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5/12/2008
UK Motorist Group Hires Anti-Motorist Activist
RAC Foundation to be run by transportation appointee of former mayor of London.

Stephen GlaisterOne of the UK's most influential motoring groups earlier this month hired a top adviser to London's recently toppled mayor, Ken Livingstone. As Director of the Royal Automobile Club Foundation, Stephen Glaister will lead the self-described "independent body established to take on the role of protecting the motorist." Glaister is a long-time board member for Transport for London known for pursuing policies often at odds with a majority of the motoring public.

"It is a privilege to be taking over the leadership of the Foundation, especially at such a critical time for transport policy," Glaister said in announcing his priorities as director. "We all must explore the contribution road users need to make to solve the issue of climate change."

While working as an appointee of "Red Ken" -- the media's nickname for Livingstone --, Glaister helped implement the congestion tax. According to Glaister's own figures, the program imposed £115 million (US $230 million) in charges imposed on drivers in its first year, but cost £110 million (US $220 million) in overhead and administrative costs to operate. The complicated scheme's net revenue of £55 million (US $110 million) came almost solely from ticketing forgetful motorists with "penalty charges" because no automated payment systems were offered. Glaister likewise is a leading advocate of expanding the concept nationwide as a means of allowing political leaders to spend motorist revenue on projects unrelated to roads.

"There would, of course, be substantial extra costs for motorists from this policy," Glaister explained in a 2004 Institute of Economic Affairs paper. "The pressure to provide more road capacity would be significantly reduced because charging moderates traffic growth in just those places where capacity is exhausted."

More than 1.8 million drivers signed an official petition on the Prime Minister's website condemning this concept of road pricing. Although RAC Foundation claims to represent these motorists on an independent basis, the policies promoted by the group are favorable to RAC's owner, Aviva, the world's fifth largest insurance company. Subsidiary firm Norwich Union offers a program where GPS surveillance devices are installed in cars to increase the cost of insurance to motorists for each mile driven.

In the United States, the American Automobile Club (AAA) has a similar conflict of interest. AAA also claims to be a pro-motorist group, but its government affairs arm advocates red light cameras and harsh penalties on motorists because, in many states, these generate license points. Because AAA is funded by the sale of insurance, these license points increase the parent organization's income.

The Association of British Drivers is the UK's non-profit advocacy group for motorists.




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