The International Road Assessment Programme
International Transport Statistics Database

About Transport Statistics Phase I - 2003 Pilot Study

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The Automobile and Society report, published in September 2003, was the first high quality flagship publication detailing and comparing transport related information and examining and interpreting the role of the automobile in developed countries. It took as its sample the world's major financial and industrialised nations (known then as the G7), including Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the USA. Spain was also included as an example of a country where prosperity and car ownership had increased in the early 1990s. As a result of rising road accident casualties, Spain adopted an exemplary package of policies - building modern high quality roads, traffic legislation, enforcement and education, which stemmed, and then reversed, the increase in traffic accident casualties, despite continuing growth in traffic.

The 2003 report gathered together statistics from existing national and international databases and encompassed up-to-date information on transport infrastructure, vehicle fleets, traffic volumes, environmental impacts and safety. In addition, data often missing in transport publications and papers were included, with analysis of transport economics, public finances, quality of service, environmental quality and sociology of car ownership and use. In-depth country surveys showed the unique transport circumstances of the world's major industrialised nations, and the particular challenges they faced.

The report also included an essay on the policy approaches and challenges to mobility, road safety and the environment, and the question of how, and how much, we should pay to use the car. The essay highlighted how "the problem" of the car was being addressed by both demand- and supply-side policies. Demand-side policies are the 'sticks' of taxation, charging, regulation and restriction. On the supply side, the report showed how technical innovation was providing solutions - improved vehicle design, the seat-belt, the three-way catalyst direct fuel injection and the influence of road infrastructure improvements on reducing injuries, congestion and noise.

The report also included an in-depth thematic opinion research section, presenting the findings from a major survey of 12,000 motorists across the 8 countries. The two-year study involved traffic and travel analysis by experts in motoring organisations in Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain and the United States and 11,884 telephone surveys conducted by MORI and sister companies in these countries from February-April 2003.

The objective was to understand the role of the car in todays' industrialised societies and motorists' expectations for the future. Key areas included:

  • attitudes of motorists towards their cars
  • willingness or resistance to change
  • willingness or resistance to instruments of car restraint and modal shift
  • degree of motorists identification with their cars
  • self-perceptions of car dependency

2003 Pilot Study - Conclusions

Car-use and the future

  • There was no evidence that the level of motorisation had reached a limit anywhere.
  • In the USA there were more cars and sport utility vehicles than adults and cars were beginning to be more like shoes where different sets were kept for different occasions.
  • Car-use was predicted to increase dramatically in all the countries surveyed.
  • Europe appeared to follow the transport and travel trend set in the USA, following on about 20 years behind.

Traffic growth and congestion

  • In the countries surveyed, traffic flows were increasing, but the rate of increase differed greatly between areas of particular countries. Traffic was hardly increasing in the centre of cities and growing most rapidly on inter-urban journeys.
  • Traffic flows on motorways were higher in Britain than in any other G7 country, being 50% higher than in Germany, the next busiest, and almost twice as high as in the USA or Japan.
  • Average traffic flows on all roads were higher in Britain than any other G7 country, being 25% higher than in Germany, the next busiest, and almost twice as high as in the USA or Japan.
  • Congestion was increasing particularly in urban areas in the USA and on inter-urban roads in Britain.


  • Road deaths were declining in all the countries surveyed but in 1999 there were 42,122 persons killed in traffic accidents in the EU15, 41,611 in the USA and 10,805 in Japan...
  • ...this compared to 186 rail passengers and 25 airline passengers.
  • Britain's road safety record was best in Europe and better than any of the other countries surveyed in the study.


  • Cars built in 2003 were about 30 times cleaner than those built 20 years ago.
  • Worldwide emissions of CO2, the principal man-made greenhouse gas, rose 9% between 1990 and 1998.
  • In Britain, emission of CO2 by road transport rose only slightly from 1990. Within this total, emissions from road freight were rising, but that from cars fell marginally from 1993, despite a 12% increase in traffic.
  • Emissions of CO2 per person in the US were about two-and-a-half that in Europe.


  • Each country had its own system of taxing road-users and providing funds for the construction and operation of transport facilities. In the USA, spending by government on roads roughly matched taxation from road-users.
  • In Europe, it was common for governments to use motorists as a source of taxation for general revenue. In Spain taxation from motorists was 4 times the amount spent by government only on roads.
  • In Britain, taxation from motorists was 5 times the amount spent by government on roads.
  • In France, taxation revenue from road users matched government spending on all forms of transport but was about twice as much as it spent on roads.

Motorists' concerns

  • The risk of being involved in an accident emerged as the overall prime concern for motorists, but registered #4 in Germany and bottom at #6 in Britain.
  • Environmental issues ranked at #2 or #3 in all countries except the USA (#4).
  • The most widespread expectation of the future was that, as drivers, increasingly more income would have to be spent on motoring - among half of all drivers overall and two-thirds in the USA.
  • 44% thought that they would come under pressure to buy a low-emission car - 58% in Japan.
  • Drivers in Britain were those most likely (55%) to expect to spend more time in traffic jams and come under pressure to use their car less (44%).
  • On a city or state basis, a transatlantic divide appeared, with those living in parts of Canada and the USA having very different views about the effect that being without a car would have on their lives compared with European capitals - 29% of those in Paris said that they would be unaffected by not having a car, in stark comparison to just 1% of those living in Toronto.
  • There was often a split in attitudes between France, Italy and Spain and the USA, Germany and Japan. Those in the USA, Germany and Japan were much more likely to see the car as essential to their quality of life and as a positive and freedom-providing influence overall.

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Published Date: 13 April 2008

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