Is Driving Getting Safer?

We look at whether driving is getting safer...

A few years ago we reported that the Department for Transport stated that driving was getting safer. And in 2016, there were 44% fewer fatalities due to car accidents than there were in 2006.

Based on that statistic, driving is safer now than it was ten, eleven years ago.

But is that really the case? And if so, why are our roads safer now than they were a decade ago?

In this article, we look at whether driving really is getting safer, why driving is getting safer and some tips to stay safe on the road.

Are our roads getting safer?

Because 2017 isn’t over yet, we don’t have any official road safety statistics for this year, but we do have statistics for 2016.

Interestingly, there was a slight increase in reported road deaths last year than there were in 2015. In 2016, the number of reported road deaths was 1,762, up from 1,730 in 2015. This was an increase in 4% and was also the highest annual total since 2011.

However, there were still 44% fewer fatalities in 2016 than there were in 2006, so that’s still a good statistic. And there were a total of 181,384 casualties of all severities which is 3% lower than in 2015 and the lowest on record. This is all despite the fact that the motor traffic levels increased by 2.2% between 2015 and 2016.

What impacts road casualty statistics?

There are quite a few things that can impact road casualty numbers including the mix of transport modes used, the weather and the mix of people using the road.

For example, the Southern rail strikes in 2016 could have led to more people travelling by car, therefore increasing the traffic and increasing the risk of accidents. Severe weather could have caused the road surface to change which could also increase a risk of accidents.

So there are a few things that affect road casualty statistics which could explain the increase in deaths in 2016.

However, overall, there has been a decrease in casualties of all severities despite the fact that road traffic increased last year. As we said, there is no word yet on the road safety statistics for this year (2017) but it will be interesting to see whether this trend continues or whether there is a change.

Line of cars at dusk stuck in traffic with brake lights on

Why are our roads getting safer?

There are a few reasons why our roads are safer than they were ten years ago, and it could have something to do with the increase in safety technology in cars.

There’s no doubt that our cars are safer than they have ever been. Volvo have said that they wish to eliminate all death or serious injury in their vehicles by 2020, and it seems that even the most affordable city cars have technology that is designed to keep you safer than ever before.

There have been huge innovation when it comes to car safety, with all sorts of different technologies that offer you a range of things to aid with your driving. Here are just some of the technologies that are present in vehicles today.

Lane departure warnings

Motorways are very busy, and driving on them for long periods of time can be mundane and you might feel your attention wavering and getting distracted easily. However, with a lane departure warning on your car your car will alert you when you are drifting from one lane to another without indicating.

Front sensors and auto-brake systems

This technology helps prevent accidents when an obstruction, such as a pedestrian or another car, is fast approaching. Auto-brake systems also brake when they sense a potential collision and the driver is not braking hard enough, the car will brake for them.

animation of a parking sensor in a car park

Intelligent high beam

High beams are super helpful when driving at night or in bad weather, but they can make it difficult for oncoming vehicles to see. Constantly flicking the high beams on and off can be distracting and if you don’t do it quick enough then you could miss an obstacle.However, with an intelligent high beam this uses cameras to detect headlights of oncoming vehicles and the brake lights of preceding vehicles. It automatically switches between high and low beams, providing the most light possible allowing earlier detection of preceding pedestrians and obstacles.

Cruise control

This is one of the most common safety features and one that you would have definitely heard of. Cruise control helps vehicles travel at a consistent speed that is set by the driver and helps maintain a pre-set distance to a preceding vehicle.

A cruise control system uses a radar and in-vehicle camera to detect the vehicle in front and help determine the distance. If the vehicle in front is travelling at a slower speed than your set speed, it will decelerate for you without having to cancel the cruise control. When the vehicle accelerates or is out of the distance range then the vehicle will accelerate until the set speed is reached.

Read more about the safety features found in cars 

Top tips for keeping safe on the road

Here are some of our top tips for keeping safe on the road at all times. While some of them may seem obvious, it is always worth reminding yourself of them from time to time.

Watch your speed

This is obvious, but if you really do need to watch your speed at all times. If you are doing a familiar journey you might find your speed creeping up without realising and you could end up getting caught by a speed camera or worse, getting into an accident.

If you are driving a new route and are unsure what the speed is, always assume that it is lower than it is. That way, you won’t get caught out. If you are in a residential area, remember that it might be 20mph and not 30mph, streetlights don’t always mean 30 so be extra careful around these areas.

If you are on a rural road and it is the national speed limit, remember this is a guide and not a goal. If you feel that the national speed limit is too fast on the road you are driving on, the weather or the condition of the road, then slow down and go the speed you feel comfortable driving.

20mph sign with trees in the background

Avoid distractions

The punishments are much stricter for getting caught on your mobile while driving now, but that doesn’t mean we are no longer without distractions.

Sat-navs, DAB radios and infotainment systems can all distract us while we are driving. Be it changing a song, changing radio stations or even checking some traffic information, we can all be driven to distraction and this can cause us to drive dangerously and even cause an accident.

Avoid distractions as much as possible when you are driving, and if you do need to change the song or look at traffic information, pull over when it is safe to do so.

Keep an eye on the weather

British weather means that it can be summer one minute and feel like winter the next. Therefore, you have to be prepared for all weathers. Torrential rain, black ice and falling trees can all make for difficult driving conditions.

Keeping an eye on the weather will allow you to adjust your driving, and possibly your journey, accordingly.

Be wary of others

You are not the only one on the road, you share it with many other users including cyclists, bus drivers, motorcyclists and those on scooters. This means that you have to be aware of who you are sharing a road with at all times.

Be particularly wary when it is busy or when you are driving on fast roads, other users may take you by surprise especially if they are on two wheels.

In conclusion, driving is getting safer, because our cars are getting safer. An increase in safety technology has meant that our cars are getting safer and are protecting us from accidents, which in turn, has made our roads safer. However, there are still things that we have to be aware of, and just because our cars are safer does not mean that we ourselves should be relaxed about safety. You should still be vigilant at all times, avoid distractions and stick to the speed limit.

Mum and
Andrew Kirkley

Andrew Kirkley

Director at OSV Ltd
Andrew enjoys: Movies and travelling to new cities to explore different cultures.

Andrew has been in the motor trade for over 20 years. What he enjoys most about his job is the team spirit and the dedication of his work colleagues. He also appreciates the teams input in the improvement of the company.
Andrew Kirkley

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