Revealed: Top 10 Causes of Accidents on UK Roads

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As metropolitan parts of the UK get busier, drivers will have to quickly learn how to navigate the hustle and bustle of the city in their cars.

We studied the most recent seven years’ worth of government data to find out the top 10 causes of road accidents. We found:

  • 98,580 road accidents are reported each year in the UK, on average.
  • A total of 690,062 accidents have been reported from 2013 to 2019.
  • The max fine for UK drivers would be £4.2BN, or £600M per year, on average.

Eben Lovatt, Moneyshake CEO says, “With coronavirus restrictions lifting and city centres returning to some normality, it’s even more important to take care if you’re commuting in the car.” Read on to find the top 10 causes of UK accidents and our tips for you to drive safely.


1. Failing to look properly – 282,701 accidents


Maximum penalty: £5,000 fine and 3-9 points on your licence


Drivers and motorbike riders failing to look properly is the leading cause of accidents on UK roads from 2013-2019.

While driving in a city, the buzz of the surrounding metropolis can potentially distract you to a point where you don’t make the proper checks. Given that these areas have lots of junctions, roundabouts and traffic lights too, it’s easy to see why it’s commonplace.


2. Failing to judge other person’s path or speed – 145,777 accidents


Maximum penalty: £5,000 fine and 3-9 points on your licence


The second biggest cause of accidents in the last seven years on UK roads was drivers/rides failing to judge the path or speed of other road users.

Keeping calm while you’re driving in the city and ensuring you take your time will allow you the breathing space to make better judgements. Not just on the way you behave, but also on how other drivers and road users around you


3. Careless and reckless driving, or being in a hurry – 115,337 accidents


Maximum penalty: £5,000 fine and 3-9 points on your licence


It’s easy to fall into the trap of rushing around when you’re driving in a fast-paced city. In general roads are busier and there’s more cars on the roads each year, which could explain why in the past seven years, the third most common motoring offence was driving carelessly, recklessly or in a hurry.

Taking your time and planning your route before travelling by car through a city is the best way to avoid committing this offence.


4. Poor turn or manoeuvre – 99,770 accidents


Maximum penalty: £5,000 fine and 3-9 points on your licence


Poor turning and manoeuvres was the top four cause of accidents in the UK during the past seven years.

Cities are renowned for having narrow streets that can be difficult to negotiate at the best of times. If you are going to perform a turn or manoeuvre, make sure that you do all the proper mirror and blindspot checks beforehand. Then give yourself enough time and space to do it while using your signals to tell other drivers and road users what your intentions are.


5. Loss of control – 85,006 accidents


Maximum penalty: £1,000 fine (£2,500 for Passenger Carrying Vehicles and goods vehicles) and 3 points on your licence

Losing control of a vehicle is another common cause of accidents on UK roads, with 85,006 incidents in the past seven years.

Losing control of a vehicle can boil down to a number of reasons, including excess speed or tiredness.

To give you the best chances of staying in control of your vehicle, we encourage you to stay as well rested as possible and stick to the speed limits, especially while driving in built-up areas of a city.


6. Pedestrian failed to look properly – 61,359 accidents


Maximum penalty: £5,000 fine and 3-9 points on your licence


Sometimes it won’t be the driver or rider in control of a vehicle that causes an accident, but a pedestrian. For example, people failing to look properly while crossing a road caused a not insignificant 61,359 accidents in the UK during the past seven years.

While you can’t control what pedestrians do if you’re driving, you can take extra care when approaching crossings. Ensure you’re watching your speed and take the time to check what pedestrians are doing. If you see someone walking towards a crossing without looking, be prepared to stop by slowing down as a precautionary measure, even if the light is green.


7. Slippery road (due to weather) – 52,541 accidents


Maximum penalty: £5,000 fine and 3-9 points on your licence


Rain is a constant theme of UK weather and so it’s no surprise that 52,541 accidents have happened in the last seven years because of slippery roads caused by the weather.

Even though we’re in the height of summer, sporadic showers are commonplace and can cause aquaplaning if you’re not careful.

Before travelling in extreme weather conditions, make sure you keep a safe distance from the car in front (a four-second gap in rainy conditions). You should also check that your front and rear wipers are working before setting off so that you can maintain visibility.


8. Travelling too fast for conditions – 45,096 accidents


Maximum penalty: £5,000 fine and 3-9 points on your licence


Speed limits are a guide as to what a safe speed for driving on a particular road is, but it shouldn’t be a target. This is definitely the case when it comes to your surroundings and the weather conditions.

One example of this is road works in cities, which there tends to be a lot of. Even though the maximum speed limit for roads in these built up areas would usually be 30mph, it won’t be safe to do this speed if there’s disruption to the route (i.e. a lane closed).


9. Exceeding the speed limit – 43,123 accidents


Maximum penalty: £1,000 fine (£2,500 on the motorway) and discretionary disqualification penalty


Speeding is one of the most common offences among UK drivers, albeit it doesn’t contribute to the most accidents out of our list (43,123 incidents in the past seven years).

Like we mentioned earlier, speed limits aren’t a target you should stick to and nor should you exceed them. Most modern cars have infotainment systems or driver information displays that can tell you the speed limit in any given place you’re driving through, making it easier not to speed.

While you’re driving through a city, the chances are that the maximum speed limit will be 30mph. In some cases this could be as low as 20mph, especially if an area is particularly built up. However, if your car’s an older model you can invest in a sat nav for less than £100 which will display this information while navigating you.


10. Driving while unfit through alcohol – 41,520 accidents


Maximum penalty: Unlimited fine, 6 months’ imprisonment and 3-11 points on your licence

The most serious offence in this list – driving while unfit through alcohol caused 41,520 accidents across the UK in the past seven years.

With covid-19 restrictions now lifted and pubs, bars and nightclubs re-open, the likelihood of people being in situations where drink driving is a risk has increased massively. Even commuting to the office the morning after a night of drinking can still see that you’re over the legal drink drive limit (35 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath, or 80 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood).


6 top tips to avoid an accident


1. Be aware of other road users – not just drivers

Group of cyclists commuting in London

When driving in a city it’s likely that you’re going to be sharing the road with cyclists and pedestrians. During rush hour times they may even be moving faster than you if it’s that busy that you’re in gridlock traffic.

The best thing to do in this situation is to observe what’s around you every couple of minutes, especially before moving off again after waiting. A lot can change on city roads in this short space of time, so remember to be vigilant. Using your mirrors to keep informed of your surroundings and checking your blindspot before setting off from a standstill will ensure you’re able to make safe manoeuvres.

100 cyclists are killed in the UK annually and 3,000 are seriously injured on our roads.

Again careless and inconsiderate driving could result in an unlimited fine and disqualification of your licence in extreme cases. You could also see between 3-9 points on your licence.

Or are you considering commuting by bike? You can still receive multiple potential fines when cycling on the roads.

Take a look below at the possible fines:

  • Dangerous cycling – £2,500 fine
  • Careless cycling – £1,000 fine
  • Cycling on pavement – £500 fine

2. Take extra care to avoid bus lanes


Most city councils will fine you £60 for using a bus lane, though this will be reduced to £30 if you pay the penalty charge within 14 days. Unfortunately, this applies even if you unwittingly enter a bus lane.

London is even stricter when it comes to the stance it takes on fining drivers for using a bus lane. Doing so would cost you £160, or £80 if you pay within 14 days.


3. Stay in the correct lane

People and traffic in Piccadilly Circus, London

Cities are often a labrynth of junctions, roundabouts and one-way systems that can baffle even the most discerning drivers.

Couple this with the natural commotion of people toing and froing in all directions, and it’s very easy for anyone to lose their sense of direction, especially if it’s your first time driving in the area too. However, if you concentrate on he road ahead and make use of the tools around you (i.e. road signs and your sat nav) then you’ll be able to position yourself in the right lane first time of asking.

Avoid trying to change lanes last minute as this can cause an accident if there’s a big build up of traffic. If you take a wrong turn, it’s best to carry on in that direction, then find somewhere safe to pull over and use road signs or your sat nav reroute you.

Showing poor lane discipline falls under a minor offence, careless driving. Police can hand you an on-the-spot £100 fine and three penalty points for this. However, according to the Highway Code penalty table, some cases of careless driving can be taken to court. Here you could be faced with an unlimited fine and your license removed.


4. Beware of Clean Air Zones

Signs indicating the direction of Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) on a street in London, UK.

Since 2012 the UK government has introduced Clean Air Zones to certain cities across the country to tackle levels of vehicle CO2 emissions in congested areas.

London is the main city to have these measures in place and they have their own Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) which is separate. The daily charge for normal cars is £12.50 for most vehicle types up to and including 3.5 tonnes, while heavier models heavier than 3.5 tonnes will be charged £100 daily to use the zone.

As well as the ULEZ zones you’ll need to pay a daily congestion charge if you drive in these areas of London between 7am and 10pm, which is £15. The ULEZ charge applies 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

To check whether your car is exempt from ULEZ charges, you can do so online here.


Other areas have their own clean air zones that charge less, including:

  • Bath
  • Birmingham
  • Bristol
  • Derby
  • Leeds
  • Manchester
  • Nottingham
  • Southampton

Traffic signs (like the ones pictured above) will indicate when you’re about to turn into a congestion charge zone or ULEZ. So, be sure to pay attention to these while you’re driving around to avoid being charged.


5. Stick to the speed limits

20mph Road Speed Limit Traffic Sign Against A Blue Sky With No People

Excess speed is one of the main causes of accidents between cars, so it’s important that you stick to the speed limits in urban areas too. A speed limit of 30mph generally applies to most UK cities, though you may come across zones that require you to drive at 20mph, especially if the area is particularly built up like in the main centre.

Speeding is the most common driving offence on the roads according to RAC. Going over the limit could result in 3 points on your license and a fine of up to £2,500.

The amount is based on how far over the speed limit you were and what the speed limit was. Often it is a percentage of your weekly income, up to a maximum of £1,000 (If you were driving on the motorway it could be up to £2,500).


6. Plan your route

Male driver hand holding on steering wheel using smartphone for GPS navigation. Mobile phone mounting with magnet on the car console in modern car. Urban driving lifestyle with mobile app technology

Driving through any city is likely to mean you’re going to hit traffic at some point. But you can minimise how bad this is by taking some time before your journey to plan out the best route.

The plethora of resources at your fingertips to navigate the quickest route means this shouldn’t take too long either. Mobile services such as Google Maps and Apple Maps are great as they use live traffic information to automatically find you the quickest way of getting to your destination.

Another way you can get ahead of the curve is by listening to the radio for traffic updates before you set off. Radio hosts will regularly provide these insights during commuting hours too so you can keep informed about any accidents or roadworks and which roads to avoid so that you have a better journey.


For the latest car news, reviews and reports, head over to the Moneyshake blog.