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The 10 most common reasons for car crashes

Everyone likes to think they’re a good driver and that they’re not going to be involved in a crash. But according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), every year around three million people claim on their car insurance, sometimes for theft or vandalism, but usually because of some kind of collision.

It doesn’t help that we’re all busier than ever and so are our roads; as we rush from one place to another it’s inevitable that crashes will happen. UK roads are among the safest in the world but there are around 30 million vehicles registered in the UK, and each year more than one in 10 of those will be the subject of a claim.

Do the sums and you’ll see that with more than three million claims annually, that works out at more than 8,000 each day or nearly 60,000 per week. So how can you make sure that you don’t end up on the receiving end of a pile of forms to fill in? A decent clue is given here; the 10 most common reasons why car crashes happen in the UK, according to the Department for Transport (DfT). Be careful out there…

1: Failed to look properly (42%)

Not looking properly is the reason for nearly half of the crashes on our roads, which is incredible when you think about it. Pulling out from a junction without stopping to see if it’s clear is one of the most common scenarios, while changing lanes on the motorway without a quick over-the-shoulder check is another typical problem. Remember what you were told when you took your driving test: mirror, signal, manoeuvre. Stick to that and even if you fail to see someone, just by signalling they might be able to help you avoid a collision.

2: Failed to judge other person’s path or speed (21%)

Sometimes before you make a manoeuvre you give just a cursory glance before you make your move. Big mistake! In more than a fifth of crashes, a driver fails to properly take into consideration how quickly someone is moving towards them, or what that other car is about to do. So when they pull out in front of that other car, a crash is guaranteed.

3: Careless, reckless or in a hurry (16%)

You should have spotted a trend by now, because in third place is another reason for car crashes that involves drivers rushing into things. This might manifest itself in overtaking when it’s unsafe to do so, pulling into someone’s path hoping you can beat them, or being impatient to make a manoeuvre when the coast isn’t clear.

4: Loss of control (14%)

In most cases, a loss of control is because of driving too fast for the conditions. It might be going to quickly round a bend, skidding on some ice or aquaplaning in the rain. But it might also be because a tyre has burst or there’s a steering fault. But in most cases slowing down would have avoided the crash, which is worth bearing in mind…

5: Poor turn or manoeuvre (14%)

This one is less about rushing things and more about being lazy. It’s about cutting corners when turning into a side road and poor positioning when making a manoeuvre. The golden rules apply: check what’s going on all around and only make a move when you know it’s safe to do so.

6: Pedestrian failed to look properly (10%)

Here’s a sobering thought: one in 10 collisions is caused by pedestrians not looking where they’re going. It would be easy to just assume the accident is inevitable if it’s not the driver’s fault, but that’s not necessarily the case. By keeping your speed down and watching out for other road users, you might be able to avoid somebody else’s crash if you keep your wits about you.

7: Slippery road (due to weather) (10%)

Drivers pay plenty in taxes but in return they get low-quality road surfaces that aren’t maintained properly. This penny-pinching attitude means when the heavens open our roads stay waterlogged instead of draining properly, leading to cars skidding into the undergrowth. Icy roads in the winter causes the same thing along with wet leaves in the autumn, but keep your speed down and you might just avoid that crash.

8: Sudden braking (7%)

Anti-lock brakes are fitted to all new cars by law, but there are still plenty of older models on the road that don’t have this life-saving tech. Stamp on the middle pedal in one of those, especially if the road is a bit slippery, and the undergrowth beckons…

9: Travelling too fast for the conditions (7%)

Modern cars are so quiet and comfortable that it’s easy to lose track of how quickly you’re travelling. You can get to a bend travelling much faster than you realised, or fail to slow down when there are hazards around such as cyclists, pedestrians or other vehicles. If you don’t give yourself enough reaction and braking distance you don’t stand any chance of stopping in time…

10: Following too close (7%)

By definition, a collision involves at least two things crashing into each other. So if you can increase the distance between moving objects you can (in theory) reduce the chances of a collision. That’s why you should always maintain at least a two-second gap from the car in front; if they need to stop in a hurry, you’ve given yourself a fighting chance of pulling up too.

Few people think they have much still to learn once they’ve passed their driving test, but the reality is that most of us could be better drivers. If you want to find out how to improve your observation skills and be a safer driver, see what the Institute of Advanced Motorists, RoSPA or a local driving instructor has to offer. They all provide post-test training – that might just save your life.

Richard Dredge

February 2016