Its annual report on motoring today highlights the impact of soaring petrol and diesel prices, revealing almost half of drivers are cutting back on long-distance journeys for financial reasons.
However, the impact has been greatest in the countryside, where drivers said they have no alternative to using the car in order to make essential journeys, the motoring organisation found. If fuel costs continued to go up, 31% of rural drivers said they would give up visiting family and friends, compared to 26% of those in urban areas.
A similar division emerged in drivers’ ability to use their car less: 86% of those surveyed in rural areas said this would be “very difficult” compared to 69% in cities.
The RAC said the report illustrated the “polarised” effect of high fuel prices on urban and rural areas. Its motoring strategist Adrian Tink said the findings “show the tough choices being made by many motorists, with rural drivers hit the hardest as they have little alternative but to use their cars”.
He added: “People’s ability to live their lives and do the most basic of tasks, such as visit family and take their children to after-school activities, is being threatened – and it looks like it’s only going to get worse.
“UK drivers want action from the Government. They already pay the highest duty and tax on fuel in Europe. At the very least, we are calling for fuel duty to be frozen and scheduled inflationary rises to be scrapped.
“In addition the Government should look again at the fair fuel stabiliser so that increased revenue from high oil prices can be passed back to drivers.”
The impact is likely to get worse with car users feeling isolated, particularly those in rural areas, the poll found. The report comes after the AA re-vealed 76% of drivers are cutting back on car use or other expenditure due to high fuel prices.
The RAC said there was a mismatch in priorities identified by motorists and those pursued by the Government. Nearly one-third of drivers said the cost of motoring was their primary concern and 84% said they wanted the maintenance of local roads to be prioritised.
Despite Transport Secretary Philip Hammond’s claim to have ended the “war on motorists”, only 1% of those polled by the RAC believed he had done so. More than three-quarters believe they are being treated as a “cash cow”.
However, enthusiasm for high-speed rail, a flagship policy of the Coalition Government and the Labour administration that preceded it, was limited, with only 14% of motorists expressing support.
Nearly 25% were concerned at preparedness for bad winter weather, while 75% wanted a speed limit of more than 70mph on motorways. But only 16% backed higher limits on 30mph roads.
A total of 16% knew, or sus-pected, they had driven over the alcohol limit in the last 12 months, and 80% would support a lowering of the present drink-drive limit.