Accidents will happen

In the words of Elvis Costello, accidents will happen, but a study of 700,000 crashes in the UK has produced details on how the majority of crashes on our roads came about.

This new report, Licensed to Skill, has analysed what happens in those 'lost moments' that lead to road accidents, analysing what happened and why.

"It has been an eye-opener," says project manager Neil Greig, of the Institute for Advanced Motorists. 'Not just in terms of what causes an accident but in terms of dispelling some of the popular myths. For instance, if you look at Government campaigns they seem to say that speed is the number one problem. But illegal speeding – when drivers exceed the posted limit – accounts for only 13.9 per cent of fatal accidents. A bigger cause [15.9 per cent] is going too fast for the conditions – entering a bend too quickly, for instance – when you might well be under the actual speed limit.'

The biggest cause of accidents in the UK today is what they call 'driver error or reaction.' The police list this as a factor in more than 65 per cent of fatal crashes. This includes the 'sorry, I didn't see you', factor, relevant in 20.5 per cent of fatal crashes involving driver error, as well as that old chestnut 'losing control' (34 per cent) which Greig says often means leaves you with 'nowhere to go'. Another error likely to cause a crash is a 'poor turn or manoeuvre' (12 per cent) and 'failing to judge other person's path or speed' (11.6 per cent.).

'What is just as telling though is the factors that, though they might be key in a small number of accidents, aren't all that significant,' says Greig. 'We see a lot of campaigning on issues such as diesel and deposits on the road but that only explains 0.8 per cent of fatal accidents, and being dazzled by headlamps, a factor in 0.4 per dent of fatalities.'

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