We all know that car accidents happen, but most of us consider them events or scenarios that affect other people. No driver ever thinks that they’ll end up on the hard shoulder surrounded by flashing blue lights. In reality, anybody could be involved in a road collision. It’s not always possible to prevent accidents, but around 90% of incidents stem from driver errors. In this guide, we’ll outline the most common causes of accidents and share tips to help road users minimise risks.
What causes road accidents?
The vast majority of crashes on UK roads are caused by driver mistakes. The most common is failing to look properly. Statistics suggest that 38% of accidents in 2020 occurred because a driver didn’t look properly. Other common human errors include failing to judge the speed or direction of other vehicles, careless driving and making the wrong decisions when turning or making a manoeuvre.
The UK weather can also pose problems for drivers, especially during the autumn and winter months when it rains more. Slippery surfaces increase the risk of skidding and collisions caused by not leaving sufficient room to stop. Sudden braking and failing to drive to the conditions were among the top 10 most common causes of crashes in 2020.
Speeding is another common driver error. Driving too fast increases the risk of losing control of the vehicle, especially if the roads are wet or icy, or visibility is poor. When you drive at 70mph, for example, the risk of severe injuries and fatalities is much higher than when you drive at 30mph or 40mph. Other causes of road accidents include drink driving, tiredness and distracted driving.
How can drivers minimise risks?
The best way to minimise risks and keep yourself and other drivers safe is to drive carefully. There are rules and regulations in place to protect motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. If you follow the rules, you can reduce risks dramatically. Gaining experience is another crucial step. Figures show that young and inexperienced drivers are up to four times more likely to crash than experienced drivers. It is hugely beneficial for learners and new drivers to practice as much as possible and gain confidence on the roads.
Paying attention to speed restrictions and warnings is one of the simplest and most effective ways to lower the risk of accidents and severe injuries. If you drive too fast and you cause a crash, you could lose your licence and the other road user may enquire about making a non-fault car accident claim. Watch out for signs, keep a close eye on your speed and cater to the conditions. If the roads are very busy, or it’s wet, foggy or icy, slow down. Reduce your speed, give other vehicles plenty of time and space and be prepared to stop. Be mindful of the environment. If you’re driving in towns, villages or cities, for example, you may find that there are 20mph or 30mph speed zones.
Driving can be demanding enough without distractions. If you’re trying to send messages, change the radio or read emails, it’s even more difficult to navigate hazards and steer clear of trouble. When you’re behind the wheel, it’s critical to focus on the road ahead at all times. Check your mirrors frequently and use technology to lower risks. If you need to make a call, for example, you can use voice commands and hands-free devices. It’s important to understand the implications of taking your eyes off the road, even if it’s for a second. If you’re using your phone, you might not be able to react fast enough if you need to slam the brakes on or change direction. In the UK, where it’s illegal to use your phone while driving, you would be held liable for the crash.
Statistics show that almost 8,000 people were injured in crashes that involved at least one driver who was over the legal limit in 2019. Drinking alcohol can have serious consequences for drivers and other road users. Alcohol affects reaction times and judgement. If you’ve been drinking, your reaction time will increase and you may find that you make decisions that you wouldn’t normally make, including taking risks. Even a small amount of alcohol can put you and other road users at risk. If you are drinking, don’t drive. Get a lift home with a friend or relative who hasn’t been drinking, book a cab or use public transport.
The weather can make driving more dangerous, especially during autumn and winter when it gets dark earlier, it rains more and the risk of extreme weather is higher. If the road surfaces are slippery, it’s foggy, or you’re driving in torrential rain, snow or high winds, slow down and consider delaying your journey. Listen out for weather forecasts and warnings and don’t travel unless you have to if the weather conditions are hazardous. If you are already on the roads and the weather takes a turn, pull over in a safe place or reduce your speed and use your lights.
Careless driving covers a wide range of driver mistakes, including not looking properly, failing to judge the speed of other vehicles and making poor turns. If everybody made a concerted effort to drive carefully and adhere to the rules of the road, there would be fewer accidents. Always remember that you are responsible for the safety of others.
Most of us have seen incidents on the roads, but we tend to think of car crashes as things that happen to other people. In reality, anyone could be involved in an accident. Over 90% of crashes in the UK are caused by driver errors. Careful driving and being mindful of driving laws and rules can lower risks dramatically. If you are a driver, it’s essential to be aware of risks and hazards and to do your bit to protect yourself and other road users. Pay attention to speed restrictions, use your mirrors, give other vehicles time and space, be patient and avoid drinking alcohol. Keep your eyes on the road at all times and be mindful of the conditions.