Most road accidents 'driver's fault'

By Richard Westcott
BBC transport correspondent

Image caption,
The government estimates the cost of reported road accidents last year to be about £15.6bn

Most accidents on Britain's roads last year were the driver's fault, according to the latest government figures.

Four of the five most commonly reported reasons for a crash involved driver or rider error or reaction, the Department for Transport said.

"Failed to look properly" was the biggest reason of all, reported in 42% of all accidents.

In June, figures showed that 1,901 people were killed and 23,122 were seriously injured on the roads in 2011.

The new report, Reported Road Casualties in Great Britain, tells us why those crashes happened.

For example, 15% of those who lost their life were killed in drink-drive accidents and speeding was a factor 5% of the time.

Cycle safety

Cyclist safety has been a huge issue recently, especially since the Times newspaper launched its campaign to improve conditions for pedal bikes on the roads, but it was actually pedestrians who suffered the biggest rise in deaths last year, up 12% to 453.

More were seriously hurt too, up from 5,200 in 2010 to 5,454 last year.

"Pedestrian failed to look properly" was a factor in 59% of those accidents, and is easily the biggest single reason why pedestrians got hurt.

Parked vehicles blocking the view helped cause 16% of those injuries, and for 824 people who got hurt (about 4% of the total), "wearing dark clothes at night" played a part.

Some 11% were also "impaired by alcohol".

'Dazzling sun'

It looks like cyclists who commute to work or school are suffering the most, with 57% of their injuries happening at the beginning or the end of the day, mainly during the week. That has gone up by 10% on last year.

A quarter of accidents involving a pedal bike had "failed to look properly" as a contributory factor. Just 1% were because they disobeyed a Stop or Give Way sign or markings, and 51 cyclists crashed because of a "dazzling sun".

"Distraction in vehicle" was a factor in 2% of all car accidents. "Dazzling sun" played a part in 2,233 car crashes (1% of the total), but yet again, "failed to look properly" was the biggest factor, influencing a quarter of all crashes for cars.

Some 11% of HGV crashes were down to "poor turn or manoeuvre".

Meanwhile motorcyclists are among the most vigilant on the roads. Just 16% of crashes were because they did not look properly, although it was still the biggest factor alongside "loss of control".

"Sudden braking" was the biggest single factor in coach and bus crashes, playing a part 17% of the time.

Weather impact

Interestingly, the government has also put a price on road accidents. Preventing them could save the economy £15.6bn every year.

The number of people killed on Britain's roads went up last year, for the first time since 2003, and that has put the government under pressure.

The coalition abandoned national safety targets when it came to power, and asked councils to take more responsibility for road safety despite cutting their budgets.

The government says last year's rise in deaths was, in part, down to the weather. There was a lot of snow in 2010 and that meant fewer journeys, and people driving more slowly.

Still, apart from last year, Britain's roads are safer than they have ever been.

In fact, according to the international comparison chart in the report, Britain has the safest roads in the world.

More on this story

Related Internet Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.