Catastrophic loss of brains at the RAC

The RAC is complaining about the cost of  driving (see Cost of motoring soars by 6.3% as drivers feel the pinch – Press Releases – RAC). I do the same. I think it is disgraceful that drivers do not pay a fair price. However, one problem for the RAC is that a fair price would make driving much more expensive see my post I agree with David Cameron “I want to give the motorist a fair deal.”. Also look at this graph from the office for National Statistics (hat tipRoad Danger Reduction Forum » How motorists have it so cheap):

However, beyond their pathetic attempts to present drivers as hard done to (compare to the huge increases in rail fares this year) they also miss the entirely obvious.

The RAC give tips to drivers for saving money. They include all the obvious tips that save a few pence at best (correct tyre pressures for example). But due to their catastrophic loss of brains they fail to notice the two obvious ways for drivers to save money.

Every driver can save money in the ways the RAC are too blind to notice:

Option 1. Drive Less

Duh. With all their “wisdom” the RAC totally miss out on the easiest way for every driver to save money (on fuel, on maintenance, on insurance and on depreciation). Simply drive less. Every mile less you drive money stays in your pocket. You can drive less by avoiding trips, combining trips, sharing cars, switching to walking or cycling or to public transport.

Everyone can save money this way, but the RAC have not noticed it.

Option 2. Drive slower

If you slow down you will use less fuel. Again the RAC don’t seem to know about this one. Judging from the flashing signs showing people speeding around here neither do many drivers. Slow down, drive more carefully with bigger gaps so you can brake more gently, accelerate more slowly and you will use less fuel. Oh and you are much less likely to kill someone which is a nice benefit for society.


The RAC have an Elephant problem. The Elephant in the room that they ignore is that driving has a significant cost for the driver and for society. The problem is that if they were to acknowledge this Elephant then their power (and money) would disappear – who wants an organisation that exists to promote something that is bad for us as individuals and society to have power? They therefore keep their eyes closed and their brains turned off so they don’t notice that they exist to promote a dinosaur heading for extinction.

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  1. Observer article tries the same story too … most likely fed by an RAC press release.

    The Economist has already dispelled the whole basis for these articles / reports…

    Not sure that switching to more public transport can save money unless you actually get rid of the car though. I’ve found that paying all the fixed costs of owning a car (Insurance, MOT, VED) and then paying the high price of public transport (in Bristol at least) makes your overall travel prohibitively expensive. Once you’ve sunk that cash into keeping the car on the road for the year many people want to put it to use. Yes fuel is high cost and combined with the fixed running costs and depreciation it is very likely more expensive to travel around by car than it is to switch totally to public transport, but mixing the two gives you the high cost worst of both worlds. In most peoples minds putting £5 fuel in a car for a journey is cheaper than a £8 train ticket, so they drive. They don’t take into account all the other costs and wear and tear per journey. Those costs magically disappear until they jump up and sting you occupationally. That all comes in a big surprise chunk once or twice a year in the form of MOT and repairs and then VED and insurance renewal. People will take even less notice of the cost of depreciation and external costs to other people and society.

    It’s not hard to see why the government doesn’t discourage driving too when you consider the figure given in that Observer article that 1p duty on fuel generates £500 million for the treasury and for every pound spent on fuel more than half is duty. I can’t begin to do the maths to work out how much the treasury is receiving from fuel duty per year but it is a lot. I do know they’d struggle without that income and would therefore be mad to discourage it. What are they going to do if everyone switches to the electric cars they’re trying to incentivise with the £5000 grants? Will they be adding duty to double the price of electricity.

    Unfortunately at the moment the governments past and present have built and economy that relies heavily on income from a form of transport that is becoming a major problem for our roads, cities, safety, health and much more and I don’t think they know a way out of it, especially in the current economic climate.

  2. ^ Spell check put in ‘occupationally’ above instead of ‘occasionally’.

  3. Adam: According to Kim Harding’s research here: it is suggested that the tax revenue from motoring doesn’t come close to covering its costs to society. It appears to be arguable that we would all be better off if there were fewer motorists.

    I agree about the excessive cost of public transport though. Now that my offspring are both over 16 and liable to full fares it is way cheaper, no matter how you calculate it, for us all to do a 10 mile journey to our nearest big town for a shopping trip by car than it is by bus. The bus fare would be £20+ for us all, whereas, at the Inland Revenue rate of 40p/mile, plus parking costs, it comes to around half that figure by car.

    So, until a sensible and attractive public transport system has evolved here in the UK, (perhaps, in extremis, something like the FreeBus project in Bristol: there is little financial incentive for most of us to completely give up motoring, as much as families like us would love to.

  4. Hi Guys,

    I think you are both right about the government and revenue

    a) The government thinks it needs the money from fuel duty, VED etc but is frightened of the road lobby and so is trying to make it look as if they are cutting the cost to motorists.

    b) the government is in denial about the true cost of road transport. If they took the big picture they would realise the country is better off when fewer miles are driven (costs fall by more than income), instead they seem to be trying to encourage more miles to be driven to increase their income (ignoring the larger increase in costs)

    c) Sadly the government acts as if they believe (against all the evidence) that more miles driven is a sign of a healthier economy. The evidence is that where people switch to public transport, bikes and walking the economy benefits. Jan Gehl made that point beautifully in his recent lecture.

    So we get a multiple whammy from government: increased losses caused by road transport in an economy damaged by road transport.

    Sadly the evidence on government cuts and planned cuts is that the benefits to the economy as a whole are usually nebulous and rarely achieved. The planned sell off of forests is one example. The way that increased student loads increases total national debt for many years (until they graduate and earn enough to start paying off the increased amount of the loans) is another. The Parliament watchdog concluded that shutting down many of the quangos was going to cause a net increase in spending.

    As for the costs of public transport I agree totally. We only benefit where it gives us options to not all travel (or not drive simply to take the boys to something). For example it was cheaper for 2 on student railcards to go to Cambridge (for a specialist music repair shop) by train rather than drive there.

    We save by having cut down to one car thanks to not having 2 of us both needing a car for work. As we live only 6.5 miles from the centre of Leicester and only just over a mile from a large out of town shopping centre we have been able to switch to bike for most shopping – having 2 sons who don’t want to go shopping with us also helps 🙂

    We have a few things that we find it hard to manage without a car for:

    – taking wheelchair bound Mother-in-law out from her home 12 miles away
    – transporting to/from university. No direct train service plus as a music student 7 instruments to carry as well as everything else
    – holidays, especially with 6 people, 6 bikes and a folding caravan

    However, we are massively cutting down car use (visiting Mum is only journeys most weeks).

    Would love a suitable car pool system if available.

  5. I’d agree with WestfieldWanderer too and am aware of those costs but somehow they manage to be something that’s never raised or considered by government and if you try to explain it to the average commuter they won’t understand or at the least won’t be aware of them.

    It’s also another example of short term political interest. In the short term loss of revenue from cars / fuel would be difficult for the government as a lot of the (hidden) savings and benefits would take longer to be realised or have effect. One obvious one being less cost to the NHS. People having active lifestyles now is going to save money many years ahead but maybe not during the current governments term. There’s going to be a gap in the pay off. And the glory if it succeeds may be claimed by another political party if less car use and active lifestyles did prove to be beneficial to the country financially. A bit like Ken Livingtson’s cycle hire scheme now being known as “Boris Bikes”.

    A good example in Bristol has been the years of battles to get something that resembles half decent public transport operating. For years (and even now) the general public were crying out for a tram system and we nearly got one until all the separate councils that make up the Bristol area (Bristol, South Glos etc…) couldn’t agree and all feared the system would steal consumers from each others shops.

    The closest we’ve got to anything is now, where there’s a chance we might have a Bus Rapid Transit system in a few years if we’re lucky. Most people feel it’d be doomed from the start though as it’s a bus system and people prefer trams or trains if they’re going to get out of their cars. Not so many people give up cars for bus travel. But the real reason that the bus system is being pushed by the council is because it’s something that’s much easier to push through and create in their time in power. A tram system would take a few years longer to be up and running so they might lose the credit for it. So we’re destined to have another substandard underused system if we get anything at all.

    I can’t keep up with it all. It all makes getting on a bike seem even simpler.

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