Government challenged to work towards zero road deaths, as charity sets out priorities to stem rising casualties

Tuesday 14 July 2015

Brake, the road safety charity 

At a parliamentary reception held at the House of Commons today (14 July 2015), road safety charity Brake has set out its vision for a future free of the needless trauma of road death and injury. See photos here.

Brake deputy chief executive Julie Townsend told an audience of new and returning MPs that, following the first annual increase in road casualties of all severities in 17 years, the time has come for the government to make a statement of intent by reinstating ambitious casualty reduction targets – with the ultimate goal of reducing deaths and serious injuries on UK roads to zero.

To mark the event, Brake and long-time campaign partners Direct Line Insurance have today released a report examining UK drivers’ reported attitudes and behaviour in a number of key areas over the past decade, and making recommendations for improvement. Findings include:

  • The proportion admitting drink driving has fallen, although a sizeable minority of a third (32%) still admitted driving after drinking any amount of alcohol in 2013, compared with more than half (51%) in 2003.
  • The overall proportion of drivers saying they use mobiles at the wheel has fallen slightly, with less than half (45%) admitting doing this in 2013, compared with 54% in 2006. However, most drivers who used to use hand-held phones at the wheel appear to have switched to using hands-free phones, which is just as dangerous [1]. Texting has remained a constant issue, and use of internet and apps is an emerging threat to safety.
  • It’s become less common for drivers to admit speeding overall, but it remains a widespread threat. In 2015, more than half of drivers (57%) admitted speeding, an improvement on 88% in 2004. However, drivers are continuing to admit speeding on urban roads at similar levels, risking the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Young drivers have been consistently shown to be more likely to take a range of risks, including speeding and mobile phone use. However surveys have also shown widespread support among drivers for a new ‘graduated driver licensing’ system to improve the safety of new drivers, with 84% in favour of a minimum leaner period. Find out more in the full report.

Brake has set out further key road safety policies necessary to help make its vision a reality:

  • An effective zero-tolerance drink drive limit (of 20mg alcohol per 100ml of blood) to sever the link between drinking and driving for good. Find out more.
  • Greater priority given to traffic policing and increased penalties for mobile phone use and speeding, to pose a stronger deterrent against driving distracted, impaired or dangerously. Find out more.
  • A system of graduated driver licensing, to allow new drivers to learn in a safer and more structured environment while less exposed to risk, and help tackle young driver crashes. Find out more.
  • A default urban speed limit of 20mph, to cut casualties among the most vulnerable road users and allow people to walk and cycle in their communities without fear. Find out more.

Julie Townsend, Brake deputy chief executive, said: “We often hear that the UK has among the safest roads in the world. Yet after years of progress in bringing down casualties, figures for 2014 have revealed the first annual increase for 17 years. Every death and injury is devastating, as Brake knows well from supporting bereaved and injured victims, and every one is preventable. People on foot and bike – those travelling via the healthiest, least polluting and harmful means – have borne the brunt of the recent increase in casualties. In fact, if you travel by foot or bike in the UK you are far more likely to be killed or injured than in many of our European neighbours.

“There is far more we can do to make our roads as safe as they can be, where no one must pay the ultimate price for getting around. Global research and experience shows that measures like graduated driver licensing, 20mph limits and a lower drink drive limit are effective in preventing loss of life, and making our streets and communities safer, more pleasant places. We are appealing to the government to respond to the rise in casualties and seize the opportunity of preparing a new road safety strategy, by making clear that ultimately, we should be moving towards zero road deaths and injuries and ensuring everyone can get around without fear or threat.”

Gus Park, Direct Line’s director of motor,added: “One death or injury on our roads is one too many. That’s why since 2003 Direct Line and Brake have been producing our Reports on Safe Driving. These reports have, and continue to provide an insight into what needs to be done, advice for drivers and recommendations for Government to make our roads safer for everyone.”

Notes for editors

Quick reference: road casualty statistics

Casualties of all severities rose to 194,477 in Great Britain in 2014 (latest figures), an increase of 6% from 2013, interrupting what was a steady downward trend since 1997. The number of people seriously injured rose by 5% to 22,807, and the number of people killed rose by 4% to 1,775 [2].

People on foot and bike bore the brunt of the rise in casualties. Pedestrian deaths rose by 12% to 446, accounting for three quarters of the overall rise in fatalities. Serious injuries to cyclists rose by 8% to 3,401, continuing a long term trend that has been ongoing since 2004 [3].

Full detailed statistics can be found in the Department for Transport’s annual casualty report for 2014, available here.

About the report

The Brake and Direct Line summary report on safe driving, 2003-15, released today (Tuesday 14 July 2015) summarises some of the key findings of more than a decade of driver survey reports. The reports examine driver attitudes, knowledge and behaviour in relation to all aspects of safe driving, from fitness to drive to breaking traffic laws.

The summary focuses on three key threads of the reports – fitness to drive, driver distraction, and speed. It outlines the facts, trends, and makes key policy recommendations for improvement.

The reports are based on regular representative surveys of 1,000 drivers from across the UK, carried out on behalf of Brake by independent research company Surveygoo. To consult the reports in more detail, see


Brake is a national road safety charity that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies. We do this through national campaignscommunity education, services for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.

Brake was founded in the UK in 1995, and now has domestic operations in the UK and New Zealand, and works globally to promote action on road safety.

Follow Brake on TwitterFacebook, or The Brake Blog. Follow Julie Townsend on Twitter.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

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 motor, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.

Direct Line general insurance policies are underwritten by UK Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England No 1179980. UK 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

[1] Role of mobile phones in motor vehicle crashes resulting in hospital attendance: a case-crossover study, University of Western Australia, 2005

[2] Reported road casualties in Great Britain: main results 2014, Department for Transport, 2015.

[3] Ibid

Tags: Drink-Drive mobile phone research speed road deaths serious injury road casualty