Why do traffic accidents happen?

What caused this? (photo by ZapTheDingbat CC-BY)

What caused this? (photo by ZapTheDingbat CC-BY)

The Department of Transport (D of T) in the UK produces detailed annual reports on traffic accidents where a person has been injured. When investigating a traffic accident, police will take report any contributory factors which contributed to the collision. Not every accident will have a contributory factor reported, and some may have more than one. Although this is not a scientific examination of each collision and has its limitations, the statistics do provide some information as to why the accident occurred.

I should say that although the D of T use the term ‘accident’, the police now discouraged its use. The word collision is preferred as accident tends to suggest that it was nobody’s fault, when that is rarely the case.

The report places the contributory factors into groups. The group with the highes

t contributory factor is reported to be driver error or reaction. This was reported in 68% of all accidents. In that group these were the highest: failing to look properly occurred in 37% of accidents, failing to judge other person’s path or speed 19%, loss of control 15%, and carrying out a poor turn or manoeuvre 14%.

The group contributory factor of injudicious action, in other words, breaking the law, was 25%. Speed and braking featured in the three highest in this group: travelling too fast for the conditions 9%, following to close 6%, and exceeding the speed limit 5%.

The group factor of behaviour or inexperience was found in 24% of accidents. The highest involved driving in a careless, reckless manner or in at hurry at 15%.

Other individual factors of note are impairment by alcohol 5%, slippery roads 11%, and pedestrians failing to look properly 10%.

So driving slower, looking out for other road users and that wandering pedestrian, may help you cut down your chance of an accident. Trouble is, is the other driver doing the same?

Reported Road Casualties Great Britain 2008: Annual Report


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  • eiffel says:

    > The word collision is preferred as accident
    > tends to suggest that it was nobody’s fault

    Every few years during my lifetime, I’ve heard one authority or another proclaiming a policy of avoiding the word “accident”. The alternatives used by NGOs, government ministers, local police forces, broadcasters etc have included “incident”, “collision”, and “crash”.

    But these alternatives never stick around for long. In everyone’s mind, these are “accidents” because they weren’t done on purpose. Careless accidents perhaps, culpable accidents even, but accidents nevertheless.

  • eiffel says:

    Oh, and one contributory factor that isn’t recorded on the D of T’s report is the color of the vehicle.

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