Essential tips for safe driving: a guide for car and van users in association with LMP Legal

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The Department for Transport estimates that over 1,700 people died on Britain’s roads in 2022 with a further 28,000 being seriously injured, so all drivers must adopt responsible driving practices to ensure the safety of everyone on the road.  We’ve worked with LMP Legal to identify safe driving practices and real-life examples of the impact of not following these.

Previously, we provided some top safety tips for HGV drivers, but driving a car or van for work can be equally as hazardous with new data from Brake showing that road deaths in collisions involving light goods vehicles (LGVs) increased between 2021 and 2022. In addition, around a third of road deaths now involve someone driving for work, so it’s crucial that drivers follow the latest safety advice and understand what to do in the event of an accident.

Top safety tips for car and LGV drivers

Avoid distractions

When driving for long periods of time, it can be difficult to maintain your focus and avoid distractions and this is when accidents are more likely to occur. Brake reports that drivers who talk on the phone, both hands-free and hand-held, are four times more likely to be in a crash.

Of course, it’s not only dangerous but illegal to use a phone whilst driving, with those caught facing stiff penalties. UK law dictates that it’s illegal to hold and use a phone, satnav, tablet, or any other device that can send or receive data whilst driving. It’s important that drivers are aware that the law still applies if you’re:

  • Stopped at traffic lights
  • Queuing in traffic
  • Supervising a learner driver
  • Driving a car that turns off the engine when you stop moving
  • Holding and using a device that’s offline or in flight mode

To help avoid the distractions of your phone, you should keep it out of sight and turn on the ‘do not disturb’ setting. This will also prevent notifications coming through to your smartwatch which can be equally as distracting.

Real Life Impact

25-year-old Faisal Yasin, a takeaway driver from Rochdale, ran over amateur rugby league player Jordan Welsby on Boxing Day night in 2020. Welsby, 26, suffered a severe head injury and passed away five days later. After forensic searches of Mr Yasin’s phone revealed he had been using Snapchat on his phone moments before the crash, Yasin pleaded guilty to causing Jordan's death by careless driving. He repeatedly claimed he didn't see Welsby, despite good lighting conditions.

The judge emphasised the dangers of using a mobile phone while driving and handed Yasin an immediate 10-month jail sentence followed by a 12-month driving ban.

Stay awake and alert

Driving when tired greatly increases the risk of a collision, as your reaction time is slower which can be dangerous when unexpected hazards appear. Studies show that 25% of all fatal or serious injury crashes are sleep related, so it’s vital that you always stay awake and alert. If you do feel your concentration waning, you should pull over at the nearest services and take time to rest before getting back on the road.

Real Life Impact

Van driver Christopher Ruddick, aged 51, was sentenced to suspended jail time for causing life-changing injuries to a motorcyclist when he turned across the bike's path. The incident occurred when Ruddick made a right turn in front of the oncoming motorbike. He had not been tired when the incident occurred.

He pleaded guilty to careless driving, stating he did not see the motorcyclist and couldn't explain the collision. Another witness corroborated that the motorcyclist was clearly visible before the turn. At Court, Mr Ruddick pleaded guilty to an offence of causing serious injury by careless driving.

Obey speed limits

Speed contributes to around one in four fatal collisions on our roads. Often, a few miles per hour can mean the difference between life and death, so it’s vital that drivers stick to the speed limits. By driving slightly slower, especially in poor weather conditions, you’ll have more time to stop if something unexpected happens.

Drivers should also drive slow and steady when transporting heavy loads as research shows that at just 30mph, a heavily loaded van takes an extra two metres to stop than an empty van. By driving slower and braking earlier, you can help to prevent future accidents on the road.  

Be mindful of other road users

Drivers always need to be mindful of other road users, particularly those that are more vulnerable such as pedestrians and cyclists. In 2022, a new hierarchy of road users was introduced, so car and van drivers now have more responsibility for ensuring the safety of those road users that are most at risk in the event of a collision.

Drivers may need to refamiliarize themselves with the Highway Code as it’s regularly updated with the latest safety guidance.

Adapt to weather conditions

The weather in the UK is often unpredictable, so drivers need to be prepared in case road conditions change suddenly as this is when accidents are likely to occur. We recommend that in extreme weather conditions you:

  • Plan your route in advance
  • Ensure your windscreen is completely clear
  • Drive at a slower speed – it can take 10 times longer to stop in icy conditions
  • Accelerate and brake very gently to avoid skidding
  • Pack a winter emergency driving kit
  • Keep your distance from other vehicles
  • Check your lights are working correctly

Real Life Impact

Harry Elliott, aged 25, was sentenced to two years in prison for causing the death of 20-year-old Naomi Buckle from Catterick. Elliott was driving his Audi RS3 with four friends, including Naomi, in wet conditions with no street lighting. Elliot’s passengers were concerned and asked him to slow down, but he lost control on a sharp bend. The vehicle left the road and struck a tree.

Three of the five occupants were able to get out of the vehicle but tragically, Naomi died at the scene from her injuries. Elliott pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and received a three-year driving ban, along with an order to take an extended driving test.

Ensure your vehicle is regularly maintained

A recent study by the SMMT found that out of the 10,800 vans stopped at the roadside each year, 88.5% were overloaded and 50% would have failed their MOTs. If your vehicle is not correctly loaded or maintained, you’re putting yourself and others at risk of an accident and you could be fined up to £2,500.

By following our top tips on how to keep your vehicle in good condition, you can ensure that all faults are rectified before they become dangerous. With regular servicing as well as daily checks, you’ll have peace of mind that your vehicle is safe and road-ready.

Get the Right protection

Driving offences are the only ‘criminal offence’ whereby a police officer can take an initial account at the roadside without legal representation. This leaves drivers in a vulnerable position as they could incriminate themselves and their employers at the scene, making it harder to defend them at a later date. 

That’s why we’ve partnered with LMP Legal to offer an exclusive new service to our customers, Right Protect. With access to a 24/7 helpline, you can get support from a qualified criminal lawyer if you’re ever involved in a traffic accident. This helps to keep you and your business protected in an emergency. 

For further legal support, you can choose our premium Right Protect service which includes a lawyer being present at a police station within a few hours and ongoing legal defence should the case be taken to court. 

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David James
Sales Director

David has worked in the fuel card industry since 2008. His financial insights have been featured in various publications, such as The Sun, the Daily Express and The Yorkshire Times where he provides money-saving tips for motorists. David is passionate about charity work and regularly raises money through running events, including the London Marathon and the Leeds Abbey Dash.