Friday, September 02, 2011

Richer, educated drivers are most eco-aware AND pollute more!

What type of driver are you? The Government is struggling to guess your transport emissions, and has found that higher income, highly educated drivers are usually more pro-environment, but this is at odds with their behaviour.

The Department for Transport has divided the population up by type according to what kind of driver they are in order to better understand how it can target messages to encourage them to use transport in a way that reduces their personal emissions of climate-warming gases.

The categories are divided into those who own cars and those who don't. So which category do you come under? In the first sector there are six categories:
1. Town and rural heavy car use (13% of population). Mostly live in the country but also in towns and own the most - and largest - cars, and travel most. Rate speed/performance and style/design highly in car buying.
2. Educated suburban families (17% of population). Of working age, with kids, they travel and drive a lot, and are the most likely to travel by plane. Like the idea of cycling, but distances and safety put them off. Care about climate change but have high travel needs.
3. Affluent empty nesters (9% of population) - Older, largely retired, well educated, do the average numbers of car trips. Are most likely segment to buy new cars. Care about the environment but unsure about climate change.
4. Less affluent older sceptics (12% of population). Generally older, find it easy to get around but travel less. Not so well educated and even more unsure about climate change.
5. Less affluent urban young families (21% of population). While needing to travel less and so less reliant on car use, they aspire to own a larger/faster car but can't afford it. Less well educated, more ambivalent about climate change.
6. Older, less mobile car owners (9% of population). Find it hard to get out and about but are heavily reliant on the car.

There are three categories of non-car owners:
7. Urban low income without cars (5% of population). Younger, low earners, low education, high levels of unemployment, they are reliant on walking and public transport. Would like a car but cannot afford one.
8. Young urbanites without cars (7% of population). Younger, well educated, big city-dwellers. Heavily reliant on walking and public transport to get around. Don't need a car.
9. Elderly without cars (6% of population). Very low travel needs, have difficulty getting around but don't need to travel far, relying on lifts from friends and public transport.

The Department of Transport made these categories to help them work out their differences in terms of the factors relevant to reducing CO2 emissions from personal transport use, in order to develop more targeted and effective sustainable transport schemes.

The study is based on 3,923 face-to-face interviews conducted with adults living in England.

The findings dug up some interesting - if sometimes unsurprising - information, such as:
• higher income groups showed less sustainable transport behaviour, tending to own more - and larger - cars, travel by car more often, and travel further. They are also likely to fly by plane more often.
• the better educated tend to hold more ‘pro-environmental’ attitudes.
• this means there is a disparity between their attitudes and behaviour; although higher income, highly educated respondents tended to be more pro-environment, their behaviour is less sustainable in terms of their actual transport use than the lower earning, less well educated.
• country-dwellers use cars the most - and like them the most, while disliking public transport and cycling.
• older people cycled less.

The research unfortunately didn't show up a significant number of voluntary 'down-sizers'.

Drivers for change

The survey findings highlight the great extent to which car owners travel by car out of habit and how most car buyers, particularly older ones, tend to buy the same type of car each time.

To encourage them to change their behaviour will mean helping them to think about what they are currently doing, the ways they are doing it and how and why they should change (which are not to be under-estimated) and/or to design infrastructure and services in ways which enable/encourage behaviour change without such thinking being required.

The study recommends that for all nine categories, encouraging trip avoidance and 'fixing' sustainable means of getting from A to B are the best bets for reducing emissions - offering cost and time savings without significantly impinging on people’s lifestyle and habits.

Among the car-owners, buying fuel-efficient vehicles and adopting fuel-efficient driving techniques also offer considerable potential. However, it notes that these should be the more efficient vehicles rather than the most efficient vehicles because the latter tend to be more expensive (e.g. hybrid and electric cars).

Looking more closely at the type of driver most likely to be a reader of this magazine, educated suburban families are seen as relatively aware of the impact of transport on climate change and are willing to change their behaviour.

However, they think that it's mostly up to the government to set an example and provide the infrastructure to help them change, rather than to make changes themselves.

When buying a new car, they are the most likely to say that environmental considerations/low CO2 emissions are important to them, and they are among the least likely to select speed/performance. This makes them a priority group for efforts to increase cycling.

As for affluent empty nesters, as they are among the most well-off, and they have, at least in theory, the financial resources and a reasonable degree of flexibility to make changes to the way they travel.

However, this may be limited by where they live – around half of them are in rural areas, meaning that public transport services are less likely to cover the routes travelled.

Walking and cycling may be less of an option. However they may be encouraged to walk some, shorter, journeys, particularly if the health benefits are highlighted.

These people also tend to travel by car out of habit, which suggests that initiatives to encourage them to buy smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles may be most effective.

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