Most road accident casualties found to occur between 21 and 30mph

Thankfully, Britain’s roads are some of the safest in Europe, but that doesn’t mean accidents don’t happen.

driving on british roads

A recent study by motorcycle insurance provider Carole Nash exposed the circumstances in which accidents occur.

It combined data from the Department for Transport spanning 2014 to 2018, and a 2020 survey of 1,000 active road users, and the results are useful and important reading for every single road user.

At what speeds do road accident casualties happen?

According to the data, the most common speeds for accidents to occur were as follows:

  • 1-20mph: 1,970 (7%)
  • 21-30mph: 14,306 (52%)
  • 31-40mph: 2,598 (9%)
  • 41-50mph: 1,254 (5%)
  • 51-60mph: 5,642 (20%)
  • 61-70mph: 1,028 (4%)
  • 70+mph: 894 (3%)

As we can see, more than half of accidents occurred at speeds between 21 and 30mph, with a smaller peak between 51 and 60mph, showing that road users in towns, cities, and suburbs should drive just as carefully as motorway drivers.

Overall, 59% of all fatalities occurred while travelling at speeds under 30mph.

Who or what do fatal road accidents involve?

Understandably, most (21%) of fatal accidents involved a car, followed by 11% with a pedestrian, 10% a motorcyclist, and 7% a bicycle.

This is a cause for concern – proportionally, there are far fewer pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists on British roads than cars, yet they make up a significant share of victims.

In what conditions do accidents occur?

The research found that 81% of slight, serious, or fatal road traffic accidents occurred in fine, calm weather, followed by 11% when it was raining and not windy, followed by 1% for both raining and high winds, and fine with high winds.

Just 0.5% of accidents happened during both snowy and icy, and foggy and misty conditions, while 33% of fatal accidents occurred during the day and 67% at night.

Interestingly, the survey of 1,000 motorists painted a different picture. Only 10% thought daylight, fine-weather conditions were the most likely times for accidents to happen, compared to 24% for darkness and snow or ice, 17% for daylight and wet weather, and 17% for darkness and wet weather.

What should motorists take on board from the research?

The results show that British motorists have a skewed picture of the most dangerous times to be driving.

While treacherous conditions may appear dangerous, we are likely to treat them as such, as opposed to fine, fair weather, when most accidents occur.

The same goes for speed – could low speeds lull drivers into a false sense of security?

Carole Nash’s survey asked motorists in what conditions they adapted their driving, and the results were as follows:

  • 72% drive or ride more cautiously in rain
  • 50% in heavy winds
  • 58% if the road is icy
  • 54% if the road is flooded
  • 16% in sunny weather
  • 47% if it is dark and there are no streetlights
  • 94% do not drive or ride more cautiously in daylight
  • 3% of drivers and riders do not adapt their driving style to the road conditions
  • 20% of bus drivers never adapt their driving style to the road conditions

As we can see, while most drivers do take heed of potentially dangerous conditions, taking a more cautious approach at apparently safe times of the day would do much to reduce accidents on the road.

Marc Copper, Head of Product at Carole Nash, noted: “We all know to be extra cautious if we’re travelling at speed, but perhaps we’re forgetting how dangerous low speeds can be too. Road users need to be aware of everything going on around them at all times, and it’s important to be as vigilant on a 30mph limit road as you would be on a motorway.”