Speeding and distracted drivers revealed as most feared as charity asks everyone to sign the Brake Pledge

Contact: news@brake.org.uk

Drivers who are speeding or distracted (for example by a mobile phone) are considered to be the biggest threats on our roads, according to a survey by the road safety charity Brake, Aviva and Specsavers, marking the start of Road Safety Week 2016 (21-27 November).

Brake’s Road Safety Week survey asked 1,000 drivers to identify which driving behaviour, from a list of six, they thought posed the biggest danger. More than three quarters (76%) ranked speeding or distraction most highly.

Drink- and drug-driving was also ranked highly. Almost one in five drivers (18%) thinks drink- and drug-drivers are the biggest threat. 

Only three in 100 respondents (3%) consider vehicle emissions to be the biggest threat faced. Just 1% ranked not wearing a seat belt wearing as the biggest danger and 2% rated poor vision as the biggest risk.

Brake, Aviva and Specsavers are calling on everyone to sign the Brake Pledge in Road Safety Week. The Pledge aims to raise awareness of the importance of drivers staying slow (drive under speed limits), silent (never make or take calls, read or type), sober (never drive after any alcohol, or illegal or impairing drugs), sharp (stay focussed and don’t drive tired or with a health condition that impairs you. Get eyes tested every two years), secure (make sure everyone is belted up correctly) and sustainable (don’t use a car if you have the option to walk or cycle or can use public transport).  

The age of respondents was significant regarding whether speed or distraction were placed top. Younger drivers (44 and under) said speeding is the biggest threat, while drivers aged 45 and older rated distraction as their biggest fear.

Age of respondents in the Road Safety Week survey was also significant regarding the perception of vehicle emissions. While only 3% of drivers questioned rated this the biggest threat, more than three times as many (10%) of the youngest respondents (aged 18-24) rated it the biggest threat.

The Road Safety Week survey also asked drivers which risks they would admit to taking on the roads themselves. Nearly eight in 10 (79%) admitted to taking risks. Almost two thirds (63%) confessed to sometimes speeding. More than four in 10 drivers (45%) admitted they drive distances that they could easily walk. Nearly one in eight (13%) admitted to driving while distracted and nearly one in 10 (9%) confessed to not wearing a seat belt or their passengers not wearing a seat belt.

Age was significant regarding admissions of risk-taking. Older drivers (aged 45 and above) were more likely to admit to speeding than younger drivers. Conversely, younger drivers (aged 44 and under) were more likely to admit to driving distracted, driving on alcohol or drugs, or failing to belt up. 

What drivers believe is the biggest threat, and the bad behaviours they engage in, don’t match up. Older drivers are more likely to admit to speeding but say distraction is the biggest threat. Younger drivers are more likely to say they drive while distracted, and say speeding is the biggest danger. This is suggestive that people are inclined to think their own risky behaviour is not the most threatening: it’s someone else’s, different behaviour that is the problem.

One in five drivers (21%) claims they never break any of the Pledge points and regularly make both safe and sustainable choices.

Brake is working towards a world where road transport is safe, sustainable, healthy and fair, and there are zero road deaths. It is extremely challenging to change drivers’ behaviour: drivers make mistakes and some knowingly take risks. This is why Brake supports a safe systems approach to save lives and the planet. This includes 20mph limits in built-up areas, segregated routes for people on foot and bicycles, crash-protection features on vehicles and ultra-low emission vehicles, and regulation and enforcement of drivers to enable safer driving choices.

However, deaths and injuries are happening right now, with five people dying on UK roads every day and 61 being seriously injured. Everyone can do their bit throughout Road Safety Week by spreading awareness of the vital importance of the Pledge rules. Here are some of the reasons why the Pledge points are so important:

SLOW: Speed contributes to more than a quarter (26%) of fatal crashes in the UK.[i]

SOBER: One in seven road deaths involves a driver over the drink-drive limit.[ii]

SECURE: Three-point seat belts mean you’re 50% less likely to die in a crash.[iii] More than one in five people (22%) who die each year are not wearing one.[iv]

SILENT: Drivers talking on phones are four times more likely to crash, whether on a hands-free or hand-held phone.[v] It’s the distraction of the call that is the problem.[vi] There is also a rise in use of infotainment systems and screens: as well as the major distraction of looking at a screen rather than the road, it also takes 27 seconds to regain full concentration after using a system/screen that uses voice command.[vii]  

SHARP: It is estimated 2,900 casualties are caused by poor driver vision.[viii] It is possible to lose up to 40% of your vision before noticing it.[ix] Fatigue and illness are also causes of impairment.

SUSTAINABLE: About 40,000 deaths are caused annually by exposure to NOx and particulates[x], and about a quarter of the UK’s CO2 emissions are from transport, with road traffic a major contributor.[xi] 

Gary Rae, director of communications and campaigns for Brake, said: “Road Safety Week’s theme is action-orientated. Anyone can make and share the Brake Pledge – individuals, businesses and community organisations. Our survey shows that drivers are aware of the threat of risky behaviour by other drivers, but are inclined to play down the riskiness of their own behaviours. Everyone who drives has to step up and take responsibility. If every driver vowed to slow down, never drink alcohol or take drugs, never use their phones or other devices, always use seat belts and child restraints, drive when fit to do so, and minimise driving, then our roads would be safer places for everyone.”

National Police Chiefs' Council Lead for Roads Policing, Chief Constable Suzette Davenport said:"In recent weeks police forces across the country have been running new and innovative operations to target some of the most dangerous motorist behaviours, including mobile phone use at the wheel. But this problem can't be solved without making people take responsibility for their actions while driving. We are delighted to support this Brake campaign and urge all road users to sign and share the Pledge, but also to think seriously about the promises you are making. We need to change attitudes because a few moments' distraction at the wheel can and does cost lives. This is about more than just identifying the problem - you have to think about what you are doing, and the risks you are taking. Don't put others in danger. Keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road."

Peter Markey, Brand and Marketing Communications Director for Aviva says: “This new research echoes what we have also found at Aviva; that we are all inclined to think that bad driving is down to someone else. While most people act safely and sensibly behind the wheel, there are times when it’s easy to get distracted, which can have catastrophic consequences. Road Safety Week is a great opportunity for us all to take stock and think about how we drive, plan our journeys and make sure we’re taking that bit of extra care and attention. We will all benefit from safer roads, so there’s no better time to take the Brake Pledge and start making a difference today.”

Dr Nigel Best, clinical spokesperson at Specsavers, said: “I was shocked to learn that poor driver vision alone leads to 55 casualties every single week and costs an estimated £33 million. It’s every driver’s personal responsibility to ensure they are having their eyes tested frequently. We’d urge every road user to make the Brake Pledge to make our roads safer. When it comes to vision, that can be as simple as booking an eye examination, carrying a spare pair of specs in your car, not driving when tired, or even driving less and using public transport more.”

Brake Road Safety Week film premieres

To further highlight the dangers of what can happen when people don’t follow the Brake Pledge, the charity is releasing six short films, one for each of the Pledge points.

The films feature:

Avril Child from Birmingham whose daughter was killed by a speeding driver;

Elaine Corner from Wiltshire who had her leg amputated after being hit by a van driver who was distracted by a hands-free phone call;

Tina Woods from London whose son Finlay was killed outside a school by a drink-/drug-driver.

Jeremy Williamson from Liverpool who lost three friends and his brother because they were not wearing seat belts.

Brenda Gutberlet from Essex whose niece Natalie was knocked down and killed on a pedestrian crossing by a driver with poor vision.

The films are due to be premiered online to mark the start of Road Safety Week on 21 Nov.

More details and advance copies of the films will be available on request.



Notes to Editors:

Full national survey results (regional results are available but there are no smaller breakdowns)   

We questioned 1,000 drivers from across the UK.

Q.1 Which do you think is the biggest danger on our roads? (Tick one)                                                 

Age BandTotal18-2425-3435-4445-5455-64Over 65
Speeding 35% 43% 41% 43% 33% 33% 31%
Drink/Drug Driving 18% 24% 24% 14% 17% 16% 20%
Distraction (Mobiles etc) 41% 17% 26% 37% 43% 46% 45%
Not wearing seatbelts 1% 2% 3% 1% 1% 1% 1%
Impaired and uncorrected vision 2% 4% 1% 2% 1% 2% -
Vehicle emissions 3% 10% 5% 3% 5% 2% 3%


Q.2 Have you ever done any of the following (Tick all that apply)

Age BandTotal18-2425-3435-4445-5455-64Over 65
Driven over the speed limit 63% 50% 49% 55% 70% 65% 67%
Driven on drugs/over alcohol limit 9% 21% 16% 9% 7% 9% 6%
Used a mobile phone when driving 13% 14% 25% 18% 12% 12% 6%
Driven/passengers without seatbelts 9% 13% 18% 11% 6% 8% 6%
Driven with uncorrected vision 3% 3% 11% 3% 2% 3% 2%
Driven a 'walking distance' journey 45% 23% 30% 46% 52% 46% 45%
None of the above 21% 23% 23% 22% 13% 23% 3%

About Brake

Brake is a national road safety and sustainable transport charity, founded in 1995, that exists to stop the needless deaths, serious injuries and pollution occurring on our roads every day. We work to make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake's vision is a world where there are zero road deaths and injuries, and people can get around in ways that are safe, sustainable, healthy and fair. We do this by pushing for legislative change through national campaignscommunity education, services for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.

Follow Brake on TwitterFacebook, or The Brake Blog.

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

About Aviva:

  • Aviva provides life insurance, general insurance, health insurance and asset management to 33 million customers, across 16 markets worldwide
  • In the UK we are the leading insurer serving one in every four households and have strong businesses in selected markets in Europe, Asia and Canada. Our shares are listed on the London Stock Exchange and we are a member of the FTSE100 index. 
  • Aviva’s asset management business, Aviva Investors, provides asset management services to both Aviva and external clients, and currently manages over £319 billion in assets.
  • Aviva helps people save for the future and manage the risks of everyday life; we paid out £30.7 billion in benefits and claims in 2015.
  • By serving our customers well, we are building a business which is strong and sustainable, which our people are proud to work for, and which makes a positive contribution to society.
  • The Aviva media centre at http://www.aviva.com/media/ includes company information, images, and a news release archive.
  • For an introduction to what we do and how we do it, please click here http://www.aviva.com/about-us/aviva/
  • For broadcast-standard video, please visit http://www.aviva.com/media/b-roll-library/
  • Follow us on twitter: www.twitter.com/avivaplc/
  • Follow us on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/aviva-plc
  • For the latest corporate films from around our business, subscribe to our YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/user/aviva

About Specsavers

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

[iii] The Handbook of Road Safety Measures, Elsevier Science 2009

[vi] Briggs, Hole & Land, Imagery-inducing distraction leads to cognitive tunnelling and deteriorated driving performance, Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, Vol 38, April 2016

Tags: Drink-Drive speed vision speeding drug-driving distraction