behave differently from others. Psychological literature explains the links between attitudes and behaviours, and also offers insight into what motivates certain types of behaviour and behaviour change, but perhaps more detailed insight into what factors play a part in drivers' decisions to engage in different activities is needed.

Finally, evaluations of previous road safety campaigns show that there is variable recall for different campaigns and among different groups of drivers. Overwhelmingly, however, it seems that the impact of these campaigns is not as widespread and enduring as might be hoped, and that persistent driver offending remains despite some of the campaign successes. More, therefore, needs to be done to understand what could increase their impact further.