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7 Common Causes Of Road Traffic Accidents That Can Easily Be Avoided

Police Ateending A Road Traffic AccidentDespite stringent rules and stiff fines, road accidents continue to happen every day across the UK. The majority of these accidents are caused by just a few factors.

As you will see below, drivers have the power to prevent many common causes of road traffic accidents by exercising restraint and observing the rules of the road while driving.

Here’s a look at the 7 common causes of road traffic accidents in the UK and what drivers can do to avoid them:

1. Driving Under The Influence

A number of road accidents are caused by drivers driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Unfortunately, penalties for drink-driving such as high fines, driving bans, and imprisonment haven’t acted as effective deterrents to many drivers.

There’s no getting around the fact that even a small amount of alcohol or drugs in the system can dramatically impair a person’s judgment and ability to make quick decisions. This puts the driver as well as others at risk.

The legal limit for alcohol while driving is shown in the table below, however, an often unconsidered problem is, that alcohol may affect different people differently depending on their weight, gender, and other factors.

Alcohol LevelEngland, Wales and Northern IrelandScotland
Micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath3522
Milligrammes per 100 millilitres of blood8050
Milligrammes per 100 millilitres of urine10767

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0 (

As a rule, if you’ve had a drink or taken drugs, don’t drive, and if you know you have a drive ahead, don’t drink. It’s not worth the risk.

2. Driving Above The Speed Limit

Speed limits are imposed for a reason – they do deter road accidents. Unfortunately, many people are in such a hurry to get to their destination they step on the accelerator and ignore the speed limit.

The fact is, it’s often impossible to stop your vehicle in time if you’re speeding. By the time you spot the other vehicle, cyclist, or pedestrian coming round the corner, it may be too late to react quickly enough to avoid an accident.

Not all drivers ignore speed limits because they’re in a hurry of course. Some do it just for the “rush”. Regardless of the reason though, the faster you drive, the higher the risk. This is because of the shorter reaction time you have to avoid an accident.

3. Driver Fatigue

Fatigue is another common cause of road traffic accidents in the UK. We tend to associate fatigue with driving home at the end of the day. This though is a misconception. You could feel tired and sleepy any time of the day. A bad night can result in you feeling drowsy while driving to work in the morning. Driving long stretches without a break can also cause fatigue.

Crashes caused by driver fatigue are more likely to be fatal or result in catastrophic injuries. This is because often it’s impossible for a driver who is only partially alert behind the wheel to react quickly enough to avoid the accident or even reduce the impact.

Never get behind a wheel if you’re too tired to drive and can’t stay awake. Call a friend or a cab to take you home or safely pull up to the side of the road for a while.

4. Driver Complacency

When you’re driving along the same route from home to the office and back every day, you may get complacent. You know every turn, intersection, and traffic signal on the route. You even know where the potholes are on the road. Under these circumstances, it’s natural to get too comfortable and let your guard down. However, this can cost you and other road users.

The problem with feeling overconfident while driving is that it doesn’t take into account the fact that there are many other road users – 4 wheelers, motorbikes, cyclists, and pedestrians. Each of these road users adds another dynamic to the roads. When a driver is complacent, they tend to be slower to react to another road user’s actions, resulting in an accident.

No matter how familiar the route, staying alert to everything going on around you while driving is vital.

5. Assuming That All Other Road Users Will Follow The Rules

You may be extremely cautious and alert on the roads but this doesn’t guarantee that other road users will be just as careful. You may have the right of way at a junction or roundabout but assuming that all other drivers will honour that right can be a mistake, and can end badly.

It’s worth making it a habit to anticipate another road user’s move when you’re behind the wheel. If it looks like a pedestrian on the pavement is contemplating running across the street, don’t just power through if you’re not sure. Slow down and then stop if necessary, the last thing you want to do is cause a fatal accident and then potentially be charged with death by careless driving.

Never assume that you know what another person is going to do. Instead, exercise your better judgement when driving. Don’t let another person’s recklessness ruin your life.

6. Getting Distracted While Driving

Staying focused and alert is the single best way to prevent accidents behind the wheel. But this can be easier said than done. There are way too many distractions inside as well as outside the vehicle vying for our attention. You receive a text message and you just can’t wait to see what the sender has to say. Or maybe you rushed out of the house in the morning and packed a quick breakfast to eat while driving. Or you want to make sure your hair or make-up looks okay ahead of your big meeting.

All of these are no-no’s that may cause you to take your eyes off the road for no more than a second or two but that’s all it takes to cause a serious road traffic accident. Taking your eyes off the road for only a couple of seconds can be the difference between a safe stop and a bad crash.

Safely park somewhere if you just can’t wait to read or reply to a text, grab a snack from your bag, or check your make-up in the mirror.

7. Losing Control Of Your Vehicle

Bad weather creates dangerous driving conditions, from slushy slippery roads after a rain shower to hail, snow or black ice in winter. Driving in heavy rain can also cause a vehicle to aquaplane, where the wheels lose traction and cause the car to skin.

But it’s not just driving in winter bad weather that may cause you to lose control of the vehicle. An oil spill or rubble on the road can also cause you to lose control of your vehicle. This can be a frightening experience.

Driving at an appropriate speed for the road conditions and being extra vigilant is the only way to stay safe if you have to drive in inclement weather.

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