Road casualties increase: drivers warned over emerging internet threat

Road casualties increase

Road casualties have gone up for the first time in 17 years prompting calls for government action

As road casualties increase, the government is coming under pressure to review and reinstate ambitious crash reduction targets. A report by road safety charity Brake, along with partner the insurer Direct Line, highlights some of the reasons behind the first rise for 17 years. Factors include an increasing use of the internet while at the wheel and young drivers being more likely to text while driving. As a result of the report, Brake has come up with a series of suggestions for the government to pursue. 

Road casualties increase: Internet the increasing threat

Using mobile phones while at the wheel has been a consistent threat to road safety. However, an emerging danger is the use of the internet and apps while driving. Texting also remains a problem. Most drivers who used to use hand held phones now go hands-free. And the number of drivers admitting to using their phone in the car has fallen slightly. Fewer than half (45 per cent) of drivers admitted doing it in 2013 compared with 54 per cent in 2006.

Road casualties increase: Young drivers over represented

Drivers aged from 17 to 24 represent more of a threat to road safety than their older peers. Although the 17 to 19 age group makes up a mere 1.5 per cent of UK licence holders, they account for 12 per cent of fatal and serious crashes. More than four in 10 (44 per cent) admitted to texting at the wheel compared to 30 per cent of all drivers. And 56 per cent of young drivers said they’d broken the 60mph limit on rural single carriageway roads compared with the average of 37 per cent among all drivers. To combat this, Brake would like Graduated Driver Licensing to be instated. This is when young drivers have to hold their provisional licence for a minimum amount of time before they can pass a test and drive on their own.

Road casualties increase: Speed a vital factor in crashes

It is less common for drivers to admit to speeding. Even so, in 2015, 57 per cent of drivers said they’d broken the speed limit at some point during the year. This is down from 88 per cent in 2004.

Road casualties increase: More 20mph limits

The number of drivers speeding on roads with a 30mph limit remains flat at 63 per cent. Brake believes that the spread of 20mph speed restrictions in urban areas is vital to cutting the number of casualties. Currently more than 14 million people in the UK live within 20mph zones. Brake now wants the default urban speed limit to be reduced to 20mph.

Road casualties increase: drink driving still a problem

Although the number admitting to drink driving has fallen, a third (32 per cent) still said they’re happy to drive after drinking alcohol. This is despite statistics proving even one drink can make you more likely to crash. Brake believes the drink-drive limit needs to be lowered. This follows evidence suggesting drivers with 20-50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood are three times more likely to die in a crash. “As long as the limit remains at 80mg in England and Wales, many continue to believe that one or two drinks is safe. Legislation can send a clear message that it isn’t,” Brake said.

Road casualties increase: drug driving undiminished

In 2003, three per cent of drivers admitted to getting behind the wheel after taking illegal drugs. The report found that in 2013, exactly the same proportion drive under the influence of banned substances. This appears to show the road safety message is failing to get through to a hard core of users. However, from March 2015, a zero tolerance law towards drug driving came in. In addition, police have increasingly had access to roadside saliva testing kits. These can identify immediately when a driver has been taking illegal drugs. It’s hoped these measures will help cut the number of drug drivers.

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