The 5 most common causes of road accidents in the UK

Written by Benedict Harrison

Published on

Our guide to the most common reasons road accidents occur and some top tips on how to reduce your risk of being involved in an incident.

Image of a car after an incident

Whether you spend an hour or 40 hours out on the roads each week, it’s important to make sure you do everything you can to ensure your own safety and protect other road users.

As well as reading up on what makes a good driver and how you can protect vulnerable road users, you can also improve your safety by making sure you’re aware of the most common causes of road accidents.

In this post, we’ll take a look at the 5 most common reasons why road accidents occur according to the Department for Transport and we’ll give you some top tips on how to prevent them from happening.

Driver error

By far the most common cause of road accidents in the UK is an error from the driver in control of a vehicle. This includes mistakes such as failing to look properly before making a manoeuvre, failing to judge another driver’s speed correctly and losing control of a vehicle.

Nobody is above making a mistake when they’re behind the wheel, so accidents can happen to anyone. However, you can reduce your chances of being involved in an incident by always staying alert when you’re on the road. You’re also more likely to make a mistake if you’re tired, so don’t forget to take regular breaks if you’re working long hours.

Poor driving behaviour or inexperience

Poor driving behaviour includes things like driving aggressively or driving at speed, which greatly increase your chances of being involved in an incident. If you’re new to driving altogether, or if you’re using a vehicle you’re not familiar with, you may also be more likely to be involved in an accident.

Driving experience can only be built up over time, but if you haven’t been on the road for very long, make sure to take extra care. It’s vitally important to stick to speed limits and to respect other road users.

Distractions and impairments

This category of the causes of road accidents includes behaviours such as driving whilst under the influence, or checking your mobile phone when you’re using your vehicle. These behaviours are among the most avoidable of the causes of road incidents.

You should never drive whilst under the influence of drink or drugs, as it is both illegal and dangerous. If you don’t need your phone for your work and you think you might be distracted by it, you can put it inside your glove compartment for the duration of your journey.

Injudicious action (unwise decision-making)

The fourth most common cause of road accidents in the UK is grouped under poor decision-making, which can include not driving according to the conditions, driving on roads or in areas that are not suitable for your vehicle and disobeying give way or stop signs.

To minimise your risk of being involved in an incident, you should always make sure you adapt your driving style to the weather conditions. Your stopping distances will increase vastly on wet or icy road surfaces, so you should slow down to give yourself more time to react to any incident unfolding ahead.

Pedestrian error

Pedestrians are among the most vulnerable of road users, along with cyclists and motorcyclists, so it’s important to watch out for them when you’re driving. You should try to anticipate ahead as much as possible to give yourself time to apply your brakes if a pedestrian walks out in front of your vehicle.

If you use a scooter for your work, you should be especially mindful of pedestrians crossing roads, as they may find it more difficult to judge your speed.

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