Most Common Causes Of Car Accidents In The UK

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Road traffic accidents (RTAs) are becoming increasingly common as more cars users take to the road, and cars become more of a lifestyle choice.

The THINK! Campaign has highlighted the dangers for motorcyclists and cyclists on the UK’s roads – and since 2005, records on RTAs in the UK have included contributory factors in road accidents, so that an overview of potential causes can help safety experts and the government decide on policies and road layout which will help keep motorists, bikers and cyclists safe.

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Most Common Causes Of Car Accidents In The UK

In fatal accidents it was found that driver or rider error or reaction was a contributory factor in more than 65% of fatal RTAs – and driver or rider error played some part, whether minor or major, in more than 67% of all RTAs. In 34% of fatal road accidents, loss of control over the vehicle was a contributory factor – and the next biggest contributory cause of fatal accidents was failing to look properly, which was a contributory factor in more than 20% of fatal RTAs.

The records itemise more than 77 contributory factors in a wide range of RTAs, which are classified as fatal, serious or slight accidents. The total for each type of contributory factor (eg driver error or reaction) is also calculated across all road accidents whether fatal, serious or slight.

A top 10 of contributory causes to accidents across all RTAs was also calculated:
•    Failure to look properly –  35%
•    Failed to judge other road user’s path or speed –18.9%
•    Careless or reckless driving, or hurrying –16.2%
•    Losing control of vehicle – 14.7%
•    Poor manoeuvring or turn – 14.1%
•    Travelling too fast for road conditions – 10.2%
•    Slippery road (weather conditions) – 10.1%
•    Pedestrian error (failed to look properly) – 7.2%
•    Braking suddenly –  7.2%
•    Following too closely (tailgating) – 6.7%.

The top cause of road accidents turned out to be “failure to look properly”. Since the figures were compiled in 2005, there has been a rise in the use of technology in cars – and also a concerted campaign to prevent drivers breaking the law by using mobile phones behind the wheel, a practice which has caused more than one fatal car crash in the UK.

In 2009 a driver from Suffolk was jailed for 21 months for causing death by dangerous driving, after she collided with a vehicle which had stopped to repair a burst tyre. The court heard that the woman had been travelling at 70mph at the time of the crash and was on her way to see her boyfriend – her mobile phone had clocked up more than 20 messages during the two-hour journey.

The law which banned using a mobile phone behind the wheel of a car came into effect in 2003, although handsfree mobiles are permitted. Many feel these may also be a distraction to drivers, however. In nearly 20% of fatal RTAS, an “impairment or distraction” was recorded, with roughly half of these involving alcohol as a contributory factor, suggesting that one-tenth of fatal RTAs may be attributed to drunk driving.

Tiredness or fatigue was a contributory factor in just over 3% of fatal RTAs, with physical or mental illness or disability accounting for 3.6% of fatal road accidents. After driver error or reaction, the second most common cause of fatal road accidents was found to be “injudicious action” – which includes speeding, tailgating, failing to give way or stop, illegal turn or U-turns, cyclists entering the highway from pavements, and vehicles travelling along the pavement. Travelling too fast for the conditions (15.9%) and exceeding the speed limit (13.9%) were the two most common causes of fatal accidents resulting resulted from an “injudicious decision” by a motorist.

More information about road safety is available at the government website THINK!
Leo Wyatt
About the Author:

Leo Wyatt is a freelance writer & journalist who graduated from Birmingham University and has particular interests in cars, sports, parenting, safety, politics, law and health. Leo has worked for several newspapers in the midlands but now spends most of his time writing articles for companies, websites and businesses on a freelance basis, primarily the brain injury experts who offer support and rehabilitation for individuals that have sustained a road traffic accident.

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