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Landmark study reveals driving for work death toll

9 December 2020

A new report by Heather Ward and Nicola Christie from UCL Driving for work A strategic review of risks associated with cars and light vans and implications for policy and practice highlights that:

  • *Nearly one in three road deaths involves a driving-for-work trip
  • *Thirty-nine per cent of pedestrian deaths involve a working driver
  • *One in five casualties involves a driving-for-work trip
  • *Changing economy triggers a rapid increase in use of vans
  • *Stakeholders urged to act on emerging safety issues

The unacceptable death and injury toll involving people driving for work on UK roads has been revealed in this major new study.

Nearly one third (29 per cent) of all road fatalities and 21 per cent of all casualties (killed, seriously injured and slightly injured) occur in driving-for-work collisions. It means that more deaths occur from at-work road trips than at the workplace, despite the dangers posed by industries such as construction, farming and mining. Most of the victims are non-working drivers, the study – which focuses particularly on the van, company car and ‘grey fleet’ sector - reveals.

It shows that in 2018, 520 people died in collisions involving a driver or rider driving for work, but only 12 per cent (63) of them were working drivers or riders. Five per cent (25) of the fatalities were passengers of a driver driving for work, while 83 per cent (432) of those killed were non-working road-users.

The figures are in sharp contrast to the total of 144 people killed in workplace accidents during the course of work in the UK in the year 2017/18.

‘Driving for work - a strategic review of risks associated with cars and light vans, implications for policy and practice’ - estimates that up to 39 per cent of pedestrian fatalities in the UK were in collision with a ‘working’ driver, causing up to 11 pedestrian deaths a month.

This landmark study from RoadSafe on behalf of Highways was conducted by Heather Ward and Nicola Christie from UCL with support from Agilysis. It says there is a ‘lack of attention to work-related road safety’ by policymakers. It warns that despite a rapid increase in vans (up by 27 per cent from 3.24m light goods vehicles in 2011 to 4.12m in 2019) and people working in the gig economy, this sector falls outside the strict regulations governing other occupational drivers.

Despite businesses switching to ‘last mile deliveries’ by vans – coinciding with the boom in internet shopping - vans and drivers are not subject to the strict driver training, drivers’ hours restrictions and roadworthiness regulations governing HGVs.

On average, finds the study, vans are being driven 12,800 miles a year, accounting for 15.4 per cent of all vehicle mileage. Two in 10 of these journeys occur on minor urban roads.

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