A1) There were 1,732 people killed in road accidents reported to the police in 2015. This is a decrease of 2 per cent compared to the 1,775 deaths reported in 2014. This is the second lowest annual total on record after 2013. There were 45 per cent fewer fatalities in 2015 than a decade earlier in 2006.
The number of people seriously injured in reported road traffic accidents decreased by 3 per cent to 22,137 in 2015, compared with 2014. There were a total of 186,209 casualties of all severities in 2015. This is around 4 per cent lower than in 2014 and is the second lowest level on record.
A total of 140,086 personal-injury road traffic accidents were reported to the police in 2015. Of these accidents, 1,618 resulted in at least one fatality.
A2) Historically, and still currently, car occupants have made up the largest road user group in each casualty severity. This is because cars make up 78 per cent of all traffic driven in Great Britain. However, casualty numbers by road user group are not proportionate to the total distance that the user group travels. The vulnerable user groups (usually defined as pedestrians, pedal cyclists and motorcyclists) all account for disproportionately more casualties than would be expected, given the distance travelled.
In 2015, car occupants accounted for 44 per cent of road deaths, pedestrians 24 per cent, pedal cyclists 6 per cent and motorcyclists 21 per cent. The number of car occupant fatalities decreased to 755, down 5 per cent compared with 797 in 2014; the number of pedestrian deaths decreased to 409, down 8 per cent from 446 in 2014; the number of pedal cyclists killed decreased to 100, down 12 per cent from 113 in 2014; but the number of motorcycle users killed increased by 8 per cent from 339 in 2014 to 365 in 2015.
A report published by the RAC Foundation and PACTS shows that compared with the 2005-9 average (the Government’s baseline for monitoring progress) by 2014 there had been the following reductions in the number of people killed or seriously injured:
- London -40 per cent
- Northern Ireland -34 per cent
- Scotland -31 per cent
- UK AVERAGE -19 per cent
- England -17 per cent
- England (excluding London) -14 per cent
- Wales -6 per cent
A4) In absolute terms, the UK, along with Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark, are the four safest EU countries for road users. They are joined by Norway in having a level of road mortality lower than 40 deaths per million inhabitants.
However, an analysis of the road safety management and plans of European countries ranks the UK within the bottom 25 per cent of 29 European countries in terms of its vision for cutting death and injury on the road network in future.
Source: Road Safety: A review of UK and European data - see table 3
Updated International comparison figures can be found in Table RASS52001 (page 365) of Reported Road Casualties Great Britain: Annual Report 2014 publication.
A5) In 2015, the majority of injured casualties occurred on built-up roads (72 per cent of total casualties). However, the majority of fatalities occurred on non built-up roads (just over a half). The reason for this is that non built-up roads have higher average speeds which more frequently result in more serious collisions.
Although motorways carry around 21 per cent of traffic, they only account for 6 per cent of fatalities and 5 per cent of injured casualties. In 2015, the number of fatalities on motorways rose from 96 deaths to 110.
A6) The European Road Assessment Programme is an association of motoring organisations, national and regional road authorities and experts that aims to reduce death and serious injuries on Europe’s roads and make those that do occur survivable. It does this by assessing roads to show how well the road would protect life in the event of an accident.
The British EuroRAP 2015 results, showing how safe you are on British roads, can be seen here. A map showing the statistical risk of death or serious injury occurring on Britain’s motorways and A roads - calculated by comparing the frequency of death and serious injury on every stretch of road with how much traffic each road is carrying - can be viewed here.
The UK’s highest-risk road is the the A18 between Laceby and Ludborough.
The joint report of the RAC Foundation and the Road Safety Foundation - Saving Lives, Saving Money - highlights that 6,000 lives could be saved on Britain's roads over the next 10 years by bringing main roads with safety flaws such as missing safety fencing and unsafe junction layouts up to safety levels that should reasonably be expected.
Three people die each day on average on country roads and the number of people killed on country roads is nearly 10 times higher than on motorways. In 2014, there were 1,040 fatalities and 9,051 serious injuries on country roads. A third of the fatalities occurred on a bend.
Advice on driving safely on country roads can be viewed here.
A8) The Crashmap website logs the location and date of incidents reported to the police.
A9) Failed to look properly was the most frequently reported contributory factor and was reported in 44 per cent of all accidents reported to the police in 2014. For fatal accidents the most frequently reported contributory factor was loss of control, which was involved in 32 per cent of fatal accidents.
For accidents where a pedestrian was injured or killed, pedestrian failed to look properly was reported in 59 per cent of accidents, and pedestrian careless, reckless or in a hurry was reported in 29 per cent of accidents.
Exceeding the speed limit was reported as a factor in 5 per cent of all accidents, but these accidents involved 17 per cent of fatalities. At least one of exceeding the speed limit and travelling too fast for the conditions was reported in 10 per cent of all accidents and these accidents accounted for 25 per cent of all fatalities.
66 per cent of fatalities in reported road accidents had driver or rider error or reaction (which included failing to look properly, loss of control and sudden braking) reported as a contributory factor leading to the accident.
In April 2011, the Institute of Advanced Motorists published a report analysing the factors contributing to road accidents.
A10) The total value of prevention of reported road accidents in 2014 was estimated to be £16.3 billion, an increase of 11 per cent compared with the same estimate made in 2013 (not taking into account inflation). This sum encompasses all aspects of the valuation of casualties, including the human costs which reflect pain, grief and suffering; the direct economic costs of lost output and the medical costs associated with road accident injuries. The figure includes an estimate of the cost of damage only accidents but does not allow for unreported accidents.
A11) Provisional estimates for 2014 show that between 210 and 270 people were killed in accidents in Great Britain where at least one driver was over the drink drive limit, with a central estimate of 240 deaths. This is unchanged from 2013.
The number of seriously injured casualties in drink drive accidents decreased by 2 per cent from 1,100 in 2013 to 1,080 in 2014. If this figure is confirmed in the final estimates published later this year, then this will be the lowest number of seriously injured casualties on record.
The total number of casualties of all types in drink drive accidents for 2014 is 8,220, down 1 per cent on the 2013 figure. This will also be the lowest total on record if confirmed in the final estimates later this year.
Drink drive fatalities in 2014 are more than six times lower than in 1979, a significant reduction. Rather than accounting for a quarter of all road deaths, as they did in 1979, drink drive deaths now account for about 14 per cent of all road fatalities.
A12) In 2014/15, 6.2 per cent of drivers admitted to driving when they thought that they might have been over the drink drive limit and 0.9 per cent of drivers admitted to driving when they thought that they might be under the influence of illegal drugs.
Drivers were more likely to be observed with a mobile phone in their hand rather than holding it to their ear. In 2014, 1.1 per cent of drivers in England and Scotland were observed holding a phone in their hand compared with 0.5 per cent observed holding the phone to their ear.
A higher proportion of drivers in England and Scotland were observed using a hand-held mobile phone when stationary (2.3 per cent) than in moving traffic (1.6 per cent).
The proportion of car drivers observed using a hand-held mobile phone in England in 2014 (1.5 per cent) was relatively unchanged from the 1.4 per cent observed in 2009, when the previous survey was carried out.
Seat belt wearing rates were lower for other car occupants compared to car drivers. 96.7 per cent of all front seat passengers and 90.6 per cent of all rear seat passengers were observed using seat belts or child restraints in England and Scotland.
A15) Up to 1 in 3 road crashes involves a vehicle being driven for work. Every week, around 200 deaths and serious injuries involve someone at work. Indeed, for the majority of people, the most dangerous thing they do whilst at work is drive on the public highway.
Source: Driving for Better Business
Analysis by the RAC Foundation of previously unpublished data from the annual Labour Force Survey carried out by the Office for National Statistics shows that in 2011 an estimated 73,000 people were seriously or slightly hurt in accidents while travelling on company business (excluding commuting). This is 36 per cent of the total number of 202,000 people recorded injured (but not killed) in all road accidents for that year. Of those hurt whilst driving in the course of their employment, more than a third (36 per cent) are subsequently off work for more than a week.
A16) Yes. Young drivers (17-24 year-olds) only account for about 7 per cent of all full driving licence holders and also, on average, drive fewer miles than drivers aged 25 and over. (A typical young car driver covers around 4,000 miles a year in comparison with an average of 5,600 miles per year covered by an older driver). Yet young car drivers made up 18 per cent of all car drivers involved in reported road accidents in 2013.
In 2013, there were 337 fatalities in accidents involving at least one young car driver, roughly a fifth of all reported road fatalities. Young car drivers themselves accounted for 39 per cent of these fatalities and the passengers in their cars a further 18 per cent.
Source: Facts on Young Car Drivers
This is more than four each week.
When casualties of all severities are included, the annual figure rose to 2,144 or around 41 each week.
The data also shows that of all teenage car passengers killed or seriously injured over this period:
- 45 per cent were passengers in cars driven by 17-19 year-olds (1.5 per cent of all full licence holders)
- 23 per cent were passengers in cars driven by 20-24 year-olds (5.8 per cent of all full licence holders)
- 31 per cent were passengers in cars driven by drivers aged 25 and over (92.6 per cent of all full licence holders)
- 1 per cent were passengers in cars driven by drivers aged 16 and under
The annual figures suggest the number of teenagers hurt in accidents where a teenager is driving has declined over recent years and at a faster rate than the general fall in road casualties. But rather than indicating that young drivers are becoming inherently safer it has been argued that the drop is down to:
- Falling licence holding among young people
- Falling trip rates among young people
- Safer cars
The numbers were calculated by the RAC Foundation using the MAST Online tool developed by Road Safety Analysis.
Source: RAC Foundation
A18) The proportion of casualties amongst the 17-19 age group is highest in Dyfed-Powys at almost one in five (18.2 per cent). This is followed by Gwent (17 per cent), Cumbria and North Wales (15.8 per cent), Northern and Grampian (15.7 per cent) and Cornwall (15.5 per cent). London had the smallest proportion (5.6 per cent).
A19) A RAC Foundation study – Young driver safety: solutions to an age-old problem – published in July 2013 concluded that placing conditions on the licences of young drivers could reduce fatal accidents amongst this group by more than a half. As part of an overhaul of how young people learn to drive, the RAC Foundation is calling for a three-stage process:
- A one-year minimum learning period during which they would need to have experience of driving in a variety of circumstances: e.g. during the winter, in darkness
- A one-year post-test period during which there are passenger restrictions and conditions for late-night driving
- A final full licence with a two year probationary period (which currently exists and during which if a driver receives six penalty points they have to take a retest).
The Foundation also backs a reduction in the drink-drive limit for all drivers to a maximum blood alcohol content of 50mg/100ml (down from the existing 80mg/100ml). This would be of greatest safety benefit to younger drivers, with knock-on benefits for the rest of the driving population.
The Foundation has also published a fact sheet on Young Driver Safety.
A20) Among other possible requirements (like a minimum learner period and lower alcohol limit for new drivers), Graduated Driving Licensing (GDL) schemes typically place temporary restrictions on newly qualified young drivers in the first few months after they pass their tests. These restrictions can include a limit on the number of young passengers they can carry and a late night curfew. The aim of GDL is to limit young drivers’ exposure to risk until they have gained experience.
A report commissioned by the RAC Foundation and undertaken by the Transport Research Laboratory concluded that based on the experience of other countries where GDL is in operation, across Britain about 4,500 fewer people would be hurt in an average year. This includes about 430 people who would otherwise have been killed or seriously injured.
A21) Comparisons of collision rates in several countries indicate that, when all severity collision rates are compared on a per-licensed-driver basis, older drivers up to the age of 80 have collision rates that are comparable to those of middle-aged drivers. The comparatively greater fatality rates of older drivers can be accounted for by their greater fraility and lower resilience to injury. It is also accepted that the risk of injury which older drivers pose is predominantly to themselves rather than to other road users.
Historical data shows that the monthly total of child road casualties rises to a peak in July when (based on a five-year average) 57 per cent more children aged 15 are killed or hurt compared to December which has the lowest monthly average. The summer peak in total child casualty numbers is likely to be down to children’s increased exposure to risk with the better weather and longer days meaning more young people playing outside with their friends; and cycling and walking to and from school.
The RAC Foundation has also published an Information Sheet on Child Road Safety. This can be viewed here.
A24) The guidance provided by the RAC can be viewed here.
Studies have shown that drivers do not fall asleep without warning. Drivers who fall asleep at the wheel have often tried to fight off drowsiness by opening a window or by turning up the radio. This does not work for long.
Instead, the advice given by the Department for Transport is that drivers should:-
- plan your journey to include a 15-minute break every 2 hours
- do not start a long trip if you are already tired
- remember the risks if you have to get up unusually early to start a long drive
- try to avoid long trips between midnight and 6am when you are likely to feel sleepy anyway
- if you start to feel sleepy, find a safe place to stop - not the hardshoulder of a motorway. Drink 2 cups of coffee or a high-caffeine drink and have a rest for 10 to 15 minutes to allow time for the caffeine to kick in.
Remember, the only cure for sleepiness is proper sleep. A caffeine drink or a nap is a short-term solution that will only allow you to keep driving for a short time.
Full details of the MoT tests carried out in 2014/15 can be viewed here.
A27) The 3 main causes for Class 3 & 4 vehicles (cars, light vans up to 3,000kg and passenger vehicles with up to 12 seats) failing their initial MoT were were lighting and signalling defects (30.0 per cent of defects), suspension (18.7 per cent of defects) and brakes (17.2 per cent of defects).
A28) New cars are rated by the independent European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) which was established in 1997 and has the current backing of seven European governments and the European Commission, as well as motoring and consumer organisations in every European country.
Vehicles made before 2009 were given three separate star ratings, to indicate how they performed in a crash when it came to adult occupant protection, child occupant protection and pedestrian protection.
From 2009 all vehicles now receive a single star rating (out of five) which encompasses the three existing test areas, plus a fourth area - additional technologies designed to promote safe driving. This includes such technology as Electronic Stability Control and speed limiters.
The Euro NCAP site contains a wealth of information about cars’ comparative safety.
A29) Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is a system that when it detects a loss of steering control, automatically applies the brakes to help manoeuvre the vehicle where the driver intends to go. Braking is automatically applied to individual wheels depending on the situation. It significantly reduces the risk of a vehicle sliding if a bend is taken too fast or skidding during a sudden emergency manoeuvre.
ESC normally consists of the electronic systems of traction control and ABS using several sensors such as steering wheel angle sensor, yaw rate sensor, lateral acceleration sensor and wheel speed sensor to monitor the vehicle’s direction of travel and the driver’s intended course. ESC cannot be retrofitted and needs to be fitted before sale.
From 1 November 2011 all new type approved vehicles were required to have ESC fitted as standard and from 1 November 2014, all newly-registered vehicles must also comply.
A30) Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA) is a system that compares the local speed limit to the vehicle speed. The system can then (i) advise the driver when the vehicle is found to be exceeding the speed limit with an audible and/or visual warning (advisory ISA); (ii) control maximum speed through an overridable system where the driver can choose to override the speed limiting function and regain full manual control until a new speed limit is encountered and/or the road speed drops beneath the current speed limit at which time ISA regains control (overridable ISA) and; (iii) control maximum speed through a mandatory speed limiting function that the driver cannot override (mandatory ISA).
In June 2015, the Mayor and Transport for London (TfL) announced ISA would be trialled on 47 London buses travelling on 2 routes - route 19 (which runs from Battersea to Finsbury Park) and route 486 (which runs from North Greenwich to Bexleyheath). These routes included a variety of different road environments, with differing speed limits, which would allow the new technology to be fully tested.
The results of the trial were announced in March 2016. TfL found the technology to be “particularly effective” when buses drove through 20mph limit zones and ensured buses taking part in the trail remained within the speed limit 97-99 per cent of the time.
In the light of the trial, TfL intends to require all new buses entering service from 2017 to have this technology fitted.
A31) The evidence suggests that there would be reduced road casualties if we adjusted British clocks to Single/Double Summer Time.(This would put clocks one hour ahead of GMT in winter and two in summer).The Department for Transport reported in a consultation document it issued in 2009 on Making Britain’s Roads the Safest in the World that based on the experience of 1968–71, the estimated effect of having lighter evenings would be to reduce road deaths by around 80 per year and serious injuries by around 212 per year This finding was based on research carried out by TRL – see TRL Report 368.
The RAC Foundation supports the introduction of a trial of Single/Double Summer Time in the overall interests of road safety. However, a recent bid to move the UK's clocks forward by an hour for a 3 year trail period failed after the legislation ran out of time in the Commons. The Daylight Saving Bill 2010-11 would have seen the UK adopt Central European time, with BST plus one in the summer and GMT plus one in winter.
A32) Yes. Knowing and applying the rules contained in The Highway Code could significantly reduce road casualties. Cutting the number of deaths and injuries that occur on our roads every day is a responsibility we all share. The Highway Code can help us discharge that responsibility.
Many of the rules in the Code are legal requirements, and if you disobey these rules you are committing a criminal offence. You may be fined, given penalty points on your licence or be disqualified from driving. In the most serious cases you may be sent to prison. Such rules are identified by the use of the words ‘MUST/MUST NOT’.
Although failure to comply with the other rules of the Code will not, in itself, cause a person to be prosecuted, The Highway Code may be used in evidence in any court proceedings under the Traffic Acts (see 'The road user and the law') to establish liability. This includes rules which use advisory wording such as ‘should/should not’ or ‘do/do not’.
A33) The guidance given by the RAC can be viewed here.