How Safe Are Britain’s Roads? Predicted Road Accident Figures Revealed

Julie Daniels
Insurance expert
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Last Updated 24 NOVEMBER 2022

This year’s Road Safety Week focused on promoting making roads safe for everyone - from bus drivers to horse riders. But despite recent changes to the Highway Code, which are focussed on improving safety for people walking, cycling and riding horses, plenty of road users remain at risk of injury.

To find out how safe Britain’s roads really are, we’ve analysed government data on speeding offences and driving habits such as mobile phone usage, between 2015 to 2021, to predict how these figures will change over the next three years.

The research also reveals how likely people are to be involved in a road accident, and the types of injuries sustained by car occupants, cyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians.

How many UK drivers are expected to break the speed limit on motorways?

For cars and most other vehicles, the speed limit on UK motorways is 70 mph, with lower speed limits of 60mph on single carriageways and 30 mph in built-up areas. These legal limits are put in place to keep all road users safe and should always be viewed as an absolute maximum.

Despite this, 51% of cars in Great Britain are expected to exceed the speed limit on motorways in 2022 (equivalent to 16.3M cars), 26% of which will go over by 5 mph or more and a further 11% will exceed the limit by 10mph or more.

Over the next three years, the total estimated number of cars that will exceed the limit on motorways is expected to increase from 16.3M in 2022 to 16.9M in 2025.

What road type are UK drivers most likely to break the speed limit on?

By the end of 2022, the data predicts that 88% of cars in Great Britain will exceed the speed limit in 20 mph zones, with the number predicted to rise to 91% over the next three years (equivalent to 28.9M cars), making it the road type drivers are most likely to speed illegally on.

It's estimated that 57% of the cars that will speed in 20mph zones will drive more than 5 mph over the speed limit while a further 22% will drive more than 10 mph over the limit in 2022.

Overall, drivers who are caught speeding can be fined a minimum of £100 and given at least three penalty points. Receiving 12 or more points within three years could result in a driving disqualification. The rules are much less lenient for new drivers, who risk having their licence revoked if they build up more than six points within two years of passing their test.

Predicted speeding vehicle compliance by cars by road type in Great Britain (%)
Road type 2022 2023 2024 2025
Exceeding speed limit (%) 51% 52% 52% 53%
Exceeding speed limit by 5 mph or more (%) 26% 27% 27% 27%
Exceeding speed limit by 10 mph or more (%) 11% 11% 11% 11%
Number of cars exceeding speed limit in Great Britain 16,258,098 16,474,417 16,690,737 16,907,056
National speed limit single carriageways
Exceeding speed limit (%) 12% 13% 13% 14%
Exceeding speed limit by 5 mph or more (%) 4% 4% 4% 5%
Exceeding speed limit by 10 mph or more (%) 1% 2% 2% 2%
Number of cars exceeding speed limit in Great Britain 3,825,435 4,018,984 4,212,532 4,406,081
30 mph speed limit roads
Exceeding speed limit (%) 53% 53% 53% 53%
Exceeding speed limit by 5 mph or more (%) 19% 19% 20% 20%
Exceeding speed limit by 5 mph or more (%) 6% 6% 6% 6%
Number of cars exceeding speed limit in Great Britain 16,895,671 16,884,285 16,872,900 16,861,515
20 mph speed limit roads
Exceeding speed limit (%) 88% 89% 90% 91%
Exceeding speed limit by 5 mph or more (%) 57% 58% 60% 61%
Exceeding speed limit by 10 mph or more (%) 22% 22% 23% 24%
Number of cars exceeding speed limit in Great Britain 28,189,812 28,428,901 28,667,991 28,907,081

Table 1. Predicted percentages of cars in Great Britain that will exceed the speed limit on different road types from 2022 to 2025, based on data from 2015 to 2021.

How many drivers use their mobile phones while driving?

Based on data from a government-conducted survey between 2019 and 2020, it’s estimated that 57% of drivers in Great Britain will use their mobile phone while driving by the end of 2022 (equivalent to 22.1M licensed vehicles). 8% of offenders are predicted to have their phones in their hands and 48% will use Bluetooth, voice command or a dashboard holder - which is legal as long as motorists don’t touch their phones while driving.

At the current rate, 71% of British drivers are expected to use their mobile phone whilst driving over the next three years.

In March 2022, the law was updated to make it illegal to hold and use a phone, sat nav, tablet, or any handheld device that can send or receive data while driving or riding a motorcycle.

Although it’s legal to use a phone in the car hands-free, you can still be pulled over by the police if they think your phone is causing a distraction. The consequences for illegal mobile phone usage start at six penalty points and a £200 fine and can increase to a driving ban or a fine of up to £1,000 if you’re taken to court as a result of the offence.

Predicted mobile phone use by drivers in Great Britain whilst driving or stationary (%) 2022 2023 2024 2025
Any mobile phone use 57% 61% 66% 71%
Estimated number of licensed vehicles predicted to be driven while driver uses mobile phone 22,148,000 24,029,600 25,911,200 27,792,800
of which:
Yes - in the driver's hand 8% 9% 10% 11%
of which:
Yes - via Bluetooth, Voice Command or dashboard holder 48% 52% 56% 60%

Table 2. Predicted rates of mobile phone usage whilst driving or stationary in traffic, based on 2019 and 2020 government-conducted surveys in Great Britain.

Which road users are most likely to be injured due to a road accident?

It’s predicted that 19% of the total road accidents this year will result in injury to a cyclist, while 7% will result in injury to motorcyclists, and 4% will injure pedestrians.

Whilst the proportion of accidents that injure car occupants (67%) and motorcyclists (7%) are predicted to remain over the next three years, the injury rate for cyclists is expected to rise from 19% to 21%.

In terms of the types of injuries caused by road accidents, minor bruising and cuts, sprains, fractures and broken bones, and severe shock are all predicted to increase in prevalence over the three years between 2022 and 2025.

Predicted proportion of people involved in a road accident which could result in injury in England (%)
Group 2022 2023 2024 2025
Respondent was:
Car occupant 67% 67% 67% 67%
Cyclist 19% 20% 20% 21%
Motorcyclist 7% 7% 7% 7%
Pedestrian 4% 3% 3% 2%
On / in another vehicle 4% 4% 4% 4%
Type of injury experienced:
Whiplash 48% 48% 48% 47%
Minor bruising or minor cuts 55% 57% 60% 63%
Slight shock 21% 20% 19% 17%
Sprains 16% 16% 17% 17%
Fracture / broken bones 13% 14% 14% 14%
Severe shock 9% 9% 10% 10%

Table 3. Predicted proportion of people (aged 16 and up) in England involved in road accidents that could result in injury, split by the type of road user, as well as the types of injuries experienced. Based on data from 2015 to 2020.