If I broke out a brand new digital copy of the highway code and asked you to name me the different types of crossing that can be found on British roads, could you do it? What if I asked you the pattern certain lights flash in and what they mean? What about the different coloured road markings on motorways, where do they occur? Chances are, you wouldn’t be able to answer these questions, but I bet you could when you were practising for your driving theory test and this is actually somewhat of a problem. According to new research from RAC, road users actually know less and less about road safety and markings the longer it’s been since their test.
This is particularly worrying considering the same can be said for professional drivers, like truckers and taxi operators. These are people that’s whole working lives are spent on the road and yet many of them only have a rudimentary knowledge of what many road markings and signs actually mean, even though at one point they knew them implicitly.
Of course some enterprises and businesses keep their staff updated on new technologies and updates to the highway code with training and refresher courses, but that’s not the same for everyone.
RAC found in its study of over 1,500 drivers, including professionals, that many couldn’t identify a correct braking distance, with most underestimating it. On top of that, only 16 per cent could remember that a car travelling at 70 miles per hour requires roughly 24 car lengths to stop.
When that speed was lowered, more were correct, but over half still thought that a 30 miles per hour vehicle would require only two car lengths to stop, when in-fact, it’s more like six.
These specific questions highlight why the UK might have so many rear-end collisions, especially from lorry or truck drivers. Many people think this is unacceptable, including Simon Best, current CEO of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, an organisation that’s in place to offer advanced training for motorists.
He said: “Information from the Highway Code, including stopping distances, should be for life and not just for the theory test. Drivers need to make judgement calls every day, but this can be seriously impaired if they don’t understand how long it will take for their car to stop safely while travelling at speed or in challenging road conditions.”
It might be worth considering however, that while drivers might not be able to estimate the technical distance in metres (or car lengths) that it takes to stop from a certain speed, I’d wager that they’re far better at judging the distance by ear when the situation arises, having braked sharply at times in their driving career and learned through instinct how far it is they need in order to stop safely.
Perhaps the most worrying part of the study however, was that RAC found that over 12 per cent of drivers did not realise that it was illegal to text while driving, while another 20 per cent thought it was perfectly fine for them to check Facebook or Twitter whilst behind the wheel.
Are any of you guys guilty of sending a quick tweet while you drive?