The 5 most common causes of car accidents – revealed

22nd Aug, 2019

Ideally, when the time finally comes to scrap your car, it’ll be because of something innocent – like a mechanical or electrical failure. If you’re unlucky on the other hand, you could end up having to scrap your car because it’s been in an accident. Even if you and the other occupants escape unharmed (which is a gamble) it can still leave lasting emotional and mental trauma. Over recent decades, the most common causes of UK car accidents have remained broadly the same, so knowing the pitfalls can help you avoid a dangerous accident of your own.

1. Inattention and distracted driving

Unquestionably, using a phone at the wheel is dangerous and illegal. Could you really say the same about eating an apple while driving, though? Unfortunately, yes you could – and not everyone seems to realise it! Both actions are classed as distracted driving, which basically covers anything that causes you to give the road ahead anything less than your absolute undivided attention. This includes taking calls, sending texts, eating food, or reaching for an object, like changing a CD.

They might sound harmless enough on their own, but even something as simple as answering a text can be immediately dangerous in several ways.

Mental distraction – Driving and using your phone are both tasks that require a sizeable amount of thinking and concentration (however easy they might seem at the time)! This makes them difficult to conduct simultaneously, and drivers underestimating the necessary thinking capacity they require can (and does) lead to fatal crashes.

Physical – By necessity, whenever you’re conducting additional tasks, you’ve only got one hand on the wheel, which automatically limits the speed and capacity of your reactions.

Visual – Taking your eyes off the road for even a few seconds can cause you to miss sudden or rapid developments on the road ahead. Common examples include unexpected braking from the car in front, which can easily be enough to cause an accident.

2. Speeding

Right after distracted driving, speeding is one of the most common and significant underlying contributing factors to UK accident rates. Our roads are amongst the safest in the world, but even after decades of awareness campaigns, there’s still a notable proportion of us who take speed limits as advisory notices, rather than mandatory ones – especially on motorways.

The risks they pose are simple in principle. The faster you drive, the less time you leave yourself to react to sudden developments on the road in front of you, which means you’re more likely to run headlong into something in front of you – especially if that driver is engaging in some reckless driving themselves.

3. Reckless driving

Most people would never think of themselves as reckless drivers, but again there are some quite seemingly harmless behaviours that can be equated with that definition. Many of us are guilty of having switched lanes without first indicating, or doing so almost immediately after indicating to avoid getting caught in a momentary traffic jam. This leaves the drivers behind far less time to react to what’s happening, and can lead to sudden braking – which opens up the risk of either the manoeuvring vehicle being struck by the car behind, or alternatively causing a minor pile-up through careless driving.

Zipping through traffic lights on amber (half a second before they turn red) is another example of common dangerous driving. Drivers in urban areas can also sometimes neglect to look properly before looking out, which can be a massive risk in itself. Even when the car is stationary, opening the door without looking can mean a cyclist goes right into you.

Then there’s tailgating – otherwise known as driving too closely to the vehicle in front of you, intentionally or not. Even if you manage to do this without getting into an accident, it’s incredibly dangerous, and if you get caught it can lead to a fixed penalty notice. Most people know or not whether they’re tailgating, but to avoid doing it you can ensure that you’re following the two-second rule, staying a distance of at least two seconds from the vehicle in front.

4. Tiredness, alcohol and drug inducement

Much as with mobile phones, all drivers know not to drink and drive. Whether they follow that rule, however, is another matter. We won’t go into the specifics – you won’t need us to tell you that alcohol and drug impairment drastically affects your ability to competently drive and maintain control of your vehicle, while severely affecting your reaction times and capabilities. It doesn’t take all that much to put you over the limit, and some countries like Hungary and the Czech Republic actually enforce a zero-tolerance policy – so if you get caught driving in these countries with even a trace of alcohol in your blood, you’re facing the legal consequences immediately. The law in Costa Rica is only slightly more lenient – if your blood-alcohol level is below 0.75%, you’ll avoid jail. (But only just about.)

In comparison, driving when tired is far more frequently underestimated, but can be just as dangerous. Some estimates put it as accounting for 2% of all UK road accidents (a deceptively small number when you remember that it represents thousands of incidents), while other estimates put it as high as 20%! Long car journeys are also a factor or driving at a time when you’d normally be asleep.

5. Weather conditions

We’re no strangers to inclement weather here in Britain, even (annoyingly) in the summer! The dangers of driving in heavy rain or snow are also exacerbated by some of the other factors on this list. It can be tricky enough driving in tough weather conditions where stopping distances are increased and visibility is shortened, but when you’re also too tired or going too quickly, it makes accidents more or less inevitable. While certain accidents can be unavoidable, the vast majority aren’t, so it’s still wise to treat adverse weather with the caution it deserves. If it’s too extreme, avoid going out at all in it if you can.

Cars in poor condition aren’t in this top five list, but just because they’re not a common factor in collisions and crashes doesn’t mean they’re not dangerous. Even apparently small things like a cracked windscreen, inoperable wiper, or a balding tyre might seem innocent enough, but they can rapidly or even suddenly develop into serious problems that could be enough to cause you to have a collision that’s enough to scrap your car.

Hopefully you can run yours until it dies of natural causes, so to speak, but either way, you can always count on us here at Scrap Car Network to safely and responsibly scrap your car. We’ve been doing this for decades, and we’ve now stripped back our processes so that it’s never been easier or simpler. All you have to do is enter your postcode and car reg into the fields on our site to get your very own instant scrap car quote!