5 Common Causes of Road Traffic Accidents


2For the first time in the UK, a 2011 report by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) collected in-depth data on the most common causes of road traffic accidents.

Utilising data collected over a four year period, from 2005 to 2009, and taking into account information pertaining to over 700,000 accidents, the IAM concluded that the following five causes are the most cited reasons for the occurrence of road traffic accidents in the UK.


Driver error or reaction

While popular, government-funded campaigns focus on the need for drivers to reduce their speed to slow the accident rate, the most cited causal factor for road traffic accidents and the one cited in the largest number of road traffic accident claims is driver error.

Police reports show that driver error was to blame in over 65 per cent of fatal crashes that occurred between 2005 and 2009, in the UK. Driver error is a fairly broad term, but it covers all manner of mistakes, including failing to look, loss of control and failure to judge another driver’s speed.

Injudicious action

This term describes the second most common cause of road traffic accidents – a person driving too quickly for the conditions on the road.

Listed as the main cause in 31 per cent of accident reports, this broad term can be used to describe situations in which the driver ignored road markings (such as give way or stop signs) exceeded the speed limit, and failed to stop at traffic lights.

Behaviour or inexperience

Accounting for 28 per cent of road traffic accidents in the UK between 2005 and 2009, this umbrella term refers to situations in which drivers caused accidents because of the manner in which they were driving.

The most common sub-sections of this factor included overly aggressive driving and poor decisions made by inexperienced drivers.

Impairment or distraction

19.6 per cent of fatal road accidents in the UK during the study’s focus period were the result of a driver’s impairment of his or her ability to handle a car and the driver being distracted by something in the car, including the radio and other passengers.

Alarmingly, almost half of the total numbers of fatalities in this category were caused by a drunk driver being at the wheel.


The 2011 report showed that the remainder of road traffic accidents were caused by a vast amount of different reasons. An overwhelming 10 per cent of the remainder of accidents were, however, caused by pedestrians who were not paying due care and attention when crossing the road.