Failure to look properly is biggest factor in road accidents

That’s a SMIDSY, to you and us

FAILING to look properly is the most common factor in road accidents, according to government data obtained by a motoring group.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show ‘failure to look properly’ was recorded by police as a factor in over 30,000 accidents in 2013.

Such incidents are referred to as SMIDSY crashes by motorcyclists, short for ‘Sorry mate, I didn’t see you,’ the typical defence of an unseeing driver. 

Police can record up to six contributory factors from a list of 77 for each road accident. The top two give the most obvious causes according to the Institute of Advanced Motorists, who made the FOI enquiry. See the top 20 combinations of factors in the table below.

In 13,299 accidents, failure to look was record as a joint factor with ‘failure to judge another person's path or speed’.

The IAM says the Department for Transport figures show the need for continuous driver assessment.

Sarah Sillars, the group’s chief executive officer, said: ‘We feel that many people eventually get complacent behind the wheel and inattention creeps in.  Combine this with fatigue and distractions, inside and outside the vehicle and the message is clear that drivers must apply their full attention to driving – you simply cannot do two things at once if one of them is driving.

‘We have consistently advocated that continuous assessment is one of the main ways to ensure no driver gets into bad behaviours that cannot then be rectified.’

Top 20 combined factors in road accidents:

Number/ percentage
Factor with lower code3Factor with higher code3NumberPer cent
Failed to look properlyFailed to judge other person's path or speed13,2997
Failed to look properlyCareless, reckless or in a hurry9,1325
Poor turn or manoeuvreFailed to look properly9,0014
Failed to judge other person's path or speedCareless, reckless or in a hurry4,3392
Poor turn or manoeuvreFailed to judge other person's path or speed4,0792
Poor turn or manoeuvreCareless, reckless or in a hurry3,3642
Slippery road (due to weather)Loss of control3,1422
Following too closeFailed to look properly3,0242
Disobeyed 'Give Way' or 'Stop' sign or markingsFailed to look properly2,6561
Following too closeFailed to judge other person's path or speed2,5971
Travelling too fast for conditionsLoss of control2,4861
Loss of controlCareless, reckless or in a hurry2,4561
Slippery road (due to weather)Travelling too fast for conditions2,2481
Failed to look properlyStationary or parked vehicle(s)1,8811
SwervedLoss of control1,8691
Travelling too fast for conditionsCareless, reckless or in a hurry1,6631
Poor turn or manoeuvreLoss of control1,6281
Exceeding speed limitLoss of control1,4701
Exceeding speed limitCareless, reckless or in a hurry1,4501
Aggressive drivingCareless, reckless or in a hurry1,4181
All vehicles in accidents200,074100
1 Includes only participants in accidents where a police officer attended the scene and in which a contributory factor was reported.
2 Includes the 20 pairings most frequently reported to vehicles and the 5 most frequently reported to pedestrian casualties.
3 All contributory factors are recorded by a code number between 101 and 999. The factor with the lower code number is listed first.

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