Safety

Q1) How many people are killed or injured on our roads?

Q2) How do the UK's road safety casualty figures compare to the rest of Europe?

Q3) What are the fatality and casualty numbers by age and sex?

Q4) What are the reported road fatalities by road user type?

Q5) On what types of roads do casualties occur?

Q6) How many people have been killed on smart motorways?  

Q7) Which are the most dangerous roads in the country and how can the risk on these roads be reduced?

Q8) Do more deaths occur on country roads than on motorways?

Q9) Where can I learn about the road risk in my neighbourhood?

Q10) What are the major contributory factors to accidents?

Q11) What percentage of drivers admit to driving when they thought that they might have been over the drink drive limit ?

Q12) How many casualties occurred when someone was driving whilst over the legal alcohol limit?

Q13) What percentage of drivers admit to driving when they thought that they might have been under the influence of illegal drugs?

Q14) How many people driving a vehicle for work purposes are involved in road crashes?

Q15) Do young drivers have a high accident rate?

Q16) Which areas have the highest young car driver casualties compared to the proportion of all car driver casualties?

Q17) What can be done to reduce the number of accidents involving young drivers?

Q18) Would a Graduated Driving Licence for young drivers reduce accidents?

Q19) Do older drivers have a higher collision rate compared to middle-aged drivers?

Q20) Why do older drivers have collisions? And how do these contributory factors compare to all car drivers?

Q21) Does the RAC Foundation believe older drivers who 'run' red lights should escape prosecution?

Q22) Are more children killed on our roads in the summer as opposed to winter?

Q23) What areas in Great Britain have the highest proportion of child casualties?

Q24) Are there any plans to extend the date of a vehicle's first MOT from 3 to 4 years?

Q25) What percentage of Class 3 & 4 vehicles (cars, vans and passenger vehicles with up to 12 seats) failed their initial MoT test in 2021/22?

Q26) What were the 3 main defects for Class 3 & 4 vehicles (cars, vans and passenger vehicles with up to 12 seats) failing their initial MoT tests in 2021/22?

Q27) How is the safety of cars assessed?

Q28) What is Electronic Stability Control?

Q29) What is Intelligent Speed Assistance?

Q30) Does the October clock change lead to an increase in road crashes per day in Great Britain in which someone is hurt?

Q31) Should I refresh my memory of the Highway Code?

Q32) What are the new rules that were introduced into the Highway Code in January 2022?

Q33) How can I stay safe if my car breaks down?

Q34) Should I drive when tired?

Q35) How can I drive safely in wintry conditions?



Q1) How many people are killed or injured on our roads?

A1) In 2021, road casualties showed signs of a return to pre-pandemic trends, increasing compared to 2020 when casualty numbers were low, largely as a result of periods of lockdown resulting in a reduction in road traffic.

As the first half of 2021 also had a lockdown, the overall figures for 2021 remain lower than pre-pandemic levels. Over the second half of the year, both casualties and traffic returned to levels similar to those in 2019. Monthly changes in casualties during 2021 generally showed a similar trend to changes in motor vehicle traffic levels.

In 2021:-

  • there were an estimated 1,558 fatalities in reported road collisions, a 7 per cent increase compared with 2020 and 11 per cent below the 2019 level
  • there were an estimated 27,450 killed or seriously injured (KSI) casualties, a 14 per cent increase compared with 2020 and 11 per cent below the 2019 level
  • there were an estimated 128,209 casualties of all severities, a 11 per cent increase compared with 2020 and 16 per cent below the 2019 level

The casualty figures should be interpreted with caution as there is no obligation for people to report all personal injury accidents to the police (although there is an obligation under certain conditions, as outlined in the Road Traffic Act) and it has long been known that non-fatal (and particularly slight) casualties are indeed underreported to the police. These figures therefore are likely to be an underestimate of the total number of casualties and thus do not represent the full range of all accidents or casualties in Great Britain.

Source: Reported road casualties, Great Britain; annual report 2021

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Q2) How do the UK's road safety casualty figures compare to the rest of Europe?

A2) The European Transport Safety Council’s Performance Index (PIN) programme enables comparisons of road safety progress between European countries to be made. The latest PIN report published by the European Transport Safety Council can be viewed here.

In absolute terms, comparing road deaths per million inhabitants, the UK had the sixth lowest figure in 2021 with 23.9 deaths per million inhabitants. Norway led the way with 14.8 deaths per million inhabitants, followed by Malta, Sweden, Switzerland and Denmark.

Department for Transport table RAS0404 also compares figures for Great Britain and the United Kingdom with others in Europe and, where data is available, the rest of the world.

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Q3) What are the fatality and casualty numbers by age and sex?

A3) In 2021:

  • overall, 78 per cent of fatalities and 62 per cent of casualties of all severities were male
  • 3 per cent of fatalities and 10 per cent of all casualties were aged 16 and under
  • 26 per cent of fatalities and 30 per cent of all casualties were aged 17 to 29
  • 19 per cent of fatalities and 6 per cent of all casualties were aged over 70 and over

Source: Reported road casualties, Great Britain; annual report 2021

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Q4) What are the reported road fatalities by road user type?

A4) Historically, and still currently, car occupants account for the greatest number of casualties and fatalities each year. However, this is unsurprising because cars make up about 80 per cent of the traffic on British roads.

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) have much higher casualty rates per mile travelled in comparison to other road user groups.

In 2021, 44 per cent of fatalities were car occupants, 23 per cent were pedestrians, 20 per cent were motorcyclists and 7 per cent were pedal cyclists.

  • The number of car occupant fatalities was 682, down by 10 per cent from 618 in 2020
  • The number of pedestrian deaths was 361, up by 4 per cent from 346 in 2020
  • The number of pedal cyclists killed was 111, down by 21 per cent from 141 in 2020
  • The number of motorcycle users killed was 310, up by 9 per cent from 285 in 2020
  • Other fatalities (such as bus and coach occupants and goods vehicles occupants) totalled 94, up from 70 in the previous year

Source: Reported road casualties, Great Britain; annual report 2021

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Q5) On what types of roads do casualties occur?

A5) In 2021, the majority of casualties occurred on built-up urban roads. However, the majority of fatalities occurred on rural roads. The reason for this is that rural roads have higher average speeds which often result in more serious collisions.

Although motorways carry around 20 per cent of traffic, they only accounted for about 6 per cent of fatalities in 2020. The number of people killed on motorways in 2021 was 103, higher than the 79 killed in 2020.

Source: Reported road casualties, Great Britain; annual report 2021and Department for Transport table RAS0302

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Q6) How many people have been killed on smart motorways?  

A6) According to information broadcast by the BBC Panorama programme in January 2020, thirty eight  people have been killed on smart motorways in the previous five years.

Source: BBC

The Transport Committee reported that 15 deaths occurred on motorways without a hard shoulder in 2019. Deaths on motorways without a permanent hard shoulder increased from five in 2017 to 15 in 2019.

Source: Transport Committee: Rollout and safety of smart motorways

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Q7) Which are the most dangerous roads in the country and how can the risk on these roads be reduced?

A7) 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 2021 results, which identify Britain’s persistently higher risk roads and significantly improved roads, can be downloaded here. The report also contains 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.

National Highways (NH) have also recently published a report which outlines the progress being made to improve the safety of roads on the NH network. A copy of the report entitled “The Strategic Road Network Star Rating Report” can be viewed here.

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Q8) Do more deaths occur on country roads than on motorways?

A8) Yes. 60 per cent of all fatalities occur on country roads

Three people die each day on average on country roads and the number of people killed on country roads was more than 10 times higher than on motorways in 2017. 10,729 people were killed or seriously injured in accidents reported to the police on country roads in 2017.

Advice on driving safely on country roads can be viewed here.

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Q9) Where can I learn about the road risk in my neighbourhood?

A9) The Crashmap website logs the location and date of incidents reported to the police.

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Q10) What are the major contributory factors to accidents?

A10) Failed to look properly was the most frequently reported contributory factor and was reported in 35 per cent of all accidents reported to the police in 2021. For fatal accidents, the most frequently reported contributory factor was again failed to look properly. This was reported in 27 per cent of fatal accidents.

Exceeding the speed limit was reported as a factor in 7 per cent of all accidents, but these accidents involved 18 per cent of fatalities. At least one of exceeding the speed limit and travelling too fast for the conditions was reported in 12 per cent of all accidents and these accidents accounted for 25 per cent of all fatalities.

62 per cent of fatalities in reported road accidents had driver or rider error or reaction (which includes failing to look properly, loss of control and poor turn or manoeuvre) reported as a contributory factor leading to the accident

Source: Department for Transport – Contributory Factors for Reported Road Accidents Tables

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Q11) What percentage of drivers admit to driving when they thought that they might have been over the drink drive limit ?

A11) The levels of drivers who have reported that they have driven whilst over the alcohol limit are drawn from questions asked in the ONS Crime Survey for England and Wales.

In 2019/20, 5.0 per cent of drivers admitted to have driven when they thought they may have been over the legal alcohol limit at least once in the previous 12 months.

This is the lowest figure on record.

[NOTE: The survey that underlines these tables was not conducted in 2020 due to COVID, so the tables have not been updated this year.]

Source: Department for Transport table RAS51101

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Q12) How many casualties occurred when someone was driving whilst over the legal alcohol limit?

A12) Statistics, especially relating to the number of fatalities, are subject to considerable uncertainty but final estimates for 2020 show that between 200 and 240 people were killed in accidents in Great Britain where at least one driver was over the drink-drive limit, with a central estimate of 220 deaths. This represents about 15 per cent of all deaths in reported road collisions in 2020. The final estimate of fatalities for 2020 is broadly in line with the last few years and is not statistically significantly different from 2019.

The prevalence of drink-driving in road deaths has fallen over time. In 1979, 26 per cent of road deaths occurred in collisions where at least one driver or rider was over the drink-drive limit. This had fallen to 15 per cent by 1989. Since then the percentage of road deaths that are drink-drive related has varied between 12 per cent and 18 per cent. In 2020, the rate was 15 per cent.

The central estimate of the number of killed or seriously injured drink-drive casualties in 2020 is 1,490, a decrease of 22 per cent on 2019. This is the lowest level recorded.

The central estimate of the number of drink-drive casualties of all severities in 2020 is 6,480, a fall of 17 per cent from 7,800 compared to 2019. This is the lowest level recorded.

It is estimated that around 6 per cent of all casualties in reported road collisions in 2020 were involved in collisions in which at least one driver or rider was over the drink-drive limit.

There were an estimated 200 fatal drink-drive collisions in 2020 unchanged from 2019.

The total number of drink-drive collisions of all severities fell by 14 per cent from 2019 to 2020 to 4,620, the lowest number recorded. This means that around 5 per cent of all reported road traffic collisions in 2020 involved at least one driver or rider over the legal alcohol limit.

Source: Reported road casualties in Great Britain, final estimates involving illegal alcohol levels: 2020

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Q13) What percentage of drivers admit to driving when they thought that they might have been under the influence of illegal drugs?

A13) The levels of drivers who have reported that they have driven whilst under the influence of illegal drugs are drawn from questions asked in the ONS Crime Survey for England and Wales.

In 2019/20, 0.4 per cent of drivers admitted to have driven when they thought they may have been under the influence of illegal drugs at least once in the previous 12 months.

This is the lowest figure on record (although figures at this level were also reported in 2016/17 and 2017/18.)

[NOTE: The survey that underlines these tables was not conducted in 2020 due to COVID, so the tables have not been updated this year.]

Source: Department for Transport Table RAS51103

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Q14) How many people driving a vehicle for work purposes are involved in road crashes?

A14) According to the HSE “Driving at work: Managing work-related road safety leaflet“, more than a quarter of all road traffic incidents may involve somebody who is driving as part of their work at the time. Indeed, for the majority of people, the most dangerous thing they do whilst at work is drive on the public highway

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.

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Q15) Do young drivers have a high accident rate?

A15) Yes. Young car drivers (17 – 24 year olds) have a higher casualty rate given distance travelled compared to all car drivers. In 2016, the rate for young car drivers was more than three times higher in England than all car drivers.

In 2016, young drivers only accounted for about 7 per cent of all full driving licence holders in Great Britain. Yet in the same year, they were involved in crashes where 25 per cent of all those people killed and seriously injured were hurt. The number of fatal collisions involving at least one young car driver represented 24 per cent of all fatal collisions involving any car driver in 2016.

Source: Department for Transport: Young Car Drivers Road Safety Factsheet

The RAC Foundation has also explored this matter. Our “Young driver licence holding and safety” fact sheet shows that whilst the number of young drivers involved in crashes in which people were killed or seriously hurt has fallen since 2016, 23 per cent of such accidents still involve young drivers.

It is worth noting that these casualties were not necessarily inflicted by a young driver, or directly related to the young driver personally in any way; they simply occurred as a result of a crash in which a young driver was involved.

The Transport Committee has also recently inquired into the higher proportional rates of young and novice drivers in the casualty statistics. A copy of their report, and the government response, may be viewed here.

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Q16) Which areas have the highest young car driver casualties compared to the proportion of all car driver casualties?

A16) The highest relative rates (based on total young car driver casualties per million population as a proportion of all car driver casualties per million population) are 1) Harborough 2) Shetland Islands 3) West Dorset 4) Teignbridge and 5) Moray.

The highest rates occur in rural areas. Rural roads will most likely have higher average speeds than urban roads. Rural roads are often more sinuous and narrow in nature, with blind bends, dips and other distractions.

Source: Department for Transport: Young Car Drivers Road Safety Factsheet

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Q17) What can be done to reduce the number of accidents involving young drivers?

A17) The RAC Foundation believes that in order to reduce the risk exposure that young drivers face, the following proposals should be introduced:-

On learning to drive

  • encourage or mandate an increased amount of on-road supervised experience whilst learning to drive;
  • encourage or mandate learner drivers to practice in a variety of situations that they will experience on the road (such as driving in the dark, on motorways and in different weather conditions);
  • accelerate the introduction of the new practical driving test, which the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency has been trialling, which is widely recognised as providing a more realistic assessment of real-world independent driving; and
  • ensure, as part of the learning to drive process that, road safety education teaches young drivers how to develop self-regulatory plans to reduce driving risk – it is not enough to just teach the physical skills and capabilities needed for driving.

Once qualified

  • encourage young drivers and their parents/guardians to be cautious about taking passengers and driving at night in the first six months after obtaining a full driving licence; and
  • encourage the take up of telematics policies, that continue to provide feedback to the driver as their experience grows

Source: RAC Foundation submission to Petitions Committee and Transport Select Committee Inquiry – Car insurance costs for 18-25 year olds

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Q18) Would a Graduated Driving Licence for young drivers reduce accidents?

A18) 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.

The RAC Foundation has been in the forefront of commissioning work in this area. A report commissioned by the RAC Foundation, and undertaken by the Transport Research Laboratory in 2014 – Graduated Driving Licensing: A regional analysis of potential casualty savings in Great Britain – 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.

In 2018, the RAC Foundation updated the calculations in the 2014 report. The updated estimates showed, using the same methodology as previously, that the potential benefits – in terms of reductions in casualties and collisions – across all four of the possible scenarios tested for would be less now than they would have been in 2014 but still assessed that, depending on the type of GDL system implemented, there could be an expected annual reduction of 281 in the number of casualties killed or seriously injured from collisions involving a 17-19-year-old car driver

However, despite international evidence of its success, some policy makers – including members of parliament sitting on the UK Transport Select Committee – continue to have areas of concerns about GDL including:

  • Whether it reduces access to employment and education
  • Its impact on those in rural areas
  • The difficulty of enforcement
  • Whether there are better alternatives such as telematics insurance which uses black box technology to monitor driving style and behaviour

A new report by TRL – Supporting New Drivers in Great Britain – for the RAC Foundation and the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund shows these worries – and a number of others – are broadly unfounded.

Having conducted a literature review, interviews with young people in Great Britain and interviews with international experts, the authors (Dr Shaun Helman, Dr Neale Kinnear, Jack Hitchings and Dr Sarah Jones) of the study conclude that:- “…serious adverse impacts are not seen or expected in any of the areas considered. This is because all stakeholders (new drivers, and their friends and families; employers; and service providers) were found to adapt to restrictions, with evidence showing that exemptions and changes in travel patterns help people to maintain the most important elements of their mobility, while still benefitting from well-evidenced improvements in safety.”

A full summary table of concerns, current evidence and gaps in the evidence is on page 12 of the report.

Further details can be viewed here.

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Q19) Do older drivers have a higher collision rate compared to middle-aged drivers?

A19) 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.

Source: Driving Choices for the Older Motorist

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Q20) Why do older drivers have collisions? And how do these contributory factors compare to all car drivers?

A20) Older car drivers and all car drivers share the same top 2 contributory factors (CFs). However, these are allocated to a larger proportion of older car drivers, with 42.6 per cent of CFs attributed to older car drivers relating to “driver failed to look properly”, compared to 35.7 per cent for all drivers. For older drivers, 21.1 per cent relate to “driver failed to judge other person’s path or speed”, whilst for all drivers this figure was 17.8 per cent.

“Driver illness or disability, mental or physical” is the fourth most common contributory factor for older car drivers and eighteenth for all drivers. This corresponds to 13.1 per cent of CFs allocated to older car drivers and 2.6 per cent for all drivers.

Specific CFs are allocated disproportionately more to older drivers than all drivers. This includes “dazzling sun” (7.3 per cent of older drivers compared to 3.3 per cent of all drivers), “loss of control” (13.3 per cent older drivers compared to 10.5 per cent for all drivers), and driver nervous, uncertain or panic (3.6 per cent of older drivers compared to 1.4 per cent for all drivers).

Other CFs are allocated disproportionately less to older drivers than all drivers. This includes “driver careless, reckless or in a hurry” (10.2 per cent of older drivers compared to 17.0 per cent for all drivers), “exceeding speed limit” (1.4 per cent of all older drivers compared to 7.4 per cent for all drivers), and “driver impaired by alcohol” (1.3 per cent of older drivers to 6.7 per cent for all drivers).

The Department for Transport has produced a factsheet that gives key statistics for older car drivers (aged 70 and over) involved in police reported road accidents involving personal injury in Great Britain up to 2020. The factsheet can be viewed here.

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Q21) Does the RAC Foundation believe older drivers who 'run' red lights should escape prosecution?

A21) No. In some news stories about the publication in November 2021 of a report by the Older Driver Task Force it was implied that older drivers who run red lights should escape prosecution and attend a fitness to drive assessment instead. The RAC Foundation was associated with this story because it sat on the steering board of the Task Force and also offered a comment on the report.

What the report actually recommended was that older drivers who commit a careless driving offence be assessed for competency. The Crown Prosecution Service lists driving through a red light by mistake as one such offence. The RAC Foundation can see a case for this sort of behaviour resulting in a driving assessment – similar in fashion to a speed awareness course which millions of drivers in the UK have attended over the years – however the Foundation certainly does not advocate such an outcome for anyone who wilfully drives through a red light.

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Q22) Are more children killed on our roads in the summer as opposed to winter?

A22) Contrary to what many people might think, higher numbers of children die on the roads on longer, warmer summer days as opposed to the shorter, colder days of winter.

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.

Source: Child Road Safety in Great Britain: 2010-2014

The RAC Foundation has also published an Information Sheet on Child Road Safety. This can be viewed here.

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Q23) What areas in Great Britain have the highest proportion of child casualties?

A23) The area in Great Britain with the highest proportion of child casualties (2010-14 average) is Blackpool. This is followed by Hyndburn and Blackburn with Darwen.

Source: Average Annual Child Casualties per 10,000 Resident Children, 2010-2014, by Local Authority

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Q24) Are there any plans to extend the date of a vehicle's first MOT from 3 to 4 years?

A24) The Government consulted in 2016 on whether there should be a change to the period of the initial MOT test extending it from three years to four years

The consultation presented three options:

  • No change, maintaining the current period for vehicles requiring a first MOT at three years.
  • Extending the first MOT for all vehicles currently requiring an MOT at three years, to four years.
  • As Option 2, but excluding vans in Classes 4 and 7, where the current MOT three year first test timing would be maintained.

The Government subsequently  announced in 2018 that it had decided not to proceed with the changes proposed to the timing of the first MOT test. However, it also announced that further research will take place in the near future designed to ensure that the MOT test remains robust and appropriate to the evolving needs of the road transport sector.

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Q25) What percentage of Class 3 & 4 vehicles (cars, vans and passenger vehicles with up to 12 seats) failed their initial MoT test in 2021/22?

A25) The MoT test changed on 20 May 2018, with new defect types, stricter rules for diesel car emissions and some vehicles over 40 years old becoming exempt.

In 2021/22, 29.2 per cent of Class 3 & 4 vehicles (cars, vans and passenger vehicles with up to 12 seats) failed their initial MoT test.

MoT testing data for Great Britain can be viewed here.

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Q26) What were the 3 main defects for Class 3 & 4 vehicles (cars, vans and passenger vehicles with up to 12 seats) failing their initial MoT tests in 2021/22?

A26) In 2021/22, the 3 main defects for Class 3 & 4 vehicles (cars, vans and passenger vehicles with up to 12 seats) failing their initial MoT were lamps, reflectors and electrical equipment defects (25,4 per cent of defects), suspension (19.5 per cent of defects) and brakes (16.4 per cent of defects).

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Q27) How is the safety of cars assessed?

A27) The European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) provides consumers with an independent assessment of the safety level of the most popular cars sold in Europe. Euro NCAP was established in 1997 and is comprised of seven European governments as well as motoring and consumer organisations in every European country.

Euro NCAP has created a five-star safety rating system. The safety rating is determined from a series of vehicle tests, designed and carried out by Euro NCAP. These tests represent, in a simplified way, important real-life accident scenarios that could result in injured or killed car occupants or other road users.

The number of stars reflects how well the car performs in Euro NCAP tests, but it is also influenced by what safety equipment the vehicle manufacturer is offering in each market. So a high number of stars shows not only that the test result was good, but also that safety equipment on the tested model is readily available to all consumers in Europe. The star rating goes beyond the legal requirements and not all new vehicles need to undergo Euro NCAP tests. A car that just meets the minimum legal demands would not be eligible for any stars. This also means that a car which is rated poorly is not necessarily unsafe, but it is not as safe as its competitors that were rated better.

Full details can be found on the Euro NCAP website.

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Q28) What is Electronic Stability Control?

A28) 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 also had to have the system fitted.

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Q29) What is Intelligent Speed Assistance?

A29) Intelligent Speed Assistance (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).

A European Transport Safety Council briefing on ISA can be viewed here.

The European Parliament announced in 2019 that – subject to final agreement from the EU Council of Ministers – it will become mandatory from 2022 for all new vehicle models sold in the EU to be fitted with ISA.

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Q30) Does the October clock change lead to an increase in road crashes per day in Great Britain in which someone is hurt?

A30) Work by the RAC Foundation shows that past experience suggests that the October clock change will lead to an increase of some 20 more road crashes per day in Great Britain in which someone is hurt.

Analysis of police data from the past six years shows that in the two weeks after the Autumn clock change there were an average of 278 more personal injury collisions than in the two weeks before the clock change. Three quarters of the extra collisions occur in the afternoons, which will be darker because of the clocks going back one hour.

However, the work also suggests that worsening weather at this time of year could also be a significant factor.

The number of collisions where someone is hurt and the weather is reported to have been ‘adverse’ is seen to rise by a similar proportion to the overall increase in personal injury collisions, though police will not necessarily have recorded poor weather itself as a contributory factor.

The study also shows that after the clocks go forward earlier in the year there is actually a significant fall in personal injury crashes in the morning – down, on average, by 221 in the following two weeks –  even though they will be darker because of the change.

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Q31) Should I refresh my memory of the Highway Code?

A31) 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’.

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Q32) What are the new rules that were introduced into the Highway Code in January 2022?

A32) New rules about the new ‘hierarchy of road users’ have been introduced. The hierarchy places those road users most at risk in the event of a collision at the top of the hierarchy. It does not remove the need for everyone to behave responsibly.

The new rules can be viewed here.

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Q33) How can I stay safe if my car breaks down?

A33) Most breakdowns are avoidable and simple vehicle checks before setting out can help you have a safer journey and significantly reduce the risk of breakdowns.  However, if your vehicle does breakdown you should:-

  • move your vehicle off the road to a safe place if possible
  • turn on your hazard warning lights to alert other motorists that you have stopped. If visibility is poor, for example if it’s foggy or dark, you should put your sidelights on too
  • help other road users see you by wearing light-coloured or fluorescent clothing in daylight and reflective clothing at night or in poor visibility
  • if possible, get out of the car. Staying inside a vehicle when there is fast-moving traffic passing close by is extremely dangerous. Never leave the vehicle via the driver’s door but instead leave the vehicle by the left-hand door and ensure your passengers do the same
  • put a warning triangle on the road at least 45 metres (147 feet) behind your broken-down vehicle on the same side of the road, or use other permitted warning devices if you have them. NEVER use a warning triangle on motorways
  • stand well away from the traffic. Ideally, you should stand as far away from your vehicle and the oncoming traffic as possible. If you can, get behind the safety barrier
  • call for assistance

Breaking down on a motorway

If your vehicle has a problem on a motorway with no hard shoulder:

  • move into the left hand lane and put your hazard lights on
  • exit at the next junction or services OR
  • follow the orange SOS signs to an emergency area and call for help using the free telephone. This will tell us your location

If you can’t get off the motorway or to an emergency area:

  • move your vehicle as close as possible to the left-hand verge, boundary or slip road
  • if you feel you can get out safely with any occupants, consider exiting your vehicle via the left-hand door, and wait behind the safety barrier if there is one and it is safe to do so. Keep clear of your vehicle and moving traffic at all times
  • call 999 immediately

If your car stops unexpectedly in any lane and it is not safe to get out:

  • keep your seatbelts and hazard lights on and call 999 immediately
  • The Highways Agency will close the lane and send help

If there is a hard shoulder on a motorway, you can use it to stop in an emergency only. If you can, get behind the safety barrier and away from your vehicle and moving traffic. Use the free SOS phone or call Highways England on 0300 123 5000 for help.

Do not put out a warning triangle in any circumstances.

If you don’t have breakdown cover already, now might be the time to consider it.

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Q34) Should I drive when tired?

A34) No. Research suggests that almost 20 per cent of accidents on major roads are sleep-related. Such accidents are also more likely to result in a fatality or serious injury.

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.

The Highway Code (Rule 91) gives the following advice:-

Driving when you are tired greatly increases your risk of collision. To minimise this risk:-

  • make sure you are fit to drive. Do not begin a journey if you are tired. Get a good night’s sleep before embarking on a long journey
  • avoid undertaking long journeys between midnight and 6 am, when natural alertness is at a minimum
  • plan your journey to take sufficient breaks. A minimum break of at least 15 minutes after every two hours of driving is recommended
  • if you feel at all sleepy, stop in a safe place. Do not stop on the hard shoulder of a motorway
  • the most effective ways to counter sleepiness are to drink, for example, two cups of caffeinated coffee and to take a short nap (at least 15 minutes)

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.

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Q35) How can I drive safely in wintry conditions?

A35) The RAC has a lot of helpful advice on its website about preparing for wintry conditions and how to drive safely in those conditions.

The advice can be viewed here.

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