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Investigation casebook: Who are the worst road users?

  • 29 December 2013
  • By Ashleigh Wight

We’re taking a look back at some of the year’s best Investigations featured in Commercial Motor magazine. In our 14 August edition we carried exclusive research gauging what the public thought of other road users.

Who are the worst road users?

Who are the worst road users? White van man, school-run parent, cyclist… who grinds your gears when you’re on the road? CM investigates.

The industry has played its part in promoting a positive image of road haulage over the past few years, from supplying broadcasters with the spectacle of trucks at the London 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony, to Eddie Stobart’s established Trucks and Trailers series shaking off scare stories of thundering juggernauts.

With the industry striving to alter the public’s perception that trucks are dirty and dangerous, a CM survey, by ComRes, into who the public considers to be the worst road users, suggests these efforts are now paying off, with only 14% of the 2,000 adults surveyed considering truck drivers to be the biggest annoyance on the roads.

In fact, the public is now more tolerant of truck drivers than most other road users, with school-run parents, cyclists, taxi drivers and pensioners among those considered to be more of a public menace than truck drivers.
Most loathed

Unfortunately, white van man topped the most-loathed list, with 32% of respondents saying they were the most irritated by them.

Interestingly, younger drivers in the 18-24 age bracket were the most tolerant of van drivers, while 42% of respondents aged 65 and over considered them to be the worst road users.

Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, was not surprised that the public disliked van drivers the most.

He said he would welcome efforts from the industry to stress van drivers’ professionalism. “White van man has had a bad press for years and, despite the fact that many get training from employers, the public still don’t trust them,” Greig said.

“The new fixed penalty scheme for careless driving should help the police clamp down on the worst van-driving behaviour.”

Refuse collection vehicle drivers were rated as the least likely to create a stink, with only 5% irritated by having to share the road with them.

Londoners were the least tolerant of rubbish collection trucks, although it was only 8% who disliked them the most.

Outside of the CV driver category, teenagers were found to be the most irritating road users, with tolerance levels decreasing as people’s ages increased.

Those in the West Midlands were the least supportive of younger drivers on the road (42% citing them as the most disliked), while those in London and the South East were the most tolerant (26%).  n

  • Survey conducted by ComRes between 26 and 28 July, interviewing 2,049 British adults. Data is weighted to be representative of all British adults aged over 18.


Cyclists, lots of cyclists

Earlier this month (CM 8 August) a separate ComRes survey found that a large number of the public supported increased legislation for cyclists to improve their safety on the road. Our latest survey highlights the public’s frustration with cyclists’ behaviour. In total, more than a quarter (26%) of those surveyed said they thought cyclists were the worst road users, with respondents in the South East the least tolerant of cyclists (31%), despite, or maybe because of, this being the region where there are most cyclists. Institute of Advanced Motorists director of policy and research Neil Greig said this was worrying as the region had seen the biggest take-up in cycling in the UK. “This shows the critical need to continue to promote ‘sharing the road’ campaigns and bring forward infrastructure improvements to protect vulnerable cyclists,” he said.
Respondents aged over 55 were the least tolerant of cyclists, while those aged between 35 and 44 were the most supportive – with only 20% considering them the worst to share the road with. Motorbike riders were deemed the worst people to share the road with by only 16% of those surveyed.


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