16th January 2018

While these fresh driver behaviour statistics may in reality single out a very small number of motorists, one crash or life lost is too many

With a full twelve months’ worth of data to crunch, the New Year typically brings with it an array of surveys and opinion polls. Our Group portfolio including a young driver insurance company and a fleet telematics business, we’re especially interested in road safety and driver behaviour statistics – and although examining the figures more closely pinpoints a tiny percentage of motorists, it still gives private and fleet drivers plenty to think about.

Drink-driving comes to the fore in the run-up to Christmas, which may seem like a distant memory but was just a few weeks ago. News outlets announced that ‘five million’ motorists admit to drink-driving, which is admittedly an extrapolated estimate based on the RAC having communicated with a modest 1,727 motorists, 16% of whom believed they have probably been guilty of driving while over the limit1. It’s fair to say that even the most sensible and experienced motorists may at times have unintentionally drunk too much in legal terms even if they felt absolutely fine, but while it boils down to only 3.5 people out of the 1,727 admitting to perceiving that they’ve driven under the influence the morning after, any accidents, injuries and losses of life at all are obviously tragic. The festive season may well be over, but drink-driving remains something that all motorists and fleet managers need to keep considering as 2018 ploughs on.

Using a mobile phone while driving has regularly been in the spotlight in recent months and is of course against the law, so DVLA figures revealing that not just one but two (or more) endorsements have been issued to over 6,000 drivers is staggering, even if this does equate to under 0.1% of Britain’s almost 43 million licence-holders2. The strong possibility of losing their licences is evidently not enough to deter this group of motorists, however in the minority they are.

While it could be argued tenuously by the reported 39% of respondents that quickly glancing at Facebook while sat in one of the UK’s seemingly ubiquitous traffic jams may feel less dangerous than holding a phone to one’s ear while driving, widespread social media addiction and assuming control of a potentially lethal vehicle just don’t mix. Many of us are frankly tempted, whether it’s catching the latest gossip or reading a business email, but with roughly 550 crashes per year involving mobile phones and with 32 fatalities related to phone use at the wheel in 2016 alone, the Be Phone Smart3 campaign is unwaveringly right when they allude to it simply not being worth potentially injuring or even killing someone rather than waiting a minute or two to pull over safely before reading the latest SMS, update or email.

We welcomed the introduction of the Do Not Disturb While Driving safety feature for Apple iPhone devices running on iOS 11, which should contribute greatly to reducing driver distractions. When a Bluetooth connection is active and motion at typical road speeds is detected by the inbuilt accelerometers, the phone disables calls, text messages, app notifications and other alerts while darkening the screen and making itself less easy to unlock.

Putting the DVLA’s figures into perspective, a FOI request by CarBuyer in November actually pointed to a reduction in the number of penalties issued for using phones while driving4, although more cynical voices put this down to a significantly reduced police presence. Whatever the case, an excellent New Year’s Resolution all of us from parents, educators and young or newly-qualified drivers, to at-work drivers and fleet managers can make is to place our phones out of temptation’s reach while on the road.

Speeding is another perennial area of focus when it comes to road safety and driver behaviour, and DfT figures from just over a month ago point to speed-related offences having hit an 11-year high, with a return to the levels seen back in 2005.

Neil Grieg from IAM RoadSmart admitted that the numerical increase could partly be due to drivers attending speeding awareness courses now being included in statistics5, but we concur with his view that “these figures show that we still have a long way to go to make speeding as socially unacceptable as drinking and driving.”

People of all ages are hooked on social media and perhaps connected cars’ infotainment systems facilitate this too readily, but at the end of the day, each person is responsible for his or her actions. We’re proud that our New Driver and Better Driver insurance products for young and newly qualified drivers, along with our Appy Fleet smartphone-based telematics solution, continue to play a part in helping drivers stick to speed limits.

While many motorists would likely admit to occasionally speeding as a result of being late for an appointment, flight or whatever else it may be, statistics fresh out from Click4Reg are quite concerning in one particular way. Of the 3,014 UK drivers aged 18-to-50 that they surveyed, 58.3% conceded to having put their foot down to get to work on time6, but this isn’t as surprising as the 66.7% who admit that “they speed because they like the thrill of driving fast”, which is quite a shocking revelation. Granted, some drivers do enjoy spirited driving, perhaps spurred on by watching motor racing or popular car-related TV shows, but the UK’s often narrow, congested and potholed roads are dangerous enough for drivers who keep sensibly within the limits, let alone anyone flaunting them.

Tailgating can be particularly daunting for young and newly qualified drivers and another new survey has found that such behaviour has contributed to 19% of motorists having been involved in an accident or near miss in the last year7. Apparently 79% of drivers don’t realise that tailgating is an offence that can incur penalty points and a fine, as is hogging the middle lane on motorways. Remaining in the middle lane while doing 70mph and overtaking plenty of traffic in lane one may understandably seem perfectly acceptable, but a vehicle should pull over if it’s simply cruising with no traffic to the left or in front. With learner drivers now allowed on motorways under professional supervision, hopefully each new batch of drivers will improve their road manners.

Nobody can expect the police to be omnipresent and the number of offenders involved in these behaviours may be relatively small, but any family will testify that one injury or fatality is one too many. By shedding any aura of invincibility in favour of greater social awareness, and by actively striving to complete each journey safely, all motorists whether private or at-work can contribute to making our roads safer. Besides, driving smoothly, at sensible speeds and without distraction can also save fuel and reduce wear and tear on a vehicle.


1. https://www.fleetnews.co.uk/news/company-car-tax-and-legislation/2017/12/15/five-million-motorists-admit-to-drink-driving-says-rac
2. https://www.fleetnews.co.uk/news/company-car-tax-and-legislation/2018/01/03/6-000-drivers-caught-at-least-twice-for-using-a-handheld-phone
3. https://bephonesmart.uk/
4. https://www.fleetnews.co.uk/news/company-car-tax-and-legislation/2017/11/24/drivers-fined-55m-for-illegal-phone-use-since-march
5. https://www.fleetnews.co.uk/news/company-car-tax-and-legislation/2017/11/24/speeding-offences-at-six-year-high
6. https://www.fleetnews.co.uk/news/fleet-industry-news/2018/01/04/more-than-half-of-motorists-speed-as-they-are-running-late-for-work
7. https://www.fleetnews.co.uk/news/fleet-industry-news/2018/01/03/one-third-of-drivers-admit-to-lane-hogging-the-middle-lane