A1) At the end of March 2016 there were 36.7 million vehicles licensed for use on the roads in Great Britain, of which 30.5 million were cars. In the year to March 2016 the stock of vehicles increased by 2.5 per cent. This is the largest year-on-year increase since December 2004.
The total number of licensed vehicles has increased in every year since the end of the Second World War except 1991. For much of this period this growth has been remarkably constant. Between 1996 and 2007, the annual growth in licensed vehicles averaged 650,000 per year, although from the mid- 2000s it slowed somewhat. Following the recession of 2008-9 it slowed further, but did not stop, averaging 170,000 a year between 2008 and 2012. Since 2013 the annual growth in licensed vehicles has averaged 660,000 per year.
Historical details about the number of licensed vehicles can be viewed in table VEH0101.
The number of vans on Britain’s roads has been rising more than 2.5 times quicker than cars. Every tenth vehicle on the road is now a light commercial vehicle (LCV).
Between 2002 and 2012, the number of vans increased by 29 per cent to 3.3 million. Over the same period the number of cars rose by 11 per cent to 28.7 million whilst the number of lorries (Heavy Goods Vehicles or HGVs) on British roads fell by 5 per cent to 460,000.
This trend has continued in recent years. Van numbers were up 4.7 per cent over the period between December 2014 and December 2015. This year-on-year increase is the highest since June 2005.
A4) At the end of December 2015, about 40 per cent of privately registered cars were registered with a female keeper. The number of female registered keepers of cars has increased by 72 per cent since 1995, compared with an increase of only 24 per cent in male keepers
The RAC Foundation has also produced a Fact Sheet entitled Facts on Parking which contains a wealth of information on parking related matters.
A6) In all areas, 12 per cent of household vehicles are parked in a garage overnight; 61 per cent are parked on private property (but not garaged); 25 per cent are parked on the street; and 3 per cent are parked in other places.
The proportion of household vehicles parked overnight on private property but not garaged is highest in rural areas (72 per cent) and generally declines as settlement size increases, down to 55 per cent in urban conurbations.
A9) It is estimated that there were roughly 7.7 million transfers of keepership of used cars during 2015. It is not possible to identify the precise reason for the transfer of keepership from the DVLA data, but a significant majority of these transfers will be second-hand vehicle sales. Over 6.8 million cars changed hands at least once during the year and almost 0.8 million which changed hands more than once.
A10) In 2015, 55 per cent of all car first registrations were made by companies. However, the proportion of company registered cars in the whole of the licensed car stock was much lower, at only 8.7 per cent. This indicates that cars tend to move quite swiftly from the company market to the private market.
A11) In 2015, 2,633,503 new cars were registered in the UK, up 6.3 per cent on 2014. This is the highest number ever of new car registrations, exceeding the last record year in 2003 when 2,579,050 new cars were registered.
The UK remains Europe's second largest car market (behind Germany but ahead of France, Italy and Spain).
A12) In 2015, 107,121 cars were sold to businesses (companies that operate up to 24 vehicles) - down from 118,520 in 2014; 1,317,570 cars were sold to fleets (companies that operate fleets of 25 or more vehicles) - up from 1,178,416 in 2014; and 1,208,812 cars were sold to private buyers - up from 1,179,499 in 2014.
A record number of cars – representing 77.3 per cent of total production – were for export, with 1,227,881 units leaving the UK, up 2.7 per cent on 2014 levels.
A14) In October 2015, the total number of driving licences registered with DVLA was 46,149,986. Of these, 38,427,666 were Full Driving Entitlement Licences and 7,722,320 were Provisional Entitlement Licences. These figures are for the whole of Great Britain.
It should be stressed that neither DVLA or DfT would recommend that users rely on this data being a true reflection of the number of active driving licence holders in Great Britain as the DVLA data includes details of people who have died, emigrated etc and who have not been removed from the DVLA database.
Source: Driving Licence Data
More robust estimates of active driving licence holders are available from the National Travel Survey. Latest estimates show that 73% of all adults aged 17 and over in England (an estimated 32 million people) held a full car driving licence in 2014. In 1975/76, the proportion of adults with a licence in England was 48 per cent (an estimated 19.4 million people).
Of the 32 million people holding a full car driving licence in England, 17 million are men and 15 million women. Over the long term, there has been an increase in the proportion of both men and women holding a full driving licence for most age groups. In 1975/76, overall 69 per cent of men and 29 per cent of women had a driving licence. In 2014, 80 per cent of men and 67 per cent of women had a licence. While the proportion of men holding a full driving licence has remained fairly stable since the early 1990s, the proportion of women with a licence has continued to increase, peaking in 2013 before falling slightly in 2014.
A15) The proportion of young adults (aged 17 -20) in England with a full driving licence has decreased since the early 1990s when driving licence holding for this age group was at its highest. However, the level does fluctuate year-on-year. In 1995/97, 44 per cent of those aged 17 - 20 held a full licence, compared with a low of 27 per cent in 2004 and 29 per cent in 2014. The current proportion of 17-20 year olds with licences is now similar to the level of the mid 1970s.
In 2014, the number of young men with a full driving licence increased to 34 per cent from 30 per cent in 2013 whilst the number of young women with a full driving licence fell to 25 per cent from 31 per cent in 2013.
A16) There has been a large increase in the number of older people in England holding a full driving licence. Between 1995/1997 and 2014 the proportion of people aged 70+ holding a licence increased from 39 per cent to 62 per cent.
The increase among older women is particularly notable: 73 per cent of women aged 60-69 and 47 per cent aged 70+ held a licence in 2014 compared with 46 per cent and 22 per cent in 1995/97 respectively. This is due to aging of existing licence holders rather than large numbers of newly qualified drivers in older age groups.
Source: RAC Foundation analysis of DVLA data.
A RAC Foundation analysis of the government’s employment database found that of the 847,000 vacancies available in Great Britain in July 2015, 131,000 (15.4 per cent) stated that a vehicle or licence was necessary for the post.
Another 7,700 (1 per cent) of the jobs on the list from the Department for Work and Pensions said that a vehicle or licence would be beneficial or practical.
In 2014, 24 per cent of households in England did not have access to a car. This figure fell from 38 per cent in 1985/86, to 30 per cent in 1995/97, and to 25 per cent in 2004. It has remained around this level up to 2014.
The proportion of households with two or more cars has increased from 17 per cent in 1985/1986 to 26 per cent in 1995/97 and to 32 per cent in 2014. Since 2000, there have been more households with two or more cars than households with no car.
A21) Research carried out by the RAC Foundation (based on 2011 Census data) shows that of the 348 English and Welsh local authorities, the East Dorset District Council area has the highest number of cars and vans per head of population.
For every thousand people - men, women and children - living in East Dorset, there are 694 cars. This compares with an average of 487 cars and vans per thousand people as a whole. By contrast, Hackney has the fewest at 170 cars and vans per thousand people.
A22) The RAC Foundation's report entitled “The Car in British Society” showed that the dominance of the car as a mode of transport in the early years of the 21st Century is absolute and that policy makers must recognise this fact as they introduce measures to cut traffic and hence ease congestion and fight climate change.
The car continues to dominate most people’s daily travel. Trips by car (as a driver or passenger) accounted for 64 per cent of all trips made and 78 per cent distance travelled in 2014. However, since the mid-2000s, there have been fewer car trips, despite the proportion of households with car access remaining broadly unchanged. Over this period, average distance travelled by car has also fallen; this is explained largely by the fall in trips, with average trip length by car remaining fairly stable
Car use (both as driver and passenger) accounts for only 8 per cent of the trips under half a mile in length but rises to 76 per cent of all trips in the 2 – 3 mile band and 80 per cent of trips longer than five miles in length; above one mile, more than half of all trips are by car.
Source: The Car in British Society
The Commission for Integrated Transport noted in its “Medium-length Trip Patterns” report that 42 per cent of car mileage was driven on medium-length car trips (defined as 5 – 25 miles).
In rural areas, nearly three quarters (73.4 per cent) of workers travel by car (whether as driver or passenger). This method of travel also dominates the commute in urban areas (outside of London) with 67.1 per cent of people either driving themselves or catching a lift. Even amongst Londoners, the car is the most popular single mode of travel, used by 29.8 per cent of workers.
The average length of a commuter trip by car/van varies little across English regions and Wales at about ten miles. It is highest in the South East (11.2 miles) and lowest in London (8.6 miles).
Source: The Car and the Commute
A24) The estimated average annual mileage per car in England has decreased as the number of cars per household has risen, falling from around 9,200 miles in 2002 to 7,900 miles in 2014. This is due to falls in business and private mileage. Commuting mileage has remained fairly constant overall, although there are different trends depending on if the car is company or privately owned.
In 2014, a company owned car travelled more than twice as far as a privately owned car (18,600 miles and 7,500 miles respectively, on average). However, the sample of company cars in the NTS is small so estimates should be treated with caution.
The estimated average annual mileage was higher for diesel cars than petrol cars, at 10,700 miles and 6,700 miles respectively in 2014.
Compared to 2014, car traffic grew by 1.1 per cent to 247.7 billion vehicle miles. This is a new record, being slightly higher than the previous peak in 2007; van traffic continued to grow more quickly than any other vehicle type, rising 4.2 per cent from 2014 levels; and lorry traffic saw the largest year-on-year increase since the 1980s, growing by 3.7 per cent from 2014.
Since the 1950s the long term trend in traffic has been one of growth - vehicle miles travelled in 2015 are over ten times higher than in 1949. (Motor vehicle traffic growth grew by 50 per cent during the 1980s, by 14 per cent during the 1990s and by 6 per cent during the 2000s. However, over the last 20 years there has been a decline in the rate of traffic growth. Between 2007 and 2010, after the recent recession, motor vehicle traffic fell for three consecutive years. This was followed by a period of stability until 2013. Since 2013, traffic has grown steadily to the 2015 record level of 316.7 billion vehicle miles.
A26) Five scenarios were used in the Department of Transport’s latest forecasts to capture the uncertainty in forecasting. In all the scenarios, national traffic is forecast to increase but the size of that growth varies, depending on the number and types of journeys that people make, the effect of rising incomes on car ownership and car use, and future trends in income growth and fuel prices - three key uncertainties identified for future road demand. The range of the forecasts is for 19 per cent to 55 per cent growth between 2010 and 2040.
The growth in national traffic levels is predominately driven by the projected growth in population levels. Average distance travelled per person by car is forecast to grow under most scenarios - as rising incomes and falling costs result in more trips being taken by car. However, in one of the scenarios average car mileage per person is forecast to fall by 7 per cent and only population growth explains the growth in traffic. In the other scenarios, population is just one factor in the overall growth.
The growth in national traffic levels masks much more variation across area, road and vehicle types. While traffic growth may continue to be strong nationally, there is a different picture locally. Growth is expected to be particularly strong on the Strategic Road Network - between 29 per cent to 60 per cent from 2010 to 2040 while it is 2 per cent to 51 per cent on other principal roads and 10 per cent to 54 per cent on minor roads. While in most scenarios, traffic is expected to grow strongly on local roads and in urban areas and cities, the lower end of the forecasts represents an outcome where the recent fall in trips continues over the next 30 years.
Source: Road Traffic Forecasts 2015
A27) Details of the plans to improve the Strategic Road Network can be viewed here.
A28) The total road length in Great Britain in 2015 was estimated to be 245.9 thousand miles. Compared to previous years, total road length in Great Britain in 2015 was 100 miles greater than in 2014, an increase of less than 0.1 per cent and 5.8 thousand miles greater than in 1995, an increase of 2.4 per cent.
The length of motorways in Great Britain in 2015 was estimated to be 2.3 thousand miles. "A" roads in Great Britain accounted for 29.1 thousand miles of road in 2015. These major roads make up 12.7 per cent of total road length.
The majority of road lengths in Great Britain is made up of minor roads, with these roads accounting for 214.5 thousand miles in 2015 (18.8 thousand miles of "B" roads and 195.7 thousand miles of "C" and "U" roads). These minor roads make up 87.3 per cent of the total road length.
A29) Almost 4,600 miles of British roads have no 2G mobile phone coverage from any network provider meaning drivers could not call for help in the case of a breakdown, accident or emergency. (A 2G signal is the minimum needed to make phone calls and send text messages)
The stretches of road - measuring 4,561 miles in total – represent 2 per cent of the length of Britain’s road network and are to be found in 49 separate local authority areas.
A further 28,975 miles of road (12 per cent) have only partial 2G coverage meaning there are many areas where some but not all phones will receive a signal depending on the service provider.
An additional 111,679 miles of road (45 per cent) have only partial 3G coverage and when it comes to 4G signals, more than half (56 per cent) of the road network has no coverage and more than a quarter (27 per cent) has only partial coverage.
Source: RAC Foundation
A30) In 2015, 188 thousand miles (76.4 per cent) of the 245.8 thousand miles of road in Great Britain was in England. 36.9 thousand miles (15 per cent) was in Scotland and 21.1 thousand miles (8.6 per cent) was in Wales.
Within England, the regions with the largest amount of road length were South West, which had 31.1 thousand miles, and South East, with 29.7 thousand miles.
A31) In 2015, 66.5 billion vehicle miles was carried on motorways; 91.3 billion vehicle miles on rural "A" roads; 49.7 billion vehicle miles on urban "A" roads; 44.5 billion vehicle miles on rural minor roads; and 64.8 billion vehicle miles on urban minor roads.
Between 2014 and 2015, motor vehicle traffic increased on all road types, except for urban minor roads where it remained stable. Traffic on motorways, rural ‘A’ roads and rural minor roads grew by 2.6 per cent, 2.4 per cent and 2.0 per cent, respectively, to reach new all time highs. In contrast, traffic on urban roads remained below the peak levels seen in the mid 2000s.
Traffic volumes are not proportionate to road lengths. Although motorways and “A” roads account for only 13 per cent of total road length, they carried 66 per cent of all road traffic in 2015. Minor roads make up 87 per cent of total road length but carried only 34 per cent of all road traffic.
A32) Smart motorways use a range of new technology to vary speed limits in response to driving conditions and make the hard shoulder available to traffic. This could be permanently or at particularly busy times of the day. They are managed by the Highways Agency's regional control centres and use CCTV so that Highways Agency traffic officers can be deployed to incidents if they occur and help to keep traffic moving.
Further information on smart motorways, and how they should be used, can be viewed here.
A33) Car traffic accounted for 78 per cent of all traffic in 2015, with light van and heavy goods vehicle traffic accounting for 15 per cent and 5 per cent respectively. Motorcycles/scooters and buses/coaches accounted for 0.9 per cent and 0.8 per cent respectively.
Compared with 2014, car and taxi traffic in Great Britain increased by 1.1 per cent, to 247.7 billion vehicle miles in 2015. This is a new high, being slightly above (0.2 per cent) the previous peak recorded before the recent recession. Compared with 2014, van traffic grew faster than any other vehicle type, rising 4.2 per cent to reach a record high of 46.9 billion vehicle miles. Total van mileage in 2015 was 70 per cent higher than 20 years ago.
The 16.7 billion vehicle miles travelled by lorries in 2015 is 3.7 per cent more than in 2014; the fastest year-on-year growth in lorry miles since the 1980s. Motorcycles and scooters travelled 2.8 billion vehicle miles, a similar figure to the previous year. (Motorcycle traffic has declined over the last 10 years, from a peak in the mid-2000s). Bus and coach traffic fell by 4.6 per cent between 2014 and 2015 - the only vehicle type to see a decrease. Over the last decade, bus and coach traffic has fallen by over 15 per cent.
A35) Motor vehicle flow statistics give an indication of how busy roads in Great Britain are rather than volume of miles travelled on the road network. They are presented as the average number of vehicles per day per mile of road.
Motorways continue to have the highest average traffic flow in 2015 with 80.2 thousand vehicles for each mile of motorway per day. The average traffic flow on urban "A" roads was 19.7 thousand vehicles for each mile of urban "A" road per day and traffic flows on rural "A" roads were 11.3 thousand vehicles for each mile of rural "A" road per day.
The average traffic flow on urban minor roads was 2.2 thousand vehicles for each mile of urban minor roads per day and traffic flows on rural minor roads were 0.9 thousand vehicles for each mile of rural minor road per day.
A37) The local authority with the highest traffic level is Hampshire with 9.56 billion vehicle miles. Hampshire is followed by Kent (9.25 billion vehicle miles) and Essex (9.04 billion vehicle miles).
A38) In 2014, the average free flow speed of cars travelling on roads in non-built-up areas was 68 mph on motorways, 67 mph on dual carriageways and 47 mph on single carriageways. The average free flow speed of cars in 2014 on built-up roads with a 40 mph speed limit was 35 mph and on roads with a 30 mph limit it was 30 mph.
On motorways in 2014, 46 per cent of cars exceeded the 70 mph speed limit. In addition, 11 per cent of cars were recorded as travelling at 80 mph or faster.
The percentage of cars exceeding the speed limit on motorways in 2014 was greatest between 8pm and 9pm at 52 per cent. The time period with the lowest proportion of cars exceeding the speed limit was 7am to 8am at 35 per cent.
On dual carriageways, 37 per cent of cars exceeded the speed limit (70mph). On single carriageways, 7 per cent of cars exceeded the limit (60mph). On roads with a 30mph speed limit, 45 per cent of cars exceeded the limit, with 15 per cent travelling at 35mph or more.
One per cent of articulated HGVs exceeded their speed limit of 60 mph on motorways. Additionally, 1 per cent of articulated HGVs exceeded their 50 mph speed limit on dual carriageways by more than 10 mph, and 21 per cent exceeded their 40 mph limit by more than 10 mph on single carriageways. (Here it It is worth noting that the speed limits for all HGVs for these two road types in England and Wales was increased to 60mph on dual carriageways and 50mph on single carriageways on 6 April 2015).
A39) In 2015, 0.4 per cent of all traffic on British roads was estimated to be accounted for by foreign registered vehicles. HGV traffic has the highest proportion of foreign registered vehicles. In 2015, 4.8 per cent of HGV traffic was estimated to be foreign registered, an increase of 1.5 per cent compared to 2013, the largest increase of any vehicle type.
A40) Highways England is a government-owned company responsible for the operation, maintenance and improvement of England's motorways and major A roads. This is the strategic network of roads used to move people and freight around the country.
A map of the Highways England network can be found here.
Other roads are managed by local authorities.
A41) 28,971 drivers made claims against councils across Great Britain for damage caused to their vehicles by potholes in 2014/15. (This figure is based on responses from 200 (out of a total of 207) local highways authorities in England, Scotland and Wales which responded fully and in a standard format to FOI requests by the RAC Foundation).
This compares with the previous financial year when drivers made 48,945 claims.
The total value of successful claims was £2 million. However, councils refused the bulk of claims, agreeing to pay out in just 25 per cent of cases (down from 26 per cent in 2013/14). This average does, however, mask huge differences between councils. For example, while Bury paid out in 88 per cent of cases and Plymouth 86 per cent, 21 councils paid out nothing at all.
The average settlement amount for a successful claim was up from £286 in 2013/14 to £294 in 2014/15.
Source: RAC Foundation
A42) The total amount paid out in compensation by local authorities in England and Wales in 2015/16 for damage to persons or vehicles as a result of poor road condition was £13.5 million. The associated staff costs spent processing claims totalled £14.9 million. The total estimated cost for road user compensation claims is therefore £28.4 million (down 30 per cent from £40.8 million in 2014/15).
A43) Almost 2.2 million potholes were filled in across England and Wales in 2015/16 (compared to the previous year's figure of 2.7 million). The total cost of filling in these potholes is estimated at £118.4 million, a significant decrease on the previous year's figure of £144 million.
The Pothole Action Fund will give local authorities in England £50 million a year, over the next 5 years, to help them to repair more than 4 million potholes by 2020/21. Funding is calculated according to the size of the local road network in the area.
A44) If you want to report a pothole you can go straight to the authority responsible for the road (most now have an electronic or web-based system available to the public to report potholes and highway faults).
Even if adequate funding and resources were in place to get roads back into a reasonable condition, it is estimated that to clear the maintenance backlog will take 14 years in England (excluding London), 16 years in London and 7 years in Wales.
Local authorities' estimate the one-time "catch-up" cost to bring their road networks upto scratch is £11.8 billion.
A46) Data collected and analysed by the RAC Foundation shows that some 2,375 structures over 1.5m in span are not fit to carry the heaviest vehicles now seen on our roads, including lorries of up to 44 tonnes. These bridges represent 3 per cent of the estimated 71,000 local road bridges in Britain.
Some of the bridges will be sub-standard because they were built to earlier design standards, whilst others will have deteriorated through age and use. Many of the bridges now have weight restrictions and others will be under programmes of increased monitoring or even managed decline.
Source: RAC Foundation
A47) The Blue Badge Scheme is designed to assist people with severe mobility problems, registered blind people and people who drive a motor vehicle regularly and have a severe disability in both arms, making it very difficult or impossible to operate parking meters, to park close to where they need to go.
Full details of the Scheme, including the eligibilty criteria and where to apply for a badge, can be viewed here.
A48) There were 2.39 million valid Blue Badges on issue in England at 31 March 2015, a decrease of 2.9 per cent (71,000 badges) when compared with the previous year. This decrease continues the declining trend in the number of badges held with an overall decrease of 9.2 per cent since 2011.
On 31 March 2015, 4.4 per cent of the population in England held a valid Blue Badge, a decrease of 0.2 percentage points from the previous year. In 2010, the proportion was 5.0 per cent.