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Business: Transportation

Research Report: Survey of Attitudes, Awareness and Behaviour of Drivers – March 31, 1995

What We Did

In late 1994, the OEEcommissioned a national survey on the awareness, opinions and behaviour of Canadian drivers. A random sample of drivers in more than 1200 Canadian households were asked a range of questions about their behaviour and attitudes that influence their driving, including:

  • what type of vehicles they drove for personal use

  • how often and how far they drove

  • what factors they considered when purchasing a vehicle

  • what sources of information they used before such a purchase

  • how much they knew, and what they thought, about fuel-efficient driving and vehicle maintenance

  • whether they thought about fuel efficiency when considering tune-ups, driving speed, oil changes and tire pressure checks

Respondents were also asked their age, household make-up, occupation, education, income, language and location. This information was used to organize the data into demographic and behavioural subgroups, with the goal of producing an accurate, representative picture of Canadians on the road.

The survey's objectives were two-fold: to plot the behaviour, attitudes and preferences of Canadian drivers, and to create a benchmark to track changes. Survey questions focussed on driving habits and how they affected fuel efficiency, fuel consumption and other vehicle related issues affecting the environment.

Who We Talked To

Between November 23 and 30, 1994, 1225 telephone interviews were conducted, in English and French, with approximately 300 drivers from four regions: Atlantic Canada, Québec, Ontario and the West. Respondents were selected at random, with the sample in each region including 100 households from a rural area (with a population of less than 1000) and 200 households from an urban centre (with a population of 1000 or more). The data were then weighted to reflect the Canadian population as accurately as possible.

All respondents held a valid provincial driver's licence and lived in a household that owned or leased a car, light truck or van (including minivans and four-wheel drive road vehicles). Those who held a valid driver's licence but who did not drive at the time of the survey were excluded, as were drivers with learner's permits, temporary licences, expired and suspended licences, or who used their vehicles only for business or drove only motorcycles and recreational vehicles.

What We Learned

How often did they drive?

  • More than half (56 percent) of those surveyed, including commuters, drove a vehicle for personal use every day. Drivers aged 25 to 54 represented three-quarters (74 percent) of those who drove every day. Frequency of driving rose with income: 64 percent of drivers with an annual household income of $65,000 or more reported that they drove every day, compared to just 45 percent of those whose annual household income was less than $25,000. Sixty-four percent of males drove every day, as opposed to 48 percent of females.

How far did they drive?

  • Fifty-eight percent of respondents said that they had driven less than 20 000 kilometres in the last 12 months, 42 percent reported driving 20 000 kilometres or more, while 22 percent had logged 30 000 kilometres or more. Trades people, technicians, professionals and businesspersons made up more than half (55 percent) of the last category. Most were between the ages of 25 and 54 (85 percent) and were male (74 percent).

  • Overall, females appeared to drive significantly less than males. Forty-three percent of all female respondents reported driving less than 10 000 kilometres in the past year, compared to just 22 percent of the males.

What was the fuel consumption rating of the vehicle they drove?

  • Most respondents (52 percent) drove vehicles rated at less than 8.0 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres (L/100 km). Another 30 percent drove vehicles rated at 8.0 to 9.4 L/100 km, and 18 percent drove vehicles that consumed 9.5 L/100 km or more. Males were more likely to drive vehicles with higher fuel consumption rates. Regionally, residents of Québec were most likely (60 percent) and westerners least likely (47 percent) to drive vehicles rated at under 8.0 L/100 km.

How many cars did they own or lease?

  • Thirty-nine percent of respondents reported owning or leasing one vehicle, 44 percent reported two vehicles and 16 percent reported three or more vehicles. The percentage of households owning two or more vehicles increased from east to west, ranging from 51 percent of households in Atlantic Canada to 66 percent in the West.

How old were these cars?

  • Most respondents (57 percent) said that they drove vehicles built in 1989 or earlier. Of the remainder, 19 percent owned 1990 or 1991 models, 17 percent had 1992 or 1993 cars, and seven percent drove vehicles built in 1994 or 1995.

Were Canadians aware of fuel consumption and its effects?

  • A moderate majority of drivers (66 percent) said that they were aware of fuel-related emissions and their effect on the environment. However, more than a quarter of respondents acknowledged that they had not thought about the environmental impact of emissions from cars and trucks.

  • A moderate majority (65 percent) of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: "It is easy to be a fuel-efficient driver." In addition, a vast majority (91 percent) agreed that they could save a significant amount of money by driving and maintaining a car with fuel efficiency in mind. However, only 66 percent had thought about reducing fuel consumption while driving, and 34 percent agreed with the statement: "It doesn't really matter what I do, I won't really change my gas mileage by changing my driving habits."

  • It is important to note that 61 percent of respondents agreed with the statement: "If I had more information, I think I would be a more fuel-efficient driver." Women (69 percent) were more likely to agree with this statement than men (54 percent).

  • Just 29 percent of respondents reported having seen or heard information on how to get better gas mileage; 69 percent said they had not, and three percent were not sure.

What did Canadians consider when buying their personal vehicles?

  • More than half (56 percent) of respondents reported driving a vehicle that they had purchased new, while 44 percent stated that they had bought a used vehicle.

  • The seven most significant factors considered by respondents (in descending order):

    • price
    • design
    • reputation and reliability
    • good fuel mileage
    • look or appearance
    • handling and performance
    • comfort

Can we define different types of buyers?

  • The survey results suggest there were three predominant types of vehicle purchasers in Canada in late 1994:

    • Experiential buyers considered looks and appearance, comfort, handling and performance, design (e.g., seating capacity and storage space), reputation and reliability to be the most important factors. These buyers appeared to be interested in the aesthetics of the buy – a vehicle that both looks and feels good.
    • Pragmatic buyers considered good mileage, price and safety to be paramount. They wanted a vehicle that was practical, well priced, safe and inexpensive to operate.
    • Worry-free buyers considered after-sales service and warranties to be most important. They wanted to be sure that they would have few costly and inconvenient repairs down the road.

  • Experiential buyers were the most numerous, followed by the pragmatic and the worry-free buyers. This was true of both men and women, although more men tended to be experiential buyers, while women were more likely to be in the worry-free category.

To what extent did they think about fuel efficiency?

  • Twenty-seven percent of respondents agreed with the statement: "The gas money saved by driving a fuel-efficient vehicle is not a significant saving," while another eight percent neither agreed nor disagreed. In short, it appears that more than one-third of respondents did not consider the money saved by driving a fuel-efficient vehicle to be significant.

Did they do their research?

  • Most people (65 percent) said they relied on personal contacts for information when purchasing a vehicle. Other major information sources included dealerships (25 percent) and magazines (16 percent).

  • Personal contacts were a more important source of information for women (73 percent) than for men (58 percent). Men were somewhat more likely to rely on dealership information (27 percent) than women (23 percent). As well, men (20 percent) were twice as likely to rely on information from magazines than women (10 percent), and were more likely than women to report being involved in "all or most aspects of the purchase" of their vehicle (82 percent for men vs. 65 percent for women).

What did we learn about how Canadians drive and maintain their vehicles?

  • Ninety percent of respondents said that there were steps they could take to get better gas mileage.

What can be done to improve mileage?

  • Some of the specific actions suggested by respondents included:

    • not speeding (27 percent)
    • getting regular tune-ups (18 percent)
    • avoiding fast stops or starts (11 percent)
    • maintaining a steady speed (10 percent)

To what extent did Canadians speed?

  • Thirty-seven percent of respondents stated that they usually drove over the speed limit in built-up areas, and 58 percent said that they exceeded the limit on highways or open roads.

How involved were Canadians in the maintenance of their vehicles?

  • More than half (56 percent) of respondents reported being "very" involved, while 12 percent stated they were "not at all" involved in vehicle maintenance. Men (88 percent) were more likely than women (65 percent) to be "very" or "somewhat" involved in the routine maintenance of their vehicle.

What maintenance was done and how often?

  • Ninety-three percent of respondents reported that the oil in their vehicles had been changed in the past six months, while seven percent had not. Seventy percent of respondents stated that their tire pressure had been checked in the month prior to the survey. Finally, 78 percent of respondents who were involved in the maintenance of their vehicle reported a full engine tune-up as part of routine maintenance on their vehicle in the previous 12 months.

Obtain a printable copy of this report (Zipped PDF file)