Headlines: April 20th, 2009

A picture of Britain as a car reliant nation is painted today in new research which shows 80 per cent of people in households where car use is the norm. The biggest recent growth in car ownership has been amongst the poor and older people. The findings come in ‘The Car in British Society’, published today by the Royal Automobile Club Foundation.

The Foundation is warning the Government that even though car use seems to be levelling off with so many people relying on the car, ministers have to consider the potential social and economic consequences of trying to reduce car use as a way to tackle climate change and congestion.

Stephen Glaister, the Foundation’s Director said: “The British are not addicted to driving, but they are car reliant. More than four out of five people say they would find it difficult to use their cars less. It is a myth to claim public transport is the magic answer. The Government’s emphasis on High Speed Rail ignores the reality of most people’s lives.”

The report shows that in the last decade the number of cars has jumped by 30 per cent from 22.7 million to 29.6 million. Over the same period the population has grown by only 16 per cent to 60.6 million. Car use has grown for almost half a century but is now stabilising indicating that on average cars are being used less intensively.

Dr Karen Lucas, from the University of Oxford, who led the research, said it suggested that most people could not envisage a future without their cars and would go to considerable lengths to continue using them. “The current policy debates about reducing car use, through road pricing and personal car allowances, do not fully consider the impacts that this might have on people’s lives, especially for those on low incomes or with limited options for alternative modes of travel,” she said.