Lorry crashes more likely to cause fatalities

One in four (24%) injuries caused by crashes with lorries are fatal or serious

Posted on 21 Jul 2017

Almost a quarter of injuries caused by crashes with heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) are fatal or serious1, compared to one in eight (13%) crash average (2015)2.
One in three (34%) drivers have had a crash or near miss with a lorry.
Some lorries flouting the rules despite serious consequences. Highest speed recorded for a monster 7.5-tonne HGV is 76mph3 - DESPITE legal requirement for 56mph speed-limiter device (2016)4.
Two in five (42%) drivers think the motorway speed limit for lorries should be 50mph or lower.

New research proves crashes with lorries are more dangerous, with almost a quarter of injuries (24%) caused by collisions with HGVs in 2015 resulting in fatal or serious consequences1. This is compared to the average of one in eight (13%) vehicle crash injuries being fatal or serious2.

The research obtained by Confused.com, the car savings experts, from regional highways organisations highlights the devastating consequences of collisions with larger vehicles. And while these types of crashes may seem fewer and further between, one in three (34%) drivers have experienced a crash or a near miss with a lorry.

Given the severe nature of HGV crashes, it’s no wonder there are strict restrictions imposed upon lorry drivers. Such as a legal requirement for HGVs – vehicles weighing over 3.5 tonnes – to be fitted with speed limiters which restrict these vehicles to 56mph4. But this hasn’t stopped some lorries from flouting the rules. On the heavier end of the scale, the highest recorded speed for a HGV weighing over 7.5 tonnes is 76mph3. Recorded by Devon and Cornwall police, this is 16mph over the motorway speed limit for this weight of vehicle, and 20mph over speed limiter restrictions – suggesting that some drivers are ignoring the rules concerning having these devices fitted. This is despite a £200 penalty for lorries caught without these devices5. And with the data showing some are still managing to break speed limits, it’s little wonder two in five (42%) drivers think the maximum motorway speed for HGVs should be 50mph or lower.

Speed limits by vehicle type

Vehicle type Built-up areas  Single carriageways  Dual carriageways  Motorways 
 Cars and car-derived vans 30mph 60mph 70mph 70mph
 Light goods vehicles (up to 3.5 tonnes) 30mph 50mph 60mph 70mph
 Heavy goods vehicles (up to 7.5 tonnes) 30mph 50mph 60mph 60mph

Heavy goods vehicles (7.5 tonnes or more) in England and Wales

30mph 40mph 50mph 60mph

Heavy goods vehicles (7.5 tonnes or more) in Scotland

30mph 50mph 50mph 60mph

However, it’s not just speeding lorries which are making drivers nervous behind the wheel. Motorists have witnessed a number of risky behaviours by HGV drivers, such as two in three (67%) having seen lorries overtaking other lorries. And, worryingly, over half (51%) have seen these drivers using their mobile phones, while a further two in five (39%) have spotted a lorry tailgating another vehicle. When it comes to motorists’ gravest concerns about dangerous lorry-driving behaviour, one in three (31%) are most worried about mobile phone use, while a further one in five (21%) claim driving while tired is the most dangerous practice.

Behaviours by lorry drivers witnessed by motorists

Behaviour % 
Lorry overtaking another lorry 67%
Lorry overtaking another vehicle 66%
Using mobile phones while driving 51%
Lorry tailgating another vehicle 39%
Lorry hogging the middle lane 36%
Lorry driving in the outside motorway lane/lane 3 26%

Most recent figures show there are over half a million HGVs registered in the UK, a figure which has steadily risen by 9% since 20106. With more lorries on the register than ever before and with apparent treacherous behaviour carried about by some drivers of these vehicles, a third (33%) of motorists believe there are just too many on our road. In fact, some motorists have strong views about sharing the roads with HGVs, although some of their solutions are controversial. A quarter (25%) of motorists think HGVs should be banned from overtaking each other on the motorway, while one in five (22%) think they should be prohibited on the motorway during peak times.

Despite these views from some drivers, many understand that lorries are not always to blame for dangerous driving behaviour. In fact, only one in five (22%) drivers typically think lorries are at fault in most lorry-car traffic collisions, while the majority (60%) believe both parties are equally responsible. And motorists admit witnessing a number of risky manoeuvres performed by car drivers, too. For example, more than a third (36%) have seen cars tailgating lorries, which could be dangerous as it means the driver cannot see the smaller vehicle driving behind them. And two in five (39%) of motorists have seen cars pulling directly in front of HGVs after overtaking, despite their extended braking distance. Perhaps this suggests that car drivers would benefit from being taught on the motorway, alongside lorries, as part of their test.

Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at Confused.com, says: “Some drivers’ frustration with lorries is understandable, but there are a number of precautions in place – such as lower speed limits and fitted speed-limiter devices –to ensure conditions are as safe as possible.

“Given the sheer size and weight of HGVs, motorists should be extra cautious when travelling alongside lorries, as a collision can have devastating consequences. They should be mindful of lorry drivers’ limited visibility when cars drive too closely behind them, and of extended stopping distances when cars pull directly in front of them.

“And like all accidents, a collision with a lorry can cause damage to a car, even with the slightest bump. This can of course lead to an increase in their insurance premiums if they need to claim.
Motorists who do see a rise in their car insurance should shop around online, using a car savings site such as Confused.com.”


Notes to editors
Unless otherwise stated, all figures taken from omnibus research carried out by One Poll on behalf of Confused.com. This was an online poll of 2,000 UK adults who drive (nationally representative sample). The research was conducted between 16th May 2017 and 18th May 2017.

1. Confused.com submitted a Freedom of Information request to Highways England, the Welsh Government and Transport Scotland. The request made read as follows:
a. I would like to request the following information under the Freedom of Information Act:
Road Traffic Collisions involving HGVs (Heavy Goods Vehicles) across the Strategic Road Network in 2015 and 2016. Please could you include:
- The year (2015/2016)
- The road
- The Local Authority Highway
- The Local Authority District
- Total no. of collisions involving at least one HGV
- Total no. of HGVs involved in the collision
- Total no. of casualties, including no. killed, no. seriously injured, no. slightly injured
A total of 650 casualties were caused by crashes involving HGVs (goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes) in 2015. Of these 44 were fatalities and 115 caused serious injury.
2. Data obtained from the Department of Transport Reported road casualties in Great Britain 2015. A total of 186,209 road casualties were recorded in 2015. Of these 1,732 were fatalities and 22,137 were serious injuries.  https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/533293/rrcgb-main-results-2015.pdf 
3. Confused.com submitted a Freedom of Information request to 45 UK police forces. Of these 20 responded. The request made read as follows:
a. The total number of Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) handed to goods vehicles which were recorded travelling over the speed limit in your force region in 2015 and 2016. If possible, please could you breakdown the information by goods vehicles not exceeding 7.5 tonnes and goods vehicles exceeding 7.5 tonnes.  
b. Please could you also share the fastest speeds recorded by goods vehicles within your force region in 2015 and 2016. As above, please could you breakdown the information by goods vehicles not exceeding 7.5 tonnes and goods vehicles exceeding 7.5 tonnes.
4. http://www.transportoffice.gov.uk/crt/repository/Speed%20Limiters%20-%20New%20Regulations.pdf
5. https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/311180/response
6. https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-transport/about/statistics

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