RAC ignorant of how roads are funded

Every year since 1988 the RAC has produced its RAC Report on Motoring. The 2010 report is laugh-a-minute. Apparently, 90 percent of drivers claim to be “law abiding” yet 31 percent admit to texting at the wheel. Did I say laugh-a-minute? Sorry, meant to say “according to the Department for Transport, distracted driving costs 31 lives per year.”

While many motorists would clearly have problems spelling ‘cognitive dissonance’ while they text-n-drive, the RAC itself is also guilty of holding conflicting ideas simultaneously.

Its report says that motorists would “like to see better maintenance of the existing road infrastructure – from filling in potholes and re-surfacing to making sure that they do not encounter road works on every road they drive.” Er, so how are the roads going to be repaired if road works are to be banished?

But this isn’t just drivers being stupid. It’s possible that the survey company which carried out the research wasn’t very hot on asking the right questions. The RAC certainly isn’t very hot on accuracy.

RAC wants the new Government to focus on a fairer deal for drivers. Clarity and transparency must be provided by Government to motorists on how motoring taxation revenue is raised and spent, demonstrating value for money.

Hurray to that, mind. Let’s have a Government campaign explaining that roads aren’t paid for by motorists, but by all tax-payers.

Just over two in five motorists claim to understand the new road tax (Vehicle Excise Duty ratings) which sets the amount of tax payable based on the car’s fuel type and CO2 emissions.

Since ‘road tax’ hasn’t existed since 1937 this statement from the RAC is plainly disingenuous.

Many motorists, especially those in rural areas, have no alternative [to the car]. They don’t have the option to drastically change their driving habits. They know that motorists must pay taxes to fund the road network, its administration and policing, as well as to offset the environmental impact of motoring, but two thirds want motoring taxes to be directly linked to how much a car is used.

The RAC was founded in 1897 so has been around for almost as long as the motorcar. The organisation has always been opposed to “motoring taxes” but, with such a long pedigree, it ought to know that motorists have not “funded the road network” since 1937.

You and I pay for roads, just as you and I pay for policing, refuse collections, and the rest. Such local services and amenities are paid for by the council tax we pay, so motorists pay the same for roads etc as non-motorists. Trunk roads and motorways are administered by the Highways Agency (and, north of the border, Transport Scotland) and paid for not by motorists but by all tax-payers.

How can the RAC get dates and facts so wrong? Well, the organisation isn’t terribly hot on accuracy. On its twitterpage it says it was founded in 1887, ten before it was actually created.

Should any RAC types want to confess their sins and broadcast the fact that cyclists don’t need to pay ‘road tax’, because nobody does, there are some fetching cycle jerseys they could wear…