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UK road accident statistics: Safe, but could be better

Five deaths every day on UK roads; how do we reduce this?

This road safety article is brought to you by LeaseCar.

While the UK has some of the strictest road safety laws in the world, there were still 1,780 road deaths in the year ending March 2016. That’s an average of just under five people every day who are dying on UK roads.

The number of people killed or seriously injured has increased by two per cent from the previous year, which corresponds to overall traffic levels which also increased by 1.8 per cent.

With day-to-day news about Brexit and everyday life, it is easy to forget about the seriousness of the issue; how important it is and how we come into contact with it most days, whether we are behind the wheel, on a bike or are a pedestrian crossing the street.

What is causing road traffic incidents?

The UK is ranked tenth in the list of the safest places to drive in the world, beaten by countries such as Switzerland, Norway, Maldives and Israel. So what’s causing road traffic incidents in the UK?

Road rage is one of the main issues road users face everyday, with serious cases causing a worrying amount of accidents. Beeping your car horn, flashing headlights, swearing at other drivers, tailgating and – most troublingly – following another road user are all examples of road rage which could result in serious crashes.
UK road accident data (The Car Expert)

LeaseCar has conducted a survey around the subject and discovered that 36.3 per cent of respondents believed that using their horn to express their anger was legal (it’s not), while 17.8 per cent think that flashing their headlights at other drivers in anger is acceptable (definitely not).

You’ve probably come across such negative experiences on the road yourself, or perhaps you’ve even beeped your horn or flashed your headlights in a moment of frustration. Loss of control behind the steering wheel could cause a serious collision, while drivers looking to locate the source of a horn noise or being blinded by headlights could end up crashing. Others might be severely shaken by such an incident and find themselves unable to concentrate while driving.

These are all things we don’t consider in the heat of the moment when someone cuts us up on the roundabout or a cyclist is hogging the lane, but it’s imperative that we do.

When asked how often those taking part in the survey felt angry whilst driving, 25.8 per cent claimed to experience road rage at least once a week, while 15.8 per cent felt angry every other day while behind the wheel! Not only is this not great news for peoples’ blood pressure, but it could also lead to dangerous situations and reckless behaviour.

Speeding is of course another issue on our roads – one that causes severe injuries and even death. Troublingly, respondents in the LeaseCar survey noted that there were certain circumstances where they felt that breaking the speed limit was acceptable. Driving a partner who is in labour topped the list of circumstances, as 35.5 per cent believed this was a viable reason for putting your foot down. A family emergency (26.8 per cent) and being late for a flight or train (8.9 per cent) were also put forward as acceptable reasons for exceeding the speed limit.

According to RoSPA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) “inappropriate speed contributes to around ten per cent of all injury collisions reported to the police, 13 per cent of crashes resulting in a serious injury and 24 per cent of collisions which result in death”. A five per cent reduction in your average speed could result in a 30 per cent reduction in the number of fatal crashes.

The roads themselves could also be part of the problem, with certain areas of the country considered more dangerous for drivers than others. Greater London is one of these places due to its higher traffic levels, with the capital accounting for 16 per cent of crashes that take place on our country’s roads.

However, when it comes to fatalities, the rural countryside is actually – for want of a better word – a ‘hotspot’ for crashes. Due to the remoteness of such locations, help often doesn’t arrive quickly enough, and the roads themselves are littered with treacherous ditches and subject to poor surface conditions heavy rain or snow.

Who is commonly involved in road traffic incidents?

If LeaseCar’s survey results are anything to go by, the finger is immediately pointed at 17-24 year olds as the most dangerous road users and the worst drivers, with 37.9 per cent of respondents stating that they believed this to be true.

Looking at the data around these beliefs, those who cited 17-24 year olds as ‘dangerous’ drivers could well be correct. Globally, the top cause of death for those aged between 15-29 years is road traffic injuries, which perhaps confirms the thoughts of those who took part in the survey.

However, the younger generation might argue against this stereotype, as older drivers were also put forward as the worst behind the wheel of a car, with 13.5 per cent claiming that over 75 year olds should be considered poor road users.

There are currently 4.5 million drivers over the age of 70 on our roads in the UK – 239 of these are aged 100 or over – and they currently have to renew their license on a three-yearly basis. But many people in Britain want older drivers to have to retake their test as well, to prove they are competent on the roads.

What can be done to reduce the amount of road traffic incidents?

There are precautions that the government and road safety bodies can take to ensure the safety of those driving. However, even the most dangerous roads may require more fatalities and serious collisions for the money to be ‘found’ if work is to be carried out.

Safety barriers, speed limit enforcement and clear signage are all things that could calm the roads and minimise the risk of accidents taking place. Here are a few things that are already effective and should be in place on those busier, more dangerous stretches of road:

A stricter enforcement on speed limits:
The UK now has 263 miles of road covered by average speed check cameras, bringing down the average speed drivers are doing on the roads and ensuring the safety of everyone out driving. In Scotland, average speed cameras have been installed along the A9 where on average eight people die each year. Since their erection, this number dropped to six in the first full year.

Improving safety features on roads:
A map created by the Road Safety Foundation and EuroRAP discovered that the most dangerous stretch of road in Britain is the A537 (also known as the Cat and Fiddle), running from Macclesfield to Buxton. The road has seen 44 serious or fatal crashes between 2007 and 2011, making it one of the most dangerous seven miles a driver can undertake.

However, the local council has completed renovations on the stretch of tarmac, installing barriers, imposing a 50mph speed limit with average speed cameras and resurfacing the road regularly. Since these safety measures were introduced, the quantity of crashes has reduced significantly (there were 35 incidents between 2011-2013, and zero fatalities.)

Harsher punishment for dangerous drivers:
As it stands, those driving while unfit to do so (for instance, while over the legal limit for alcohol) could see themselves sent to prison for six months and paying a fine of £5,000. However, harsher punishments could be the deterrent the UK needs.

The respondents of the LeaseCar survey (23.5 per cent) mostly believed a nine-month ban should be issued for anyone convicted for dangerous driving, followed by six points on their license. As many as 10.7 per cent believed dangerous drivers should be permanently banned from driving.

When it comes to road safety, there are many things we can do to reduce the risk of fatalities in collisions and general safety on the roads. Until then, if we all take more care behind the wheel, we could reduce the chances of accidents while driving and significantly cut down the figures above. 

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