Dangers on the roads: The cause of collisions

In Great Britain, five people die every day on the road and more still are injured. Road accidents can be caused by many things - from trying to avoid wild animals to carelessness at the wheel. 

In fact, as this report shows, 67% of road accident casualties were caused due to driver/rider error or reaction. 

Human error comes in many shapes and sizes, including: 

  • Junction overshoot           
  • Junction restart (moving off at junction)
  • Poor turn or manoeuvre
  • Failed to signal or misleading signal
  • Driver or rider failed to look properly
  • Driver or Rider failed to judge another person’s path or speed       
  • Driving too close to a cyclist, horse rider or pedestrian       
  • Sudden braking      
  • Swerved
  • Loss of control.

There are key themes that make up many of the mistakes we make at the wheel and lead to accidents. Here we look at five key causes that underpin the ‘human error’ made in many road collisions.

1. Speeding

Speed limits were put in place for a reason (first introduced in the UK as long ago as 1861 as part of the Locomotives on Highways Act and limiting vehicles to 10mph). Speeding can make a driver lose control of their car and require sudden and sharp braking when approaching junctions or unforeseen hazards on the roads. This also has a knock-on effect to other road users who may have to take action to avoid a speeding vehicle.

2. Distracted Driving

Being distracted can cause a multitude of accidents - from mounting pavements to going through red lights and simply not looking properly at junctions. There are many potential sources of distractions too - from phones to sat navs, in-car entertainment systems and even radios. Drivers need to be disciplined with their devices and only use in-car systems safely - and that’s a particular problem when the lines between dashboard controls and computer systems are blurred. 

3. Weather

Of course, human error can, in of itself, be caused by external factors. The weather is a major factor in causing them too. Conditions can cause poor visibility, affect stopping distances and can reduce your car's overall road handling. The Met Office says, “a good rule of thumb is ‘if it’s time for your wipers, it’s time to slow down’. It’s not just the rain though, the dazzling sun also causing thousands of accidents. 

4. Alcohol 

Last year, it was revealed that deaths caused by drink-driving had hit the highest rate in nearly a decade, despite the fact that the legal limit in the UK is among the highest in Europe at 80mg. Although having less than that amount and getting behind the wheel is not illegal, any amount of alcohol could affect your awareness and ability to drive - and could elicit a ‘human error’.

5. Tiredness

Driver fatigue causes thousands of accidents each year, with fatigue estimated to be a contributing factor in up to 20% of road accidents. RoSPA says that these types of accidents are 50% more likely to result in death or serious injury. It’s not just having little sleep which can cause a crash; driving on long journeys; driving between 2 am and 6 am and between 2 pm and 4 pm (especially after eating, or even one alcoholic drink) can also cause fatigue.

There are many factors which can contribute to road accidents, as long as you follow the rules of the road and take precautions when in certain situations, some accidents can be easily avoided. Understanding the dangers is key to avoiding them.

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