Despite improved awareness of risks, European drivers are slow to adopt safer behaviour
The VINCI Autoroutes Foundation is publishing the results of the 2016 European Barometer on Responsible Driving against the backdrop of an increase in the number of road fatalities in several European countries(1) in 2015. This vast Ipsos survey of a sample of 13,634 drivers in 11 European Union countries provides a snapshot of European driver conduct with a view to homing in on their risky behaviour and best practices, and to help target safety messages more appropriately in each country.
In 2016, only one out of two (49%) European drivers considers that the number of people killed on the road can be reduced to any great extent (compared with 45% in 2015). With the exception of Poland (51%, up 4 points), optimism has fallen in all countries, especially in Greece (down 10 points), Belgium (down 9 points), and France, Germany and the Netherlands (down 6 points). The most pessimistic are the Slovaks: just 32% think that the number of people who die on the road can be reduced to any great extent.
Connected objects, now part of drivers’ everyday life, are have an increasing effect on risky driver behaviour, despite Europeans quoting inattentiveness as one of the main causes of fatalities (52% on general roads and 31% on motorways).
40% of European drivers see drowsiness as one of the main causes of motorway fatalities, and 9% on roads in general. The French are correct in considering this risk to be the number one cause of deaths on the motorway.
Many Europeans have experienced firsthand the effects of drowsiness: 1 out of 4 (25%) think they may have dozed off for a few seconds while driving, 14% have encroached on the emergency stopping lane or the hard shoulder because of a moment’s inattentiveness or dozing off and 7% admit having had a minor accident because of fatigue.
And yet, too few Europeans are still not adopting measures to prevent this risk. Indeed, 71% think no-one should drive when tired (74% of British drivers but just 47% of Poles), despite this, 42% state they have continued to drive even when tired because they had to: 52% of Germans compared with 36% of British (down 9 points) and 28% of Dutch.
Europeans suffer from chronic sleep debt, which is evidenced, according to specialist sleep doctors, by a significant difference between weeknight and weekend sleep time. This concerns 16% of drivers who sleep six hours or less on weeknights and then sleep normally on weekends and when on holiday. Prior to setting out on a long road trip, this sleep debt is worsened by certain practices that further eat into sleep time: 80% of Europeans go to bed later or get up earlier than usual, 75% finish getting ready late at night and 67% set off at night.
This lack of sleep is then compounded by driving with taking breaks at sufficient intervals: Europeans stop on average after driving for 3 hours and 6 minutes (a 9 minute improvement on 2015). While the Dutch, French, Spaniards and British take far more regular breaks (after an average of 2 hours and 48 minutes journey time), no country’s drivers comply with the recommended rest every two hours.
Although 80% of Europeans believe that having a nap is a good way of combatting driver drowsiness, there is considerable disparity between countries in how and when drivers stop for a nap. On average 56% of drivers stop to have a nap: 82% of Belgians, the frontrunners in this area, compared with just 37% of Greeks.
Some drivers have however adopted certain best practices: 84% of Greeks and Germans include rest times in their overall journey times. 70% of Europeans change drivers on a long trip (78% of the French and 77% of Swedes, compared with 59% of British drivers).
THIS IS WHY ON THE EVE OF THE EASTER WEEKEND DEPARTURES, THE VINCI AUTOROUTES FOUNDATION FOR RESPONSIBLE DRIVING IS REMINDING DRIVERS OF A FEW SIMPLE RULES TO LIMIT THE RISK OF DRIVER DROWSINESS: