Are British drivers really becoming more polite?

Posted on June 22nd, 2012 by GEM Motoring Assist

A new survey suggests that the nation’s drivers are adopting the behaviour of model citizens on the roads. But is this really true?

Road rage road sign

Road rage road sign photographed by Gary Turner

British drivers are becoming “more patient and courteous”. That is the conclusion of a recent piece of research commissioned by car supermarket company Car Craft which involved 2,000 drivers being quizzed about their driving behaviour.

The survey, which was conducted in April 2012, found that only three per cent of drivers ever experience feelings of anger behind the wheel or resort to swearing.

Just over one in three drivers (33 per cent) who push into traffic queues or cut lanes said that they smile at other motorists as they do so. (Presumably they do so out of politeness rather than in a mean spirit!)

Some drivers are even more polite; 60 per cent say they would prefer to wait for a gap in the traffic flow rather than queue-jump or lane-cut and 25 per cent would rather find another route than rely on another driver to let them into a stream of traffic.

Commenting on the statistics, Carcraft’s Julia Dallimore said: “It appears drivers are getting less wound up when they’re on the road.”

She added: “They’re becoming more patient and courteous. Britain is definitely driving happier.”

David Williams MBE, CEO of GEM Motoring Assist believes that the vast majority of British drivers are polite and courteous. However, through his work as vice-chairman of the National Campaign for Courtesy, he has seen how the aggressive and rude behaviour of a minority of motorists can make life stressful for the majority of courteous road users.

David said: “An act of aggression or unpleasantness from one driver can so easily lead to others to retaliate in a similar way. Far better to acknowledge with a simple wave of apology if you make a mistake on the road, thus hopefully ensuring that the matter doesn’t escalate.

Likewise if a driver shows consideration to you again wave a ‘thank you’ back.”

He added: “I really believe that in this way courtesy can become infectious.”

As stress is the major cause of conflict on the road it is desirable for all of us to try and remain stress free before we get behind the wheel of our vehicles. The Courtesy on the Road leaflet, available free of charge here, has some great tips for reducing your stress levels.

These tips include:

  • Avoiding eating heavy meals before a long journey
  • Listening to the radio or a CD in order to relax
  • Never driving for more than two hours without taking a break.

The leaflet also stresses that, while we can’t always stop other drivers from losing their temper, we can help defuse potential road-rage flashpoints by following the ten-point Courtesy Driving Code. One of the tips stresses that “if someone’s driving annoys you, do not try to educate them”.

The last tips are arguably the best ones as they contain the advice that saying “thank you” and “sorry” to other drivers can encourage co-operative safe use of the road, avoid confrontation and defuse anger.

After all, courtesy on the roads, unlike petrol at the petrol pump, costs nothing!

Do you think British drivers are becoming more courteous? Have you any examples of courteous or aggressive driving behaviour that you would like to share with us? Which modern driving habits do you find particularly rude?

We’d love to hear your views on the subject of road rage on modern UK roads. Just leave a comment in the comment box below!