A1) A total of 1,784 people were killed in reported road traffic accidents in Great Britain in 2018, a similar number to the 1,793 deaths reported in 2017. This figure is also similar to the level of fatalities seen since 2012, which followed a period of substantial reduction in fatalities from 2006 to 2010.
There were also 25,511 seriously injured casualties and 133,302 slightly injured casualties in 2018 in reported road traffic accidents. These figures are as reported to the police and are not comparable to earlier years due to changes in severity reporting.
In total, there were 160,597 casualties of all severities in reported road traffic accidents in 2018. This is 6 per cent lower than in 2017 and is the lowest level on record. However, this figure should be interpreted with caution for two reasons. Firstly, it has long been known that non-fatal (and particularly slight) casualties are underreported to the police and therefore this figure is likely to be an underestimate of the total; and secondly, the introduction of online self-reporting by the Metropolitan Police Service at the end of 2016 and a few other forces in 2018 is likely to have led to an increase in the number of non-fatal (and particularly slight) casualties reported in these forces which impact the total for Great Britain.
Latest figures show that in the year ending June 2019, there were 1,870 reported road fatalities, a 4 per cent increase from 1,794 in the previous year.
There were 27,820 people killed or seriously injured reported to the police in the year ending June 2019. This compares to 26,724 in the year ending June 2018.
There were 157,630 casualties of all severities in the year ending June 2019, down by 5 per cent from the previous year.
The overall casualty rate per vehicle mile decreased by 5 per cent over the same period.
A2) Historically, and still currently, car occupants account for the greatest number of casualties each year (59 per cent of total casualties and 44 per cent of total fatalities in 2018). This is 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 2018, car occupants accounted for 44 per cent of road deaths, pedestrians 26 per cent, pedal cyclists 6 per cent and motorcyclists 20 per cent. The number of car occupant fatalities was 777, down by 1 per cent from 787 in 2017; the number of pedestrian deaths was 456, down 3 per cent from 470 in 2017; the number of pedal cyclists killed was 99, slightly lower than the 101 killed in 2017; and the number of motorcycle users killed was 354, up 1 per cent from 349 in 2017.
A3) Yes. While the general trend has been downwards, this has masked big national and regional variations.
A report published by the RAC Foundation and PACTS in 2015 showed 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) 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 deaths per million inhabitants, the UK came fourth with Ireland in 2019, with both countries having 29 deaths per million inhabitants. This figure was bettered by only Norway (20 deaths per million inhabitants) and Switzerland and Sweden (both having 22 deaths per million inhabitants).
International road accidents tables, produced by the Department for Transport can also be viewed here.
A5) In 2018, the majority of casualties (63 per cent) occurred on built-up roads. However, the majority of fatalities (58 per cent) 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 21 per cent of traffic, they only accounted for 6 per cent of fatalities in 2018. However, the number of people killed on motorways in 2018 rose by 8 per cent to 107.
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 2019 results, showing how safe you are on British roads, can be seen here. The report identifies that road users are almost 40 times as likely to be involved in a fatal or serious crash on roads identified as high risk than on low risk roads. 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.
The road at the top of this year’s list of high risk roads is the A5004 in Derbyshire.
Guidelines drawn up by the Road Safety Foundation, supported by the RAC Foundation and the Department for Transport, advise road authorities on how to manage road crash risk on busy regional roads. The document provides a step-by-step guide on how to use Risk Mapping and Star Rating to identify high-risk roads and then develop treatment plans that will reduce their risk.
A7) 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.
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 40 per cent of all accidents reported to the police in 2018. For fatal accidents, the most frequently reported contributory factor was again failed to look properly. This was reported in 26 per cent of fatal accidents.
For accidents where a pedestrian was injured or killed, pedestrian failed to look properly was reported in 49 per cent of accidents and pedestrian careless, reckless or in a hurry was reported in 16 per cent of accidents.
Exceeding the speed limit was reported as a factor in 6 per cent of all accidents, but these accidents involved 12 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 21 per cent of all fatalities.
63 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.
A10) The total value of prevention of reported road accidents in 2018 was estimated to be around £16bn. 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 also includes an estimate of the cost of damage only accidents.
Additionally, it is also estimated that the total value of prevention of unreported casualties is around £19bn a year. This gives a total estimate for all reported and unreported accidents of around £36bn per year.
A11) The provisional central estimate of the number of deaths in accidents with at least one driver over the alcohol limit for 2018 is 240. This represents about 13 per cent of all deaths in reported road accidents in 2018. The central estimate for 2018 is lower than the final figure for 2017, but the decrease is not considered statistically significant.
The central estimate of the number of drink-drive casualties of all severities in 2018 is 8,700, an increase of 1 per cent on 2017. This is 4 per cent lower than the number in 2016. It is provisionally estimated that around 5 per cent of all casualties in reported road accidents in 2018 were involved in accidents in which at least one driver or rider was over the drink-drive limit.
There were an estimated 210 fatal drink-drive accidents in 2018. This is a decrease from 220 in 2017 and the lowest level since 2015, but the reduction from 2017 is not considered statistically significant.
The total number of drink-drive accidents of all severities rose by 4 per cent from 2017 to 2018 to 5,900, but is still 3 per cent below the level seen in 2016. This means that around 5 per cent of all reported road traffic accidents in 2018 involved at least one driver/rider over the legal alcohol limit.
A12) The levels of drivers who have reported that they have driven either whilst over the alcohol limit and/or whilst under the influence of illegal drugs are drawn from questions asked in the Crime Survey for England and Wales.
Around 7.6 per cent of drivers in 2015/16 said that they believed they had driven whilst over the legal alcohol limit at least once in the last 12 months. This proportion is up from 6.2 per cent in 2014/15.
Around 0.6 per cent of drivers admitted to driving whilst under the influence of illegal drugs in the last 12 months. This figure has remained broadly unchanged since 2011/12.
A13) 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.
A14) Yes. In 2016, young drivers (16-24 year olds) 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.
In 2016, there were 448 fatalities in collisions involving at least one young driver, roughly a quarter of all reported road fatalities. Young drivers themselves accounted for 40 per cent (180) of these fatalities and the passengers in their cars a further 20 per cent (88).
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.
Source: RAC Foundation using the MAST Online tool developed by Road Safety Analysis.
A15) In 2016, 273 teenage car passengers were killed or seriously injured when the young driver (17-19) they were travelling with was involved in a crash.
This is more than five each week.
When casualties of all severities are included, the annual figure rose to 1,911 or around 37 each week.
The data also shows that of all teenage car passengers killed or seriously injured over this period:
- 47 per cent were passengers in cars driven by 17-19 year-olds (1.5 per cent of all full licence holders)
- 19 per cent were passengers in cars driven by 20-24 year-olds (5. 5 per cent of all full licence holders)
- 33 per cent were passengers in cars driven by drivers aged 25 and over (93 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
Source: RAC Foundation using the MAST Online tool developed by Road Safety Analysis.
A16) Between 2013 and 2016, the region with the largest proportion of casualties resulting from collisions involving 17-19 car drivers were Cumbria and Grampian (11.4 per cent each) followed by Dyfed-Powys (10.9 per cent), Central Scotland and Durham (10.7 per cent each). The region with the smallest proportion was London (2.8 per cent).
Source: RAC Foundation using the MAST Online tool developed by Road Safety Analysis.
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.
- 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
The Foundation’s fact sheet on Young Driver Safety can be viewed here.
A18) 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 in 2014 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 February 2018, the Prime Minister pledged to explore the introduction of a graduated licensing scheme for young drivers.
Mrs May was responding to Jenny Chapman, the Labour MP for Darlington, who asked her during Prime Minister’s Question’s whether she “would consider the introduction of a graduated licensing system for the UK as they have in other countries?”
Mrs May said: “I will certainly look at the request she has made and I will also ask the Department for Transport to look at this as an issue.”
Given this renewed focus on Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL), the RAC Foundation has used the latest available road safety data to update previous estimates, published in 2014, of the potential casualty and collision reductions GDL might bring.
This updated analysis uses the same method developed and outlined in the previous report. It assesses the potential gains to be had from a range of typical graduated licensing components used either singularly or combined.
The updated estimates show, 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.
The new analysis does not go beyond updating the figures. The RAC Foundation has not sought to explain the changes in figures though they could be related to factors such as: safer vehicles, lower mileage rates amongst young drivers or behaviour change caused by greater use of telematics insurance.
Further study is required to understand the underlying trends behind this change and the RAC Foundation will continue to conduct research into the general topic of young driver safety.
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.
A20) 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.
The RAC Foundation has also published an Information Sheet on Child Road Safety. This can be viewed here.
A21) 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.
A22) 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.
A23) 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.
From 20 May 2018 to 31 March 2019, 33.4 per cent of Class 3 & 4 vehicles (cars, vans and passenger vehicles with up to 12 seats) failed their initial MoT test.
Full details of the MoT tests carried out in 2018/19 can be viewed here.
A24) From 20 May 2018 to 31 March 2019, the 3 main defects for Class 3 & 4 vehicles (cars, vans and passenger vehicles with up to 12 seats) failing their initial MoT were lighting and signalling defects (26.7 per cent of defects), suspension (18.3 per cent of defects) and brakes (17.0 per cent of defects).
A25) 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.
A26) 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.
A27) 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 has just announced 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.
A28) 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.
A29) 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’.
A30) 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.
A31) 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.
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.