UK Road Safety

UK Road Safety

Currently, the United Kingdom has one of the best records of road safety in the whole of Europe. However, the British roads have not always been the safest, as their current safety record is the result of extensive campaigning, improved training schemes, and ongoing driver education. This article looks at the key facts and figures on road safety in the UK and lists the main bodies, organisations, and schemes that are in place to prevent and reduce the number of casualties and accidents on the British roads.

UK Road Safety: Key Statistics

Keeping track of road safety records is not as simple as it may seem. Road safety statistics are collected using police reports, travel surveys, hospital admission records, crime surverys, coroners' reports, breath test results, and lists of motoring offences provided by the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office.

A study carried out by the Institute of Advanced Motoring examined in detail the circumstances leading to more than 700,000 road accidents. The study findings showed that the main causes of motoring accidents in the UK are driver errors, misjudgement of circumstances, careless or aggressive driving, being inexperienced behind the wheel, distractions, and impaired driving. Driver error is by far the most common cause of motoring accidents, and responsible for up to 65 per cent of the incidents studied. This figure is important as it serves to dispel the myth that speeding is the major cause of accidents. In fact, less than 14 per cent of fatal accidents can be attributed to illegal speeding. The study also showed that the times of the day where accidents are more likely to happen are between the hours of 7pm and 7am. There is a higher number of accidents happening during the weekends too.

The Department for Transport publishes regular statistical sets covering different aspects of road safety in the UK. The latest statistics show that educational campaigns and other initiatives have had a positive effect in reducing the number of fatal accidents caused by drinking and driving. The figures have gone down from 22 per cent in 2006 to just under 17 per cent in 2012.

The statistics also show that car users are the most likely to be involved in a motoring accident, followed by cyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians. Approximately 42 per cent of the injuries that result from a motoring accident are serious enough to be attended at A&E, and the most common injuries are whiplash, cuts, fractured bones, sprains, shock, concussion, and internal injuries.

According to the Department for Transport, there were more than 203,000 accidents on the British roads during 2012. Over 1,700 of those were fatal casualties, while 23,000 people ended up with serious injuries. Approximately 6 per cent of all fatalities took place on motorways, while 33 per cent took place on urban roads and 61 per cent on rural roads.

Road Safety Schemes in the United Kingdom

The road safety records in the UK have been steadily improving since 1973, mainly thanks to improved road safety education, a better understanding of road safety engineering, and improved car safety. There are a number of schemes that can be credited for this reduction in motor accidents. Road safety schemes have been introduced at most local authorities, which include seat belt checks, motorcycle rider improvement schemes, the construction of bicycle lanes and footpaths, speed limit reduction in rural areas, the introduction of speed bumps, mini roundabouts, and chicanes, and the installation of additional traffic signage at motorways. It is believed that the implementation of these schemes has contributed to reducing casualties by one third.

Road Safety Initiatives, Campaigns, and Organisations

The following organisations store useful road safety data:

The Observatory

The RAC Foundation

Road Safety Comparison

Think! is an initiative of the Department for Transport that aims to educate road users on the best strategies to avoid common road dangers. The site offers numerous resources for pedestrians, drivers, cyclists, and young children. You can find more information at

The UK Road Safety website features an up-to-date counter with the number of casualties and accidents that have taken place on the British roads since January 2013. The site also keeps track of the costs of road accidents to the national economy. You can find further information on these vital figures at

Brake is a not-for-profit organisation that campaigns for improved road safety and provides support to the victims of motoring accidents. Contact Brake at

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents offers advice and information on road safety topics like in-car safety, driver training, and child safety. For more resources go to

Popular road safety awareness campaigns include Safe Speed, Phone Free Zone, Kerbcraft, Tune into Traffic, and Safe Road Design.