Drivers urged to keep their heads this bank holiday weekend
25th August 2011
Brake, the road safety charity, and Direct Line are warning drivers that allowing stress or passengers to distract them while driving this bank holiday could have disastrous consequences.
Their calls come as research published today shows that seven in 10 drivers (71%) have lost concentration at the wheel in the past year because of stress caused by inconsiderate road users, worries about work or tension at home. It also found that two in five drivers (42%) have lost concentration because of distractions from other people in the vehicle.
The survey of 841 drivers revealed that drivers are more likely to lose concentration because of stress caused by other road users’ behaviour, than worries about work or their personal life.
In the past year:
- 60% have driven while not concentrating because they felt stressed, annoyed or upset because of the behaviour of other road users
- 44% of drivers lost concentration because they were thinking about personal issues that made them feel stressed, annoyed or upset
- 39% have driven while not concentrating because of work stress
Bank holiday journeys can be stressful because of the heat, busy roads and a backseat full of bickering kids, so it’s easy for drivers to forget that their number one priority should be focusing on the road and ensuring the family arrives safely. It only takes a second’s lapse in concentration to cause a death or injury, so Brake and Direct Line are calling on drivers to keep their mind on the road and pull over if they feel overwhelmed and unable to concentrate.
Ellen Booth, Brake senior campaigns officer, said: “Every death and serious injury on the roads is devastating and tears families apart. All too often these casualties result from careless errors that could easily be avoided if drivers gave their full attention to the road. People live busy, complicated lives, and driving over the bank holiday can be especially stressful, so it’s easy to understand why people get distracted. But driving is a massive responsibility because of the harm you can cause, so when you’re behind the wheel you must put safety first and stay focused. If you are so upset or angry that you can’t give driving your full attention, you need to pull over and cool off.”
Andy Goldby, director of motor underwriting at Direct Line, said: “There is no easy solution to prevent being distracted by stress when you’re behind the wheel. We advise motorists to plan ahead to try and avoid stressful routes and to take regular breaks if you’re feeling distracted during a car journey, no matter what the cause of the driver’s stress.”
In 2009 (most recent available data), 1,424 people were killed and 14,272 were seriously injured because of driver or rider errors. These included failing to look properly, overshooting junctions and performing poor turnings or manoeuvres .
In 2010, 24,300 people were convicted of careless driving in England and Wales . This is when a driver has failed to show a standard of care or skill that would have been exercised by a careful and competent driver. Drivers who are distracted by passengers or make mistakes because they aren’t paying attention could be charged with careless driving, which carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison. If a driver kills because they were not paying attention they could be charged with causing death by careless driving and face up to five years in prison.
Under new proposals by the Government, likely to be introduced in 2012, it will be easier for the police to prosecute careless drivers. Careless drivers could be given an instant fine of around £100 instead of having to go to court
Brake is calling for this fixed penalty to be significantly higher, in line with the dangers posed by careless driving, and for traffic policing to be made a national policing priority, to ensure that greater resources are directed into this vital policing area.
Previous research by Direct Line found that have having squabbling children in the car causes driver reaction times to increase by 13%. At speeds of 70mph this increases stopping distance by four metres .
Advice for drivers
Driving is probably the most dangerous thing you do on a daily basis. It is a demanding task that requires your full attention. If your mind is wandering when you are driving or you are too stressed to concentrate, remind yourself of the importance of staying on task and the potential consequences if you don’t. If you aren’t able to focus because you are too upset or angry, find somewhere to pull up safely as soon as possible. Take however long you need to calm down before continuing your journey, calling ahead if you need to.
Before you set off on your travels this bank holiday, make sure that you:
- read up on the route so that you don’t end up frustrated at being lost or distracted by maps or the sat-nav
- plan activities for the journey to keep any kids in the back seat occupied and out of your hair
- make sure you get plenty of sleep the night before
- plan in rest breaks every two hours to make sure that you stay fresh and able to concentrate on the road
- leave enough time to get to your destination so that you don’t have to stress if you get stuck in a jam and you don’t feel pressured to make up time by speeding later on
Notes to editors
The report is based on a survey of 841 drivers and riders carried out by Brake volunteers, at a range of locations across the UK. Every effort was made to ensure that a wide variety of people responded. Brake thanks all volunteers who helped conduct the survey and collate the results.
Brake is an independent road safety charity. Brake exists to stop the five deaths and 59 serious injuries that happen on UK roads every day and to care for families bereaved and seriously injured in road crashes. Brake runs awareness-raising campaigns, community education programmes, events such as Road Safety Week (21-27 November 2011), and a Fleet Safety Forum scheme, providing advice to companies. Brake’s support division cares for road crash victims through a helpline and other services.
Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides car, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.
Direct Line general insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.
Direct Line and UK Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc. Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0845 246 3761 or visiting www.directline.com
 Reported Road Casualties 2009 annual reports, Department for Transport, 2010
 Criminal Justice Statistics in England and Wales 2010, Ministry of Justice, 2011
Distracted and impaired driving - beyond mobile phone use and intoxication: an observational study’ was produced by TRL Limited for Direct Line, March 2010.