Headlines: November 25th, 2008

Local authorities and other bodies considering measures to cut people’s use of their cars are being urged to think again. An international conference will be told today that car reduction policies can have unforeseen economic and social consequences.

The warning will be given by Elizabeth Dainton, the Research Development Manager for the RAC Foundation, who will use a speech to the 7th International Mo.Ve Mobility Forum in Venice to say that moves to enforce restrictions on car use should not be introduced without a full understanding of the outcomes.

In response to a debate entitled ‘Car Dependency of individuals: lazy and wasteful drivers or lack of viable and acceptable alternatives?’ she will say the great majority of British motorists are not wasteful or lazy but that they do not have viable and acceptable alternatives to the private car. She will use previously published research and data from an ongoing study to explain that the reasons people use cars are complex, motivated by individual needs and wider society planning.

She will tell the Forum that if badly designed policies are implemented to reduce car usage for climate change, carbon emission, congestion, road safety or human health reasons there are likely to be economic and social consequences. She will argue that the trade-offs required need to be better understood before policy is developed and implemented.

Ms Dainton believes the term ‘car dependence’ has hindered the debate and she will suggest that any administrations addressing car usage need to find a fresh way of looking at future challenges. She also believes that concerns over climate change, congestion, road safety and health make the development of non-voluntary car reduction policies more likely. “Car use has become the norm. It is an important feature of modern life, which has provided an unparalleled level of mobility and access to people going about their everyday activities. Car ownership and use has formed the basis of people’s decisions on where to live, work and educate their families. These decisions are hard to reverse,” she will tell delegates.