Good drivers are best hope for bad cars

Cars bear the brunt of the blame for a range of social ills in the UK, but as one reporter finds, drivers who embrace change can push things forward.

About two billion people use 500 million cars around the world.
They get people from A-to-B and keep governments' coffers bulging as politicians devise ever-more inventive ways to charge people for driving them.

Indeed, the cost of the car - both economically and environmentally – has become the biggest concern on decision-makers’ minds. The former has long-been acknowledged as something that cannot and will not be tampered with, as history proves.

According to the RAC motoring group, the cost of running the average car in Britain in 2003 - including car price, tax, maintenance, insurance and fuel - was £5,335.

Using Office for National Statistics figures, therefore, the average car in 1975 would cost £5,387 to run in today’s money, £52 more than last year.

In 1985 the cost would have been £5,128, while in 1995 the cost was £5,024.

The same cannot be said for the ever-escalating price of the fuel.

In 1975 a litre of petrol cost just 16p, according to motoring organisation the AA. In 1985 the cost was 44p; and in 1995 it was 60p. Today, the average cost is 83p.

Raising fuel prices will not cover the wider expense to public services anymore, critics are warning.

"Fuel prices don't reflect the huge hidden costs of road transport - its contribution to climate change or pollution-related ill-health," the principal speaker for the Green Party and MEP for the South of England, Dr Caroline Lucas, argues.

What’s more, she adds, this does not include the costs of road building and accidents.

So what's the answer? Well, for fuel-guzzlers it might be the Hybrid, the strongest case yet for keeping car culture alive.

Owners of this dual petrol-electric powered car in the US include: Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Leonardo Di Caprio and Cameron Diaz.

Demand for “the cars it’s okay to drive” is going up 25% each year, its manufactures say.

In London, a 100% congestion charge discount for “green drivers” is also a strong incentive to go Hybrid - saving the motorist cash, while reducing pollution and the associated health risks today’s cars are increasingly being blamed for.