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Drivers urged to check up and belt up this bank holiday

23rd August 2012

Drivers are being urged to make sure their vehicle and passengers are safe before setting off on journeys this bank holiday, as research out today shows a huge proportion of drivers are failing to take a few minutes to conduct potentially life-saving checks.

The survey by road safety charity Brake and Direct Line shows nearly four in ten (39%) set off on long journeys without checking their tyres are in a safe condition with the right pressure, while a similar proportion (41%) fail to make sure lights and indicators are working. More than one in four (26%) don’t bother to check oil and water and the same number (26%) don’t ensure washers and wipers are working.

Across all these vital checks, women are less likely to do them than men and young drivers far less likely than older drivers (see results breakdown below). More than one in four (28%) young people fail to undertake any of these checks before long journeys, compared with 10% of all drivers. Brake and Direct Line are highlighting that it only takes a few minutes to carry out basic but essential safety checks on oil and water, windscreen wipers and washers, windows and mirrors, lights and indicators, tyres and brakes.

The survey of 1,000 drivers also revealed many are not checking themselves and their passengers, including children, are safe and secure before setting off:

  • More than one in five (21%) admit they don’t always check passengers are belted up, with an alarming one in 20 (5%) saying they never check;
  • Nearly three in ten (29%) never check passengers’ head restraints are correctly positioned to prevent whiplash, while 37% could not identify the correct position;
  • One in seven (16%) admit driving with a child passenger not in an appropriate car seat.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive at Brake, said: “Getting ready to set off on holiday or another long journey can be stressful, but drivers need to remember that their number one priority is making sure they and their passengers arrive safely. It only takes a tiny problem with your vehicle to turn a family trip into a tragedy. If you’re rushing to get off on holiday, or on any journey, please take the time to conduct simple checks that could prevent a devastating crash. It only takes a few minutes to check your vehicle is safe, and everyone is properly restrained, but it could mean the difference between life and death.”

Andy Goldby, Director of Motor Underwriting and Pricing at Direct Line, said: “It is important to ensure your car is in a roadworthy condition. By ensuring you undertake simple checks you can minimise the risk of a crash or breakdown and there are benefits to your pocket as well, as ensuring your tyres are inflated to the correct pressure will reduce your vehicle's fuel consumption. Even if your car is in a fit state to travel it is essential to ensure you and your passengers are too. Seatbelts, the correct size child car seats and head restraints in the right position can all help prevent and reduce the severity of an injury. Quick simple checks before you start your journey can make a difference to when and if you get to your destination.”


In 2010 (latest data available), 39 people were killed and another 2,178 were injured, some seriously, because of crashes where vehicle defects were a factor [1]. This includes problems with tyres, brakes, lights, and mirrors, or overloading.

Last year more than 13,000 people were convicted of driving with a vehicle or part in dangerous or defective condition [2]. More than 3,300 were fined more than £200 for the offence [3].

It’s estimated seatbelts have saved more than 50million lives since they were first made compulsory for front-seat passengers in 1983 [4]. You are twice as likely to die in a crash if you’re not wearing one [5]. Unbelted rear seat passengers kill about between eight and 15 front seat passengers every year by crashing into the back of their seat [6], and an unrestrained child in a 30mph crash can hit the chair in front with a force of 30-60 times their body weight [7].

Not having a correctly positioned head restraint can lead to whiplash in a crash, as the body is held in place by the seat back, but the head moves backwards, bending the neck. Whiplash can cause pain, permanent disability and even death [8].

Results breakdown

Do you carry out the following maintenance checks on your vehicle whenever setting out on long journeys?

  • 26% of all drivers don’t check oil and water levels, including: 21% of male drivers; 29% of female drivers; 57% of young drivers (age 18-24); 24% of older drivers (age 25+)
  • 26% of all drivers don’t check windscreen wipers and washers are working and topped up, including: 23% of male drivers; 28% of female drivers; 60% of young drivers (age 18-24); 25% of older drivers (age 25+)
  • 32% of all drivers don’t check windows and mirrors are clean and clear, including: 31% of male drivers; 32% of female drivers; 70% of young drivers (age 18-24); 30% of older drivers (age 25+)
  • 39% of all drivers don’t check tyres have legal tread depth, the right tyre pressure and in good condition, including: 35% of male drivers; 43% of female drivers; 75% of young drivers (age 18-24); 38% of older drivers (age 25+)
  • 41% of all drivers don’t check lights and indicators are working properly, including: 37% of male drivers; 44% of female drivers; 80% of young drivers (age 18-24); 39% of older drivers (age 25+)
  • 10% of all drivers check none of the above, including: 6% of male drivers; 13% of female drivers; 28% of young drivers (age 18-24); 9% of older drivers (age 25+)

Advice for drivers

Making sure your vehicle is in good working order before you set off needn’t take long. There are a few simple checks you can do yourself to make sure your vehicle is as safe as it can be. Check:

  • tyres have a tread depth of a minimum of 3mm (any less is risky in the wet), are free from cracks, buckles, or bulges, and are at the right pressure (using a gauge to check).
  • all lights and indicators are working properly by having someone else stand outside the car as you switch them on and off.
  • windscreen wipers and washers are working by testing them while the car is stationary. Make sure your windscreen cleaner and water are topped up.
  • oil and water levels are correct.
  • windows and mirrors are clean and clear, and the latter positioned properly.
  • brakes: by applying them gently while driving very slowly in a safe, flat place with no other road users around. If they feel different to how they usually feel – such as taking longer to ‘bite’ or are harder to push down or are making squeaking or grinding noises – you need to get them checked with a mechanic immediately.

If you notice any problems, get them fixed straight away, and consult a garage if you have concerns. You should also check everyone in the vehicle is properly restrained before setting off:

  • children under 135cm in height are correctly strapped into a child restraint that’s right for their size and weight, and properly fitted. Buy restraints that meet modern safety standards. Read more.
  • all passengers over 135cm are wearing seatbelts and have a correctly positioned head restraint, with the top level with the top of their head.
  • any luggage or other items are safely packed in the boot out of harm’s way and so they won’t move about. Make sure your vehicle isn’t overloaded.

It’s also crucial for drivers to get a good night’s sleep before any long journeys, and take breaks at least every two hours to stay alert.

Notes to editors

The report is based on a survey of 1,000 drivers and riders carried out by research agency Redshift, across the UK.

About Brake

Brake is an independent road safety charity. Brake exists to stop the five deaths and 66 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.

Direct Line

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

End notes:

[3] ibid
[6] ibid