Risky tailgating and speeding rife on UK motorways

22/05/2014
Highways Reporters

Six in 10 UK drivers own up to risky tailgating (57%) and a similar proportion break the limit by 10mph or more (60%) on motorways and 70mph dual carriageways, a survey by Brake and Direct Line reveals.

Almost all drivers say they worry about other drivers tailgating on motorways: 95% are at least occasionally concerned about vehicles too close behind them; more than four in ten (44%) are concerned every, or most, times they drive on a motorway.

By driving too close to the vehicle in front and breaking the speed limit, drivers are leaving themselves far too little time to react in an emergency, risking devastating crashes. Crashes on 70mph roads are more than twice as likely to result in death as crashes on roads with lower speed limits [1]. In 2012 (most recent data available) there were 88 deaths and 654 serious injuries on UK motorways [2].

Brake and Direct Line's survey reveals that in the past year:

Almost six in ten (57%) admit leaving less than a two-second gap between themselves and the vehicle in front, with almost three in ten (28%) doing so monthly or more. More men (61%) admit doing so than women (53%).

Six in ten (60%) admit breaking the 70mph speed limit by 10mph or more, with almost three in ten (28%) doing so monthly or more. Men are the worst offenders, with almost seven in ten (69%) doing 80mph or more, and more than a third (36%) doing so at least monthly, compared with just over half (53%) and two in ten (22%) women, respectively.

Brake urges all drivers to always keep at least a two-second gap between themselves and the vehicle in front, extending this to four seconds or more in wet weather or poor visibility – on all roads, not just motorways. Drivers should also keep within the posted speed limit at all times, including temporary and variable limits; not only will this reduce your chances of a horrific crash, but it will also reduce fuel consumption [5].

Brake recently supported Highway Agency proposals to roll out speed cameras on stretches of ‘smart' motorways, and urges the government to extend the use of average speed cameras across the network.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, said: "Almost all drivers are concerned about the danger posed by other people tailgating on motorways, and yet a shockingly high proportion admit driving too close and speeding themselves. There are no two ways about it: ignore the two-second rule or the speed limit on motorways and you're putting yourself and others at risk of a horrific crash. Traffic laws are not just for other people: all drivers can help make our motorways safer and prevent needless tragedies by committing to keep your distance and stay under speed limits, including temporary lower limits."

Rob Miles, director of motor trading at Direct Line, commented: "Driving too closely to the car in front of you is asking for trouble. Drive too closely at speed and motorists risk not only their own life but other road users' lives too. Whilst the UK's motorways have proportionately less crashes than other roads, speed is still the biggest killer of road users. We believe it is better to save lives than to save a few minutes of journey time."

Simon Sheldon-Wilson, traffic management director at the Highways Agency, said: "Safety is our top priority and we are committed to continuing to reduce the number of people killed and seriously injured on our roads. Congestion on the strategic road network is estimated to cost the economy £3 billion each year, 25% of which is caused by incidents. That's why we remind drivers of the dangers of tailgating and support Brake's advice to keep a safe distance from the car in front and to adhere to fixed and variable speed limits."

 
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