Highways England recently highlighted the worrying level of Distracted Driving Statistics for UK roads. In a campaign that was carried out across two years, they caught over 4,000 dangerous drivers. The most common causes of dangerous driving were driving without a seatbelt, speeding and using a mobile phone: it’s the last of these two that are of greatest concern to cyclists.
Despite the introduction of harsher penalties, driving whilst using a mobile phone was the most common driving offence in the distracted driving statistics, with the campaign catching 2,508 drivers committing this offence. This surely is the tip of the iceberg: when you are waiting on your bike at traffic lights, it’s a regular occurrence to see drivers on their phones crossing in front of you.
In other news, autonomous technology has officially arrived, often viewed with concern by cyclists who are uncertain as to how well they will be perceived by the onboard computers. However, some of the first autonomous vehicles driven on roads have been involved in incidents whereby other vehicles, driven by humans, have been at fault. Used van retailer, Van Monster, analyses the statistics of how dangerous our roads are today and discuss if the evolution of autonomous vehicles could be the answer to improving road safety.
Distracted Driving Statistics – Fewer Police
In 2014, the RAC reported that there were fewer traffic police forces on the roads in England. With 27% fewer police to catch dangerous drivers, the prevention rate is significantly affected. According to Antonio Avenoso, executive director of the ETSC, “cuts to police enforcement are doubly damaging… 26,000 are still dying each year on our roads, and the numbers will not start to decrease again without concerted action.”
When the Highways England campaign began, 28 police forces got involved to help tackle the level of dangerous driving, with over 5,039 offences reported involving a total of 4,176 drivers. Of those offences, there were a total of 133 prosecutions for serious dangerous driving offences, whilst police officers noted that they had to give verbal advice or warnings to 388 drivers, issued 838 penalty notices and filed 3,318 traffic offence reports.
Using a handheld mobile whilst driving was listed as the most common and potentially most dangerous driving offence. Distracted Driving Statistics have shown that this is directly linked to two deaths on the roads every month as an average. At least 124 people have lost their lives in road traffic accidents involving mobile phone usage in the past five years – and 521 people have suffered serious injuries.
Furthermore, according to a 2017 RoSPA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) Road Safety Factsheet declared that in 2015, a staggering 18,844 cyclists were injured in reported road accidents, including 3,339 who were killed or seriously injured. The figures are more than worrying – and it is of little comfort to the dead, the injured, and the surviving family and friends that the UK roads still remain amongst the safest across Europe. When comparing the number of road deaths across countries in Europe, only Sweden had a lower rate than the UK. And could the UK’s roads be about to get even safer?
Will Autonomous Vehicles Lower Distracted Driving Statistics
Some countries and companies are already in the process of trialling vehicles that do not require a human driver.
Human error and dangerous driving are a significant factor in the number of road traffic accidents – and autonomous vehicles offer the opportunity to eliminate these factors. By eliminating the human driver from behind the wheel and taking away their control, could our roads become the safest they have ever been? Vehicles which never exceed the speed limit, stop at every traffic light (and don’t jump the lights) and give way to road markings and follow all road rules perfectly – sounds perfect, right? It has the potential to revolutionise the automotive industry and make it safer than ever before.
For this to be a success, the technology needs to be rolled out across all roads. Recent reports have revealed that some of the first autonomous vehicles driving on the roads have been involved in road traffic accidents with other vehicles on the roads. A self-driving shuttle in Las Vegas had only been on the road for around an hour when it collided with a large delivery truck driven by a human driver. The accident was confirmed by the AAA as being the truck driver’s fault.
There were 43 reported autonomous vehicle incidents in California. According to Mike Ramsey, an analyst at Gartner who specializes in advanced automotive technologies, this is because “they don’t drive like people. They drive like robots. They’re odd and that’s why they get hit.”
Autonomous vehicles are programmed to follow road signs and road laws to a fault – which is why other drivers are not used to the style of driving. You could say, they drive too well. For autonomous vehicles to truly contribute to making our roads safer, they must be able to integrate themselves better with human drivers on the road, as well as cyclists and pedestrians. Companies designing autonomous vehicles must find the right balance between emulating human driving behaviour whilst eliminating human mistakes.
Further developments are required for autonomous vehicles to be ready for widespread driving. However, they very well could be the answer to safer roads and fewer road traffic accidents. Whilst the cars themselves are trained to follow road rules perfectly, human drivers are just not as well-trained.