Injury risk ‘significantly higher’ when driving for work

10.33 | 11 December 2020 |

A third of road deaths and a fifth of serious injuries are sustained in collisions involving a ‘working’ driver or rider, according to new research by University College London (UCL).

In the report, published by the UCL Centre for Transport Studies, academics identify new trends and risks for occupational drivers and other road users involved in collisions with them, in order to inform policies and interventions to encourage safer driving.

Statistics show of the 520 fatalities recorded by the police in 2018 from road collisions involving a working driver/rider, 432 (83%) of these were other road users. Working drivers and their passengers accounted for the other 88 fatalities (17%).

Meanwhile, between 2011 and 2018, 39% of pedestrians killed in Great Britain were involved in a collisions with a working driver (someone who is driving as part of their job, rather than commuting to work).

The report concludes that the changing economy has led to a rapid increase in the number of vans on the road – as well as the proportion of people working in the gig economy, where they are paid per job, or ‘gig’.

Estimates suggest that on average, a van covers around 12,800 miles per year, equating to 15.4% of all vehicle mileage – with 20% of these miles being on minor urban roads.

Vans and their drivers are not subject to the same strict regulation of driver training, restrictions on driving hours and roadworthiness testing as HGVs, buses and coaches.

Professor Nicola Christie, UCL Transport Studies, said: “Our research shows that people who drive for work pose a serious risk to others, especially pedestrians. This is a worrying situation because of the rise in van traffic and last mile deliveries as we increasingly shop online, particularly since the start of the pandemic.

“There is a clear role for the Government to lead on initiatives to bring the management of risk to the attention of employers and the self-employed, and reduce this burden to individuals and society.”

The academics also interviewed eight anonymous national strategic stakeholders with expertise in road safety, or a role in the management of occupational risk. 

These interviews revealed ‘confusion’ over new employment models which pass risk responsibility to individuals, and a lack of detailed data around risk and effective interventions.

They also revealed concerns over exploitation of workers and their working conditions, and a feeling that the onus of ensuring workers are protected by health and safety laws should move to companies.

Stuart Lovatt, head of strategic road safety for Highways England, said: “Highways England is delighted to help support this important piece of research into the risk of injury around work related driving by providing the funding to enable this study to be undertaken. 

“This report will support the objectives of Highways England’s Driving for Better Business Programme which aims to raise awareness of work related road risk to business leaders and their drivers.”



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