20 October 2016

Businesses urged to focus on at-work road safety as crashes cost £700m a year

Businesses have been urged to increase their focus on reducing at-work driving crashes in the wake of new data showing they cost the UK more than £700 million a year.

According to new research from road safety charity IAM RoadSmart, the £702 million cost of crashes involving at-work vehicles takes account of the impact on public services, benefits costs and economic losses, with a further £22 million to be added into the calculation to take account of insurance administration costs.

The figures have been calculated using Department for Transport 2014 road casualty statistics. They reveal that cost – based on £700,000 per fatality related to lost economic output and an average £33,000 cost to the state in welfare benefits for a severely injured driver – comprises some £491 million in lost economic output, £126 million in welfare benefits and £104 million to the NHS and police.

The research also analysed the costs associated with road crashes in 2014 involving young drivers, motorcyclists and older drivers and concluded that action was needed across government departments to reverse the trend of flat-lining road deaths.

While the number of casualties per driving for work accident is much lower than for other groups of drivers, such as younger drivers and motorcyclists, the number of incidents is still very high. According to the report, after taking account of damage-only accidents, it is estimated that 375,692 accidents occurred in 2014 involving at least one party driving for work.

An extract from the report states: ‘If everyone who was driving for work were to do so at a higher standard of care and skill, a positive example would be set for others.

‘As well as reducing casualty and accident costs, improving road safety for company drivers can have positive impacts for businesses including reduced insurance and repair costs and avoiding sick leave, which results in sick pay costs and loss of productive time. Higher driving standards in branded-vehicles may also have a positive PR effect or avoid a negative perception of the business being formed by other road users.

‘There are potentially significant savings in long term social care and welfare benefit costs, if incidents can be avoided among the working age population.’

The report recommended: ‘Companies should be encouraged to use risk-based driving assessment tools and related training tools such that employees receive appropriate training based on their personal risk profile (personality, type of road used and frequency of driving for work).

‘Businesses should be encouraged to adopt risk management tools such as ISO39001 Road Safety Traffic Management System, and so to take more responsibility for putting a cultural and management structure in place that will promote higher standards for people who drive for work.’

The report suggests that subcontractors, as well as employees, need to be included in any employer initiatives to deliver safety improvements.

IAM RoadSmart said reducing the number of deaths would in turn offer a large saving to the public purse.

The new report, ‘Evaluating the costs of incidents from the public sector perspective’, is said to be the first attempt to update the formula for death and injury cost figures since the 1990s.

It is also believed to be the first time an organisation has highlighted the costs to the public sector of crashes involving some of the highest at-risk road user groups, which includes people driving for work.

The purpose of the research is to facilitate a discussion beyond the Department for Transport, with the aim of developing focused policy actions based on the savings government departments could make by prioritising road safety in their day-to-day work.

The total cost to public services (NHS and police costs) as well in welfare benefits and lost economic benefits identified by the research to the other high-risk groups was:

  • Young drivers, £1.3 billion (£1.1 million per fatality)
  • Motorcyclists, £1.1 billion (£800,000 per fatality)
  • Older drivers, £63 million (£10,000 per fatality)

Sarah Sillars, IAM RoadSmart Chief Executive Officer, said: ‘These are huge savings and against a background of austerity and public spending cuts, this report shows what could be achieved by reducing the numbers of deaths and serious injuries suffered by these at-risk road users.

‘When it comes to road safety the Department for Transport tends to be seen as the main provider of solutions, but the costs of these tragic incidents are felt right across government, not least within the NHS, Department of Work and Pensions and the Home Office. More cross-departmental working, pooling of resources and sharing of knowledge is key to ensuring joined up thinking on road safety.’