Thousands of people are injured every year on UK roads, which means that personal injury claims for these types of accidents are very common. Sadly, over a thousand of these road accidents are fatal, despite ongoing efforts to further improve the safety of our roads.
Most road accidents can be prevented and are usually the result of negligence by a driver, local authority, construction company or pedestrian. The following guide explains the most common causes of road accidents, in the hope that this further improves safety for all road users, and helps to direct you in securing the support and compensation that may be owed to you if you have been the victim of an accident.
What are the main causes of road accidents?
Although multiple factors can combine to result in a road accident, there are a number of common root causes, as outlined below, that can lead to accidents that cause injury or loss.
It’s unlikely to be a surprise that speeding is attributed to over 10% of road traffic accidents each year (as per stats from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents). What’s more concerning is that nearly a quarter of all fatal road accidents are caused by a driver speeding.
The losses and injuries that are suffered because of speeding are avoidable. Had the driver adhered to the law, the accident could have been avoided, or at least, the results would have been less severe. Speed limits are applied to UK roads to ensure that drivers and pedestrians are safe. The legal restrictions that are applied to speed limits on roads are set by considering some of the following:
- The road type
- The number of users of that road
- Whether there is a school on the road
- The number of accidents or collisions that have occurred on the road previously.
Because speed accounts for involvement in such a high proportion of road accidents, campaigns and government activity is almost constant to remind drivers of their legal duty and the severe consequences for not observing speed limits. Through such campaigns, drivers will also be reminded of the necessity to keep a safe distance from the car in front.
Tailgating (driving too close to the vehicle in front of you) is extremely dangerous and means that should the driver ahead need to brake quickly, you aren’t allowing for a safe braking distance and therefore increase the likelihood of a collision. Sadly, this too often means that the car you collide with is shunted forward into the vehicle or obstruction that they were trying to avoid with their initial braking – with potentially catastrophic consequences.
Drivers will be faced with numerous potential distractions while driving, some of which are unavoidable, and others are entirely the blame of the driver. Unavoidable distractions, such as external loud noises, on-street activity, wildlife and even weather, are those that a driver should be able to manage safely, despite not necessarily expecting them. Avoidable distractions include using a mobile phone whilst driving, rummaging in a bag, eating or drinking, and putting on make-up whilst behind the wheel.
The law takes the use of mobile phones and other electronic devices while driving very seriously. Even if you are caught using your phone while stationary at traffic lights, you could be given 6 points on your licence and a fine of up to £200.
All drivers have a legal duty to remain safe whilst driving and not put the safety of other road users in danger. Whilst some distractions may be out of a driver’s control, drivers must remain alert and focused on the road ahead to avoid potential dangers.
As mentioned above, weather can have a significant impact on the safety of the road and a driver’s ability to control their vehicle. The weather can impact drivers by presenting several challenges, such as changing the visibility of a road, the speed at which a road should be driven and can even make some roads impassable for a time.
Being prepared is key, and avoiding driving in poor weather where possible is advised. Local weather reports should alert drivers of any suspected disruptions or dangers, and local authorities will reiterate the suggestion of carrying additional protective measures where necessary. For example, in warm weather, it is advisable to ensure that you carry additional water – both for the driver, passengers and the vehicle. In icy weather, having extra clothing and blankets in case you break down is essential.
After snowing, roads can become dirtier, with slush carrying dirt quickly to windscreens. Drivers should regularly perform additional checks on screenwash levels to avoid visibility issues on journeys.
The cause of around 20% of road accidents is thought to be related to tiredness – with a driver’s ability to concentrate and react severely inhibited because they are tired.
In a society which is so busy and with drivers having multiple demands on their time, it is easy to understand how a person can become distracted and why a car often feels like the quickest way from point A to B. However, driving when tired can lead to fatal collisions and is incredibly dangerous.
Whether you are driving tired because of a tough day at work, feeling sleepy because of an illness, or drowsiness kicks in because you are working your way through a long journey, it is imperative to take plenty of breaks and to stop if you recognise that you are too tired. It is advisable to drink caffeinated drinks to help support alertness and to stop somewhere safe for a short nap if you are feeling fatigued.
Driving under the influence
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is one of the most irresponsible and dangerous things a driver can do. Tens of thousands of people worldwide are injured or killed each year because the driver of a vehicle is under the influence of drugs or alcohol – which in most countries is illegal and entirely avoidable.
It is legal for a driver to have consumed a small quantity of alcohol when driving. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, a driver can have up to 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100ml of blood and still be able to drive. In Scotland, the limit is lower, with a maximum of 50 milligrams per 100ml of blood. Further information on drink driving laws can be found here.
However, there are a number of factors that a driver must consider if drinking and driving – not least, whether 80 milligrams is appropriate for them, as some people can feel the effects of alcohol after a smaller amount. In many cases, drivers might be best placed to simply not drink at all if they are driving.
Driving under the influence remains one of the highest reasons for road traffic accidents to occur, and the law takes these offences very seriously. Those found guilty of driving under the influence can be charged with fines and receive points on their licence. Depending on any resulting collision, injuries, or death caused by drunk or drug driving, the offending driver can face a potential prison sentence and ban from driving.
Maintaining knowledge of the Highway Code
With the growing amount of traffic on UK roads, the Highway Code sometimes evolves to ensure that all users remain safe. It is a driver’s responsibility to keep up to date with changes in UK law, particularly with priorities for road use.
For example, in 2022, the Highway Code changed to reflect the need for other traffic to give way to pedestrians waiting to cross at a junction. A pedestrian has the right of way over a driver turning into a road, and should the driver choose to ignore this rule and hit a crossing pedestrian, they would be legally liable for any damages caused.
There are numerous sources of information if you would like further details on what are the most common causes of road accidents, such as police websites, The Office for National Statistics and road safety campaign groups.
If you have been the victim of a road accident and have suffered any loss or injury, you may be entitled to make a road traffic accident claim against the person responsible. A specialist solicitor will help you to understand whether you are likely to be successful in a claim and how much compensation you could be awarded for your losses.
For a free telephone consultation with an experienced legal adviser, call 0800 678 1410 or use our online claim form to request a call back. If you are entitled to make a claim, we will connect you with a no win no fee solicitor to help you get the compensation you deserve.