Page 4: Social factors
The Highways Agency's work is directly affected by social factors. People's lifestyles, attitudes and opinions have a direct bearing on traffic volumes. As society changes, the Agency aims to meet the needs of today's road users by 'putting our customers first in everything we do'. When motorways were first designed in the 1950s, traffic volume was much lower. Today most households own a motor vehicle and many people choose to drive rather than use public transport.
Why should it take a long time to travel by car because the roads are so busy? All of this leads to greater congestion and increases the need for more road capacity. In addition to expanding road capacity, the Highways Agency is taking socially acceptable measures to help road users make their journeys safely, reliably and without unforeseen delay.
- providing motorists with better traffic information both before and during their journeys to help them plan routes and make choices about when to travel
- aiming to influence people's travel behaviour. It is working with large companies to encourage their staff to share car journeys to and from work
- patrolling the motorways 24 hours a day working hard to reduce the traffic hold-ups caused by incidents by clearing them as quickly as possible
- carrying out more roadworks at night when the traffic is quietest and delays can be limited.
It is also responding to another major public concern: the impact of human activity upon the planet. The Highways Agency adopts an environmentally friendly approach to traffic management. By keeping the traffic moving, emissions can be reduced as drivers do not have to constantly accelerate and brake. The Agency also protects wildlife that lives near the road network such as bats, otters and birds. It often uses recycled materials in its road building schemes and is one of the biggest tree planters in the country.