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News flash: people cause crashes

Boy staring out of a car window

Not cars. Not weather. Not alcohol. People.

When we get behind the wheel, our choices about how we act - and how we react to what's happening around us - dictate our safety.

But yesterday, Road Safety GB covered an Australian study that found most drivers don't recognise that they're responsible for their safety on the road.

We think we can control fines - but not crashes

236 people rated how much control they felt they had over what happens to them when they drive, from receiving a fine to being involved in a car crash.

The average driver rated their control over getting a fine at 6 out of 7 (OK, cool) but their control over being in a crash at 3.6 out of 7. What the actual heck?

"Everybody thinks they're a good driver, they find themselves thinking that it (a crash) won't happen to them. However if you apply a speed fine or have some other intervention, yes, it could happen to them."

Dr Rebecca Pedruzzi
Researcher at James Cook University

If you drive, you're responsible for your safety

There are crashes where the blame is solely on one driver but a massive part of driving is being able to keep yourself and other people safe.

Your observation and control of your car allow you to predict potential danger (even if it comes from other drivers), prepare for it and take action to avoid it if necessary. It's been said over and over in road safety that 95% of crashes are down to human error - so yep, we're responsible.

I would personally like to believe I have more control over my destiny. I'm in charge of what happens to me!

"People felt like they had a fairly high degree of control over the behaviour they performed on the road, they felt those behaviours could influence whether or not they got a fine for risky driving. But what was a little surprising was that people felt their behaviour on the road was not able to influence whether or not they had a crash."

Dr Rebecca Pedruzzi
Researcher at James Cook University

How can this message be clearer?

The fact more people think they can control whether they get a fine or not is interesting, so maybe there's work to be done on helping people understand the consequences of their choices on the road.

If we can help people with the skills they need to avoid fines - fines designed to put us off dangerous behaviour - there'll be no need for graphic crash education.

In 2017, ingenie started putting a big focus on upskilling our drivers. Moving away from appealing to fear or even conscience and instead working with targets, rewards and the financial consequences of not driving well. That's well, rather than always falling back on 'safe' - a word that immediately turns some drivers off.

It takes a lot of time, work and money to get to the level of being a good driver. That's why our Driver Behaviour Unit aren't delivering tellings off every day; they're giving drivers who need more support the tools they need to grow their skills.

"What we do know is in order for a threat to be effective, people feel they need to be able to do something about the issue. There may be circumstances where people may not feel they can control those outcomes so we need to be very careful with our use of fear."

Dr Rebecca Pedruzzi
Researcher at James Cook University

The consequences of not driving well - OTHER than crashing:

  • Loss of discounts from black box insurance and potentially a higher premium
  • Loss of No Claims Discount
  • Getting points on your licence, which could affect your employability and insurance
  • Having your insurance cancelled and struggling to get insured affordably again
  • Losing your licence (and for new drivers, there's a 2 year probation period where just 6 points can put you right back to the beginning)
  • Fines anywhere from £50 to an unlimited amount in court

So, plenty of consequences that do feel real. Anyone can imagine how much it would SUCK to lose their licence and no one wants to pay more for insurance - so it makes sense that we use these more effectively to help people choose to drive well.

"ingenie is about giving drivers real-world advice to improve their driving score, but more importantly to stay safe on the roads. Maintaining great observation of what's going on around you means you’re less likely to have a crash because of other drivers’ actions or missing a potential hazard ahead. A big part of this is staying focussed on driving and not being distracted."

Mike Ketteringham
CEO at ingenie

Honor Clement-Hayes

By Honor Clement-Hayes

Honor joined ingenie in 2014 and is in charge of words on the Young Driver's Guide and blog. Her first car is a Peugeot 206 cabriolet, which is a very sensible choice for the British climate. Follow her on .