Safe driving in GB

Are Brits safe drivers?

Everyone thinks they drive safely, despite admitting dangerous habits

We surveyed drivers about their habits behind the wheel and whether they think they’re a safe driver.

  • 100% of people think they’re a safe driver, despite bad habits that could cause collisions.
  • Two thirds of people admit driving when tired.
  • 1 in 20 people admit using a handheld mobile behind the wheel.

    Read on to find out the full results of the survey as well as how our driving habits can influence collisions on the road.

Do we drive as safely as we think?

45% of people consider themselves a very safe driver and 55% think they drive safely most of the time, according to an AA survey.1But 1 in 25 drivers in Great Britain has penalty points on their licence.2

Only 1% of people think that everyone else is a safe driver, while 1 in 5 think there are more unsafe drivers than safe drivers. But no-one we asked classed themselves as an unsafe driver.

It seems that we find it harder to spot our own unsafe driving habits than unsafe driving in others.

Are we guilty of driving dangerously?

Safe driving gb unsafe driving habits infographic

Two thirds of the drivers we polled admitted to driving while tired. Drivers are more aware of the dangers of drink and drug driving, but driving when tired can be fatal. 1 in 50 accidents last year were attributed to driver fatigue.3

More than half of drivers admit they eat while driving, which could also be dangerous. It can count as careless driving if it distracts you and police think you're not in proper control of your car.

The dangers of using a phone behind the wheel

A common bad habit that drivers admit to is using their phone while driving.

  • 6% of drivers said they're most distracted by setting directions on a phone or sat nav while driving.
  • 5% admit calling on a handheld mobile phone.
  • 3% admit to texting behind the wheel.

Those drivers may not realise is that it's against the law to use a handheld device while driving. And that includes using your phone or sat nav for directions. The offence comes with a maximum fine of £1,000 (£2,500 for a bus or good vehicle) and could even lead to you losing your licence.

  • Using a mobile phone was a contributory factor in almost 1% of accidents resulting in casualties in Great Britain.
  • The only areas where mobile phone use made up less than 1% of accidents were the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber and Scotland.

Safe driving gb driver texting while driving

Driver distractions can lead to accidents

1 in 4 people admit to being distracted by something inside the car while driving, like the sat nav, radio or passengers. Distractions inside the car were a contributory factor in 1 in 25 accidents in 2019.

But it seems we’re most distracted by what’s going on outside our own cars. 56% of people say their biggest distraction when driving is other drivers. Across Great Britain, more than 1 in 5 accidents that have casualties are caused by the ‘injudicious actions’ of other drivers. That includes speeding and travelling too close behind other cars.

Two thirds of the drivers we polled admitted to driving while tired.

How safe do we think other drivers are? 

We might consider ourselves safe drivers, but we don’t have the same confidence in those around us.

  • 1 in 5 people think there are more unsafe drivers than safe ones.
  • More than 9 in 10 of people say they’ve seen another driver driving dangerously
  • More than 1 in 5 thought that other drivers had got worse after the first stay-at-home lockdown was lifted.4

In Great Britain, a quarter of accidents that result in a casualty are attributed to driver behaviour or inexperience. Of those, over 70% were because the driver was careless, reckless or in a hurry.5

12% of accidents were because the driver was careless, reckless or in a hurry in London, where 94% of drivers say they’ve seen someone driving dangerously. This rises to 22% in the East Midlands, where 99% of drivers say they’ve seen someone driving dangerously. 

How safe do drivers feel on the roads?

Thankfully, only 4% of drivers we asked were involved in an accident in the last year.

1 in 3 respondents said they felt safer when driving during the second lockdown. That could be thanks to quieter roads with less traffic on them.

Safe driving gb driver at wheel

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What would make driving safer?

Drivers focused on penalties and policing when we asked them what would make driving safer.

  • Almost two thirds of drivers think harsher penalties for using mobile phones would make driving safer.
  • 1 in 5 feel that more speed cameras would help improve safety.
  • Almost 1 in 10 people think that more police and better enforcement of the laws would improve safety.

The West Midlands is the region with the most accidents caused by speeding, where more than 1 in 10 accidents list “exceeding the speed limit” as a contributory factor. But only 15% of drivers in the West Midlands think more speed cameras would help. Instead, 65% think harsher penalties for using mobile phones would make driving safer.

76% of people in Yorkshire and the Humber agree that harsher penalties should be given for mobile phone use, even though 3% of drivers there admit calling on a phone and 4% admit texting at the wheel.

Safe driving gb make roads safer infographic

Jack Cousens, Head of Roads Policy at the AA, says, "Although cameras are useful tools to help police our roads, we can’t rely on them alone. A camera can’t pull someone over for driving carelessly. Having more cops in cars would help reduce dangerous driving and stop drivers thinking they can get away with certain offences."


1 AA Passenger Seat Survey with 984 respondents conducted in November 2020

2 Department for Transport statistics from GB Driving Licence Data, September 2020

3 Department for Transport statistics from Reported Road Casualties Great Britain Annual Report 2019

4 AA Populus Survey with 16,260 respondents conducted in August 2020

5 Department for Transport statistics from International comparisons of road accidents (RAS52)

Published: 21 June 2021 | Updated: 21 June 2021 | Author: The AA