A1) In reported road collisions in Great Britain in 2022 there were an estimated:-
- 1,711 fatalities, a decline of 2 per cent compared to 2019
- 29,742 killed or seriously injured (KSI) casualties, a decline of 3 per cent compared to 2019
- 135,480 casualties of all severities, a decline of 12 per cent compared to 2019
Trends in road casualties are affected by a wide range of factors, with 2020 and 2021 being impacted by COVID-19. So whilst there is an increase in casualty numbers between 2021 and 2022, this is due to the impact of national restrictions on 2021 casualty numbers.
In the decade prior to the pandemic in 2020, fatalities had been broadly stable. 2022 broadly shows a return to pre-pandemic trends.
Casualty counts are also impacted by traffic levels with casualty trends following a broadly similar pattern to motor traffic (in terms of billion vehicle miles) during periods of national COVID-19 lockdown. In 2022, there were 328 billion vehicle miles travelled, down 4 per cent compared to 2019.
It should be noted that there is no obligation for people to report all personal injury collisions to the police. It has long been known that non-fatal (and particularly slight) casualties are under-reported to the police as hospital, survey and compensation claims data all indicate a higher number of casualties than those recorded in police collision data. These figures, therefore, do not represent the full range of all collisions or casualties in Great Britain.
Latest figures show that in reported road collisions in Great Britain in the year ending June 2023 there were an estimated:-
- 1,633 fatalities, a decline of 9 per cent compared to the year ending June 2022
- 29,429 killed or seriously injured (KSI) casualties, a decline of 1 per cent compared to the year ending June 2022
- 133,443 casualties of all severities, a decline of 3 per cent compared to the year ending June 2022
In the year ending June 2023, 45 per cent of fatalities were car occupants, 24 per cent were pedestrians, 20 per cent were motorcyclists and 5 per cent were pedal cyclists. Of these 4 road user types, compared to the year ending June 2022:-
- the biggest percentage change was for pedal cyclist fatalities, which showed a decline of 22 per cent
- car occupant fatalities showed a decline of 8 per cent
- motorcyclist fatalities showed a decline of 9 per cent
- pedestrian fatalities showed a decline of 7 per cent
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, both the UK and Denmark had the equal third lowest figure in 2022 with 26 deaths per million inhabitants. Norway led the way with 21 deaths per million inhabitants, followed by Sweden with 22 deaths per million inhabitants.
A3) Information about worldwide comparisons can be seen in the International Traffic Safety Data and Analysis Group (IRTAD) report for worldwide countries.
A copy of their 2023 report can be viewed here.
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.
A4) Overall, in 2022:-
- 76 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 casualties were aged 16 years old and under
- 25 per cent of fatalities and 29 per cent of casualties were aged 17 to 29 years old
- 23 per cent of fatalities and 7 per cent of casualties were aged 70 years old and over
A5) Yes, for England as a whole a higher proportion of road casualties live in areas of high deprivation than low deprivation, as measured by the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD).
The last 5 years show broadly similar patterns and these patterns do not appear to have been greatly influenced by COVID-19 though the gap between the proportion of casualties in the most and least deprived areas has grown slightly.
The relationship between casualties and deprivation varies by road user group and age group, with a greater disparity between most and least deprived deciles for younger pedestrians and pedal cyclists in particular.
A6) 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 2022, 44 per cent of fatalities were car occupants, 22 per cent were pedestrians, 20 per cent were motorcyclists and 5 per cent were pedal cyclists.
- The number of car occupant fatalities was 788, up by 7 per cent from 736 in 2019
- The number of pedestrian deaths was 385, down by 18 per cent from 470 in 2019
- The number of pedal cyclists killed was 91, down by 9 per cent from 100 in 2019
- The number of motorcycle users killed was 350, up by 4 per cent from 336 in 2019
- Other fatalities (such as bus and coach occupants, goods vehicles occupants and e-scooter riders) totalled 97
A7) Based on final data, in 2022:-
- there were 1,402 collisions involving e-scooters, compared to 1,352 in 2021
- of all collisions involving e-scooters, 341 included only one e-scooter with no other vehicles involved in the collision (single vehicle collision), compared to 324 in 2021
- there were 1,492 casualties in collisions involving e-scooters, compared to 1,434 in 2021
- of all casualties in collisions involving e-scooters, 1,149 were e-scooter users, compared to 1,102 in 2021
- there were 12 people killed in collisions involving e-scooters (11 of whom were e-scooter riders) compared to 10 in 2021
- our best estimate, after adjusting for changes in reporting by police, is that there were 440 people seriously injured and 1,040 people slightly injured in collisions involving e-scooters, this compares to 418 and 1,006 respectively in 2021
Latest figures are based on provisional data. Several police forces were unable to supply complete data for some months in 2023. As no estimation is made for any missing data, these provisional estimates are likely to underestimate the final number of e-scooter collisions and casualties for the latest year.
Against that proviso, latest figures show that for the year ending June 2023:-
- there were 1,269 collisions involving e-scooters, compared to 1,462 in year ending June 2022
- of all collisions involving e-scooters, 276 included only one e-scooter with no other vehicles involved in the collision (single vehicle collision), compared to 364 in year ending June 2022
- there were 1,355 casualties in collisions involving e-scooters, compared to 1,552 in year ending June 2022
- of all casualties in collisions involving e-scooters, 1,077 were e-scooter users, compared to 1,188 in year ending June 2022
- there were 7 killed in collisions involving e-scooters (7 of whom were e-scooter riders) compared to 12 in year ending June 2022
- our best estimate, after adjusting for changes in reporting by police, is that there were 390 seriously injured and 958 slightly injured in collisions involving e-scooters, this compares to 456 and 1,084 respectively in year ending June 2022
A8) In 2022, the majority of all 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 account for 21 per cent of road traffic, they account for a much smaller proportion of road fatalities (6 per cent) and casualties (4 per cent). (The number of people killed on motorways in 2022 was 100, lower than the 103 killed in 2021). By contrast, rural road fatalities (59 per cent) are over represented compared to the proportion of rural road traffic (44 per cent). Similarly, urban roads account for a much higher proportion of road casualties (63 per cent) than their relative traffic level (35 per cent).
A9) The International 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 GB Crash Risk Mapping Report 2023 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.
In addition, a report for the RAC Foundation – Driven by information revisited – has highlighted how data collected from connected vehicles can be used to help identify dangerous stretches of road before anyone is killed or seriously injured on them. (Connected vehicles are ones which can “generate, transmit and receive/process data.”)
Trials are already being run where connected vehicles generate data about extreme driving manoeuvres – such as harsh braking – accurately geolocated to particular points on the road network. This allows highway engineers the potential to look at those locations where there are early indications of emergency manoeuvres and identify the cause. Crucially, resources could then be targeted on maintaining the road or changing its layout before a serious crash occurs.
Further details can be viewed here.
A10) Yes. 59 per cent of all fatalities occurred on rural roads in 2022.
About three people die each day on average on rural roads and the number of people killed on country roads was more than 10 times higher than on motorways in 2022.
Rural roads are dangerous for all road users. Many rural roads are narrow, with blind bends and brows and limited safe places to pass. They often do not have pavements yet are frequently used by some of the most vulnerable road users such as people riding or walking. Traffic can often include vehicles travelling at a wide variety of speeds, including slow-moving farm vehicles. There may also be animals, spillages or tree branches in the carriageway.
Advice on driving safely on rural roads can be viewed here.
A11) The Crashmap website logs the location and date of incidents reported to the police.
A12) Contributory factors provide some insight into why and how road collisions occur. They are designed to give insight into the key actions and failures that led directly to the actual impact to aid investigation of how collisions might be prevented.
Failed to look properly was the most frequently reported contributory factor and was reported in 34 per cent of all accidents reported to the police in 2021. For fatal accidents, the most frequently reported contributory factor was loss of control. This was reported in 24.4 per cent of fatal accidents. Failed to look properly was the second most reported contributory factor, reported in 22.3 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 nearly 20 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 about 28 per cent of all fatalities.
56 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
A13) In 2022, about 21 per cent of all car occupant fatalities were not wearing seatbelts. This proportion was higher for male car occupant fatalities and occupants travelling in the evening and night (6pm to 8am).
A14) 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: These figures are the latest that are available.]
A15) Statistics, especially relating to the number of fatalities, are subject to considerable uncertainty but estimates for 2021 show that between 240 and 280 people were killed in collisions in Great Britain where at least one driver was over the drink-drive limit, with a central estimate of 260 deaths. This represents about 17 per cent of all deaths in reported road collisions in 2021.
The central estimate of fatalities for 2021 is the highest level since 2009, with a statistically significant increase compared to the previous year. However, the increase from years before the COVID-19 pandemic is smaller. This means while we can be confident that there has been an increase in drink-drive casualties between 2020 and 2021, we are less confident that the change compared to pre-pandemic years is not due to uncertainty in the estimation method.
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 2021, the rate was 17 per cent.
The central estimate of the number of killed or seriously injured drink-drive casualties in 2021 is 1,880, an increase of 23 per cent on 2020. This figure is higher than 2020 but lower than 2019.
The central estimate of the number of drink-drive casualties of all severities in 2021 is 6,740, an increase of 4 per cent from 6,450 in 2020 and the second lowest figure recorded since 1979.
It is estimated that around 5 per cent of all casualties in reported road collisions in 2021 were involved in collisions in which at least one driver or rider was over the drink-drive limit.
There were an estimated 240 fatal drink-drive collisions in 2021, the highest level since 2009.
The total number of drink-drive collisions of all severities represents an increase of 1 per cent from 2020 to 2021 to 4,660. This means that around 5 per cent of all reported road traffic collisions in 2021 involved at least one driver or rider over the legal alcohol limit.
In 1979, 8 per cent of reported road collisions were drink-drive related. This fell to 5 per cent by 1990 and has generally been around 5 per cent since then.
A16) 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: These figures are the latest that are available.]
A17) There is a high level of risk associated with occupational driving and it is widely accepted that for most workers, driving is one of the riskiest activities undertaken as part of work. Research has highlighted that in Great Britain about 1 in 3 road deaths, 1 in 5 seriously injured casualties and 1 in 4 casualties of all severities are sustained when someone is driving for work
The guidance from the Health and Safety Executive on driving and riding safely at work can be viewed here.
A18) Yes. Overall, in 2022, around a fifth of all killed or seriously injured (KSI) casualties from collisions involving cars were in collisions which involved a young car driver (17 – 24 year olds.)
Young male car drivers aged 17 to 24 are 4 times as likely to be killed or seriously injured compared with all car drivers aged 25 or over.
Younger car drivers also account for a relatively large proportion of fatalities in both car driver fatalities and fatalities in collisions involving cars. In 2022, 19 per cent of all car driver fatalities were younger car drivers and 24 per cent of fatalities from collisions involving a car driver were from a collision involving at least one younger car driver.
Full details, including time of day of collisions and the types of road the collisions take place on, can be viewed in the following factsheet.
The Transport Committee has also 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.
A19) In previous research, the Department for Transport identified 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) were in 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.
A20) 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.
- 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
A21) 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.
A22) Yes. Overall, in 2022, around a quarter of all car drivers killed were older drivers, with 11 per cent of all casualties in car collisions being in collisions involving older drivers (defined as 70 or over).
There is also an increased casualty rate for those aged over 70 years old, particularly for those aged over 80 years old, when car driver casualties per billion miles driven are compared.
An overview and key statistics on older car drivers involved in road collisions in Great Britain, as reported by the police, including the main trends and characteristics of collisions can be viewed in the following factsheet.
A23) Table 8 contained in the Department for Transport’s factsheet on older drivers shows the 10 most common contributory factors that have been allocated to older car drivers that were involved in fatal or serious collisions (between 2017 and 2022). This is displayed as a proportion of all vehicles driven by older car drivers. These proportions are contrasted to the equivalent figures for vehicles driven by other aged car drivers.
“Failed to look properly” was the most common contributory factor assigned to both older car drivers and other car drivers. Where older car drivers differ is that second most common factor was “driver or rider failed to judge other person`s path or speed.” For other car drivers this contributory factor is ranked third.
“Driver illness or disability, mental or physical” corresponds to 11 per cent of contributory factors allocated to older car drivers but only 2 per cent for all drivers.
A24) 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.
A25) 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.
A26) 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.
A27) No. The Department for Transport had consulted about amending the date of the first MOT for cars, vans and motorcycles from 3 to 4 years, as well as areas that could be considered for reform in the future. However, given the significant concerns about road safety that were raised, and that any potential savings made by motorists would be limited by the additional cost of potential defects not identified at the MOT, the government has announced that it does not intend to proceed in changing the date of a vehicle’s first MOT. This will remain at 3 years from registration and annually thereafter.
However, in order to ensure MOTs remain fit for the future, the government will further investigate a more effective test for diesel particulate emissions, whether further improvements could be made to the MOT for electric vehicles and the transfer of some larger zero-emissions vans to more standard, car-style MOT testing.
A28) In 2022/23, 28.38 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.
A29) In 2022/23, 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 (25.8 per cent of defects), suspension (19.0 per cent of defects) and brakes (16.0 per cent of defects).
A30) 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.
A31) 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.
From July 2022, ISA has been required to be fitted in new models/types of vehicles introduced on the market in the EU and several other countries. From July 2024 it will be mandatory for all newly registered vehicles in the EU to have ISA.
A32) 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.
A33) 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’.
A34) 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.
A35) 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, or you get into trouble on a motorway, stay calm and try to exit at the next junction or motorway service area. If that’s not possible:
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
- leave at the next junction or service area if you can
- follow the orange SOS signs to an emergency area and call for help using the free telephone. This will tell National highways 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 or press your eCall SOS button if your vehicle has one
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 or press your eCall SOS button if your vehicle has one
- 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.
National Highways advice on what to do in an emergency on a motorway can be viewed here.
If you don’t have breakdown cover already, now might be the time to consider it.
A36) Since April 2018, most cars and vans have been fitted with an emergency call system, known as eCall. This built-in safety feature is automatically activated in the event of an incident when the airbags are deployed. It can also be manually activated by the driver or passenger by pressing a button – this button is known as eCall SOS.
The eCall SOS button can be found in the ceiling console by the internal rear-view mirror, behind a pop-out hatch or on the centre console. (Please refer to your vehicle manual, your car manufacturer or authorised dealership.)
Some vehicles also have a breakdown call button. This button is also known as ‘bCall’ and connects you to the National Highways breakdown service.
When eCall is activated, the system transmits your vehicle location whilst contacting a 999 operator. The 999 operator will automatically receive your vehicle details including your location and direction of travel. Through your vehicle’s speaker system, they will then ask for further information to establish the nature of the emergency. The emergency services can then, if necessary, alert National Highways so they can close motorway lanes and send other help as required, such as a traffic officer.
If you have stopped in a live traffic lane and require emergency services, use eCall. If you have broken down and can leave your vehicle safely, do not use the emergency call system or press the eCall button. (eCall must only be used in an emergency requiring the police, fire service or an ambulance.) Instead, press your bCall button or use your phone to call for breakdown recovery or roadside assistance.
If the emergency call system fails to work when you press the eCall SOS button, use your phone to call 999 for help.
Full details of the eCall SOS safety feature may be found here.
A37) 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 in an emergency area or on a 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, however, that 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.
A38) Do not panic should you hear a siren or see blue lights coming.
Some simple advice on what you should do if you come across a blue light vehicle en route to an emergency is contained in a short video – “Blue Light Aware” – that has been produced on behalf of the emergency services. The video can be viewed here.
As well as the main video, there are also 10 short animations covering situations where drivers can get confused, from smart motorways to dealing with emergency vehicles at red traffic lights.
A39) The advice given by Network Rail is:-
- Be prepared to stop at the crossing
- Understand the warnings (lights, barriers, alarms)
- If the warnings activate, stop – unless it is unsafe to do so
- Remain stationary until all the warnings stop
- Check that your exit is clear before driving across
Full details of how to use a level crossing safely can be viewed in this leaflet.
A40) 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.