It’s a well-known fact that accidents can (and do) happen at any time and anywhere. It doesn’t matter what type of transport you’re using, whereabouts in the UK you happen to be or what precautions you take to try and avoid them, they still happen and can often carry very serious consequences.
Here at Smith Jones Solicitors we take a look at where the most common places for accidents tend to be and whether some specific areas are simply less risk adverse than others.
What do the current stats tell us?
According to the UK road safety charity, ‘Brake’, over half of fatal crashes in the UK currently occur on country roads. In fact, for each mile travelled country roads remain the most dangerous for all types of road user. The same charity has also produced the following useful information:
- Car occupants are twice as likely to be killed on a country road than on an urban road
- Motorcyclists are more than twice as likely to be killed on a country road than on an urban road
- Cyclists are almost three times more likely to be killed on a country road than an urban road
In 2016, there were 910 people killed on rural roads, compared to 780 in built-up areas and just 93 on the motorway.
What are the most common causes of accidents?
According to the publication “Rural roads” which was produced by the Road Safety Observatory in 2013, excessive speed still remains the common factor in all country road crashes with the most common causes being collisions at intersections, head-on accidents and simply running off the road.
So why are country roads the most common place for accidents?
Whilst, at first sight, country roads might appear to be much safer to use given that they tend to be less populated by traffic, they’re also shared with vulnerable road users including pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders – not to mention farm traffic, livestock and wild animals. What’s more, most country roads in the UK tend to carry a 60mph speed limit which means that drivers are easily tempted to put their foot down without paying too much attention to the potential consequences of doing so.
In addition to this, of course, country roads tend to be a lot more unpredictable than built up areas or motorways, often being quite narrow with blind bends and no pavements to differentiate between pathway and road. At 60mph a driver’s stopping distance is around 73 metres (or, to provide an easy visualisation, the equivalent of three tennis courts) – so if a hazard (such as a fallen tree) occurs, the driver is left with very little time to respond. For this reason, speeds of under 40mph are certainly more advisable and yet are certainly not common.
In 2014, Brake published details of the Brake and Digby Brown survey which found that one in three drivers admitted driving too fast on country roads, with one in five admitting to having broken the speed limit within the preceding year. Perhaps surprisingly four in ten drivers also reported having a ‘near miss’ on country roads yet, despite accepting their poor driving habits on rural roads, seven in ten wholly supported slower speed limits.
During their survey of 1,000 UK drivers, the survey established that:
- 15% of drivers admitted to taking corners or brows too quickly
- 5% admitting to overtaking when it wasn’t necessarily safe to do so
- 28% accepted being a passenger with a driver who broke the speed limit
- 76% agreed that rural roads should be safer for all types of user
In response to the survey results, Julie Townsend, deputy CEO of Brake said: “We hear constantly from people in rural areas whose communities are blighted by fast traffic. It’s a big issue over the summer when many people want to enjoy our beautiful countryside on foot, bike or horseback, and shouldn’t have to contend with drivers treating the roads as their own personal racetrack. Driving in this way is incredibly selfish and means people feel less able to get out and enjoy the countryside. People in rural communities and families visiting these areas this summer have a right to enjoy their surroundings without fear for their safety. Country roads are not empty thoroughfares for traffic; they are living environments, full of unpredictable hazards around every twist and turn. We are urging drivers to slow right down on country roads this summer, especially for villages, bends, brows and bad weather, to respect the countryside and other people’s right to enjoy it.”
Per every mile travelled, statistics show that country roads are by far the most dangerous for all types of road user.
Unlike more built up and populated areas, country lanes have no cycle paths and in a lot of cases, have no footpath either. Consequently, this gives rise to a high risk of accidents occurring – particularly on blind corners or when a driver might least expect it.
In response to the latest statistics, Brake is continuing to appeal to the Government to make some fundamental changes to current legislation; particularly with regard to the current speed limits which even drivers themselves admit to being too high. Coupled with wider traffic enforcement initiatives, such as speed cameras, warning signs and better education, this could well lead to a vast reduction in the number of incidents currently recorded year in, year out.
Firmly standing behind such calls for urgent reform, the World Health Organisation has further emphasised the real need for 20mph limits stating, more specifically, that in areas where “…motorised traffic mixes with pedestrians, cyclists and moped riders, the speed limit must be under 20km/h (20mph) due to the vulnerability of these road users.”
This specific call for urgent reform certainly isn’t without merit since research tells us that 20mph limits are also important for children, who often make innocent mistakes whilst using roads. Indeed, research has found that children are unable to correctly judge the speed of approaching vehicles travelling any faster than 20mph and hence are fully capable of believing it’s safe to cross a road when it most definitely isn’t.
What’s more, during an analysis of traffic casualties in London which was undertaken between 1986 and 2006, the introduction of 20mph zones reduced both deaths and serious injuries by some 42%. Quite an impressive achievement.
Consequently – and with over three-quarters of all road users in favour of reduced speed limits (whether through speed limits or the use of traffic calming devices such as speed bumps) – there can be little doubt that everyone stands in favour of reducing the current statistics to a much more acceptable level.