A1) 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.
A2) Final statistics for 2020 show:-
- an estimated 1,460 reported road deaths in 2020, a decrease of 17 per cent from the previous year. This period includes a total of 4 months of national lockdown (April to June and November)
- an estimated 23,529 killed or seriously injured casualties in 2020, a decrease of 22 per cent compared to the same period in 2019
- 115,584 casualties of all severities in 2020, down by 25 per cent from 2019
- the reduction in road traffic followed a similar trend in the same period and decreased by 21 per cent.
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.
Latest figures show there were an estimated 1,390 reported road deaths in the year ending June 2021. This period was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and included a total of 4 months of national lockdown (November 2020 and January to March 2021).
This represents a decrease of 11 per cent compared to the same period in 2020. Both periods include national lockdowns which makes direct comparisons harder to draw. An even greater decrease of 22 per cent is seen when comparing 2021 to the 3 year rolling average for 2017 to 2019 (prior to the pandemic).
There were an estimated 24,530 casualties killed or seriously injured in the year ending June 2021, a decrease of 6 per cent compared to the year ending June 2020. There was a decrease of 22 per cent compared to the 3 rolling year average for 2017 to 2019.
There were 119,850 casualties of all severities in the year ending June 2021, down by 9 per cent from the year ending June 2020. There was a decrease of 28 per cent from the 3 rolling year average for 2017 to 2019. The reduction in total casualties is greater than the reduction in traffic which decreased by 5 per cent from the year ending June 2020.
A3) Child fatalities (those aged 0-16 years) increased in 2020 compared to 2019. In 2020, there were 52 child fatalities, an increase of 3 from 49 deaths in 2019.
A4) The number of young people aged 17 to 24 killed in reported road traffic accidents decreased in 2020 compared to 2019. In 2020, there were 207 fatalities of young people, a decrease of 41 from 248 deaths in 2019.
A5) The number of older people (aged over 60) killed in reported road traffic accidents decreased in 2020 compared to 2019. In 2020, there were 435 fatalities of older people, a decrease of 203 from 638 deaths in 2019.
A6) 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 fourth lowest figure in 2020 with 24.4 deaths per million inhabitants. This figure was bettered by only Norway (17.3 deaths per million inhabitants), Sweden (19.8 deaths per million inhabitants) and Malta (23.3 deaths per million inhabitants.)
International road accidents tables, produced by the Department for Transport can also be viewed here.
A7) 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 2020, there was also a shift in travel behaviours due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which varied by transport mode. The National Travel Attitudes Study reported 79 per cent of survey respondents used buses less when comparing travel before and during the pandemic. For the same period, 34 per cent of pre-pandemic cyclists reported they were cycling more.
In 2020, car occupants accounted for 42 per cent of road deaths, pedestrians 24 per cent, pedal cyclists 9.7 per cent and motorcyclists 19.5 per cent.
- The number of car occupant fatalities was 618, down by 16 per cent from 736 in 2019.
- The number of pedestrian deaths was 346, down by 26 per cent from 470 in 2019.
- The number of pedal cyclists killed was 141, up by 41 per cent from 100 in 2019.
- The number of motorcycle users killed was 285, down by 15 per cent from 336 in 2019.
- Other fatalities (such as bus and coach occupants and goods vehicles occupants) totalled 70, down from 112 in the previous year.
A8) In 2020, 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 19 per cent of traffic, they only accounted for 5 per cent of fatalities in 2020. The number of people killed on motorways in 2020 was 79, lower than the 105 killed in 2019.
A9) 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.
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.
A10) 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.
A £100 million Safer Roads Fund has also been established following a successful pathfinder programme delivered by Road Safety Foundation and commissioned and financially supported by the RAC Foundation and the Department for Transport (DfT).
The Safer Roads Fund programme focused on treating the 50 highest risk local A road sections in England with remedial road safety engineering interventions. Together the Safer Roads Fund schemes are set to prevent around 1,450 fatal and serious injuries over the next 20 years.
Further details can be viewed here.
A11) 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.
A12) The Crashmap website logs the location and date of incidents reported to the police.
A13) Failed to look properly was the most frequently reported contributory factor and was reported in 36 per cent of all accidents reported to the police in 2020. 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 17 per cent of fatalities. At least one of exceeding the speed limit and travelling too fast for the conditions was reported in 13 per cent of all accidents and these accidents accounted for 27 per cent of all fatalities.
59 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
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: The survey that underlines these tables was not conducted in 2020 due to COVID, so the tables have not been updated this year.]
A15) Statistics, especially relating to the number of fatalities, are subject to considerable uncertainty but the final central estimate of the number of deaths in accidents with at least 1 driver over the alcohol limit for 2019 is 230. This represents about 13 per cent of all deaths in reported road accidents in 2019. The central estimate for 2019 is lower than the final figure for 2018, but the decrease is not statistically significant.
The prevalence of drink-driving in road deaths has fallen over time. In 1979, 26 per cent of road deaths occurred in accidents 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
The central estimate of the number of killed or seriously injured drink-drive casualties in 2019 is 2,050, an increase of 8 per cent on 2018. This is the highest level since 2011.
The central estimate of the number of drink-drive casualties of all severities in 2019 is 7,800, a fall of 10 per cent from 8,680 compared to 2018. This is the lowest level recorded.
It is estimated that around 5 per cent of all casualties in reported road accidents in 2019 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 2019 unchanged from 2018.
The total number of drink-drive accidents of all severities fell by 9 per cent from 2018 to 2019 to 5,350, to the lowest number recorded. This means that around 5 per cent of all reported road traffic accidents in 2019 involved at least 1 driver or rider over the legal alcohol limit.
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: The survey that underlines these tables was not conducted in 2020 due to COVID, so the tables have not been updated this year.]
A17) 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.
A18) 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.
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 Select Committee’s Inquiry into Young and Novice Drivers is currently scrutinising the Government’s actions to reduce the risks of young drivers being involved in a road traffic collision and is examining potential policy options to improve road safety.
A19) 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.
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) 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 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
In its 2019 Road Safety Statement, the government made a commitment to “commission research to explore the social and economic consequences of introducing Graduated Driving Licence.” However, despite international evidence of its success the Department for Transport announced that it will not be pursuing graduated driver licensing (GDL) as a way of cutting young driver deaths.
Addressing a hearing of the Transport Select Committee Baroness Vere said though “it was under consideration for a while we are not taking it further forward at the moment, and also particularly because of the coronavirus pandemic and the impact on young people’s employment.”
Source: RAC Foundation
A22) 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.
A23) 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.
A24) 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.
A25) 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.
A26) 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 2019/20, 31.6 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.
A27) In 2019/20, 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 (27.1 per cent of defects), suspension (17.9 per cent of defects) and brakes (16.8 per cent of defects).
A28) New cars are rated by the independent European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) which was established in 1997 and has the current backing of seven European governments and the European Commission, as well as motoring and consumer organisations in every European country.
Vehicles made before 2009 were given three separate star ratings, to indicate how they performed in a crash when it came to adult occupant protection, child occupant protection and pedestrian protection.
From 2009 all vehicles now receive a single star rating (out of five) which encompasses the three existing test areas, plus a fourth area – additional technologies designed to promote safe driving. This includes such technology as Electronic Stability Control and speed limiters.
The Euro NCAP site contains a wealth of information about cars’ comparative safety.
A29) Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is a system that when it detects a loss of steering control, automatically applies the brakes to help manoeuvre the vehicle where the driver intends to go. Braking is automatically applied to individual wheels depending on the situation. It significantly reduces the risk of a vehicle sliding if a bend is taken too fast or skidding during a sudden emergency manoeuvre.
ESC normally consists of the electronic systems of traction control and ABS using several sensors such as steering wheel angle sensor, yaw rate sensor, lateral acceleration sensor and wheel speed sensor to monitor the vehicle’s direction of travel and the driver’s intended course. ESC cannot be retrofitted and needs to be fitted before sale.
From 1 November 2011 all new type approved vehicles were required to have ESC fitted as standard and from 1 November 2014, all newly-registered vehicles also had to have the system fitted.
A30) 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.
A31) 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.
A32) Yes. Knowing and applying the rules contained in The Highway Code could significantly reduce road casualties. Cutting the number of deaths and injuries that occur on our roads every day is a responsibility we all share. The Highway Code can help us discharge that responsibility.
Many of the rules in the Code are legal requirements, and if you disobey these rules you are committing a criminal offence. You may be fined, given penalty points on your licence or be disqualified from driving. In the most serious cases you may be sent to prison. Such rules are identified by the use of the words ‘MUST/MUST NOT’.
Although failure to comply with the other rules of the Code will not, in itself, cause a person to be prosecuted, The Highway Code may be used in evidence in any court proceedings under the Traffic Acts (see ‘The road user and the law’) to establish liability. This includes rules which use advisory wording such as ‘should/should not’ or ‘do/do not’.
A33) 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.
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.
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.