Articles Tagged ‘advice - Brake the road safety charity’

Advice for cyclists


Cycling is a great way to get around. It’s fun, healthy, good for the planet and cheaper than driving. But unfortunately it can be risky. In 2017, 101 cyclists were killed and 3,698 seriously injured in Britain. This is part of the reason why the UK lags behind many other countries for cycling levels: just 2% of journeys and 1% of miles in Britain are travelled by bike.

Brake campaigns for safer streets and routes for active and sustainable travel, including traffic free cycle routes and 20mph limits in communities through our Pace for People campaign to encourage uptake and protect people on bikes. Until we achieve this, the ultimate responsibility for protecting cyclists and pedestrians on our roads lies with drivers, who are operating a fastmoving machine that can cause a lot of damage. But there are steps cyclists can take to help reduce the risks they face. Read our advice for cyclists on taking the safest approach to getting about by bike.

- Why cycle?

- Getting started

- Travelling by bike

- Cycling on the road

- Cycling with children

Why cycle?

It’s healthy

Cycling is an excellent form of exercise. Incorporating physical exercise, such as cycling, into everyday life can be as effective for weight loss as a supervised exercise programme. Regular exercise reduces the risk of heart disease and obesity, and increases life expectancy. High blood pressure, osteoporosis, diabetes and depression are also less frequent among people who exercise regularly, and cyclists in busy cities report better lung health than most other road users as they may experience pollution levels five times lower than drivers. Cycling to work, school or the shops is a great way to stay fit and in shape and feel good.

Modern bikes are lightweight and affordable (especially compared to running a car). Estimates suggest cycling costs riders around £396 per year, compared with the £3,727 annual cost of driving. They can also be fitted with panniers and baskets that can carry a surprising amount.

While the British weather can sometimes be intimidating to first-time cyclists, what looks like a drizzly and cold day from within a car can be refreshing on two wheels. You don’t have to get hot and sweaty, just ride at your own pace.

It’s environmentally friendly

Our society’s over-reliance on cars has major consequences for the environment and our health. More than a quarter of UK carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions come from road transport. It’s estimated that up to 29,000 deaths each year are a result of inhaling particulates, while nitrogen dioxide emissions are thought to contribute to around 24,000. Noise and fumes from traffic also impact on our ability to enjoy our local communities and countryside, and unless we act now, the amount of traffic on our roads is set to increase. By 2035, the amount of traffic travelling in congested conditions is predicted to double. Replacing some of our car journeys with cycling would make a big difference to this.

It’s cheap

You can get hold of a durable, road-worthy bicycle relatively cheaply. Maintaining a bike is of course much cheaper than running a car. It’s estimated that the average family could save £642 a year by swapping a car-based school run for walking or cycling. Commuters who drive or pay for a season pass for public transport could make significant savings by swapping to a cycle commute.

Meanwhile, driving is becoming increasingly expensive. More than a million car-owning households spend around a quarter of their disposable income on a motor vehicle, while the charity Sustrans estimates nearly half of households in England struggle with the cost of car ownership.

Getting started

Cycle training

If you aren’t a confident cyclist, or don’t have much experience on a bike, it’s a good idea to consider cycle training. There are cycle trainers across the UK offering training for children and adults – see Cycling UK’s . Some schools run cycle training courses for children, funded by the local authority, through schemes such as Bikeability. If you have children who want to cycle, speak to their school to see if it offers training. If it doesn’t, you could contact the local authority and ask it to support schools to provide training.

Wear a helmet

Brake strongly advises cyclists of all ages and levels of experience to wear a helmet. A helmet won’t offer you complete protection, and sadly helmets don’t prevent crashes happening in the first place – hence Brake campaigns for safer streets and safer driving. However, wearing a good quality, well-fitted cycle helmet does help to protect your brain in some types of crashes or if you fall off your bike and hit your head. Research shows that wearing one reduces your chances of suffering fatal or serious brain injuries in a crash. If you wear a helmet, always make sure you fit it according to the instructions and ensure it isn’t damaged.

Prepare your bike

It’s worthwhile learning the basics of bicycle maintenance if you want to begin cycling. This basic maintenance guide from the BBC is a good starting point. Whether your bike is new, second hand, or it’s been sat in your garage gathering dust, give it a thorough check before you start using it. Familiarising yourself with the mechanics will come in handy if you run into a problem while out cycling. For more in depth information on keeping your bike in good shape, see Bicycling’s maintenance guide.

Remember, it is illegal to cycle at night without lights, so if you are making a bicycle journey in the dark, or there is any chance you might be caught out as the sun goes down, test your lights before setting off. You must have a white light at the front, a red light at the back, red reflectors at the back and amber reflectors on the pedals.

Travelling by bike

Commuting by bike and cycling for work


Cycling to work is good for your health, the environment, and for your pocket, and it’s a great way to get the blood moving and wake the body up first thing in the morning. We recommend you use safe, off-road or segregated cycle paths for as much of your journey as you can, however we know this isn’t always possible. Cycling UK offers a guide to cycle routes that can help you to find safer places to cycle. If your commute is too far to cycle the whole way, you could take the train and cycle the journey to and from the station. See National Rail Enquiries’ information on taking bicycles on the rail network.

You could also check if your employer is signed up for the government’s cycle to work initiative, which allows you to purchase a new bike tax-free and pay monthly straight from your salary. If your employer hasn’t signed up, direct the relevant member of staff to details of benefits to employers of the initiative, and encourage them to sign up.

Using bicycles at work is becoming increasingly common in some professions. Couriers, police and paramedics are among workers who may cycle for work. If you are required to cycle as part of your job, ensure your employer has a robust safe cycling policy, covering: training; clothing; lighting; risk assessment of routes; pre-ride inspections; punctures; storage; theft; and insurance. If they don’t have a policy, talk to your manager.

Cycling to school

Brake advises that children younger than 10 should cycle on safe cycle paths, away from motorised traffic, and should always ride with a grown up. With the right guidance, and safe conditions, most secondary school children will be capable of cycling independently. However, heavy or fast moving traffic, lack of cycling facilities or unsuitable terrain for cycling often makes cycling to school unsafe or impractical.

Many UK schools will draw up a travel plan in partnership with their local authority to enable and encourage active, sustainable and safe travel to school. This includes identifying and working to address any barriers to children walking or cycling safely, including lack of cycling facilities. If you have concerns about your child (or you) being able to cycle safely to school, it’s a good idea to raise these with the school and local authority, and ask if this is to be addressed as part of the school travel plan.

Schools may also offer free cycle training to students through schemes such as Bikeability. Contact the school to see if they offer training, and to enrol your child if it is offered.

Cycling in your area

Do you automatically reach for the car keys when you need to go to the shops? How about when visiting friends or going to the cinema or gym? If destinations like this are within a couple of miles of where you live, consider hopping on a bike instead. Commuting or doing the school run by bike may not be practical for everybody, but most of us will have other opportunities to cycle. Cycling around your local area is a fun and easy way to stretch your legs, get some fresh air and enjoy your community or countryside. 35% of UK journeys of less than two miles are made by car. Many of these could be made by bicycle in less than 20 minutes, helping to reduce traffic volumes, pollution and danger, while allowing you to get fit and save money on petrol and parking.

If your local area doesn’t have suitable cycling facilities, use our community campaign guide to call for improved active and sustainable travel infrastructure in your area.

Take action: support the Place for people campaign.

Cycling on the road

We advise sticking to safe, off-road or segregated cycle paths as much as possible. However there may be times, especially on longer routes, where you will have to cycle on roads with other vehicles. If you are cycling on the road, be sure to stick to the following advice:

  • Choose the safest routes: where you do have to cycle on roads, quieter roads with less traffic, lower (preferably 20mph) speed limits and fewer parked cars and other hazards, are likely to be far safer. You should also consider junctions that are likely to be risky, like busy roundabouts, and either avoid these entirely or walk your bike across them on pavements, crossings or underpasses.
  • Stay vigilant: Look out for any potential hazards or obstructions ahead, such as bumps, pot holes and parked vehicles, and give yourself plenty of time to manoeuvre around them safely. Regularly look behind and to the sides so you are aware of what is happening on the road around you. When cycling past parked cars, leave extra space and watch out for doors being opened.
  • Road position: You should allow at least a metre between you and the kerb. Position yourself even further out from the kerb when on a road where it’s unsafe for a driver to pass you. Giving yourself plenty of distance from the kerb will also help you avoid cycling over drains, debris and other hazards found in or near the gutter.
  • Never pass on the inside: Never attempt to undertake a lorry or bus on the inside, especially at a junction, even if there is a cycle lane. Because of blind spots on large vehicles, the driver may not be able to see you if you pass on their left. It’s better to hold back and wait behind the vehicle. If you must overtake, do it on the right and allow plenty of space to pass safely, and beware of oncoming traffic.
  • Signal clearly: When changing lanes, turning, or any other similar manoeuvre, signal your intent clearly and well in advance so other road users know what you are going to do.
  • Use your lights: If you’re cycling in the dark or in poor visibility conditions you are required to have front and rear lights by law. We recommend you carry small spare lights in case the main lights stop working.

Cycling with children

Cycling with your kids is a great way to stay fit and enjoy some quality time together, while teaching them important road safety lessons. Brake recommends that children under 10 don’t cycle on roads. Many roads are unsafe for children, particularly fast and bendy rural roads and busy town roads without separate space for cyclists.

cycle4life 8

Some communities now have great cycling facilities, including separate paths for cyclists, which can be a great way for children to start enjoying the benefits of cycling while safe from traffic. Safe places to cycle (and have stress-free fun as a family) include off-road cycle trails, parks and many forests and country parks with specially created mountain biking areas and paths. In cities, velodromes often have indoor and outdoor facilities that are open to children of a certain age. Check your local council website for details of facilities in your area, or Cycling UK’s guide to cycle routes to find safe, off-road cycle paths.

You can also help your child gain experience through cycle training arranged through their school or the local authority. Even if it's not safe for them to cycle on local roads, this is helpful for them starting to gain experience, and great if you are planning a cycling holiday.

If your child cycles on roads, help them plan the safest possible routes making use of traffic-free paths and quiet, slow roads, and teach them the importance of following the advice above. Tell them to get off and walk their bike on the pavement if they have to negotiate any busy junctions.

Carrying pre-schoolers

There is a huge range of products on the market designed to transport children by bike, from front- and rear-mounted child seats, to trailers, tag-alongs and tow bars. The best option for you may depend on several factors:

  • your own experience and fitness;
  • number of children;
  • the size and age of the children;
  • the type of route and surface;
  • traffic levels and danger; and
  • the distance you are planning to ride.

If you can, try before you buy. Most cycle shops stock a variety of bikes and child-seat accessories that you can test out with your children.

Be aware that child carriers increase the size of your bike, alter the balance, and can make manoeuvring more challenging. Child seats on bikes aren’t safety seats with crash protection, and uncovered seats offer no protection from the elements either – a child who is not pedalling can get very cold or sunburnt so ensure they are well wrapped up or are wearing suncream, depending on the weather.

Trailers place your child at the level of vehicles’ wheels and exhaust fumes, and therefore Brake does not recommend they are used on roads, although they can be great on off-road, well-surfaced cycle trails.


Page updated October 2018


Advice for drivers

When you drive you’re in charge of a fast-moving chunk of metal that can do a lot of damage to you and other people. That’s why you have a particular responsibility to do everything you can to be safe and protect the people around you.

The good news is there are some really simple steps you can take to hugely reduce your chances of being in a serious crash.

Follow Brake’s advice on each key topic below, and you’ll be helping to prevent devastating crashes, make our streets and communities safer, happier places, and doing your bit for the environment.

Then make our Pledge, a six point plan to help keep yourself and others safe on roads.

 slow2 Slow
Winter and bad weather driving
 sober2 Sober
Drink and drug driving 
 Securethumb Secure
Seat belts and child seats
Vehicle maintenance and breakdowns
 Silentthumb Silent

Eyesight and other medical conditions
Fatigue and driving 

Sustainablethumb Sustainable

Make the Brake Pledge

For more in depth information on more topics, go to our fact pages.

Advice for parents and families

As a parent, you will have understandable road safety concerns for your child which are likely to change as your child gets older. Road crashes are the biggest cause of death among 5-25 year-olds. But there are key steps you can take to help protect your child. This page provides simple advice from your child's birth to reaching the age when they may start learning to drive or be a passenger with other young drivers.

You can also read our advice for children and teenagers.

And why not make the Brake Pledge as a family, to show your commitment to road safety?

If you work with infants, either as a childminder, in a pre-school, play group or nursery, you might be interested in running a Beep Beep! Day. Find out more.


Child seats

✔ Never hold a child in your arms in a vehicle - use a modern child seat suitable for their size and weight. Keep using a child or booster seat appropriate for your child’s size until they’re 150cm tall. Buy one with the United Nations E mark or BS Kitemark and don’t use second-hand.

✔ Follow the fitting instructions exactly. If possible, fit the seat in the middle of the back of your car. If you need to use a taxi, book one you can fit your baby seat into.

à Take a look at our letter to parents on 2017 car seat law changes.

à Read more advice on baby seats and child restraints.

Safe vehicles and safe driving

✔ The safety of your child in cars also depends on the protection provided by the vehicle. If you're buying a car, check out its crash test rating and buy the safest you can.

✔ The other critical factor is your driving. So stay well within speed limits, never drive after drinking any alcohol or when stressed, tired or distracted, and switch off your phone.

à Make the Brake Pledge to commit to safe driving.

Accepting lifts from friends and relatives

✔ It is just as important that your child is appropriately restrained in other people's cars, and driven slowly and safely. If you are unsure, don't let them go. In some situations it might be socially awkward, but the safety of your child must always be priority.


Buggies and push chairs

✔ If you use a buggy or push chair, strap in your child securely and keep the buggy well back from the edge of the road when getting ready to cross. If you can carry the weight, front and back carriers are a safer way to carry babies near busy roads, and mean your hands are free.

✔ If you use a buggy on hilly streets, use a strap that goes around your wrist and the buggy handle; it means if you slip and let go, the buggy won't roll away.

GO20AlexRoadSideHolding hands

✔ When your child first starts to walk with you, talk to them about how they must always hold your hand. Make sure hand-holding is your number one rule your child always follows, especially when crossing roads. If your child is likely to pull away from you, use safety reins or a wrist strap.

Teach road safety

✔ Teach road safety to your child from the age of two using fun games and rhymes. You can use our Beep Beep! Day activities for fun ways to teach road safety. Make sure they understand the meaning of stop, go, traffic, danger, look, listen, walk don't run, and other key road safety words.

à Encourage your child's nursery, playgroup or school to run take part in a Beep Beep! Day or Brake's Kids Walk.

Nursery/school trips

✔ If your child is going on a nursery or school trip by coach or minibus, check if they are using a modern vehicle with three-point seatbelts.

à See our advice for teachers on school trips and check if the nursery or school is following this advice.

When to allow your child to walk on their own around local roads

✔ Children under eight should always be accompanied by and hold hands with an adult around roads, particularly when crossing.

✔ When your child reaches the age of eight, you should consider whether to allow them to walk independently. It can be a tough decision as you will need to consider their development and weigh up the benefits of them being active and healthy with traffic danger in your area.

✔ When you decide to let your child walk independently, remind them about the importance of crossing safely using the Green Cross Code, paying attention to the road, and help them to plan the safest possible route (along quiet, slow roads with pavements or traffic-free paths) to school, the park or their friends' houses.

✔ If you are concerned about traffic danger in your area, such as due to fast traffic or a lack of pavements, you could also start a campaign for a 20mph limit or pavements and crossings, or whatever your community needs, using Brake’s advice.

✔ You can also encourage your child's school to organise practical pedestrian training, which is usually offered by local authority road safety teams.

à Read our advice for teachers on pedestrian and cycle training.


Whether to allow your child to cycle on roads in your communityGO20FamilyCrossingRoadsmall

✔ Brake recommends that children under 10 don’t cycle on roads. Many roads are unsafe for children, particularly fast and bendy rural roads and busy town roads without separate space for cyclists.

✔ Happily, some communities now have great cycling facilities, including separate paths for cyclists, which can be a great way for children to start enjoying the benefits of cycling while they are safe from traffic.

à If your area doesn’t have cycling facilities, why not start a campaign.

✔ You can also help your child gain experience through cycle training arranged through their school or the local authority. Even if it's not safe for them to cycle on local roads, this is helpful for them starting to gain experience, and great if you are planning a cycling holiday.

✔ Make sure their bike is well-maintained with working brakes and lights, which they should use in poor visibility, although cycling in the dark is best avoided.

✔ If your child cycles on roads, help them plan the safest possible routes making use of traffic-free paths and quiet, slow roads. Tell them to get off and walk their bike on the pavement if they have to negotiate any busy junctions.

à Read more advice for cyclists.


Going to secondary school

✔ Your child's risk of being injured on foot or on a bicycle increases as they gain independence – far more teens are knocked down and hurt than younger children. Peer pressure can also cause children to behave unsafely. Keep talking about road safety with your child, ensure they know the importance of continuing to take great care when crossing including putting their phone away and taking earphones out, and help them plan the safest possible routes in your area.

à Teens can get advice and resources, and watch videos on road safety in Brake’s young people and road safety section.

2Y2DYoungDriver2Accepting lifts from mates

✔ Talk to your son or daughter about the dangers of accepting lifts from mates driving cars or motorbikes. Young drivers, young males in particular, are the highest risk group of drivers due to their age and inexperience: this means they are particularly likely to take risks and less able to cope with hazards.

✔ It’s safest to avoid lifts altogether with young drivers, or at least don’t get a lift with someone you don’t trust completely to drive under speed limits, completely sober, and focused on the road.

✔ Agree with your son or daughter that you will always pick them up if they are stuck and need you to, even if it's late at night. Make sure they're always able to get hold of you if they need to, and tell them they can call you any time, day or night. It might be an inconvenience, but better safe than sorry. If you don't drive, give your son or daughter emergency numbers and tell them you have cash in the house to pay for it in case they get stranded without a lift and need to get home.

Learning to drive

✔ Many young people see driving as their route to independence. But the younger someone learns to drive, the greater the risk of them crashing and being seriously hurt or killed.

✔ There is often no need for young people to drive or own a car; it's dangerous, expensive, and harmful to the environment. Help your son or daughter to look at the alternatives to driving and understand the benefits of not driving, especially the money they will save. If they are going on to further education, they will probably be living somewhere with access to public transport. Encourage them to spend their cash on something more constructive than a car, such as a great holiday.

✔ If they are determined to learn to drive, you could offer an incentive to delay, for example offering to pay for their driving lessons if they wait until they are 21, or funding their use of public transport in the meantime.

Advice for young people

à Young people who are non-drivers, learners or already driving, can read our advice, explore our young people and road safety section, and make the Brake Pledge.

Read more and take action:

   -   Make the Brake Pledge with your family
   -   Explore Brake’s training and resources for engaging young people 
   -   Check out Brake’s projects for schools and nurseries
   -   Get involved in Road Safety Week
   -   Get advice on running a road safety campaign in your area
   -   Donate to Brake or fundraise in your community

Choose a safe vehicle operator

Any company you use to transport children must have good safety standards and a good safety record. We recommend that you stand up for safety and ask the below questions before booking. You don't have to ask these questions verbally; in fact it's better if you get the answers in writing. You could fax or email them the questions:

  • How old is the vehicle? (Hire a reasonably new vehicle - it will be more likely to have safety features and be in a good state of repair.)
  • When was it last maintained? (Generally, the answer should be within weeks.)
  • Does someone do a pre-drive walk-around of the vehicle before it is driven to our premises, to check that basics such as tyres, wheels and lights are in working order?)
  • Who does your maintenance? (You want to know that whoever does it is reputable eg. our modern Mercedes Benz coaches are maintained by the local Mercedes Benz specialist garage *or *we maintain our coaches in house, but our mechanics receive refresher training directly from Mercedes Benz on a regular basis and are highly qualified and experienced)
  • What guarantee can you give me that the driver you provide will be highly trained and have a low crash record? Do your drivers have advanced driving certificates? Are their standards of driving assessed annually by you?
  • What guarantee can you give me that the driver you provide will be fit to drive? Do you have any systems in place above and beyond the requirements of driver hours' law to ensure that drivers aren't tired? Do you check your drivers regularly to identify any alcohol or drug abuse?
  • Do you record your crashes and near-misses, and, if so, do you have a good and improving record?
  • Do you carry out regular risk audits and have you recently implemented any safety measures not identified through the above questions?

Once you have asked these questions of several operators you will have a list of preferred suppliers so you won't have to ask the questions every time you use them - although it is advisable to ask them intermittently (for example, once a year) as part of your road safety policy.

Court cases

Scroll down for information and advice on court cases after a fatal crash.

This includes information about attending court, being a witness, court procedures, appeals, prisoner release, inquests, and having your say about criminal justice.

Attending court

Most criminal cases and appeals are held in public courtrooms. This means that you can attend, although you don't have to unless you are called as a witness (see below). The information below can help you decide if you want to go or not, and help prepare you if you do decide to go.

Witness Care Units provide information and support to victims and witnesses in cases progressing through the criminal justice system.

Your Witness Care Unit should tell you the date, location and outcome of any criminal court hearing within one working day of knowing the date themselves. If the police are acting as a single point of contact in your case, they would do this instead of the Witness Care Unit. This is stipulated in the government’s Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (2015), Chapter 2.

Support in court

If you decide to attend a court hearing, it may help to have support. Your police contact may be able to come with you. You can also bring friends and family. The court will try to find places for everyone to sit, although maximum numbers will be restricted by seats available.

The Witness Service may be able to help you prepare for court and support you in court. The Witness Service provides emotional support, practical advice and information to all victims and witnesses attending court. It is run by Citizens Advice and is free and confidential. The Witness Service may be able to arrange for you to visit court before the hearing and may be able to accompany you at the trial. Additional support is available for vulnerable or intimidated witnesses (see below). To get help from the Witness Service, call 0300 332 1000 or go

Your Witness Care Unit or police contact can refer you to the Witness Service or you can refer yourself. For advice on how to access this service, call the Brake helpline on 0808 8000 401.

Seeing the accused or their friends around the courthouse

If you were not in the crash, court may be the first place that you see the accused or any of their friends. Many people find this hard. If the accused is on bail, they will be able to use the public areas of the court, such as any cafe. The Witness Service may be able to accompany you if you need to use the same public areas.

It may be possible for you to sit and wait for a court hearing in a quiet room, away from the accused (if they are not remanded in custody) and away from any of their friends. You can ask court staff, or the Witness Service, about this.

Where you can sit in the courtroom

In the courtroom, you and anyone supporting you, as well as friends of the accused and any journalists, can sit in the public gallery. (If you are a witness, you will not be able to sit in the gallery until you have given evidence.)

It may be possible for you to be seated away from the accused’s friends in court. You can ask court staff, or the Witness Service about this.

In court, the accused person is referred to as the defendant. This is because they are defending the case against them.

What you may see and hear, and how you may feel

Evidence is presented in court for the benefit of the judge and jury or magistrates. Sometimes you may not be able to see evidence being discussed (such as diagrams or videos). If you can see evidence, some of it may be particularly upsetting. You may also strongly disagree with one or more things said in court by a lawyer for the defendant, or by a witness.

If you think you may get upset and need to leave the courtroom, you can. You are allowed to leave and re-enter a courtroom quietly. While you are in court, you are required to sit quietly and not talk. People who disturb court proceedings can be asked to leave.

You should switch off your phone, tablet or other electronic device before you enter the courtroom. You are usually allowed to take notes in court, but sometimes there are legal reasons that prevent this. You should check with court staff before taking notes. You are not allowed to take photos or make sound recordings in court.

Understanding what is happening in court

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) should ensure that someone from the CPS connected with the prosecution of your case is introduced to you at court and answers any of your questions about court procedures. The Government’s Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (2015) (Chapter 2, Part A, section 2.16) requires this. Your police contact can help you arrange this.

Courtroom changes and delays

Sometimes a court building has many courtrooms in it. Sometimes the courtroom in which your case will be heard changes. Sometimes the start time of a hearing is delayed, or a hearing is postponed to another day. Your police or CPS contact should be able to keep you up to date with what is happening.

If you are asked to be a witness in court

If you are a witness, you will already have given a statement. In some cases, this statement can be used as your evidence in court. In other cases, you may have to give evidence in court.

Being a witness in court is a new experience for most people. You should be assigned a witness care officer who can give you information about what will happen and support you. The witness care officer works for the Witness Care Unit, a joint initiative by the CPS and the police. For more information about witness care officers, talk to your police contact.

You can also go to and type ‘witness’ into the search box for information on being a witness. If you don’t have access to the internet, or need this information in a different language, ask your witness care officer.

Special measures for vulnerable or intimidated witnesses

Witnesses who are vulnerable or feel intimidated may be able to give evidence with the assistance of special measures. These measures include screening (so that you cannot see the defendant and they cannot see you), live television links, hearings in private, use of an intermediary (someone who helps communicate to you questions you are being asked by the court, and communicate back your answers) and allowing a video-recorded statement to act as evidence at trial.

The court has to follow legal guidelines regarding who is eligible for special measures. If you want to find out if you can use any special measures, talk to your police contact or other Witness Care Unit representative. An application has to be made to the court for use of special measures and the court decides whether they will allow you to use them or not. You may be able to practise using special measures during a court visit before the trial. You can ask your Witness Service contact about this.

The Witness Service (see below) may be able to help you prepare for your court visit. They may be able to visit you at home or another convenient place away from the court. To get help from the Witness Service, call 0300 332 1000 or go

Courts where charges are heard

There are three kinds of offences. These are called 'summary' offences, 'indictable' offences and 'either way' offences.

Summary offences are heard at a Magistrates' Court. A Magistrates' Court can sentence offenders to up to six months' imprisonment (or 12 months for more than one offence in some cases) and an unlimited fine. 'Indictable' offences are heard at a Crown Court. A Crown Court can impose more severe sentences.

An ‘either way’ offence can be heard in a Magistrates’ Court or a Crown Court. An ‘either way’ offence will be heard by the Crown Court if a Magistrates’ Court thinks a case is too serious to be dealt with appropriately at the Magistrates' Court. An either way offence will also be heard at a Crown Court if an accused person chooses to have their case heard there.

Preliminary hearings and length of trials

Before the main trial goes ahead, a prosecution may start with one or more short hearings that don’t include witnesses being called. These short hearings have several purposes, including giving the lawyers an opportunity to raise and discuss legal arguments that may affect the case and to discuss the availability of witnesses. The objective of these hearings is to help a trial proceed smoothly without unnecessary delays.

Cases can take longer than expected to come to court. This may be for many reasons, such as a need to trace witnesses or obtain documents prior to a court hearing. Court hearings may also start late, be cut short or be postponed.

Your witness care officer (see above) will be able to explain to you what is likely to happen at a planned hearing and how a case is progressing.

What happens in a Magistrates’ Court?

A case heard in a Magistrates’ Court is usually determined by magistrates. Magistrates are trained volunteers who normally sit in threes with one as chairperson. They sit with a legal adviser who is a qualified lawyer. The legal adviser gives the magistrates advice on points of law and court procedure and records decisions. Magistrates do not wear robes or judicial wigs. In some Magistrates’ Courts there are legally qualified district judges who sit alone.

Magistrates’ Court hearings and trials

The defendant is usually required to appear in court to plead guilty or not guilty. In some cases, someone who is accused of a less serious offence may be given an opportunity to plead guilty by completing a form and posting it to the court rather than attending court. They do not have to appear in court unless the magistrates are considering a driving disqualification.

If the defendant pleads guilty, the magistrates or district judge will hear the facts of the case before sentencing.

If the defendant pleads not guilty, then a date is usually set for a trial and the case is adjourned until that date. Magistrates’ Court trial dates may be set some time ahead to allow lawyers time to prepare. Sometimes trial dates are postponed, occasionally this happens at the last minute.

The people who speak in court for each side are usually lawyers. However, someone called an 'associate prosecutor' may speak on behalf of the CPS. Associate prosecutors are trained to present the CPS's case but are not lawyers. The defendant may choose to speak for themself.

The person speaking for the CPS presents the evidence against the defendant. The person speaking for the defendant then presents their case.

Both sides may call witnesses to give evidence, such as police crash investigation officers and eye witnesses. Photographs, videos and diagrams may be shown. Both sides can ask questions or put statements to witnesses who have been called by either side. The magistrates can also ask witnesses questions.

If both sides agree in advance of the trial that a written statement given by a witness is not going to be challenged in court, then that witness may not be required to attend court, and their written evidence may be read out instead. The defendant can choose not to give evidence. If they do give evidence, they can also be questioned.

After all of the evidence has been presented, the lawyers for both sides make closing speeches. The person speaking for the CPS will speak first. The magistrates, or district judge, then consider their verdict. If found guilty, the offender is sentenced. (See below for information on verdicts and sentencing).

Magistrates’ Courts are sometimes held in buildings which serve other uses, such as town halls.

What happens in the Crown Court?

Most cases heard in the Crown Court are determined by judges and juries. The judge decides on matters of law and the sentence if a defendant pleads guilty, or is found guilty after a trial. The judge and the lawyers who present evidence in the Crown Court wear robes and some wear judicial wigs.

If the defendant pleads not guilty, their guilt or innocence is determined at trial by jury. A jury is made up of 12 members of the community, chosen at random from the electoral register. A jury will be directed by the judge to try to reach a unanimous verdict, meaning all jurors reach the same verdict. However, in some cases judges allow a jury to reach a majority verdict with 10 of the 12 jurors in agreement.

Crown Court hearings and trials

Before a Crown Court hearing takes place, the defendant must appear at least once in a Magistrates’ Court, where the charge is read out. If the charge is an ‘either way’ offence and is to be heard in the Crown Court the defendant will usually appear once in the Magistrates’ Court before the case moves to the Crown Court. Sometimes, it is decided that a case can be heard entirely in the Magistrates’ Court. Sometimes, a case is heard in the Magistrates' Court but sentencing takes place in the Crown Court.

A first hearing at Crown Court should take place about four weeks after the Magistrate's Court appearance if the defendant has pleaded not guilty. If the defendant has pleaded guilty to an 'either way' offence (see above) in the Magistrate's Court, the sentencing hearing in the Crown Court should take place after about three weeks.

At the first Crown Court hearing, the defendant usually says whether they are pleading guilty or not guilty. However, sometimes the judge will set a date for this to happen at a second hearing.

If the defendant pleads guilty the judge will sentence them (see below). This may be at a later date. If the defendant pleads not guilty a date is set for a trial. A trial date may be many weeks or months ahead. Sometimes, additional hearings take place before a trial so lawyers and the judge can discuss certain legal matters.

At a Crown Court trial, the evidence for the prosecution is presented by a barrister or crown advocate. Barristers and crown advocates are lawyers who specialise in presenting cases in court. A barrister usually speaks for the defendant.

The lawyers present evidence to the judge and jury to support their cases. Photos, videos and diagrams may be shown to the jury. The lawyers may read statements from witnesses and call witnesses to give evidence in court, such as police crash investigation officers and eye witnesses.

The lawyers representing either side, and the judge, can ask any witness questions. The defendant can choose not to give evidence.

After the evidence has been presented the lawyers make closing speeches. Then the judge sums up. The jury retires to consider its verdict. If the verdict is guilty, the judge considers the sentence. (See below for information on verdicts and sentencing).

Youth Courts

Youth Courts deal with young people aged between 10 and 17 charged with criminal offences. Youth Courts are part of Magistrates’ Courts. Up to three specially-trained magistrates or a district judge hear a case. If a young person is charged with an offence which, in the case of an adult, is punishable with 14 years’ imprisonment or more, the Youth Court can send them to the Crown Court for trial or sentence.

Youth Court hearings are not open to the public and you can only attend if you have been given permission by the magistrates.

If a young person is aged between 15 and 21 and found guilty, they may, if the court considers the offence serious enough, be sent to a Young Offenders Institution (YOI). A YOI is a secure facility like a prison – inmates cannot leave until they are released. Alternatively, they may be sent to a Secure Children’s Home (if aged between 10 and 16) or a Secure Training Centre (if aged between 12 and 17).

For more information, go and search for 'youth justice board'.

The verdict

At trial, there are three possible verdicts: guilty, not guilty, and, in some cases, guilty of a lesser offence. Sometimes, no verdict can be reached. In this case, a retrial often happens. Sometimes during a trial the defendant changes their plea. They might decide to plead guilty after previously pleading not guilty. Or they might decide to plead guilty to a lesser offence.

If the verdict is not guilty, the defendant goes free. Even if new evidence emerges against them, they cannot be tried again (except in very rare circumstances and for very serious offences).

Pleas in mitigation and background reports

Before an offender is sentenced, their lawyer will advise the judge or magistrates about any mitigating factors that they think might reduce the sentence, such as an offender’s stated remorse or personal circumstances.

The judge or magistrates may ask for background information about the offender. Sentencing may be delayed to a later date so this background information can be provided and the judge or magistrates can give further thought to the sentence.


Any sentence imposed is decided by the magistrates, district judge or Crown Court judge.

When sentencing, various things may be taken into account, including:

  • any ‘pleas in mitigation’ or the findings of background reports (see above);
  • Victim Personal Statements;
  • whether the offender pleaded guilty or not. If the offender pleaded guilty, then the sentence can be discounted (reduced). The discount depends upon when the offender pleaded guilty but can be between 10% and 33%;
  • guidelines on sentencing. The Sentencing Council produces official guidance on sentencing that can be found at;
  • the level of sentences in similar cases in the past. This is called ‘case law’;
  • the powers of the court. The Crown Court can impose much tougher penalties than a Magistrates’ Court. In some cases, a Magistrates’ Court may refer a case to the Crown Court for sentencing;
  • whether a fine or community sentence (see below) is appropriate rather than prison.

If the law changes, offenders will be sentenced according to the law at the time the offence was committed.

A court often does not impose the maximum penalty and sometimes imposes a lower penalty. If you are unhappy with a sentence and wish to make your views known, you can contact the CPS (see below). You may also want to contact aroad safety charity that campaigns on issues around sentencing.

Community sentences

Often a community sentence is given, rather than a prison sentence (for adults, this is called a community order, and for youths it is called either a youth rehabilitation order or a referral order). This means an offender has to serve their sentence under supervision in the community.

As part of a community order or youth rehabilitation order, the judge or magistrates can impose a combination of different requirements, such as unpaid work on behalf of the community, a curfew or a requirement to attend an offender training course (for example a course on the dangers of drink driving). In a referral order, a panel of people from the local community and youth justice workers agree a programme of work to address the young person’s behaviour. If an offender fails to comply with the requirements of either order, they may have to go back to court and may receive a different sentence.

For more information, go and search for ‘community sentences’.

Restorative justice

Restorative justice provides an opportunity to meet or communicate with an offender to explain the impact of their crime on you. It also aims to help offenders take responsibility and make amends.

Restorative justice often involves a meeting with an offender, guided by a trained facilitator. Alternatively, it could involve letter correspondence, or audio or video recordings. You will have the opportunity to consider and discuss what will work best for you.

Your involvement in restorative justice is entirely voluntary. If it is offered, you can talk to the facilitator about whether to do it or not. If it is not offered, and you want to consider it, talk to your police contact or visit the Restorative Justice Council to find out if it is available in your area.

The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (2015)(Chapter 2, part A, section 7) explains that you are entitled to be told about restorative justice if it is available in your area.

Appeals by an offender

Following a criminal case, a convicted person may appeal against their conviction or sentence or both. If in custody, they can apply for bail and in some cases may be released while waiting for their appeal.

If the case was heard in a Magistrates’ Court:

A person has a right of appeal against their conviction or sentence in a Magistrates’ Court. This will be heard in the Crown Court by a judge who sits with two magistrates. There is no jury. The Crown Court has the power to quash the conviction or to change the sentence to be more lenient or more severe.

If the case was heard in the Crown Court:

A person has a right of appeal against their conviction or sentence, or both, in the Crown Court. If an appeal does go ahead, it is heard in the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal may uphold the conviction, change the conviction to a conviction for a different offence, change the sentence to be more lenient, acquit the person, or order a re-trial. The Court of Appeal can also order a defendant to serve additional days in prison if it considers the appeal should never have been brought.

Appeals by the prosecution

The prosecution has no automatic right to appeal a decision in a Magistrates’ Court. However, in limited circumstances involving an error of law, it may be possible. This appeal is made to the High Court.

The CPS has no power to appeal against a verdict of not guilty in the Crown Court. The CPS can request the Attorney General to consider referring a sentence imposed by the Crown Court for certain serious offences to the Court of Appeal on the basis that the sentence is ‘unduly lenient’. If you think a sentence was too lenient you can also write to the CPS and the Attorney General (see below) expressing your concerns.

Appeals to the Supreme Court

Either the prosecution or the offender may appeal to the Supreme Court if there is a point of law being questioned that is of general public importance.

When can appeals be lodged?

All appeals must be lodged within 28 days of a sentence being imposed and sometimes sooner. Appeals to the High Court (judicial review) must be brought within three months.

You are entitled to be informed of any appeals (see Chapter 2, Part A, section 5 of theCode of Practice for Victims of Crime). You can ask your police or Witness Care Unit contact whether or not an appeal has been lodged by the offender or the CPS and the progress of an appeal. They can also tell you the date of an appeal, or its outcome.

Will a prisoner serve their whole sentence in prison?

Offenders are usually released from prison before the end of their sentence.

Most offenders are given a ‘standard determinate sentence’, where they must be released on licence after serving half of their sentence in prison. If an offender is considered by the courts to be dangerous and has committed a serious offence, they may be given an ‘extended determinate sentence’ or a ‘life sentence’, where they are likely to serve more, or all, of their sentence in prison. This depends on a risk assessment by the Parole Board.

Once released, the rest of the sentence is served ‘on licence’. An offender ‘on licence’ is supervised in the community by the probation service. An offender serving a sentence of less than two years will usually have to serve an additional period of ‘post sentence supervision’ after their sentence has expired, also supervised in the community by the probation service.

Offenders who are on licence or serving a period of supervision are required to comply with certain prison service offenders are released early under a special scheme called the Home Detention Curfew Scheme. This scheme requires an offender to remain at a particular address during particular hours and wear an electronic tag to monitor their movements.

Some offenders may be released from prison for short periods on a temporary licence during their prison sentence. This could be for reasons such as to attend a funeral, have medical treatment, or to prepare them for their return to the community. Offenders must return to prison at the end of a temporary licence.

Will an offender serve their whole driving disqualification?

Under certain circumstances, an offender who has been disqualified from driving can apply to court to have their disqualification period reduced.

This process is normally called a ‘removal of disqualification’ application. An offender can apply to the court for a removal of disqualification after:

  • two years, if the disqualification was for more than two but fewer than four years;
  • half the disqualification period, if the disqualification was for between four and 10 years;
  • five years, if the disqualification was for 10 years or more (including disqualification for life).

The offender must have a good reason for asking for the disqualification to be reduced: for example, if there has been a change in circumstances such as the offender developing a disability. If the court refuses the application, the offender can reapply after three months.

The law sets out the minimum period of a driving disqualification but courts can impose longer bans, including life bans. Courts are also required to consider the impact of a prison sentence on a driving disqualification, and may lengthen an offender’s driving disqualification if the offender is spending time in prison. 

For more information, and search for 'probation'.

Will I be told when a prisoner is going to be released?

If an offender is sentenced to 12 months or more imprisonment for certain, serious violent offences (which includes some serious driving offences), you should be invited to join the Victim Contact Scheme which is operated by the National Probation Service.

The Victim Contact Scheme can inform you, if you wish, about key stages in an offender’s sentence. This could include if an offender is being considered for transfer to an open prison, or if an offender becomes eligible to be considered for release. If you join the scheme, you should be assigned a Victim Liaison Officer, who will be your contact in the National Probation Service.

The Victim Contact Scheme also gives you an opportunity to give your thoughts about the possible conditions you think should be attached to a prisoner’s release licence. For example, you can ask for a condition that the offender does not seek to contact you or other family members. You can also ask for an exclusion zone, prohibiting the offender from going near your home or other places you travel to frequently, such as your place of work.

If you want to find out if you are entitled to join this scheme, but have not been contacted about it, contact the Victim Contact Scheme on 0300 047 6325, or You can also join the scheme at a later date, while the offender is still serving their prison sentence. Entitlements are outlined in the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime, (2015) Chapter 2, Part A, section 6 (iii).

Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) runs a Victim Helpline for people worried about the release of a prisoner or who have received unwanted contact from a prisoner. Call 0300 060 6699 between 9am and 4pm, Mondays to Fridays, or


Coroners are special judges who investigate violent or unnatural deaths or deaths where the cause is unknown. This is likely to include most road deaths. Coroners have a legal qualification. They are appointed by local authorities (or councils) with the consent of the Chief Coroner and Lord Chancellor.

The purpose of a coroner’s investigation, which may include an inquest (see below), is to find out who has died and how, when and where they died, as well as other details to register the death.

The coroner is responsible for authorising the release of the body for burial or cremation. Prior to this, and to help find the cause of death, a coroner will often order a post-mortem examination of the body. If, after the post-mortem, the coroner is satisfied that a death was due to natural causes, they will usually end their investigation and not hold an inquest.

If someone is likely to face criminal charges for causing the death, the coroner will usually suspend their investigation until after criminal proceedings have finished. At this stage, the coroner may provide a ‘certificate of the fact of death’ (also known as an interim death certificate). Following any criminal proceedings the coroner can only resume the investigation if they consider that there is a “sufficient reason” for doing so.

A coroner’s investigations cannot apportion criminal blame nor decide if anyone should be punished or receive compensation. These things are decided through criminal proceedings and civil proceedings (see below). However, if evidence is found that suggests someone may be to blame for the death the coroner can pass the evidence to the police or CPS.

Coroners are assisted by coroners’ officers. Part of their role is to give you information, and answer any questions you may have, about the coroner’s investigation. Sometimes this role is carried out by other


An inquest is a public court hearing to discover the facts of the death. An inquest is unlikely to be held if criminal proceedings are underway and, subsequently, the coroner considers that all relevant evidence was heard as part of those criminal proceedings. An inquest is also unlikely if the cause of death is identified as natural causes.

If an inquest takes place it will be held in a court or another building such as a town hall. An inquest is different from other types of court hearing because there is no prosecution or defence. In some cases, an inquest may be held with a jury. This may happen in certain cases that raise issues of public safety, including cases where the police are involved (such as when a fatal crash followed a police pursuit).

If, after a trial, you think the circumstances surrounding the death are still not clear, you, or asolicitor representing you, can ask the coroner to consider continuing with their investigation and inquest. The coroner will decide whether they should do this or not. If the coroner continues with the investigation and inquest after criminal proceedings have concluded, their finding of the cause of death must be consistent with the outcome of the criminal trial. You can ask the coroner’s office for more information.

At an inquest, witnesses are usually called to give evidence. The coroner will decide who should give evidence. This may include the police, medical staff, expert witnesses and eyewitnesses. Contributions may also be allowed by a relative or friend of the person who has died. There may be particular people who you, or a solicitor representing you, think are important witnesses. If so, you or your solicitor can suggest these people to the coroner. Anyone who may face, or who has faced, a criminal charge in connection with your case can be required to attend the inquest and be sworn in as a witness and face questions, although they have the right not to answer questions that may incriminate them.

If you are asked to give evidence then you, along with any other family members who are giving evidence, will usually do so first. You will give evidence ‘under oath’ or by affirming that you will tell the truth. If you tell the coroner’s office your religion (if you have one), the appropriate text can be handed to you when you swear the oath.

The coroner will ask you questions and may ask you to talk about your written statement, if you have made one. You may also be questioned by other people, known as ‘interested persons’. This could be someone else close to the person who died, or a solicitor representing you. If there is a jury, jury members may also ask you questions. A coroner may also allow a solicitor representing someone accused of a criminal offence in connection with the crash to ask you questions. All questions must be about the facts of the death. The coroner will decide whether a question is relevant.

When everyone has finished asking questions, you may return to your seat in the court and stay to listen to the rest of the hearing and other witnesses if you want to. Some evidence can be read and not all witnesses need to attend in person.

The coroner, or the jury if there is one, will then reach a conclusion that states who died, and where, when and how they died. Possible ‘short-form’ conclusions include unlawful killing, accident, road traffic collision or natural causes. Where the facts do not fit one of the short-form conclusions, the coroner or jury may give a narrative conclusion, setting out the facts surrounding the death in more detail and explaining the reasons for the conclusion.

A conclusion of ‘road traffic collision’ or ‘accident’ may sometimes be reached in a case even though someone else may have caused the death. This can be upsetting but criminal charges may still be brought and you may still be able to pursue a claim for compensation.

If a coroner believes action should be taken to prevent future deaths, they must write a ‘Report to Prevent Future Deaths’ in which they outline road safety concerns that arose during an inquest. This is something they are required to do under theCoroners (Investigations) Regulations 2013. They send this report to any relevant organisation or individual who may be able to address these issues. The coroner cannot force anyone to take steps to prevent future deaths, but anyone sent a Report to Prevent Future Deaths is required to respond in writing.

You can ask the coroner to provide you with a copy of any Report to Prevent Future Deaths and responses they receive.

The reports and responses are sent to the Chief Coroner, and may be published (search for ‘prevention of future deaths summary’). You may wish to ask the coroner’s officer if a Report to Prevent Future Deaths is being written, who it is going to, and if you can see it.

Attending an inquest

Inquests are public hearings you can attend if you want to. You may wish to, and are allowed to, have legal representation at an inquest (see above).

The coroner’s office should inform all interested persons (which includes the next of kin) of the date, time and venue of an inquest. If you are not told, you can ask the coroner’s office.

For most people, attending an inquest is a new experience. You may wish to familiarise yourself with the courtroom in advance by visiting it. The coroner’s office can arrange this.

Before an inquest, you, or a solicitor acting on your behalf, can request to see documents such as reports that are going to be presented at an inquest, to help you, or your solicitor, prepare for the inquest. You are allowed to see relevant documents but sometimes a coroner decides a document cannot be shared for legal reasons.

During the inquest, technical terms may be used. Coroners should try to explain terms so everyone can understand what is being discussed. You may find some evidence upsetting, for example descriptions of injuries or photographs. The evidence may include personal information about the lifestyle of the person who has died. If you get upset during an inquest, you can leave the courtroom at any time. If you leave, the coroner may be prepared to adjourn the inquest for a short time to allow you to recover and so you do not miss any part of the inquest.

After an inquest is over, it is possible for you, or your solicitor, to obtain a recording of the hearing, for a fee. If you didn’t attend the inquest, you may want to ask the coroner’s officer what the recording contains, in case there is anything you don’t want to hear because it may distress you.

Because inquests are held in public, someone who may have caused the death, and their family or friends, may also attend. Journalists may attend and report on what happens and ask to talk to you. You may wish to ask family or friends to attend the inquest with you for support. The coroner’s office can tell you how many seats will be available and reserve seats at the front of the courtroom for you.

A guide to the coroner investigation process, including the inquest, is available (search for 'guide to coroner services').

The guide also sets out the standards you can expect to receive from a coroner’s office and what to do if you feel those standards have not been met. This guide can also be downloaded

The Coroners’ Courts Support Service is a charity that provides volunteers in some coroners’ courts. These volunteers offer emotional and practical support for bereaved people facing an inquest, and can offer guidance on procedures in the court. To find out in which courts they offer this service, call 0300 111 2141, Mondays to Fridays between 9am and 5pm, or go

Having your say about criminal justice

If you have a comment or a concern about the criminal justice system you have a right to be heard and your point of view considered. Speaking up may also help improve criminal justice in the future.

You may have one or more points you wish to raise with one or more criminal justice organisations. Your first step should be to decide which organisation you need to contact. Police forces are responsible for police family liaison and criminal investigations.

The Crown Prosecution Service is responsible for bringing prosecutions. Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) is responsible for what happens in court (see above), although it is worth remembering that decisions by magistrates and judges can only be challenged by appeal (see page 62). HMCTS is not responsible for, and cannot influence, decisions made by judges and magistrates. The Prison Service is responsible for what happens to an offender (see above).

Your next step is to find out the complaint policy of the organisation you want to contact. Different organisations have different complaint policies, and these policies explain how to have your say. You can usually find an organisation’s complaint policy on their website, or ask a local official who works for that organisation to give you a copy.

A complaint policy usually asks you to submit comments in writing. It should explain who will respond (usually a complaints officer or someone close to your case) and how quickly. Whoever responds should aim to address your comments to your satisfaction.

If you would prefer a meeting, this may or may not be possible or appropriate depending on the complaint policy of the organisation, their resources, and the nature of your comments.

Code of Practice for Victims of Crime

When preparing your comments, it is a good idea to read the government'sCode of Practice for Victims of Crime, and other codes that set standards for criminal justice organisations to enable them to better meet victims' needs. Read the latest versions of these codes on theBrake website.

If you are not satisfied with a response you receive

Complaint policies usually explain steps you can take if you are not satisfied with a response. Usually, this includes giving you the chance to have your comments considered by someone else, such as someone more senior.

If you are still not satisfied with another response you receive, a complaint policy may give you further opportunities, such as having your comments reconsidered by a specialist team, or by the boss of the organisation. There may also be an opportunity to have your comments considered by an independent agency. For example, the Independent Office for Police Conduct investigates complaints about the police.

Having your say to the government

Criminal justice organisations, such as the police and CPS, are set up and regulated by the government, and are the responsibility of particular government departments and their ministers.

If you feel your concerns have not been answered by a criminal justice organisation and you wish the relevant minister to know your concerns, you have a right to contact that minister. The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice is responsible for courts administration, prisons and probation. The Attorney General is the government’s chief legal advisor and responsible for the CPS, and the Home Secretary is responsible for the police. Any criminal justice organisation can confirm for you which government minister they report to, in which department, and how to contact that minister.

You may choose to contact a minister directly, or through your MP. Your MP can also refer your complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, who is responsible for investigating complaints about government departments. For more information go to or call 0345 015 4033.

You may also wish to join one of several organisations campaigning for criminal justice in road death cases.

Seeking help to have your voice heard

If you are not sure how to have your voice heard, or you need help preparing what you want to say, call the Brake helpline on 0808 8000 401. Its officers are experienced in helping you to get your thoughts across to the most appropriate people.

Click to go to the next section of this guide: Can I claim compensation? or to go to the contents page.

Criminal investigation and charges

Scroll down for information and advice on criminal charges after a fatal crash.

This includes information about the police investigation, the Crown Prosecution Service, and criminal charges that may follow a death on the road.

The police investigation

A death on the road is investigated by the police. The police have a duty to try to find out what happened by gathering evidence. A police investigation can take several months.

Giving a statement

The police may take statements from a number of different people. If you were involved in the crash, you saw the crash, or you saw vehicles before or after the crash, you may be asked to give a statement. If you were not involved in the crash, but knew the movements of a loved one on the day they died, you may be asked to give a statement too. If you give a statement, the police will write down and may record what you say.

If you have made a statement, a lawyer, or more than one lawyer, may want to interview you too. This is an essential part of the investigation and helps lawyers understand the evidence you are providing. Your contact details remain confidential - they cannot be given to someone accused of a crime.

It may be possible for a relative or friend to attend an interview with you to offer support. If you want to be accompanied ask if this is possible. If you have particular communication needs you may also be entitled to assistance from an interpreter or intermediary (someone who helps communicate to you questions the police ask, and communicate back your answers).

The police may also offer you the opportunity to make a Victim Personal Statement (see below).

If you give a statement, you may or may not be required, at a later date, to giveevidence in court.

Physical evidence

Crash investigation officers, who are usually specially-trained police officers, or employees of other specialist agencies, investigate a crash in order to identify the cause and obtain evidence. These experts may photograph, measure and video the scene of a crash and examine vehicles involved. They may examine belongings of people in the crash, such as mobile phones.

Medical evidence

Medical evidence may be provided by personnel who tended to a loved one at the crash or in hospital, and by the pathologist who did the post-mortem examination. Medical evidence can include alcohol and drug tests on drivers involved.

If the crash involved someone driving for work

If the crash involved someone driving for work, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) may get involved in the investigation. HSE inspectors aim to identify any failure by an employer to ensure effective health and safety procedures were in place and followed. The investigation will usually be conducted jointly with the police. The police will be able to tell you if the HSE are involved. The HSE can take enforcement action against an employer.

The police report

If the police investigation finds any evidence that suggests a crime may have been committed, this evidence is compiled into a report that is sent to the Crown Prosecution Service, the agency responsible for bringing prosecutions (see below). You are not automatically entitled to see this report, but you may be able to get a copy. You may only be able to get a copy after any criminal proceedings have finished.

If you wish to get a copy, you or a solicitor you are using can ask the police. You may or may not have to pay for it. If there is a charge, and you are pursuing a claim for compensation, your solicitor may be able to reclaim the charge as part of your claim.

Before reading a police report, you may want to ask your solicitor or the police what it contains. Police reports often contain photographs taken at the time of the crash and sometimes detailed interviews with eye witnesses. It will be possible for the police or your solicitor to remove anything you don’t wish to see or read.

Standards have been set for fatal road crash investigations in a police document called the Authorised Professional Practice (APP): Investigation of fatal and serious injury road crashes.

The Crown Prosecution Service

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales. It works from regional offices. If the police investigation indicates that the conduct of someone, or several people, or in some cases, a company, amounted to a crime, the CPS may advise the police to bring charges. The purpose of a criminal prosecution is to find out if someone has broken the law and appropriately sentence them.

CPS lawyers, called Crown Prosecutors, apply two key tests when deciding whether a person should be prosecuted:

  1. Is there enough evidence against the defendant?

The CPS must consider whether there is enough evidence to charge someone, whether the evidence can be used in court, and whether the evidence is reliable and credible. There must be sufficient evidence for a ‘realistic prospect of conviction’. This means that it is more likely than not that the person will be convicted. (This is different to the way a court decides whether to convict a person. A court should convict someone only if they are sure they are guilty.)

  1. Is it in the public interest for the CPS to bring the case to court?

If someone has died as a result of a crime, a prosecution is usually in the public interest.

Following a review of the evidence, the CPS selects the most appropriate charge to reflect the seriousness and extent of any offending. The CPS acts on behalf of the public interest, not on behalf of victims or victims’ families. However, when deciding if a prosecution is in the public interest, the CPS takes into account any views that you or others have expressed in Victim Personal Statements (see below).

Whether or not a criminal prosecution will happen in your case depends on the circumstances of the crash. If the CPS plans to charge someone with an offence that would be dealt with by a Magistrates’ Court, they must do so within six months from the time when the offence was committed. More serious charges can be brought later

Meeting the Crown Prosecution Service

The CPS must meet with you if certain serious charges are being heard. The CPS will explain charges being brought, how the case is likely to progress, discuss your needs and answer your questions. The CPS is required to do this by the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (2015)(Chapter 2, Part A, section 2.5 and 2.16).

The CPS should also meet with you if a decision has been made to reduce or drop a criminal charge. This is also specified in the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (2015)(Chapter 2, Part A, section 2.11).

If you aren't offered a meeting, and you would like to talk to the CPS, you can ask if a meeting is possible.

The CPS is guided by theCode of Practice for Victims of Crime and its own CPS Legal Guidance. To view the guidance, and click on 'victims and witnesses’. The website includes contact details for your local CPS office.

Victim Personal Statements (VPS)

If criminal charges are being considered, then you should be offered the opportunity to make a Victim Personal Statement (VPS). This gives you an opportunity to explain in writing, before sentence is imposed, how the crime has affected your life, physically, emotionally, psychologically, financially or in any other way. You can write your own VPS or someone else can write down what you say.

A VPS becomes part of the case papers and may be read out in court. However, this requires the permission of the court. You can say whether you would like to read out your VPS or you can ask for it to be read out by someone else on your behalf.

You do not have to make a victim statement if you do not want to. It will not damage the case in any way or affect whether the defendant is found guilty or not guilty.

Your entitlement to make a VPS and what this entails is outlined in the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (2015)(Chapter 2, Part A, section 1).

If you wish to make a VPS, please talk to your police contact or a charity that supports victims of crime.

Charging someone and the possibility of bail

Someone who is charged with an offence is often called 'the accused'. If the CPS decides to prosecute, the accused person may be arrested and taken to a police station to be charged. Alternatively, they may be issued with a court summons which describes the offence and when the case will be heard in court.

An accused person may be remanded in custody (imprisoned) or given bail (allowed to remain free before their case is heard). The accused will be granted bail unless the court has reason to believe they:

  • would not attend a court appearance;
  • would commit an offence while on bail;
  • would interfere with witnesses;
  • would obstruct the course of justice.

People on bail are required to:

  • turn up, when required, to court hearings;
  • comply with the law;
  • not interfere with witnesses or obstruct the course of justice;
  • make themselves available to the court as and when necessary.

Conditions may be attached to bail, such as limiting where the accused person can live, or preventing them coming near you or your home or near someone else. A person on bail can also be electronically tagged. A court may require an accused person to refrain from driving as a condition of bail, but only if it considers that it is necessary to prevent the accused person from committing further offences. Otherwise, an accused person who is on bail and who possesses a valid driving licence will be allowed to continue driving while awaiting trial. If they are convicted of a crime, they may or may not be disqualified from driving as part of their sentence.

The accused person may apply for bail at different stages of the case, even if it has been refused earlier. The accused may appeal against a decision not to grant bail. If bail is still refused on appeal, the accused can ask for the decision to be reviewed, but only if there is good reason. If bail is granted, the prosecution can only appeal against the decision in rare circumstances.

If the accused is granted bail and their behaviour causes you concern, for example you see them driving in a way that you consider dangerous, or if they threaten you, report it immediately to your police contact.

Changes to charges

Sometimes, if the accused is charged with a serious offence, the lawyers representing the accused ask the CPS for the charge to be changed to a less serious offence, on the basis of the evidence of the case. This request can happen before a case goes to trial.

The CPS may decide to continue charging the accused with the serious offence or may decide to charge the accused with a less serious offence. Their decision is based on the evidence and what

is in the public interest. It may include factors such as the availability of witnesses.

Victim Right to Review

If a decision is made by the police or the CPS not to bring charges against someone, you may have the right to request a review of the decision, known as a Victim Right to Review. If you wish to request this, talk to your police contact to find out if it is possible, and the time frame in which you must do it.

Challenging a decision through judicial review

A few bereaved families have challenged the CPS in the High Court for not bringing a serious charge. These challenges have used a process called judicial review. The High Court has the power to rule that the CPS should reconsider bringing a serious charge. This process is very costly unless you can qualify for legal aid.

Criminal offences

The following pages list some of the criminal offences that people may be convicted of following death on the road. Many people find it helpful to know that:

  • Maximum penalties are different for different offences, sometimes significantly. Courts often impose penalties lower than the maximum.
  • Some offences mention the death or deaths, but others do not. Sometimes it is only possible for someone to be charged with an offence that doesn’t mention the death or deaths.
  • Sometimes a person, or more than one person, is charged with committing more than one offence.

Causing death by dangerous driving

Section 1 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (as amended by the Road Traffic Act 1991, section 1)

The law states that: ‘A person who causes the death of another person by driving a mechanically propelled vehicle dangerously on a road or other public place is guilty of an offence.’

The definition of dangerous driving is that:

(a) the way a person drove fell far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver, and

(b) it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.

It is also dangerous driving if it would have been obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving a vehicle in its current state (for example, with defective brakes or other defective safety-critical components) would be dangerous.

If a jury decides that an accused person is not guilty of this charge, they may instead convict them of ‘causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving’, ‘dangerous driving’ or ‘careless or inconsiderate driving’ (see below).

This offence is tried in the Crown Court. The maximum penalty is a prison sentence of 14 years and/or an unlimited fine. Anyone convicted of this offence must be disqualified from driving for a minimum of two years, unless there are special reasons to impose a shorter disqualification or no disqualification. They must pass an extended driving test before they can regain a full driving licence.

Brake’s helpline on 0808 8000 401 is for anyone who has been bereaved in a road crash, whether you contributed to causing the crash or not.

Causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving

Section 2B of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (as amended by the Road Safety Act 2006, section 20)

The law states that: ‘A person who causes the death of another person by driving a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place, is guilty of an offence.’

The law distinguishes between ‘dangerous’ driving and ‘careless or inconsiderate’ driving. The definition of careless and inconsiderate driving is that the standard of a person’s driving fell below (rather than far below) what would be expected of a careful and competent driver.

This offence can be tried in either the Crown Court or a Magistrates’ Court. The maximum penalty is a prison sentence of five years and/or an unlimited fine in the Crown Court, or a prison sentence of six months and/or an unlimited fine in a Magistrates’ Court. Anyone convicted of this offence must be disqualified from driving for a minimum of one year, unless there are special reasons to impose a shorter disqualification or no disqualification. They may be ordered to pass an extended driving test before they can regain a full driving licence.

Causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs

Section 3A of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (as amended by the Road Traffic Act 1991, section 3)

The law states that: ‘If a person causes the death of another person by driving a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place, and he is, at the time when

driving, unfit to drive through drink or drugs, or he has consumed so much alcohol or specified drugs that the proportion in his breath, blood or urine exceeds the prescribed limit, or he fails to provide a specimen, he is guilty of an offence.’

The offence is committed if the death is caused by careless driving and the driver has more than the legal limit of alcohol or specified drugs, or fails to provide a specimen. This means the police do not necessarily have to show a person’s driving ability was impaired, only that they had more than the permitted amount of alcohol or certain drugs.

This offence is tried in the Crown Court. The maximum penalty is a prison sentence of 14 years and/or an unlimited fine. Anyone convicted of this offence must be disqualified from driving for a minimum of two years (or three years if there is a related previous conviction), unless there are special reasons to impose a shorter disqualification or no disqualification. They must pass an extended driving test to regain a full driving licence. If the driver is not disqualified, their licence may be endorsed with between three and 11 penalty points.

Causing death by driving: unlicensed or uninsured drivers

Section 3ZB of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (as inserted by the Road Safety Act 2006, section 21, and amended by the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015)

The law states that: ‘A person is guilty of an offence if he causes the death of another person by driving a motor vehicle on a road and, at the time when he is driving, the circumstances are such that he is committing an offence under –

(a) section 87(1) of this Act (driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence), or

(c) section 143 of this Act (using a motor vehicle while uninsured or unsecured against third party risks).’

This offence would only be charged where there is evidence that the standard of driving was in some way at fault and contributed more than minimally to the death. If an uninsured/unlicensed driver was involved in a crash caused entirely by somebody else, they would not be prosecuted for causing the death by driving.

This offence can be tried in either the Crown Court or a Magistrates’ Court. The maximum penalty is a prison sentence of two years and/or an unlimited fine in the Crown Court, or a prison sentence of six months and/or an unlimited fine in a Magistrates’ Court. Anyone convicted of this offence must be disqualified from driving and their licence must be endorsed with between three and 11 penalty points.

Causing death by driving: disqualified drivers

Section 3ZC of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (as inserted by the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 (2015c.2))

The law states that: ‘A person is guilty of an offence under this section if he or she –

(a) causes the death of another person by driving a motor vehicle on a road, and

(b) at that time, is committing an offence under section 103(1)(b) of the Act (driving while disqualified).’

This offence would only be charged where there is evidence that the standard of driving was in some way at fault and that it is linked to the death.

This offence can be tried in either the Crown Court or a Magistrates’ Court. The maximum penalty is a prison sentence of 10 years and/or an unlimited fine in the Crown Court, or a prison sentence of six months and/or an unlimited fine in a Magistrates’ Court. Anyone convicted of this offence must be disqualified from driving.

Murder and manslaughter

Common Law

Murder is committed when there was intention to kill a victim or cause grievous bodily harm. This would mean that the driver had purposefully used their vehicle as a weapon. Charges of murder are rarely brought against drivers following a fatal road crash.

There are two types of manslaughter charge that could be brought against a driver who has caused death. ‘Unlawful act manslaughter’ is committed when the accused caused loss of life through an illegal action, such as using their vehicle as a weapon, but it cannot be proven that they intended to kill or cause grievous bodily harm.

‘Gross negligence manslaughter’ is committed when it is proven that the accused’s driving: caused the death; fell far below the standard of a careful and competent driver; involved an obvious and serious risk of death; was a gross breach of a ‘duty of care’ owed by the driver to the person who died; and was so far below the minimum acceptable standard of driving as to amount to a crime.

The offences of murder and manslaughter are tried in the Crown Court. Murder carries a mandatory life sentence. Manslaughter has a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Anyone convicted of manslaughter in a driving case must be disqualified from driving for a minimum period of two years and then required to pass a driving test to regain a full driving licence.

Wanton or furious driving causing bodily harm

Section 35, Offences against the Person Act 1861 (as amended by the Road Safety Act 2006, section 28)

Driving offences under the Road Traffic Act must involve a motorised vehicle, and be on a public road or in a public place. By contrast, the offences of ‘wanton and furious driving causing bodily harm’, as well as the offences of murder or manslaughter, do not have these restrictions. They can be committed even if the offender is using a non-motorised vehicle, such as a bicycle. They can also be committed wherever the driving takes place, including on private land.

This offence is tried in the Crown Court. The maximum penalty is a prison sentence of two years and/or an unlimited fine. Anyone convicted of this offence can be disqualified from driving. If they are not disqualified, their licence must be endorsed with between three and nine penalty points.

Corporate manslaughter and corporate homicide

Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007

The law states that ‘An organisation is guilty of an offence if the way in which its activities are managed or organised: (a) causes a person’s death, and (b) amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased.’

A ‘duty of care’ is defined as a duty owed by an organisation to its employees or contractors, a duty owed as the occupier of premises, or other duties described in law that relate to the running of the organisation.

An organisation is guilty of a ‘gross breach’ of a relevant duty of care if its conduct fell far below what would be reasonably expected. For example, if a company failed to ensure a vehicle it was operating had serviced brakes, and the vehicle could not be controlled.

This offence is tried in a Crown Court. Any penalty is against the company, not individuals working for the company. The court may impose an unlimited fine. The court may also impose a remedial order (where an organisation must make changes to prevent future breaches of health and safety laws) and a publicity order (where an organisation must publicise the details of its offence).

Gross negligence manslaughter by company employees

Common Law

Individuals within companies can be prosecuted for gross negligence manslaughter (see page 44) if their actions were criminal and directly led to a fatal crash. For example, if a boss of a lorry company told a driver not to take their legally-required rest breaks and the driver fell asleep at the wheel, or if they told their mechanic not to replace worn brakes on a lorry and these brakes subsequently failed. Companies can also be prosecuted for gross negligence manslaughter if an individual found guilty of the offence plays a significant role in the management of the organisation’s activities.

If an individual is found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter, the maximum penalty is life imprisonment. If a company is found guilty, it can receive an unlimited fine.

Aggravated vehicle taking

Section 12(A) of the Theft Act 1968

This offence is committed when a person takes a vehicle without the owner's consent (often called ‘joy riding’ in the media) or other lawful authority for his own or another's use, or, knowing that any vehicle has been taken without such authority, drives it or allows himself to be carried in it or on it and at any time after the vehicle was unlawfully taken, whether by them or by another, and before it was recovered:

  1. the vehicle was driven dangerously on a road or other public place; or
  2. owing to the driving of the vehicle, injury or death was caused to any person; or
  3. owing to the driving of the vehicle, damage was caused to any property; or
  4. owing to the driving of the vehicle, damage was caused to the vehicle.

The offence is tried in the Crown Court or Magistrates' Court. If a death was caused, the maximum sentence in a Crown Court is 14 years' imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine. The maximum sentence in a Magistrates' Court is six months' imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine. The driver must be disqualified for a minimum of one year. If dangerous driving was proven, the convicted person must pass an extended driving test before a full driving licence can be obtained.

Failing to stop or report an accident

Section 170(4) of the Road Traffic Act 1988

A driver involved in a crash causing death, injury or damage is required to stop, remain at the scene and give their details. If they don’t, they are required to report the crash to a police officer ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’ and within 24 hours. This offence (often called ‘hit and run’ in the media) is committed if a driver doesn't do this.

Offences under this section are tried in a Magistrates’ Court. The maximum penalty for failing to stop or report an accident is a prison sentence of six months and/or an unlimited fine. The driver can be disqualified from driving. If not, their licence must be endorsed with between five and 10 penalty points.

Killing someone by using a defective vehicle

If an unsafe vehicle (for example, a vehicle with defective brakes) has caused a death, then there are a range of offences that may have been committed by, depending on the case, the driver, the owner or operator of the vehicle if different (for example, the boss of a company running a fleet of vehicles), or anyone else considered responsible.

It may be possible, for example, to charge someone with the offence of causing death by dangerous driving (see above), aiding and abetting (see below), or corporate manslaughter (see above).

Someone may be found to be in breach of Construction and Use Regulations. These impose requirements relating to safety critical components such as brakes, tyres, steering, tachographs (which record driving time of commercial vehicles) and speed limiters (which restrict speed on commercial vehicles).

Breaches of Construction and Use Regulations are usually heard in a Magistrates’ Court, but some offences may be dealt with by fixed penalty notice. In a Magistrates’ Court there is a range of maximum fines which can be imposed for different Construction and Use offences, the most severe of which is unlimited. Anyone given a fixed penalty notice must pay £60 and their licence must be endorsed with three penalty points. It may also be possible to disqualify an offender from running a company.

Charges that do not mention death or injury

The following charges do not mention death or injury, but are sometimes brought against a driver who was involved in a fatal crash:

  • Dangerous drivingSection 2 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (as amended by the Road Traffic Act 1991, section 1); and
  • Careless, and inconsiderate, drivingSection 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988

 In some cases, there is evidence that a driver was driving dangerously or carelessly before or after the crash, but there is no evidence to prove dangerous or careless driving at the time of the crash. In these cases, it may only be possible to charge someone with either dangerous driving or careless driving, rather than the more serious offence of ‘causing death by dangerous driving’ or ‘causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving’.

Dangerous driving can be tried in either the Crown Court or a Magistrates’ Court. The maximum penalty is a prison sentence of two years and/or an unlimited fine in the Crown Court, or a prison sentence of six months and/or an unlimited fine in a Magistrates’ Court. The driver must be disqualified from driving for a minimum of one year unless there are special reasons to impose a shorter disqualification or no disqualification. The driver must pass an extended driving test before they can regain a full driving licence.

Careless driving is tried in a Magistrates’ Court. The maximum penalty is an unlimited fine. The driver can be disqualified from driving. If not, their licence must be endorsed with between three and nine penalty points.

Driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence

Section 87(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (as amended by the Road Traffic Act 1991, section 17)

A person commits this offence if they drive when they do not hold a driving licence, or if they do not comply with the conditions of their licence.

There may be circumstances where an unlicensed driver is involved in a fatal collision, but it cannot be proved that their actual driving caused the death (for example, where they are driving carefully at a safe speed and another driver collides with them and dies). In these circumstances, they may still be prosecuted for driving without a valid licence. It is also an offence to cause or permit another person to drive if they do not hold a valid driving licence.

This offence is tried in a Magistrates’ Court. The maximum penalty is a fine of £1,000. The driver can be disqualified from driving. If not, their licence must be endorsed with between three and six penalty points.

Driving while disqualified

Section 103(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1988

If a person drives while disqualified from driving, they commit this offence. A person may also be charged with this offence instead of 'driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence' (see above), if they do not comply with the conditions of a provisional licence gained after a period of disqualification. As above, there may be circumstances where a disqualified driver is involved in a fatal collision, but it cannot be proved that their actual driving caused the death (for example, where they are driving carefully at a safe speed and another driver collides with them and dies). In these circumstances, they may still be prosecuted for driving while disqualified.

This offence is tried in a Magistrates’ Court. The maximum penalty is a prison sentence of six months and/or an unlimited fine. Anyone convicted of this offence can be disqualified from driving. If they are not disqualified, their licence must be endorsed with six penalty points.

Driving without insurance

Section 143(1)(a) of the Road Traffic Act 1988

If a person drives a vehicle on a road or any other public place without motor insurance, they have committed this offence. As on the previous page, there may be circumstances where an uninsured driver is involved in a fatal collision, but it cannot be proved that their actual driving caused the death (for example, where they are driving carefully at a safe speed and another driver collides with them and dies). In these circumstances, they may still be prosecuted for driving without insurance.

This offence is tried in a Magistrates’ Court. The maximum penalty is an unlimited fine. Anyone convicted of this offence can be disqualified from driving. If they are not disqualified, their licence must be endorsed with between six and eight penalty points.

Aiding and abetting

Someone who encourages another person to commit an offence may also be guilty of that offence. For example, if a passenger in a vehicle encourages the driver to drive dangerously, the passenger may be guilty of aiding and abetting dangerous driving. Generally, the same penalties apply, although length of licence disqualification may differ. This can also apply in the case of a company that uses drivers (such as a lorry or bus operator) and allowed those drivers to drive dangerously, or use vehicles in a dangerous condition. The company, or a manager within the company, may be charged.

Aiding and abetting offences may be tried in either a Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court, depending on the seriousness of the offence. Generally the same penalties apply, although length of licence disqualification may differ.

Bringing a private prosecution

It is sometimes possible for a member of the public, rather than the Crown Prosecution Service, to prosecute another person for a criminal offence. This is called a private prosecution. This process is very costly and you cannot claim legal aid.

Sometimes, new offences are created, or there are changes to the definition of offences or the maximum penalty for an offence. More information on offences and charging policy can be found on theCrown Prosecution Service website.

Click to go to the next section of this guide: Court cases or to go to the contents page.

Cycling with kids

cycle4life_13Kids love bikes - and cycling with them is a great way to stay fit and enjoy some quality family time together while helping teach them important safe cycling lessons. As well as cycling with younger children, children aged 10 or older who have passed their on-road cycle training will also benefit from cycling with you as a family. They are still inexperienced and less able to anticipate dangers on their own. Think carefully before giving permission to older children to cycle on roads on their own - this will depend on the safety of cycling routes around your home.

Cycling away from roads with your family

Safe places to cycle and have stress-free fun as a family include off-road cycle trails, parks and many forests and country parks with specially created mountain biking areas. Many have cycle hire facilities. In cities, velodromes often have indoor and outdoor facilities that are open to children of a certain age - check them out on the web.

Getting to the start of your ride

If you cannot cycle safely from your door, you may choose to buy or hire a bike carrier for your car. This means you can take your bikes anywhere but it has a serious downside of not being environmentally friendly. The better option is to use public transport, carrying your bikes with you or hiring them when you get there. This takes more organisation and might not be possible in all cases. However, it can be worth the effort and give you more quality time with your family - children love buses and trains.

Useful links:
Forestry Commission lists of cycle trails and facilities
Road Cycling UK lists of Velodromes
Sustrans lists of cycle hire facilities
Cycle for life pages on travelling by bike and public transport

Carrying pre-schoolers >>

<< Family cycling home page

<< Cycle4life home page



Dangers of roads for children with SEN

Research suggests that people with learning difficulties or disabilities are more at risk of being hurt or killed on roads. A 15-year study in California indicated that the risk of adults with learning difficulties and disabilities being killed while walking was nearly three times greater than among adults without. [1] However, because UK casualty statistics do not record learning disabilities or difficulties among people injured or killed on roads, it is difficult to assess the extent of risks faced by this group, and specifically for children with different types of learning difficulties or disabilities.

However, some of the effects that different learning difficulties and disabilities may have on pupils safety on roads, and possible obstacles to teaching these children about safety, are outlined below. Whether individual pupils experience these problems or not may depend on the severity and nature of their learning difficulty or disability.

NB: the information below is intended only to illustrate additional risks that may be experienced by children with learning difficulties and disabilities using roads. It is not intended as a complete list of symptoms, behaviours and difficulties that may be displayed or experienced by these children.

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Children with ADD or ADHD may display any of the following:

  • Hyperactivity, often running around excessively - meaning they may be more likely to: suddenly run out into the road; cycle too fast to control their bike properly; or undo their seatbelts, fidget and distract the driver when in a car.
  • Impulsiveness and tendency to act without thinking  - meaning they may be less likely to wait for a green man or until it?s safe to cross, or to stay in line if a group is being taken off the school premises.
  • Little regard for personal safety  - often acting without fear or without considering the consequences, so may be more likely to run into the road or take chances with approaching traffic.
  • Forgetful and easily distracted in the course of everyday activities - meaning they may be likely to become distracted while crossing the road or cycling, or simply forget to ?stop, look and listen? or apply other safety rules.
  • A tendency to not listen to others or follow instructions - so even if being supervised, they may not listen to, or obey, safety instructions from an adult. [2]

Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Children with an ASD may display any of the following:

  • Difficulty thinking and behaving flexibly according to different situations, and a tendency to tie new skills to the circumstances in which they are taught ? meaning these children may not apply safety instructions or rules to every relevant situation. For example, a child taught to use the Green Cross Code when crossing a particular road may not automatically know to apply the code to crossing other roads.
  • Difficulty understanding social contexts - meaning they may not respond to being taught about road safety in the context of what?s ?right and wrong?, or what?s safe or dangerous. They may also find it difficult to apply these concepts to particular situations.
  • Difficulty communicating with and understanding others - so may have difficulties understanding verbal instructions from adults supervising them on roads, and may be unable to communicate any difficulties they are having keeping themselves safe.
  • Over or under-sensitivity to sights and sounds - this may put these children at risk on roads by causing panic in reaction to certain noises or sights (due to over-sensitivity), and/or a lack of awareness of dangers like approaching traffic (due to under-sensitivity).
  • Forgetful and easily distracted in the course of everyday activities - meaning they may be likely to become distracted while crossing the road or cycling, or simply forget to 'stop, look and listen' or apply other safety rules.
  • Strong interests which can cause distractions - for example, a child may have a strong interest in cars, which could cause them to walk into a road without looking to see a car they like.

Dyspraxia (or Developmental Co-ordination Disorder)

Children with dyspraxia may display any of the following:

  • Co-ordination difficulties - meaning they may be at particular risk of stumbling or falling into the road while walking or swerving while cycling.
  • Problems judging distance - this can make it difficult for children to judge how far away approaching traffic is and when it's safe to cross.
  • Inability to tell left from right consistently - meaning they may find it difficult following the instructions of an adult supervisor when using roads, or obeying road markings telling pedestrians to 'look left' or 'look right'.
  • Problems doing two things at once or completing complex tasks - meaning they may have difficulty following instructions for using roads safely that involve several actions, like the Green Cross Code. [3]


Children with dyslexia may display any of the following:

  • Difficulties reading - this may cause problems reading any written instructions or advice on using roads safely, including road signs and markings.
  • Difficulties following a series of instructions in order - so may have difficulties following instructions from an adult supervisor when using roads, or applying a series of actions in order, like the Green Cross Code.
  • Problems with directional words like left/right and up/down - so may find it difficult following the instructions of an adult supervisor when using roads, or obey signs that tell you to 'look left' or 'look right'. [4]

Back to menu - Teaching road safety to children with SEN

[1] Strauss D, Shavelle R, Anderson T W and Baumeister A (1998). External causes of death among persons with developmental disability: the effect of residential placement. American Journal of Epidemiology, 147 (9), 855-862.

[2] Symptoms of ADD and ADHD from

[3] Problems associated with dyspraxia from, University of Reading

[4] Problems associated with dyslexia from, University of Reading, and, British Dyslexia Association

Disclaimer: Brake is not responsible for the content of external websites

Devising road safety lessons and activities for pupils with SEN

Consider pupils abilities to understand risk

On the other teaching resources pages, you'll find information on the general abilities of children of different ages to perceive and understand risk and make safe choices. Advice on these pages is based on 'normal' development of these abilities. Therefore it's essential to consider SEN pupils' abilities to perceive and understand risks and make safe choices, in order to decide which safety messages to teach.

Consider risks faced by pupils now, and risks they may face in the future
It's important, as when delivering road safety education to any children, to consider the actual risks they face in their everyday lives, and how pupils' learning difficulties and disabilities may heighten those risks. For example, you may have a large number of pupils, including some with ADHD who are impulsive and easily distracted, who walk to school, and have to negotiate fast, busy roads on the way. In this case, providing effective teaching about the risks posed by fast traffic and the importance of walking safely in a way that is accessible and relevant for pupils with ADHD (as well as working with your local authority to try to achieve safety measures on the roads) should be a priority.

You should also try to consider what risks pupils with SEN may face in the future. For example, pupils moving up to secondary school may start to walk and cycle independently more often and may encounter new pressures to act dangerously. Lessons should take this into account. Some pupils with SEN may have previously had limited opportunity for independent travel and exploration, but these opportunities may increase as they get older, so they still need to be equipped with an understanding of how to keep themselves safe. Effective road safety education may help a child with SEN gain independence and mobility.

Consider what teaching methods will be most effective
As when teaching any subject to pupils with SEN, it is important to have an understanding of what is meaningful for those pupils and therefore what teaching methods they are most likely to respond to. This is particularly important for children with severe learning difficulties.[1] Many children with SEN will respond to clear instructions, with defined goals or rewards, as long as these goals or rewards are based on what is relevant to them.[2] It?s also crucial to consider any limitations of pupils' communication skills, and ensure that teaching is accessible for all pupils involved, if appropriate by using alternative teaching methods such as role-play and visuals.

Plan classroom and practical education
When educating any child on walking and cycling safely, the most effective teaching combines both classroom-based learning and practical roadside training. Practical training has been shown to be particularly effective for many children with learning difficulties, helping them to relate road safety rules and skills to a real-life context, and encouraging them to take responsibility for their own safety. [3] However, it is crucial to consult with your local council's road safety officer on the needs of your pupils and ensure that training can be run safely. To find details of your local road safety officer click here. You should also consult with parents, carers (as below) and your local authority's SEN specialist. Training for any pupils can be labour-intensive, but may be even more so for pupils with SEN who may require individual supervision and teaching, depending on the nature of their learning difficulty or disability. For this reason it requires thorough planning.

Involve parents and carers' and get them to teach road safety too
It's important to involve parents and carers in planning lessons and activities, particularly for children with severe learning difficulties and disabilities. You should consult them on: how their child uses roads; the main risks they perceive the child facing now and in the future; any problems or successes they have had in the past when teaching the child about road safety and other safety topics; and what teaching techniques they know to be most effective for their child. It may also be appropriate to directly involve parents or carers in any practical roadside training. Many parents will have already been teaching road safety to their children from an early age, so can offer valuable input on the abilities of their child and the most effective teaching methods.

Involving parents and carers has the additional benefit of reinforcing the importance of them teaching road safety to children outside school on an ongoing basis. Effective road safety teaching in schools should be constantly reinforced by all adults who use roads with the children.[4] It is particularly important with children with SEN to ensure that road safety messages taught inside and outside school are consistent, so it's crucial to establish and maintain effective communications with parents on what's being taught.

Adapt lesson ideas according to pupils' needs
Some advice on teaching road safety to children with different types of SEN is given below. You can use this advice to adapt lesson ideas and activities on this website for 5-8 year-olds, 8-11 year-olds, 11-15 year-olds and 15-18 year-olds. Depending on the needs and abilities of pupils, you may find you can adapt lesson ideas for the age group you are teaching, or from the age group below. You may find it useful to write a long-term plan, and targets, for teaching road safety into pupils? Individual Education Plans.

For children with severe, profound or multiple learning difficulties, you should consult and work with your local authority's special education needs advisor to develop appropriate lessons.

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

  • Create, and teach the children to develop, personal routines, which are based on children's actual behaviour and which they can use in their everyday lives to keep them safe. For example, if they are driven to school, develop a routine they can use to: get into the car; do up their seatbelt; check siblings are belted up too; play a game or activity on the journey so they don't distract the driver (e.g. see how many red cars they can spot); get out of the car on the pavement side; and walk into school safely. If they regularly walk to a local park or friend's house, create a routine for that journey, including spotting and avoiding hazards and choosing safe places to cross on the way.
  • Use clear, reasonable and specific requests to teach safety rules.For example, ' You should always stop and look and listen for traffic before crossing any road. Only cross when you're sure there's nothing coming. If you step into the road without looking and listening, a car could hit you and hurt or even kill you. rather than It's important to always cross roads sensibly.
  • Set easily understood boundaries,to define what is and isn't appropriate behaviour in terms of putting yourself and others in danger. For example, ask the class to name things they've seen people doing on roads that are safe or dangerous, putting them into the two categories on the board. Then go through with the class the possible outcomes of each action to demonstrate why each is safe or dangerous. You could use slides from our downloadable powerpoint presentation (aimed at pupils of average development age 8-11, 11-15, 15-18) to help you do this.
  • Employ new, innovative teaching methods to create and maintain interest. It may be useful to use role play and visual tools such as models to illustrate the messages you are teaching. Some pupils with ADHD may respond better to visual or movement-based teaching, rather than verbal communication alone.
  • Use one-to-one communication, and remove disruptions or distractions * where possible.* It can be helpful sitting children with ADD or ADHD at the front of the class and engaging different pupils, including those with ADD or ADHD, individually in discussions about risk, taking care to relate it to their real lives. [5]

Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

  • Help children 'generalise' safety skills or rules, encouraging them to apply what they're taught to a range of situations when using roads. For example, teach that the Green Cross Code should be used when crossing any road, no matter what. Then talk through different scenarios and settings (using pictures or toy people and cars or stories) asking children what they should do in each case, to demonstrate the Code should be used in each. Some of the settings could include pressures on the children to act dangerously or disobey the Code, such as a friend calling to them from over the road, or being in a rush to get to school on time. It is also important to consider and highlight exceptions to rules, such as emergency service vehicles going through red lights.
  • Use practical training, which is easier to generalise than class-room teaching, as it is based in a context that is closer to real life. If possible, provide this training on the routes that pupils actually use.
  • Explain the importance of safety rules in literal terms, rather than by putting them into a social context of what's acceptable and what will be viewed favourably. For example, explain specifically that failing to follow safety rules can lead to death or serious injury, rather than talking about being 'good', 'sensible' or 'naughty'.
  • Make sure your instructions are clear and complete. For example, the following could be misunderstood if taken literally, as it may be by a pupil with ASD: You should always stop and look and listen for traffic before crossing any road. If you don't, a car could hit you and hurt or even kill you. This could be understood to mean that as long as you stop, look and listen, you'll be safe. It misses out the step of 'Only cross if there are no vehicles coming.'


  • Teach the dangers of taking chances - children with dyspraxia may have particular difficulty judging the distance between them and approaching traffic. However, it's important to teach all children that it's difficult for anyone (even adults) to judge the speed at which traffic is approaching. It's made even harder by many drivers breaking speed limits. Emphasise that children shouldn't cross unless they are certain the way is clear. Ideally, they should plan routes that make use of traffic-light controlled crossings or zebra crossings, although on the latter children should always wait until traffic has come to a complete stop. (If routes to your school don't have crossings, you can contact your local council to find out if they can be put in place.) To demonstrate the dangers of taking chances, and of crossing roads with fast traffic, you could measure out stopping distances of vehicles travelling at different speeds. You could also discuss dangerous things that some drivers do that mean they might not be able to spot a child in the road (e.g. speeding, talking on a mobile, driving while tired or drunk) and why the children think drivers take these risks.
  • Teach the dangers of staying well away from traffic, especially fast traffic.Children with dyspraxia may be at particular risk of stumbling into the road. This is particularly dangerous on faster roads, where drivers are less likely to be able to stop in time. It's important to teach all children the importance of using safe routes where they are available, particularly footpaths that are set away from traffic, and routes that make use of crossings and avoid fast roads. You could also work with the children to draw a big map of the area, plotting safe routes to and from the school and linking homes to local amenities.
  • Help children develop strategies for telling left from right ' many children may have difficulty telling left from right so it may be a useful exercise to get all pupils to come up with their own ideas for ways of remembering left from right, such as wearing different coloured gloves or shoelaces (red representing right), holding up their forefingers and thumbs at right-angles to see which hand spells 'L', or visualising which hands they hold their knife and fork in. Encourage pupils to stop and think about which is which before following an instruction, and to check with an adult or friend if they're not sure.
  • Communicate your teaching to specialists working with pupils children with dyspraxia may be seeing specialists to help develop certain skills, particularly the physical movements involved in daily tasks. If possible, get in touch with these specialists (via pupils' families) to tell them about the road safety lessons you're running, and to help them reinforce your teaching and incorporate road safety into their sessions. For example, specialists may be able to run exercises to help children carry out the physical actions needed to cross a road safely.


  • Use practical training, role play, diagrams and other visual aidsto demonstrate how to make safe choice on roads, which dyslexic children are likely to find more memorable and easier to understand than written rules. For example, get children to act out different scenes involving them experiencing pressures to use act dangerously. They could act out two alternative endings for each scene  one where they act safely and one where they act dangerously. You could also use pictures and diagrams from Brake's powerpoint presentations (for 8-11s, 11-15s and 15-18s).
  • Help children develop strategies for telling left from right (as above, under dyspraxia).

Back to menu - Teaching road safety to children with SEN



[1] Phil Goss, Meaning-led learning for pupils with severe and profound and multiple learning difficulties (British Journal of Special Education, 2006)


[3] The Road Safety of Children and Adults with Disabilities (Transport Research Laboratory, 2002)

[4] The Road Safety of Children and Adults with Disabilities (Transport Research Laboratory, 2002)

[5] Advice on ?management techniques? for adults working with children with ADD/ADHD from and

Disclaimer: Brake is not responsible for the content of external websites

Driver advice: distractions

Silentthumb Drivers can Pledge to– never make or take calls, or text, when driving. Put their phone out of sight and on silent, and stay focused on the road. 

Everyone can Pledge to– never chatting on the phone to someone who's driving, or distracting a driver.

Drive smart

Driving is one of the most complicated and risky tasks many of us do on a regular basis. It requires our full concentration, and both our hands, to drive safely.

If you think you can multi-task at the wheel, you’re kidding yourself and putting people in danger. If you use a mobile phone, eat, fiddle with a stereo, do your make up, or do anything else that takes your eyes and mind off the road or your hands off the wheel, you’re significantly increasing your chances of being involved in a crash.

Mobile phones

phoneguyMore and more people own smart phones, and some find it hard to switch off, even for a minute. But you should never use your phone at the wheel.

Making or taking calls, texting, using the internet or checking social media while driving is incredibly risky. All these things are a bit like drink-driving: they slow your reaction times and hinder your control, and could easily cost you or someone else their life. Research shows if you are on the phone when driving your reactions are 50% slower and your crash risk is four times higher than normal.

This applies to hands-free kits too. Despite it currently being legal in the UK to make or take calls using a hands-free kit while driving, research proves it’s not a safe option. Hands-free kits are almost as risky as holding the phone to your ear, because it’s the distraction of the conversation that’s the main danger.

The only way to avoid dangerous distraction from your phone is to switch it to silent, and put it out of sight and reach when you're driving.

On long journeys, stop for breaks every two hours, and check your messages then. If you need to work or keep in contact on a long journey, take public transport instead, which is safer, better for the environment and means you can get work done.

You can also help other drivers to stay safe by refusing to speak to someone on the phone while they’re driving. If someone picks up while they’re driving, end the call as quickly as you can. It could save their life.


If you use a sat-nav, programme it before starting your journey and never while driving. Fiddling with the sat-nav will take your eyes and mind off the road with potentially lethal consequences.

Remember, it's there to help you keep focused on driving rather than worry about directions, but it's not there to make all the decisions for you. You still need to look at signs, particularly those warning of hazards or speed limits, and watch for people and hazards.eating2

Eating at the wheel

Eating and drinking on the move might seem harmless but research shows it impacts on your ability to react quickly. Eating at the wheel often means taking your eyes, hands and mind off the road, and it only takes a small lapse in concentration for a devastating crash to occur. Eating should be a pleasure, so take the time out to savour your meals when you're not driving.


Rebekka was knocked down and killed age 11 by a car that mounted the pavement. The driver had been making a call on his mobile phone. Hit play to hear Rebekka’s tragic story. Visit Brake’s Youtube channel for more videos.

 Page updated May 2016

Driver advice: stress

Drivers can pledge to – never drive if stressed.

Everyone can pledge to– look out for friends and loved ones by ensuring they only drive if they're fit for it.

Learn more: Read out fact page on driver stress.

stressStress at the wheel is a major problem for many drivers. A Brake and Direct Line survey of UK drivers found that 71% had lost concentration at the wheel in the past year due to stress or annoyance. This risks the lives of drivers and other road users. Combating stress while driving is essential.

US road safety organisation AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has designed an online questionnaire for drivers to use to assess whether they are prone to road rage. It assesses traits such as aggression, impatience and behaviour toward other road users, and gives basic advice on staying calm at the wheel.

All drivers can follow these simple guidelines to help reduce stress and road rage:

  • Consider alternatives to driving, which may help you to arrive feeling calmer and more refreshed, like walking, cycling or public transport.
  • Try to clear your mind of personal or work problems before driving.
  • Focus on the road and other road users around you. Be aware that an unexpected hazard could crop up at any moment and if you are not concentrating it could be fatal.
  • Learn to accept things that bother you on the road, such as other people driving inconsiderately, and make a positive decision not to let them wind you up [1].
  • Calm, controlled breathing helps to release muscular tension and relieve stress [2].
  • Don’t drive if you’re tired, and take rest breaks at least every two hours for at least 15 minutes to refocus your concentration.
  • Plan your route carefully and allow plenty of time for your journey – rushing will only make you more stressed.
  • Ensure the driver’s seat, head restraint and steering column are correctly adjusted for you: aches and pains due to poor posture will not improve your mood.
  • Drive at an appropriate speed well within the speed limit, go 20 or below around homes, schools and shops, and avoid overtaking unless essential.  Driving aggressively, speeding and overtaking are unlikely to get you there much faster, but could make you feel more tense, or even prevent you from arriving at all.
  • Make sure you eat sensibly, as hunger can affect your concentration [3] – but don’t eat at the wheel as this will distract you from driving [4].

If you are struggling to cope with stress, behind the wheel or in everyday life, it may be a good idea to visit your doctor for help.

If you are suffering from work-related stress you should also talk to your employer about how this could be reduced, as your employer has a duty of care to ensure your work does not harm your physical or mental health. Visit for advice on work-related stress.

 [1] ‘You’re a bad driver but I just made a mistake’, Queensland University of Technology, 2011

 [2] Relaxation tips to relieve stress, NHS Choices, 2014                                                                   

 [3] You are what you eat: how food affects your mood, Dartmouth College, 2011

 [4] Crash dieting: The effects of eating and drinking on driving performance, Accident Analysis & Prevention, 2008

Page updated June 2015

Driver advice: sustainable

Sustainablethumb Everyone can Pledge to – minimise the amount they drive, or not drive at all, and get about by walking, cycling or public transport as much as possible, for road safety, the environment and their health.

Why go eco?

By choosing sustainable travel, we can all help to reduce the road safety, public health, environmental and economic costs to society of our over-reliance on cars. Fewer cars on the road mean fewer road deaths and injuries, less congestion, less emissions and more pleasant, sociable communities.

Whether it’s doing the school run on foot or bike, walking to the local shop instead of driving to the supermarket, or taking public transport to work instead of driving, incorporating active and sustainable travel into your routine can be really simple, and it’s a great way to stay active, save money, and do your bit for the environment.

Use our carbon footprint calculator to see the environmental impact of your driving.
Share our interactive resource to spread the 'Drive less, live more' message. 

Do you need to drive?


Two-thirds (64%) of all UK journeys and 40% of journeys less than two miles are made by car, many of which could be made on foot or bike, or by public transport. While each trip may not seem like much, it all adds up to a lot of unnecessary car use.

For each journey you make by car, ask yourself if there’s a more sustainable and healthy option. If it’s a short journey, could you walk or cycle? You can use Sustrans’ website to explore walking and cycling routes in your area and work out the safest, most pleasant way to get to your destination on foot or bike. Get into the habit of leaving the car at home for these shorter journeys and you’ll spend less money on petrol and feel healthier for the exercise – plus you’ll be helping to make your area a nicer, less polluted place.

For longer journeys could you take a bus, train or coach instead? If you book in advance, the cost of tickets can often work out cheaper than what you’d spend on petrol and you can sit back and relax without the stress of driving. You can look up public transport options by region at


If you drive to and from work, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to switch to a sustainable commute, which may be quicker, cheaper, healthier and less stressful. Research shows that people who commute by walking and cycling better able to concentrate and are less stressed. Look online at your local travel information to see what sustainable transport options you have, including bus routes, train services and safe cycle paths.

If you want to cycle to work but don’t own a bike, find out if your employer participates in the government’s Cycle to Work initiative, which allows you to purchase a new bike (and related equipment like cycle paths) tax-free, and pay monthly straight from your salary. If they aren’t signed up to the scheme, direct a relevant member of staff to details of the benefits to employers and encourage them to sign up. Read Brake’s advice on cycling.

Safe cycling


Cycling is healthy, low-cost and environmentally friendly way to travel. Go to Brake’s cycling advice pages for further information on how to keep safe while cycling.

If you have to drive

If there are journeys that you have to make by car, there are some simple steps you can take to minimise the negative impacts of this on you and the people around you:

  • Make the Brake Pledge, a simple six point pledge to help keep you and others safe on the road and prevent needless tragedies.
  • Keep to a lower speed and avoid harsh braking and acceleration to produce fewer emissions and improve fuel efficiency. In particular, slow down to 20mph or below in built up areas, even where the speed limit is 30. It’s unlikely to affect your journey time significantly, but it will mean your car is less polluting because there is less speeding up and slowing down, and  it will mean you’re helping to make roads safer for people on foot and bike. See our advice on speed.
  • The same principle applies on faster roads. For each 5mph you drive over 60mph, you use 7% more fuel. Slower is not only safer, but it’s better for the environment and will save you money on petrol
  • Plan your journeys more efficiently. If you have a number of errands to do or journeys to make, can they be combined into the same trip? Make sure you still allow plenty of time for driving at safe, slow speeds, possible hold-ups, and breaks every two hours.
  • Make sure your vehicle is properly maintained. A well maintained vehicle produces fewer emissions and is more fuel efficient. Simple things like keeping your tyres well inflated, cleaning or replacing dirty air and fuel filters, and regularly changing your oil can improve fuel efficiency. Read our advice on vehicle maintenance.

 Page updated June 2015

Driver advice: vehicle maintenance and breakdowns

Drivers can pledge to – choose the safest vehicle possible and ensure it’s well maintained.

Vehicle maintenance

Proper vehicle maintenance is essential to keep yourself and others safe on the road. In 2013, 42 people were killed in crashes caused by vehicle defects, with hundreds seriously injured[i]. If you drive, you are operating a fast-moving piece of heavy machinery that needs to be kept in the safest possible condition.

Good maintenance can save you money as well as avoiding breakdowns or potentially devastating crashes. Badly-inflated tyres can mean you use more petrol, while putting off minor repairs can make them far more costly in the long-run.

You should carry out regular‘walk-round’ checks of your vehicle, once a week and before any long journeys, which need only take a few minutes. The main things you should look out for are:

  • tyre tread wear. Look out for tread wear indicator bars on tyres – small bumps in the main grooves which indicate the minimum tread. Change your tyres well before your tread gets to the legal minimum (1.6mm in the UK). Brake recommends replacing at 3mm, as tyres can be dangerous in wet conditions with less than this. If you drive with tyres worn down to below the legal limit, you could face three penalty points and a £2,500 fine, or it could cause a deadly crash.breakdownpics
  • tyre pressure. Buy a hand-held tyre pressure gauge and check the pressure weekly, when the tyres are cold. The correct pressure will be written in your vehicle’s handbook.
  • general tyre condition. Check for cracks, bulges or bubbles on the sides of your tyres. These are signs that the tyre is damaged and at risk of blowing out. If you see any of these, get the tyre checked by a professional, and replaced if necessary.
  • lights are working. Check lights are clean and bulbs aren’t blown (reflect against a wall, or ask a friend to help).
  • oil, water and fluids. Check oil and water levels, and other fluids such as power steering, windscreen washer and brake fluid, are well above minimum levels.
  • wiper blades. Check they are in full working order and replace if worn.
  • wheel fixings. Check wheels and wheel fixings for defects, including loose nuts.

If you drive a commercial or specialist vehicle, there may be additional checks you should make: check with your employer or consult your handbook.

As setting off and while on your journey, look out for:

  • problems with or noises from your brakes. Brakes usually make a noise when worn, but if you notice any problem with them, get them checked immediately by a professional mechanic. It’s a good idea to test brakes weekly and at the start of long journeys, following your walk-round checks, by applying them gently while driving very slowly on a flat, empty stretch;
  • warning lights on your dashboard;
  • excess noise or smoke from the exhaust;
  • smoke from under the bonnet;
  • fluid leaking from under the vehicle;
  • smell of hot electrics, fuel, or a burning smell;
  • unusual sounds from the engine;
  • a pulling sensation from the steering.

If you have any suspicion at all there’s a problem with your vehicle, take it to a garage immediately – putting it off could cost you cash, result in a breakdown, or worse, lead to a serious crash.

Professional servicing

mechanicDon’t try to fix safety-critical components yourself. Always use a qualified mechanic to work on your vehicle. Make sure you get your annual MOT and your vehicle is serviced in line with your vehicle handbook.

If you’re driving an employer’s vehicle, speak to them about who is maintaining it and when it was last checked. Ask your employer to ensure it is maintained in line with the vehicle handbook. Encourage them to make use of Brake’s guidance for companies on fleet safety (see 

Just because a vehicle has passed an annual test or been serviced, it doesn’t mean it will be safe until the next service. A brake pad (the material that keeps your brakes working) may be only just above legal now, and worn out and dangerous well before your next service. Talk to your garage about the level of wear on brake pads and tyres, and any other problems your vehicle might experience in the coming months, so you know if you should pay them a visit between services.

Faulty batteries are one of the biggest causes of breakdowns, so get it tested, particularly before cold weather sets in. Many garages offer free checks.

Choosing the safest vehicle

Buy the safest, most reliable vehicle you can. To find out the safest car models, visit Euro NCAP which tests and rates them.Before buying a second-hand vehicle, get it checked over by an independent, qualified and experienced mechanic. It’s better to pay for a mechanic than buy a car that isn’t safe. See our factsheet on choosing safer vehicles for more information.

Breakdown advice

Breaking down on the road can be a frustrating, unpleasant, and sometimes dangerous and scary, experience. Every year, people are killed or seriously injured while stopped on the roadside, but many drivers don’t know how to keep safe in the event of a breakdown.

Motorway breakdowns

In a breakdown situation, the most important thing for drivers to consider is the safety of themselves and other road users, particularly on high speed roads like motorways. Hard shoulders are extremely dangerous places – one in 11 motorway deaths involve a vehicle on, entering or leaving the hard shoulder[ii].

If your vehicle develops a problem on the motorway:Motorway

  • if your car develops a fault but you can continue driving, leave the motorway at the next available exit and stop at the service area;
  • if the problem requires you to stop immediately, pull onto the hard shoulder and stop as far away from the traffic as you can, with the wheels turned to the left, if possible next to an emergency phone;
  • never use a warning triangle on the hard shoulder of the motorway, as walking along the hard shoulder to place a warning triangle puts you at risk of being hit;
  • never sit in your vehicle on the hard shoulder, even if the weather is bad. This is dangerous as you are at risk of being struck from behind at high speed;
  • put on your hazard lights and get out on the left hand side, and wait on the verge, well away from traffic;
  • anybody who is unable to leave the vehicle, for example someone with mobility issues, should wait inside the vehicle with their seatbelt securely fastened.

Never be tempted to try and fix your vehicle on the hard shoulder yourself – this is dangerous. Call for help instead, using an emergency phone if one is accessible without walking along the hard shoulder. These connect directly to the police control centre, and are numbered so that you can easily be located. Blue and white marker posts show the direction to the nearest phone.

Using the hard shoulder is legally permitted in only three instances: in a breakdown, an emergency, or if being pulled over by the police. Making a phone call, taking a toilet break or reading a map are not acceptable reasons to stop in the hard shoulder.

Breakdowns on any other type of road

If you breakdown somewhere other than the motorway, follow these guidelines to keep as safe as possible:

  • if it is possible, avoid stopping in a dangerous place, such as on a roundabout, on a corner or near a brow. If you can safely keep driving for a short distance, drop your speed, use your hazard lights and try to pull off the road completely or in a location where you’re clearly visible;
  • if you have to stop on a road, switch your hazard lights on. Only display an emergency triangle at least 45 metres behind your vehicle if it is safe for you to do so. Do not put yourself in a risky situation in putting out the triangle, and never use one on the hard shoulder of a motorway;
  • do not attempt to fix your vehicle yourself at the roadside. Call a breakdown service;
  • switch your engine off and stand as far away from the road as possible so you are not close to passing traffic;
  • if you are involved in a crash that is serious, obstructs the road, or involves injuries, call the emergency services as soon as possible. If you have first aid training, provide appropriate, immediate help to anyone who is hurt.

Make sure you are prepared in case you breakdown by:

  • carrying a mobile phone so that you can call for assistance, but on the motorway use a roadside phone if possible;
  • carrying a map so you can easily explain where you are when calling for assistance. You can use a map app on your phone, but you may not have signal if you breakdown somewhere remote;
  • keeping an emergency kit in your car, which should have a torch, a warning triangle, warm clothes and a reflective jacket or vest.

 Page updated June 2015

Driver advice: winter and bad weather driving

Drivers can pledge to– slow right down in bad weather and avoid driving at all if possible.

Weather can be unpredictable and turn quickly, making roads treacherous. Ice, snow, heavy rain and fog significantly increase the risks on roads. Stopping distances can double in the wet and increase ten-fold in ice and snow, and if you can’t see clearly, you can’t react to hazards. Driving in bad weather can be lethal.

Brake urges drivers to follow the A, B, C of staying safe in winter and bad weather conditions.

Avoid driving

If possible, avoid driving in snow and other treacherous conditions. Never set off when it's snowing heavily or if it’s forecast to snow, and avoid driving if you possibly can in other bad conditions like fog, heavy rain and ice. Consider alternatives like public transport. If you drive to work, speak to your employer in advance about home-working arrangements when the weather is bad, especially if you live in a rural area prone to flooding or snow.

Be prepared

Even if you avoid setting off in dangerous weather conditions, you could get caught out, so be prepared by:

  • ensuring your vehicle is well-maintained through an up-to-date MOT, regular service, and regular walk-round checks by you.
  • regularly checking tyres to ensure they’re in good condition and have a tread depth of at least 3mm to be safe in the wet.
  • making sure there is anti-freeze in your radiator and windscreen washer bottle. tyres
  • keeping an ice-scraper and de-icer in your vehicle at all times in winter.
  • packing a winter driving kit in case of emergency. This might include: a torch; cloths; a blanket and warm clothes; food and drink; first-aid kit; spade; warning triangle; and high-visibility vest.
  • always take a well-charged phone in case of emergencies, but don't be tempted to use it when driving.

Car batteries are more likely to die in winter, so take steps to ensure yours doesn’t. If your car battery is old (more than five years) or there is sign of it struggling to start the car, get it checked by your garage and replaced if needed.

Clear ice, snow and condensation completely from your windscreen and all windows before setting off. Clear snow off the roof of your vehicle too, as it might fall and obscure your vision during your journey.

Check forecasts and plan your route carefully. In bad weather, major roads are more likely to be cleared and gritted. Allow plenty of time for potential hold-ups. The Met Office provides up to date forecasts, and issues warnings when severe weather is likely.

Careful, cautious driving

If you do get caught in bad weather, follow these steps to minimise the dangers.

Slow right down: if visibility is poor or the road is wet or icy, it will take you longer to react to hazards and you should reduce your speed accordingly. Take corners very slowly, and reduce speed further if your view of the road ahead is obscured. Always stay well within the speed limit and look out for temporary speed limit signs. Never speed up suddenly if fog seems to have cleared. Fog can be patchy and you may suddenly re-enter it.

Maintain a safe gap behind the vehicle in front: the gap between you and the vehicle in front is your braking space in a crisis. In wet conditions you should leave four seconds, and in ice or snow, drop right back as much as possible. Stopping distances are double in the wet, and can be 10 times greater in icy weather. Never hang on someone else's tail lights. This can provide a false sense of security and mean you're not fully focussed on the road.

Be extra vigilant for people and hazards: be aware that people on foot, bicycles, motorbikes and horses are harder to spot in adverse weather. Drive slowly and cautiously so you are able to spot vulnerable road users in plenty of time and not put them in danger. Look out for signs warning of hazards, people, adverse conditions or temporary lower speed limits.

Stay in control: avoid harsh braking and acceleration, and carry out manoeuvres very slowly and with extra care.Snow Car

Use lights: put lights on in gloomy weather and when visibility is reduced. Use front and rear fog lights in dense fog. Remember to switch off fog lights when visibility improves.

Snow and ice: follow these tips if you get caught driving in snow and ice:

  • use the highest gear possible to avoid wheel spin, but taking care not to let your speed creep up.
  • brake gently to avoid locking the wheels. Get into a low gear earlier than normal and allow the speed of the vehicle to fall gradually.
  • take corners very slowly and steer gently and steadily to avoid skidding. Never brake if the vehicle skids, instead, ease off the accelerator and steer slightly into the direction of the skid until you gain control.
  • If stuck in snow, do not spin the wheels or rev the vehicle, as this will dig the vehicle further in. Instead, put the vehicle into as high a gear as possible and slowly manoeuvre the vehicle lightly forwards and backwards to gently creep out.
  • if you are stuck fast, stay in the vehicle unless help is visible within 100 yards. Do not abandon your vehicle as this can hold up rescue vehicles.

Rain and floods: follow these tips if you get caught driving in heavy rain and floods:

  • keep well back from the vehicle in front as the rain and spray makes it difficult to see and be seen.
  • look out for steering becoming unresponsive, which can happen if water prevents the tyres from gripping. If this occurs, ease off the accelerator and gradually slow down. If possible, pull over somewhere safe until the rain stops and the water drains away.Puddle
  • never attempt to cross a flooded road if you are unsure how deep it is; only cross if you can see the road through the water. Apart from potential damage, many vehicles require only two feet of water to float.
  • if driving on a flooded road, stay in first gear with the engine speed high and drive very slowly. Do not drive through floodwater if a vehicle is coming the other way. If possible, drive in the middle of the road to avoid deeper water near the kerb.
  • test brakes immediately after driving through water by driving slowly over a flat surface and pressing the brakes gently. Warn passengers first.

In high winds: take extra care passing over bridges or on open stretches of road exposed to strong winds. If your vehicle is being blown about, slow right down and take great care to maintain a steady course. Keep well back from motorcycles and high-sided vehicles as they can be particularly affected by turbulence.

In winter sun: dazzle from low winter sun can be dangerous. Keep a pair of sunglasses in the vehicle all year round (prescription if needed) and keep your windscreen clean. Wear your sunglasses in bright sunshine, especially if the sun is low or reflecting off a wet road.

Gritted roads: Highways England is responsible for keeping England's motorways and major 'A' roads clear of ice and snow. Local road networks are the responsibility of local authorities. In some cases there may be a lag before roads are treated, so never assume that roads have been gritted.

  • Pledge to slow right down for bad weather and avoid driving at all if possible
  • See our advice for drivers on other road safety topics

Page updated June 2016

Driver tips: Sleep apnoea

Sleep apnoea is a killer condition causing you to fall asleep at the wheel and crash. Some research has found sleep apnoea sufferers are seven times more likely to crash. Yet you might not know you have it. Read this page to find out if there's a chance you do, and if there is, then go to your doctor to find out. Treatment is possible.

What is sleep apnoea?
Sleep apnoea is relaxation of muscles around the upper airway (in the throat behind the tongue and palate) causing snoring and obstruction to airflow during sleep. When this happens the brain responds by waking up and re-starting breathing. A few such interruptions in sleep may have little effect but frequent interruptions and waking cause tiredness upon waking, daytime sleepiness, lack of concentration, poor memory and, most dangerously of all, falling asleep while driving or operating dangerous machinery.

What causes it?
The shape of the throat and position of the lower jaw; the presence of swellings in the airway; fluid and fat in the tissue beside the airway, swollen tonsils and the ‘strength’ of muscle around the airway (it may be ‘weak’ in one in four people with diabetes) can all make sleep apnoea more likely.

Being overweight or obese can be a factor in some people. Having excess fat in the body as a whole resets the body’s metabolism making the muscle around the airway ‘weaker’, and is associated with more fat around the airway, compressing and narrowing it. The actual amount of fat beside the airway may be very small but can cause serious narrowing.

Even some people who are not seriously obese (BMI more than 30, see table) may have enough extra fat beside the airway to cause sleep apnoea.

How will I know that I might have it?
Sleep apnoea should be suspected if you have:
• Disturbed sleep
• Wake up coughing or fighting for breath during sleep
• Snore excessively
• Are tired on waking
• Fall asleep after meals (even without alcohol)
• Fall asleep in front of the TV
• Fall asleep during meetings
• Have a collar size of 17 or over (men only)
• Are obese (BMI more than 30, see table)
• You have fallen asleep or felt sleepy while driving in the past year or so
• Frequently have to use coffee or other caffeine containing bever ages to try to keep alert

How will I know if I am obese? 
This is a guide only, but you will probably have a BMI (Body Mass Index – weight in kg divided by height in metres squared) of 30 or over if your weight exceeds the value given for your height.

1.6m/ 5ft 3in = 76.8kg/ 12st 1lb
1.65m/ 5ft 5in = 81.7kg/ 12st 12lb
1.7m/ 5ft 7in = 86.7kg/ 13st 9lb
1.75m/ 5ft 9in = 91.8kg/ 14st 6lb
1.8m/ 5ft 11in = 97.2kg/ 15st 4lb
1.85m/ 6ft 1in = 102.7kg/ 16st 2lb
1.9m/ 6ft 3in = 108.3kg/ 17st 1lb

Do not drive with uncontrolled sleep apnoea
If you are suffering from sleepiness at the wheel, have well-founded suspicion that you have sleep apnoea, or have been diagnosed with sleep apnoea and the symptoms are not yet controlled (see below), or cannot be controlled, it is not safe to drive. Do not drive.

What do do if you suspect you have sleep apnoea
If you suspect that you may have sleep apnoea or believe that your body weight may be putting your driving career at risk speak to your fleet manager and talk to your GP. Ask for a referral to a sleep clinic or a department of respiratory medicine for a sleep study and emphasise that your driving career may depend on a rapid referral and prompt treatment. If you are overweight or obese there are some options for losing weight available through your GP practice – ask for a prompt referral.

The latest research from Sweden shows that a majority of men with moderate and severe sleep apnoea can lose enough weight to improve their sleep apnoea symptoms in just 9 weeks [1] – a formula diet programme of this kind is available in the UK, although not yet through the NHS. If a diagnosis of sleep apnoea is made it is readily treated with the use of a face mask and air-pump which raises the air pressure going into your airway helping to keep it open. This form of treatment, known as CPAP (Continuous positive airway pressure) has been proved scientifically to greatly improve the symptoms and the bad effects of sleep apnoea in most users.

[1] Johansson K, Neovius M, Lagerros YT, Harlid R, Rossner S, Granath F, Hemmingsson E. Effect of a very low-energy diet on moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnoea in obese men: a randomised controlled trial. BMJ 2009; 339: b4609 doi 10.1136/bmj.b4609 .

Emotional support

A sudden illness, injury, or death of a loved one can be emotionally and physically draining. If you need someone to talk to straight away, you can call the Samaritans on 116 123. The Samaritans is a helpline, open 24-hours a day for anyone in need. It is staffed by trained volunteers who will listen sympathetically. You can also contact the Samaritans by emailing

You may find hospital staff or your GP offer you and/or your loved one the chance to see a counsellor to talk about what has happened. If not, you can ask for an appointment.

Some professional carers, who may be counsellors, psychotherapists, psychologists or psychiatrists, have expertise in caring for someone who has been affected by a traumatic event. They can help you and your loved one talk about your experiences and reactions and ways to cope and feel stronger.

You may wish to ask if you can talk to someone who specialises in this. Care from these specialists can be free if your GP refers you. If your GP does not refer you, you may have to pay for the care yourself. The organisations listed on this page hold lists of professional carers who specialise in helping people who have been through a traumatic event.

Organisations that can put you in touch with professional carers

British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy
BACP, 15 St John's Business Park, Lutterworth, Leicestershire LE17 4HB, United Kingdom
Tel: 01455 883300

United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy

2 America Square, London, EC3N 2LU
Tel: 020 7014 9955

British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies
Imperial House, Hornby Street, Bury, Lancashire BL9 5BN
Tel: 0330 320 0851

You may wish to contact a local organisation that can offer support. You can ask the nursing staff, a social worker or chaplain for information. You may also wish to contact a national organisation that specialises in providing support to people who have been affected by a certain type of death, illness or injury. Details of these organisations are given on the next few pages.

Organisations supporting people bereaved by any cause

Cruse Bereavement Care 0808 808 1677 or go to

Cruse Bereavement Care for children and young people 0808 808 1677 or go to

The Samaritans operates a 24-hour helpline for anyone in need on 116 123

If your partner has died

The WAY Foundation (Widowed and Young)

If a child or a child's relative has died

Child Bereavement UK 0800 02 888 40 or go to

The Child Death Helpline 0800 282 986 or 0808 800 6019 if calling from a mobile or go to

The Compassionate Friends 0345 123 2304

Care for the Family 029 2081 0800 or go to

Support following a road death or injury


The road safety charity provides support to bereaved and injured road crash victims through a helpline and care literature, including this booklet.

Brake, PO Box 548, Huddersfield HD1 2XZ
Tel: 01484 559909 Helpline: 0808 8000401


Provides information and support to bereaved and injured road crash victims.

PO Box 2579, London NW10 3PW
Helpline: 0845 4500 355 (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm)

SCARD (Support and Care after Road Death and Injury) working with CADD (Campaign Against Drinking and Driving)

Two charities working together to provide emotional and practical support to those who have lost a loved one, or been injured or affected by drunk or reckless driving.

PO Box 62, Brighouse HD6 3YY
Tel: 01484 723649 / 01924 562252
Helpline: 0345 123 5542 (7 days a week, 9am-9pm including bank holidays)

Support for victims of crime

Victim Support

Provides information and support to people affected by crime through local branches and trained volunteers.

Cranmer House, 39 Brixton Road, London SW9 6DZ
Helpline: 0808 1689 111

Support After Murder And Manslaughter (SAMM)

Provides support to families bereaved by murder or manslaughter.

L&DC, Tally Ho!, Pershore Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B5 7RN
Telephone: 0121 472 2912

Support for chest, heart and stroke illnesses

British Heart Foundation (BHF)

Offers a range of resources and has a network of support groups for patients and families affected by heart problems.

180 Hampstead Road, London NW1 7AW

British Lung Foundation (BLF)

Offers Breath Easy support groups for anyone with lung problems.

73-75 Goswell Road, London EC1V 7ER
Helpline: 03000 030 555

Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland

Trained nurses offer information and advice. They can refer you to local support groups for people with chest, heart and stroke illnesses.

Head Office, Third Floor Rosebery House, 9 Haymarket Terrace, Edinburgh, EH12 5EZ
Tel: 0131 225 6963
Advice line: 0808 801 0899 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am – 4.00pm)

Northern Ireland Chest, Heart and Stroke Association

Provides information and advice to people in Northern Ireland.

21 Dublin Road, Belfast BT2 7HB
Tel: 028 9032 0184

The Stroke Association, Stroke Information Service

Provides support and information on publications and services available to individuals and families affected by a stroke.

240 City Road, London EC1V 2PR
Tel: 020 7566 0300
Helpline: 0303 3033 100 (Mon, Thurs, Fri: 9am-5pm; Tues & Weds: 8am-6pm; Sat: 10am-1pm)

Support for head and spinal injuries

Brain and Spine Foundation

Provides information and support to brain and spine injured people.

Fourth Floor, CAN Mezzanine, 7-14 Great Dover Street, London, SE1 4YR
Tel: 020 3096 7880 Helpline: 0808 808 1000

Child Brain Injury Trust

Provides information and support to children and young people with a brain injury, their families and the professionals who support them.

Unit 1, The Great Barn, Baynards Green Farm, Nr Bicester, Oxfordshire OX27 7SG
Tel: 01869 341 075

Headway (The National Head Injuries Association)

Provides information and support to adults with a head injury and their carers, through support groups, day care centres and literature.

Bradbury House, 190 Bagnall Road, Old Basford, Nottingham, NG6 8SF
Tel: 0115 924 0800
Helpline: 0808 800 2244 or

Spinal Injuries Association (SIA)

Provides information and advice for people with spinal cord injuries.

SIA House, 2 Trueman Place, Oldbrook, Milton Keynes, MK6 2HH.
Tel: 01908 604191
Adviceline: 0800 980 0501 (Mon – Fri, 10.00am -1.00pm and 2.00pm-4.30pm)

National Back Pain Association (BackCare)

Provides information on back conditions and managing back pain.

Monkey Puzzle House, BackCare, 69-71 Windmill Road, Sunbury-on-Thames TW16 7DT
Tel: 0208 977 5474 (Mon-Fri. 8.00am – 8.00pm, Sat. 9.00am – 1.00pm)

Support for sight, hearing and speech impairment

Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB)

Provides information and support for anyone with impaired sight.

105 Judd Street, London WC1H 9NE
Tel: 020 7388 1266 Helpline: 0303 123 9999 (Mon-Fri, 9am–5pm)

Royal National Institute for the Deaf (now known as Action Hearing Loss)

Offers information on a range of issues relating to deafness and hearing loss.

1-3 Highbury Station Road, London N11SE
Telephone: 0808 808 0123 (freephone)
Textphone: 0808 808 9000 (freephone)
SMS: 0780 0000 360

Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists

Provides general advice and information on local NHS speech and language therapy services.

2 White Hart Lane, London SE1 1NX
Telephone 020 7378 1200
Email: Contact form

Support for burns or disfiguring injuries

Changing Faces

Supports adults and children living with a disfiguring injury.

The Squire Centre, 33-37 University Street, London WC1E 6JN
Tel: 0345 450 0275 or 020 7391 9270

The Children's Burns Trust

Offers information and support about rehabilitation of children following severe burns.

2 Grosvenor Gardens, London SW1W 0DH
Tel: 020 7881 0902

Support for people with a disability

Dial UK (Disability information and advice line)

A network of local services run by and for disabled people.

Email: Contact form

Disabled Living Foundation

Provides advice and information on living equipment for disabled people.

Unit 1, 34 Chatfield Road, Wandsworth, London SW11 3SE
Tel: 020 7289 6111 (Mon –Fri.  9am - 5pm) Helpline: 0300 999 0004

Limbless Association

Provides information and support for people without one or more limbs.

Unit 10, Waterhouse Business Centre, 2 Cromar Way, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 2QE
Tel: 01245 216670 Helpline: 0800 644 0185

Information on legal matters

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL)

An association representing solicitors who specialise in claiming money following death or injury.

Tel: 0115 943 5400

The Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS)

A national association representing solicitors who specialise in claims following death or injury in a road crash.

Tel: 0117 925 9604

The Law Society

Offers information and advice on choosing and using a solicitor.

Tel: 020 7242 1222 (Mon – Fri. 9:00am-5:00pm)

 Updated: June 2019

Families get involved!

FamilyMany families have concerns about road safety, from being able to walk and cycle safely in your community - and deciding whether to allow your child to walk or cycle alone - to concerns about teenagers being in danger as passengers or new drivers.

Parents can use our advice for parents to help keep the whole family safe. 

Kids can get road safety tips and access online games here.

Teens and young people can support our L for Later campaign and use our section on young people and road safety

There's also lots families can do to campaign for and champion road safety in your community, with Brake's help:

- Get local nurseries involved by encouraging them to run a road safety Beep Beep! Day, using a free resource pack from Brake

- Encourage primary schools to take part in Brake's Kids Walk

- Work with your local club, group or employer to run awareness-raising activities in Road Safety Week

- Start or join a local campaign, calling for lower speed limits, better enforcement, or pavements, paths and crossings. Use our campaigning advice to make things happen!

- Fundraisefor Brake to support our life-saving work, have fun and help raise awareness too. Get ideas.

Want to do more to support road safety? Why not become a much-valued Friend of Brake, back our national campaigns, and sign up to our monthly bulletin to stay up-to-date with our work. 



Family cycling holidays

cycle4life_15Whether you organize your own trip, or book a ready-made package, cycling holidays can be great fun for all the family. Many tour operators provide everything you need, including bikes, safety gear, routes, luggage transport, emergency pickup and accommodation.

Getting there and back: Getting to and from the start of your cycling holiday by public transport, with all your luggage, your children and your bikes can be a logistical challenge but fun too! Minimise the hassle by carrying as little luggage as possible. Do you really need that extra outfit? It’s not the environmentally-friendly option, but if you are travelling by car, carry bikes safely using a properly fitted bike rack or trailer. Avoid overloading and observe lower speed limits if towing.

Plan your routes: Plan your cycling routes in advance to ensure they are achievable and away from traffic, including journeys to and from trail heads. Plan in rest days to avoid aches, pains and complaints! Tiredness can lead to dangerous mistakes.

Insure yourself: Get the right insurance to cover your family and your bikes in case of injury or damage. Check liability terms if you are planning to hire bikes or equipment. If hiring your bikes, check they are in good condition and the correct size and type for each rider before you set off.

Cycling in the rain, wind or blistering heat is uncomfortable and can be dangerous so check likely weather conditions before you go, and ensure you have the right clothing for the conditions.

Useful links:
Long distance ride information from Sustrans
Cycling holidays brochure from CTC
London Cycling Campaign information on carrying luggage

There are hundreds of cycle tour companies listed on the web. Here are a few:
Cycling for softies
Cycling in Europe
Kids in Tow
Cycle holiday directory
Cycling in Scotland

<< Teaching young children to ride

<< Family cycling home page

<< Cycle for life home page



Fitting child seats

Children who are under 150cm in height are safest in a correctly-fitted child seat that is correct for their height and weight. This brings complexities with it when organising group transport, that need to be considered. Please note that this page has a lot of content. You may want to print it off rather than read on screen.

Are you sure you can use child seats in your vehicle?

Before hiring a vehicle in which you intend to use child seats, you need to be sure that the vehicle is designed to carry the child seats you will be using. Ask the provider of the vehicle to tell you the make and type of vehicle they are providing, and ask them to provide written confirmation from the manufacturer that this make and type of vehicle is compatible with child seats for the age range of children you intend to be carried.

Are you fitting and sitting correctly?

Child seats must also be fitted following the seats’ manufacturers’ instructions using the 3-point belts. Presuming the vehicle is compatible, a child’s own seat, brought from their own car, could be fitted by their parent who is familiar with the fitting instructions. It is equally important that the child is securely and correctly seated and buckled into the seat. Alternatively, you might want the fitting and sitting to be done by an adult carer (because the parent is not around). If the latter is to happen, then the carer should ask parents to provide their seat’s instruction manual. It is also recommended that the carer has received professional training on fitting child seats. Some local authorities provide this training: contact your local authority and ask for their expert on child seats in their road safety unit. If your road safety unit cannot provide training, ask if they know any private providers of training who are reputable (they need to be able to demonstrate to you that they have appropriate, up to date qualifications and experience). If your road safety unit can’t help you, ring neighbouring councils until you find someone.

Sometimes, transport providers provide child seats for you. If child seats are being provided by the transport provider and not by parents, it is important that they are correct for the children’s height and weight. You should check the range of heights and weights of children to be carried, find out the type and make of the child seats, and confirm that they are correct for your children and have not been involved in a crash. It remains important that you confirm that the vehicle you are using is designed to carry these child seats, and that these child seats are fitted correctly and that children are buckled up correctly in them, in line with the seats’ manufacturer’s instructions. This means that if you are fitting the child seats or seating the children yourself you will need access to these instructions.

Tips when using parents’ own child seats

  • Ensure children’s child seats are labelled by parents so they don’t get muddled, with the instruction manuals also labelled if you are ‘fitting and sitting’ yourself.
  • For children whose parents do not have a car and therefore do not have a car seat, you need a couple of extra, modern child seats to hand that are spare and appropriate for the height and weight of your children. You may also need spares in case parents forget.

Lesson idea for younger children

Follow this link to a Brake lesson idea on child seats including a link to a ‘letter home’ that you can fill in and put in school bags showing each child’s height and explaining the importance of child seats, having the added benefit of reminding parents of their legal responsibilities in their cars as well as making children proud to be safe.

If you are planning not using child seats for children under 150cm tall

As stated above, as long as a vehicle is designed to take child seats it is recommended that they are used for children under 150cm tall, as long as the seats are fitted correctly and children are seated and buckled up correctly. Some adults organising trips for children face logistical difficulties in using child seats. If you can obtain the use of a modern vehicle that is designed to take child seats, Brake strongly recommends that you work to overcome these difficulties. It is invariably worth overcoming these difficulties in the interests of child safety. However, if, against the advice in this guidance, you are not using child seats it is very important that you belt up children using the fitted 3-point belts. To repeat advice earlier given, using a vehicle with lap belts alone is wholly inadequate for these small, young children, and it is usually possible to hire a vehicle with 3-point belts. It is important, if only using 3-point belts, to place, and keep, the lap section across the hard, pelvic area and NOT the stomach of the child, and the diagonal section across their shoulder and NOT their neck. You may find this very hard to achieve because the children are so small - bear this in mind when considering whether to undertake this option rather than use child seats. Some vehicles are fitted with all-generation 3-point belts, where the diagonal section can be lowered so that it fits across a child’s shoulder rather than their neck.

You should never put a seat belt around an adult and a child on your lap; in an impact, your weight would crush the child.
You should never just hold a child - you can’t hold onto them in a crash.

For children who are 150cm or taller, who can travel just using 3-point seat belts, it is important that the lap section of the belt goes across the hard, pelvic area and NOT the stomach, and the diagonal section goes across the shoulder and NOT their neck. Accompanying adults should ensure children keep their belts ON and correctly positioned during the whole duration of the trip. With these older children, it is sensible to provide them with a briefing, immediately before your trip, about the importance of wearing seat belts correctly throughout the trip.

General guidance on fitting child seats (not to replace formal training)

  • Not all child seats fit all vehicles. Check with the manufacturer of the seat and the vehicle.
  • Do not use a child seat that you do not know the history of; it may have been involved in a crash or damaged in some other way.

Infant Carriers (Group 0 & 0+)

  • Infant carriers must only be fitted facing the rear of a vehicle.
  • READ the instructions, check seat belt is routed correctly.
  • Ensure the seat belt webbing is pulled as tightly as possible with no slack, so there is no excessive movement.
  • Keep children in rear facing seats as long as possible, this is the safest position. As a guide, they should only be moved up when their head reaches the top of the seat NOT because their legs look too long.
  • Never use a rearward facing child seat on a passenger seat fitted with an airbag.

Forward Facing Seat (Group 1)

  • READ the instructions, check seat belt is routed correctly.
  • Once fitted, kneel in the seat to pull any slack out of the seatbelt; check there is no movement by pulling the child seat harness.
  • Ensure no part of the buckle rests on the frame of the seat as it could break on impact (buckle crunching).
  • Do not move a child into this seat unless they can sit up unaided for a length of time.
  • Shoulder straps should be level with child’s shoulders and harness comfortable but firm (and not twisted), lying over child’s pelvic area.
  • Only move the child up to the next stage seat when the top of their head reaches above the top of the seat.
  • It is recommended that all child seats are fitted into the back of cars.

Forward Facing Seat /Booster (Group 2/3)

  • Do not use this stage too soon as children are only restrained by the adult seat belt.
  • Ensure the diagonal belt lies across the child’s shoulder (not the neck) and the lap belt across the pelvic area (not the abdomen).
  • If the seat has a back, use as long as possible until child reaches weight limit or becomes too tall, as it gives side protection.
  • Check child’s top of head is not above the seat back as this could lead to whiplash injuries

Great ideas for your Beep Beep! Day

Beep 2

It's really easy and fun to take part in Beep Beep! Day and help save little lives.

Read on for our eight steps to a great Beep Beep! Day to get important road safety messages across to ensure children and their families.

There are also lots of ways you can raise funds for Brake and support our work with bereaved families during your Beep Beep! Day so thank you in advance for helping the charity!

Even if you only do two or three of these ideas, you'll still have a great day. Read on and get planning!

BeB_step_1_1Colourful tots! Children are sponsored to wear something crazily colourful - hats, tops, or socks, or whatever they've got.

It makes a great picture for your noticeboard and newsletter and helps emphasise the importance of drivers watching out for kids by slowing down and taking special care around children's homes and your premises.

BB_step_2_1Hand print and paint for safety! Make a giant hand print poster for your foyer using kids' hands and poster paints to help parents and children understand the importance of holding hands. Write across the top: "Going home? Hold hands!" You could also make a giant poster of pavements, roads, parks and buildings while kids cut out pictures of people, kids, buggies, dogs and vehicles from old magazines. Then get kids to stick the pictures in the safest places; children on pavements and in parks, while vehicles go on roads. Or print off copies of our colour-in poster downloads in our teaching resource centre.

BB_step_3_1Sing, listen, learn!Sing a road safety song with actions using the words stop, go, pavement and hold hands. Invent new verses to Wheels on the bus, such as "The children and the grown ups all hold hands, all hold hands, all hold hands". Listen to road noises recorded in advance eg. an ambulance, car, pelican crossing. Can the children tell what they are? Talk to kids using key road safety words such as pavement, kerb, road, car, danger, traffic, stop, look, and listen. Play road safety games on the internet. Or use this leader-led lesson script to teach simple messages including 'wheels go faster than legs', 'traffic is hard and you are soft'. It includes a great rhyme about crossing roads safely (with your mum or dad).

BB_step_4_1Get wet for safety!Invite your local fire service to come in and help the children wash parents' cars in return for a Beep Beep! donation. Kids love getting wet and busy, and fire hoses are very exciting. It's also a great way to teach kids that cars feel hard and are big and kids are soft and small. You can also use it as an opportunity to get kids to hand out to parents campaign flyers they have made themselves, for example with pictures of people holding hands, or kids using child seats, and carrying messages on them that you write, such as Hold hands, Use child seats, Slow Down.

BB_step_5_1Ride on! Make chalked-on roads in your secure playground/garden or hall and cardboard traffic lights, pelican crossings and zebra crossings! Sometimes, your local authority road safety team can lend you pretend road equipment too. Kids 'drive' on any ride-on, scooter or bike, supervised by staff or practise crossing the pretend roads safely on foot. Staff shout out instructions, for example, red means stop, green means go! Safety first! Use as an opportunity to teach key language, such as pavements, traffic, stop, slow, hold hands, kerb, etc.

BB_step_6_1Celebrity visit! Why not ask your local crossing patrol person or police officer to come along and help on the day and explain why they wear a big yellow coat? Young children love someone in uniform and they are often happy to help! Make sure this professional understands the messages you want them to deliver. Pre-school children are too young to be taught how to cross roads unaccompanied. It is much more important and valuable to teach them key road safety language and to teach them to hold hands, stay still in their child seat, and to stay on pavements and away from dangerous traffic.  You could also invite along Brake's mascot Zak the Zebra! He is a busy zebra, so book early!

BB_step_7_1Bake for Brake at break time! Follow this yummy traffic-light biscuit recipe and then scoff them with the kids, saving some to flog to parents to raise more money for Brake! Or have traffic light fruit at break time to be super-healthy: strawberries, satsumas and kiwis do the trick! It's a great opportunity to teach kids that red means stop, and to teach them about street equipment such as traffic lights and safer places to cross such as traffic-light controlled crossings. Show them pictures of these things, or take them on a closely-supervised walk on a safe pavement to show them a traffic-light controlled crossing (one adult per two children so you have a hand for each child).

BB_step_8_1Raise wider awareness through local media! Beep Beep! Day is a great way to raise awareness among local drivers of the importance of driving slowly and safely in communities to protect families. Getting coverage in local media helps to get this important message out, it's great publicity for you, plus kids and parents often love being in the local paper or on the radio! You can use the template press release Brake emails you (once your day is set up) to invite local media, plus you can ring up local journalists and photographers a day or two before to invite them. Just make sure you have parental permission for photos and filming. Contact us at if you need more advice getting media along.

Easy peasy isn't it? For your free organiser's pack,register now.