‘Drive less, live more’ campaign launched by Brake, as devastating UK-wide health effects of driving are revealed

Monday, 23 November 2015

Brake, the road safety charity

Contact 01484 550067 / 07976 069 159, or e: news@brake.org.uk

  • Released today: 75% of drivers surveyed think people in the UK use their cars too much
  • Air pollution is estimated to kill 52,500 people in the UK each year
  • 43% of adults in England don’t meet the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week. Cycling or a brisk walk to work can meet these recommendations.
  • Five deaths and 64 serious injuries happen daily on UK roads, up 4% on the previous year

A national campaign launched today (23 November) by the charity Brake at the start of Road Safety Week calls on drivers to drive less, live more. The campaign aims to make roads safer, especially for people on foot and bike; save money; make communities more pleasant; protect the environment; and improve public health. Media are invited to campaign launch events – see box below.

As part of the campaign, Brake and partners AIG and Specsavers today reveal statistics confirming the devastating effects on health and wellbeing of driving, including the extent of air pollution, the shocking number of deaths it causes, and levels of ‘inactivity’ across different parts of the UK.

A map of the UK showing statistics for each local authority is now live at roadsafetyweek.org.uk/drivelessmap for your analysis.

Brake, Specsavers and AIG are also today launching results of a survey of 1,000 driving adults (23 Nov):

  • Eight in 10 (79%) admit to driving on journeys that could be made on foot, bicycle or by public transport.
  • A large majority of people surveyed see overuse of cars as a problem, but point the fingers at others: 75% think people use their cars too much, but only 30% think they are guilty of this.
  • 85% of those surveyed believe people overall should reduce car use, for a variety of reasons: 52% to reduce air pollution and noise, and half (50%) to protect the environment and stop climate change.
  • Significant numbers agreed their driving was detrimental to their own/family’s health (31%), and their family’s finances (28%).
  • The most commonly cited factor people said would help persuade them to drive less (37%) was making public transport in their area more frequent, accessible and convenient.

Full results are at the bottom of this release.

Filming, photo and interview opportunities:

Media are invited to attend the main launch in London or media calls across the UK in Glasgow, Bristol, and York. Find out more from news@brake.org.uk.

Main launch event:

WHERE: Horse Guards Parade, London SW1A 2AX   WHEN: 8:30am-11:00am 23 November

FILMING/PHOTOS: Met Police and their Cycle Safety Team will be running exchanging places, with cyclists and pedestrians given the opportunity to sit in an HGV and learn about their blind spots first hand. There will also be a spinning class with London’s Santander bikes, demonstration of BMW Electric bikes, Cemex’s new Econic truck which provides better safety for cyclists, and HaveBike's mobile cycle workshop.

INTERVIEWS: Brake campaigns director, Gary Rae (07748 674851), Met Police spokesperson Inspector Dave Osborne (07921 067 383), vox pops with members of the public.

OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPHS from the event will be provided from mid-afternoon on the same day. Contact news@brake.org.uk to confirm expected upload time. To set up pre-record filming and interviews with Brake, email news@brake.org.uk.


Why drive less, live more?

Every day five people die on UK roads, and 64 more are seriously injured – every one causes needless devastation, trauma and suffering, which Brake witnesses through its victim care services [1][2]. The vast majority of these serious casualties, which went up by 4% last year, are down to driver error.

Brake believes road safety isn’t just about driving safely and legally or using the green cross code, although these are important. It’s about making our streets safe and pleasant for everyone to use freely, and doing everything we can to protect ourselves and people around us. A big part of that is driving less, as little as possible, or not at all if you can.

It’s common for people to habitually walk the few metres from their front door to their car and drive, even if they’re only going round the corner. A quarter of car journeys (23%) are less than two miles [3]. People who walk or cycle often have to face busy, noisy streets, full of pollution and fast traffic. Is this the way we want it?

Walking, cycling or using public transport not only helps to make our streets safer, more pleasant and less polluted, it has personal benefits too. It can save families a lot of money, help people live healthier, more active lives, reduce stress and illness, and help people connect with their communities.

That’s why Brake is asking everyone to consider how they use roads, and to see if they can drive less, live more, and walk, cycle or use public transport instead, to help make our roads and communities safer, happier, healthier and less polluted places.

Members of the public can show their support for the drive less, live more campaign by:

Gary Rae, director of communications and campaigns at Brake, said: “Our Road Safety Week theme of ‘drive less, live more’ makes clear the link between improving road safety, preventing casualties, protecting people and the planet, and our choice of transport. We understand that not everyone has freedom of choice in the way they travel, hence we continue to have a strong year-round focus campaigning for a safer environment for walking and cycling through our GO 20 campaign. We also support the efforts of partner organisations that are campaigning for better public transport. But our main aim through this November’s Road Safety Week is to help people consider the options open to them, and better understand the benefits of driving less, to road safety, health, personal finances, communities and the planet.

“Road Safety Week has become the most crucial fixture in our calendar for raising public awareness of road safety, and it has also become a crucial fixture for many educators, road safety professionals, and employers around the country too. We believe this year’s theme is a critical one for all of us, providing a chance to show how road safety is a bigger issue than many people think.”

Specsavers co-founder, Dame Mary Perkins, said: “Specsavers is proud to continue to work with Brake to support Road Safety Week, a timely reminder of the dangers on our roads. As winter approaches, bad weather and dark nights impact on visibility affecting pedestrians, cyclists and drivers alike. But we hope this doesn't discourage people from walking and cycling at this time of year. We would urge all road users to ensure they have regular eye tests in order to keep both themselves and their loved ones safe and to cut down on the amount of preventable collisions on our roads.”

Stuart Sutherland, Casualty Profit Centre Manager at AIG, commented: “We are delighted to be supporting Brake in the dedicated work it does to promote road safety in the UK. This partnership is one of a number of road safety initiatives across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa as part of AIG’s Together for Safer Roads objectives. It reflects our commitment as a company to working around the world alongside partners in business, government and the community to make our roads safer and prevent unnecessary death and injury.”

More facts about driving and its impact:

  • By 2040 the number of cars on England’s roads is set to increase by 39% compared to 2010 and traffic delays by 61% [4].
  • Nearly a third (27%) of UK CO2 emissions come from road transport [5]. Air pollution is a major killer: there are an estimated 29,000 deaths from particulate matter pollution in the UK [6], 5,000 of which are attributable to road transport [7], and an additional 23,500 deaths from NO2 [8]. Much of the UK still exceeds EU standards on NO2 emissions; and in those areas where levels are too high, 80% of emissions are due to road transport, mostly cars and vans [9].
  • Fear of traffic can discourage people from walking or cycling, so it’s a big public health issue. A Brake survey found one in three non-cyclists (35%) would cycle their commute if routes were safer [10].
  • Only 22% of journeys and 3% of miles travelled in Britain are on foot, and only 2% of journeys and 1% of miles travelled are by bike [11].
  • One in five cars on the road during the morning rush-hour is doing the school run. Half of children are now driven to school [12], yet the average school run for primary schools is just 1.5 miles [13]. A Brake survey of UK schoolchildren found three in four (76%) would like to walk and cycle more [14]. Children who are encouraged to walk, cycle, scoot or skateboard to school tend to engage more with their community, stay healthy, and arrive alert, relaxed and ready to start the day [15].
  • One in four adults in England are obese and a further 37% are overweight [16]. The cost to the NHS of people being overweight is estimated at £4.2 billion per year [17]. The Chief Medical Officer recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate physical exercise a week, yet 43% of adults in England don't do this [18].
  • Incorporating activity like walking, jogging and cycling into everyday life is effective for losing weight [19], and can help guard against asthma, depression, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis and some cancers [20].
  • People who take the bus or train to work instead of driving have a lower BMI and healthier bodyweight [21].
  • Nearly half of households in England could be struggling with car-ownership costs [22]. Driving less can save money: for example, a family can save £642 per year by swapping a car-based school run for walking or cycling [23].

Notes for editors:

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.

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.

Road Safety Week
Road Safety Week is the UK’s flagship event to promote safer road use, coordinated annually by the charity Brake and involving thousands of schools, communities and organisations across the country. Road Safety Week 2015 takes place 23-29 November, with support from the Department for Transport and headline sponsors AIG and Specsavers.

American International Group, Inc. (AIG) is a leading global insurance organisation serving customers in more than 100 countries and jurisdictions. AIG companies serve commercial, institutional, and individual customers through one of the most extensive worldwide property-casualty networks of any insurer. In addition, AIG companies are leading providers of life insurance and retirement services in the United States. AIG common stock is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and the Tokyo Stock Exchange.


  • Specsavers was founded by Doug and Dame Mary Perkins in 1984 and is now the largest privately owned opticians in the world. The couple still run the company, along with their three children. Their son John is joint managing director
  • Specsavers has more than 1,600 stores throughout the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Spain, Australia and New Zealand
  • Total revenue for the Specsavers Group was £1.7 billion in 2011/2012
  • More than 20 million customers used Specsavers globally in 2011/2012. As of end March 2012, Specsavers had 16,138,076 customers in the UK and 928,582 customers in the Republic of Ireland
  • Specsavers optical stores and hearing centres are owned and run by joint venture or franchise partners. Together, they offer both optical and hearing services under one roof.
  • Specsavers employs more than 30,000 staff
  • Specsavers was voted Britain’s most trusted brand of opticians for the eleventh year running by the Reader’s Digest Trusted Brands survey 2012
  • More than one in three people who wear glasses in the UK buy them from Specsavers - 10,800,000 glasses were exported from the warehouse to stores in 2011
  • Specsavers was ranked No 1 for both eye tests and glasses in the UK
  • Specsavers sold more than 290 million contact lenses globally in 2011/12 and has more than a million customers on direct debit schemes. Specsavers' own contact lens brand - easyvision - is the most known on the high street
  • The hearcare business in the UK has established itself as the number one high street provider of adult audiology services to the NHS
  • Specsavers supports several UK charities including Guide Dogs, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, Sound Seekers, the road safety charity Brake, the anti-bullying charity Kidscape and Vision Aid Overseas, for whom stores have raised enough funds to build a school of optometry in Zambia and open eyecare outreach clinics in much of the country

End notes:

[1] Reported road casualties in Great Britain 2014, Department for Transport, 2015

[2] Police recorded injury road traffic collision statistics: 2014 key statistics report, Police Service of Northern Ireland, 2015

[3] National Travel Survey 2014, Department for Transport, 2015

[4] Road Transport Forecasts 2013, Department for Transport

[5] Local authority carbon dioxide emissions estimates 2012, Department of Energy & Climate Change

[6] Estimating Local Mortality Burdens associated with Particulate Air Pollution, Public Health England

[7] Public Health Impacts of Combustion Emissions in the United Kingdom, MIT

[8] Tackling nitrogen dioxide in our towns and cities, Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

[9] Tackling nitrogen dioxide in our towns and cities, Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

[10] Commuters call for safer streets for cycling, to enable more to get on their bikes, Brake

[11] National Travel Survey 2012, Department for Transport, 2013

[12] Donabie, Anna, Transport: Social Trends 41, Office for National Statistics, 2011

[13] Donabie, Anna, Transport: Social Trends 41, Office for National Statistics, 2011

[14] Kids want to get active: thousands march for safer streets, Brake, 2014

[15] The school run, Sustrans

[16] Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet: England, NHS, 2013

[17] Tackling obesities: future choices – project report (2nd ed), Foresight Programme of the Government Office for Science, 2007

[18] Public Health Outcomes Framework, Public Health England, 2014

[19] Start Active, Stay Active: a Report on Physical Activity from the Four Home Countries’ Chief Medical Officers, Department of Health, 2011

[20] Benefits of exercise, NHS, 2015

[21] Associations between active commuting, body fat, and body mass index: population based, cross sectional study in the United Kingdom, BMJ 349 :g4887, 2014

[22] Locked Out: Transport poverty in England, Sustrans, 2012

[23] Estimate by Sustrans based on figures from the AA, DfE school statistics, DfT National Travel Survey, DEFRA & DECC GHG conversion factors and the Bike Station, June 2014

Full survey results:

Survey of 1,000 UK adult drivers carried out by Surveygoo on behalf of Brake, September 2015:

Q.1 On average, do you think people in the UK use their cars? (tick one)

Far too much  28%

A bit too much 47%

About the right amount 25%

A bit too little  0%

Far too little 0%

Q.2 On average, do you think you personally use your car? (tick one)

Far too much 6%

A bit too much 25%

About the right amount 57%

A bit too little 10%

Far too little 3%

Q.3 Do you think people in the UK should reduce their car use, and if so, why? (tick as many as you think apply)

Yes, to protect the environment and stop climate change 50%

Yes, to make roads safer, especially for people on foot and bike 31%

Yes, to save money 40%

Yes, to improve public health 39%

Yes, to reduce air pollution and noise 52%

Yes, to help support local businesses 11%

Yes, to make their communities more pleasant and interact with people more 25%

No 15%

Q.4 Do you think you PERSONALLY should reduce your car use, and if so, why? (tick as many as you think apply)

Yes, to protect the environment and stop climate change 28%

Yes, to make roads safer, especially for people on foot and bike 16%

Yes, to save money 36%

Yes, to improve public health 21%

Yes, to reduce air pollution and noise 26%

Yes, to help support local businesses 6%

Yes, to make their communities more pleasant and interact with people more 13%

No 38%

Q.5 Do you think your own car use has any negative effects on you and/or your family, and if so, what? (tick as many as you think apply)

Yes, it is making me/us less healthy 31%

Yes, it is putting me/us in danger on the roads 12%

Yes, it is costing me/us too much money 28%

Yes, it is making me/us less likely to meet people and engage with the local community 11%

No 46%

Q.6 Do you think your own car use has any negative effects on society, and if so, what? (tick as many as you think apply)

Yes, it is contributing to making people less healthy because it creates pollution 38%

Yes, it is contributing to making people less healthy because it discourages them from walking or cycling 30%

Yes, it is contributing to putting people at risk on the roads 14%

Yes, it is contributing to costing society money, for instance because of road building costs or delays caused by congestion  21%

Yes, it is contributing to making our community less pleasant and/or sociable 15%

No 39%

Q.7 Would any of the following persuade you to use your car less? (tick as many as apply)

Driving cost more 18%

Public transport in my area was cheaper 32%

Public transport in my area was more accessible, frequent and convenient 37%

Walking and cycling in my area was safer and more pleasant 23%

More was done to convince me driving was harmful to me and my family 9%

More was done to convince me driving was harmful to society 4%

More was done to convince me driving was harmful to the environment 5%

Other people used their cars less 8%

None of the above - I will not/cannot use my car less 35%

Q.8 Choose the statement that most applies to you (tick one)

I never make journeys by car I could make by foot, bike or public transport instead 22%

I often make journeys by car I could make by foot, bike or public transport instead  18%

I rarely make journeys by car I could make by foot, bike or public transport instead 29%

I sometimes make journeys by car I could make by foot, bike or public transport instead 32%


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