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Is driving getting safer than it used to be for people in the UK?

17th Jul, 2019

If you’re a driver, chances are you’ll have had what you or others might describe as ‘a bit of a close call’ within the last few months to a year. And after all, road accidents are so common that relatively few of them are even reported in the news, unless they’re particularly serious. So, we see how it might be tricky to describe the situation as objectively getting safer for us here in the UK.

But believe it or not, general trends are looking positive, and on the whole driving appears to be much safer than it was a few years ago. That means – all things considered – it’s less likely to be a collision that finally ends the useful lifespan of your scrap car. So what’s behind the change?

What do the statistics say?

Every year, the Department for Transport releases annual statistics on the number of accidents and deaths on our roads, and the good news is that there’s been a long-term downward trend in the number of fatal incidents. You can find the various reports in full on the official UK government website, but a quick breakdown of some key stats reveals there were:

– 3409 accident fatalities recorded in 2000
– 2222 accident fatalities recorded in 2009
– 1770 accident fatalities recorded in 2018

In fact, with only a few exceptions, over the last 20 years or so there’s been an annual fall of at least 0.5% in the number of road deaths. Those may sound like tiny numbers but the fact remains that it’s consistent progress nonetheless. Plus, some of those falls have been as far as 13% or 16%, which in real-life terms means that there are hundreds of people alive right now who may not have been otherwise. There’s undeniably still a lot of work we’ve got to do, but happily our roads are undeniably less dangerous than they used to be.

Why is UK driving getting safer?

Let’s be honest – we could probably fill a thesis if we wanted to make a particularly exhaustive explanation. However, we’re not statisticians here at Scrap Car Network, so we’ll cover the reasons in more general terms. It comes down to two major factors: changes in technology, and changes in the law.

Changes in technology

Leaving aside what safety implications that self-driving cars might have for the future, there have been several key advances in automotive technology in recent years. Some are brand new, whereas others are simple but efficient updates of existing tech. Intelligent high beams fall into this latter category; they automatically dim when they detect an approaching vehicle giving drivers greater flexibility in using high beams to illuminate their way, without dazzling other motorists.

Modern cruise control systems, on the other hand, can be used not just to regulate the speed of the car, but also its distance from the vehicle in front – ensuring there’s always sufficient space for a potential sudden braking manoeuvre.

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Some other advances include lane departure warnings, which let drivers know when they’re drifting from one lane to another without indicating. (Basically like rumble strips, except without the rumble.)

Front sensor systems can make it easier to avoid low-speed collisions when parking (when some drivers aren’t as careful as they should be), an autobrake technology can even step in and stop the car automatically if they detect a pedestrian or another vehicle in the way.

Changes in the law

UK motoring laws are updated on a regular basis, but they can be easy for drivers to miss when they simply constitute tougher penalties for existing offences. After all, if you’re not planning on committing the offence anyway, what difference does the change in punishment make?

But, drivers who are prone to recklessness or carelessness every now and again may well find that these changes in laws do make a difference, and quite a notable one at that. They’re also more significant to newer drivers, who may not have had time to form good or bad habits either way. For example, learner drivers can now go on motorways, helping them to gain better understanding of a key element of everyday driving much earlier on. Ultimately, the idea is that they become even more confident drivers by the time they’ve passed their test, cutting down on the number of accidents and near-misses that indecisiveness can cause.

As for reckless driving, one of the most recent laws aims to protect some of the most vulnerable road users by cracking down on people who pass cyclists too closely – there’s a £1000 fine if caught. And of course, there’s the recent EU legislation that mandates automatic speed limiting technology in new vehicles, which will come into effect in 2020. (You can read about more controversial proposed technologies in the link above.)

Ultimately, though, with only a few exceptions the vast majority of the changes in law and technology are aimed at simply changing driver attitudes, and our gradually improving safety rates indicate that we may be doing just that. The official aim is to get the accident rate down to zero, but in the long term, reaching that aim probably won’t be down to technology – it’s simply getting people to use it responsibly.

Whatever your opinions on the issue, you can be sure of one thing; here at Scrap Car Network, we’ll always be on hand to help you safely and responsibly dispose of your scrap car. Simply fill in your car reg and postcode to the fields above to get an instant scrap car quote, and find out how much your old vehicle is worth!