The most common causes of car crashes

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Every week, around 35 people die on UK roads. If you’re shocked by that statistic, you should be; nearly half a dozen deaths every day is not a number to be comfortable with, yet our roads are among the safest in the world – and they’re generally safer than they’ve ever been.

Crash investigator Steve Cox comments: “The number one cause of accidents is failing to look properly, which accounts for over a third of all collisions; a couple of extra seconds checking before manoeuvring can make the difference between life and death”. 

The number one cause of accidents is failing to look properly

Next on the hit list is failing to judge another driver’s path or speed. Steve sheds light: “This is often combined with failing to look properly; it’s simply not giving yourself enough time to prepare for the manoeuvre you’re about to make.

"The classic scenario is a driver pulling out of a junction because they reckon it’s safe, when it isn’t – this often happens because a driver glances very swiftly left and right and pulls out of a junction without quite stopping first. Again, an extra couple of seconds weighing up the situation is all that’s needed to prevent a potentially fatal situation from arising”.

Almost as common a cause of crashes is being careless, reckless or in a hurry; once again not focusing enough on the surroundings. Steve explains: “Instead of holding back and weighing up the situation, this is about keeping that pedal to the metal and driving into a situation which you would have seen unfolding if only you’d given it a bit more time.

"I recently investigated a case where a young driver overtook a stationary bus in an urban street. Instead of being cautious, the driver ploughed on at 30mph – into a young child which had broken free from its mother. The child was killed and while it wasn’t the driver’s fault, more caution could have made all the difference”.

Number crunching

These are the 10 most common reasons for crashes in the UK, in order; speeding sits outside the top 10 for drivers as a whole, but those aged 17-24 are much more likely to crash from driving too fast for the conditions. 

  • Failed to look properly 42%

  • Failed to judge other person's path or speed 21%

  • Careless, reckless or in a hurry 16%

  • Loss of control 14%

  • Poor turn or manoeuvre 14%

  • Pedestrian failed to look properly 10%

  • Slippery road (due to weather) 10%

  • Sudden braking 7%

  • Travelling too fast for the conditions 7%

  • Following too close 7%


Killer facts

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) looked at 250,000 crashes over a six-year period and found: 

  • Men are twice as likely to crash as women.

  • Drivers under 25 are particularly likely to be in a collision.

  • The risk of being in a crash peaks immediately after passing the test, and gradually reduces over the following year.

  • Those who drive old cars are most likely to be involved in a smash.

  • Friday and Saturday nights are peak times

  • Rural roads present a particular danger – young drivers are especially likely to be caught out by bends on country roads.

  • Young men are 10 times more likely to be killed or seriously injured in a car crash than those aged 35 or over.