What causes road accidents?

What causes road accidents 2216

[Photo by Abhi Here]

A new report compiled by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has revealed the most common causes of road accidents on UK roads.

Neil Greig, a project manager at IAM, believes that drivers can learn a lot through reading the report, which is called Licenced to Skill. 

He was quoted by The Telegraph as saying: ‘Mostly, crashes aren’t about cars going dramatically out of control and up in smoke. It’s small errors suddenly having greater consequences.’

No Win No Fee solicitors can help people who have been involved in a road traffic accident make a personal injury claim – the reasons why road accidents occur, as the IAM study reveals, are many and varied.

IAM researchers looked at 700,000 accident reports, taken from police records, and covering the period 2005 to 2009.

Driver error

The biggest cause of all accidents (fatal, serious and slight) is ‘driver error or reaction’ which, according to police, accounts for 68 per cent of fatal crashes.

Of these driver error accidents, over one in three (35 per cent) related to ‘failing to look properly’ Almost one in five of crashes (19 per cent) were caused by failing to judge another person’s path or speed.

Injudicious action

The rather-confusingly named ‘injudicious action’ was a factor in 26 per cent of all accidents. ‘Travelling too fast for conditions’ (10.2 per cent) was the most common type of accident within this category; closely followed by ‘following too close’ (10.2 per cent) and ‘exceeding speed limit’ (5.2 per cent).

Behaviour or inexperience

Police records show that ‘behaviour or inexperience’ was to blame for 25 per cent of accidents – of these, five per cent were attributed to a driver being a learner or inexperienced.

Road environment was also mentioned in the report as being a contributory factor in 15 per cent of accidents. A slippery road was named as being easily the biggest road environment factor mentioned in accident reports.

‘A poor turn or manoeuvre’ and ‘pedestrian failed to look properly’ appears in the top ten factors for fatal, serious and slight accidents.

Time of day

The time of day, the survey discovered, is closely associated with certain types of accident. ‘Behaviour or inexperience-accidents’ are more likely to occur between 7pm and 7am, while ten per cent of accidents between midnight and 7am featured drivers who were impaired by alcohol.


A clear link between age and type of accident is also established. ‘Driver error or reaction’ accidents are far more common among younger and older drivers than among those aged between 30 to 70. IAM believes this is a reflection of some poor judgement shown by younger drivers and a “decrease in functioning” among older drivers.

‘Vehicle defects’, while only a small proportion of all accidents, are the cause of a far greater number of accidents among drivers under the age of 30. 

Interestingly, IAM thinks the reason for this is that younger drivers tend to have older cars which are more likely to have defects.


Women are less likely than men to have an accident caused by ‘injudicious action’ and ‘behaviour or inexperience’. ‘Impaired by alcohol’ was the ninth most common accident factor among male drivers but does not feature in the top ten list of female accident factors.

Neil Gregg of IAM said: ‘If drivers take just one thing away from the report it should be that paying a little more attention, taking that little bit more time to look properly, will save your life.’