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Motor Mouth articles 2011

Here comes another nervous breakdown

WOULD you stop and offer to help if you came across a motorist who had broken down?

And if you were the poor sap whose car had left you stranded at the roadside, would you want someone to stop and help?

A recent AA/Populus survey carried out among more than 16,000 motorists revealed some rather surprising answers.

Around 22% of people said they would expect people to have mobile phones with them so that they could call for assistance. And 24% said they would be afraid that an apparently broken-down vehicle could be a con.

Many younger drivers aged between 18 and 24 said they would definitely not stop and help. There were far more potential Good Samaritans, however, among over-65s.

I reckon a lot of that is because older motorists were around long before mobile phones were invented but when breakdowns were commonplace.

There were some sharp differences between regions of the country, too. Apparently Scottish drivers are the most likely to stop while those in London are most likely to drive past.

The survey also asked whether people would want other drivers to stop and help them. Those who would be relieved totalled only 17%, and overall 4% of people would not want someone to stop. That figure rises to 9% for the 18-24 age group.

Almost half of people, at 48%, would assume the person who had stopped was well-meaning – which, presumably, means that the other 52% would expect the worst.

What the survey results don’t bother to tell us is the circumstances of any potential breakdown. Surely, even the most nervous and suspicious motorist would show a bit of compassion if, for instance, they encountered a stranded family in broad daylight on a well-used road where the likelihood of it being a movie-style set-up was so remote as to be non-existent.

Even a jumpy teenaged Londoner would stop and help an old lady whose car had a puncture – wouldn’t they? Or have we become such a selfish, pass-on-the-other-side society nowadays, in such a tearing rush all the time that we won’t pause and spend a few minutes helping someone in trouble?

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