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Blog: Are motorists becoming more polite?

Frustrated driver at the wheel of a carAre we responding to tougher economic times by becoming more caring towards our fellow drivers, asks motoring journalist Maria McCarthy.

We've become used to thinking of the UK as being racked by road rage.

Whether it's traffic jams, boy racers, tailgaters, someone nipping into a parking space before us – the list of potential annoyances is endless.

Scarcely a day goes past without us hearing of someone who responds to them in an over-the-top manner, whether that's shouting and abuse, or actual violence.

Less aggressive

But according to a recent survey of 2,000 motorists carried out by car supermarket Carcraft, people are becoming less aggressive behind the wheel.

According to the survey, 33 per cent of motorists said they smiled at other drivers when pushing into a queue or changing lanes, while 20 per cent use a friendly wave.

But 30 per cent of motorists said they don't push at all and are happy to wait until a space becomes available.

And only 3 per cent admitted to losing their temper and swearing, with motorists aged 45 to 54 the worst offenders.

Older drivers have worst manners

Apparently older drivers - those aged over 55 - are the least smiley of any age group, which I think is a bit disappointing.

I'm in my forties rather than fifties, but feel I've mellowed as the years have passed so surely those of us in the older generation should be setting a good example to young drivers rather than scowling at them?

Though having said that, it is annoying when you do let someone out and they don't smile or acknowledge you.

As my friend Lucy says, "I instantly regret my good deed and wish I could take it back. I usually wave my hand and mouth 'thanks' sarcastically, it makes me feel marginally better."

Another interesting discovery in the survey was that 60 per cent of motorists are happy to sit in queuing traffic till it moves with 25 per cent prepared to find an alternative route.

I'd be one of the 15 per cent either annoyed at the traffic or dithering about whether trying another way would get me to my destination quicker.

Friendliest drivers by region

The survey also looks at where drivers are the friendliest. Norwich, Belfast and Edinburgh all score highly.

I've never driven in any of those places, but I can say from experience that I think overall rural areas are friendlier and more laidback to drive in than more urban ones.

That's hardly surprising though.

Quite apart from the lack of traffic jams, the lovely views, the slower pace of life and a lower population in rural areas means that if you were rude to someone you'd likely later discover it was your best friend's new partner or a new neighbour.

You might be able to get away with bad behaviour in more anonymous city environments, but in the countryside news will spread and you'll be in trouble!

Good manners cost nothing

But if road rage really is declining, what might be the reason?

Is it because the rising cost of running a car means there's fewer of us on the road and hence less jams and other stressful situations?

Or maybe we're so busy worrying about paying our bills, that motoring-related upsets seem petty in comparison?

Or perhaps we're starting to value things that are free and, as my grandmother used to say, "good manners don't cost anything".

What do you think?

Are motorists becoming more polite? Or perhaps you think road rage is on the increase?

We want to hear from you! Share your views and tell us your tales on our messageboard below.




Maria McCarthy

Maria McCarthy

Maria McCarthy is a motoring and lifestyle journalist and author of The Girls' Car Handbook and The Girls' Guide to Losing your L Plates published by Simon and Schuster. She's also a regular on BBC Breakfast news, and local and national radio, commenting on motoring matters. Her pet motoring hates are potholes and high fuel prices.

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