November 30, 2020
The Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents, (RoSPA) in its factsheet on 'Inappropriate Speed', published in 2018, revealed that speeding is a significant contributory factor in 11% of all road accident collisions involving personal injury. In addition, 24% of all fatal road accidents feature excessive speed as a substantial cause.
In 2019 the number of people killed in road traffic accidents was 1752. On basis of the statistics provided by RoSPA, that means that as many as 400 fatal road traffic accidents were, wholly or in part, the result of someone driving too fast. Many thousands more were injured for the same reason.
Little wonder then that this year’s Road Safety Week campaign, organised by the road safety charity, Brake, has chosen as its theme, the slogan, NO NEED TO SPEED.
During the week of 16th to 22nd November, businesses, schools, employers, and individuals, are being encouraged to play their part in getting across the message that speeding isn’t just against the law, but also that it has real consequences for all road users, both those choosing to speed and those whose lives are adversely affected by the actions of speeding drovers.
There’s a wealth of information contained on the Road Safety Week website about the knock on effects of speeding particularly on vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
What about passengers?
The Highway Code has a separate section dedicated to the extra care that motorists should employ when in the vicinity of these types of road users, who it specifies as requiring 'extra care’. That 'extra care' includes the need to reduce speed
Passengers in motor vehicles are also road users. There is an argument for saying that they are every bit as vulnerable as those groups specified in the Highway Code. They have no control over the way that the vehicle they are travelling in is driven, nor over the speed that it travels at. When getting into a motor vehicle, a passenger puts a huge amount of trust in the driver’s ability to keep them safe.
That is why, when someone is injured in a road traffic accident whilst travelling as a passenger and they decide to make a passenger accident compensation claim, they will win their case. Regardless of which driver causes the accident, the passenger will be blameless.
(A slight variation on this position, would be if someone chose to get into a car and be driven by someone that they knew to be under the influence of drink or drugs. In that case, if an accident were to happen as a result of the driver’s negligence, a claim for personal injury compensation might see a reduction in the personal injury compensation that is awarded to the passenger. To some extent they would have been, in part, the author of their own misfortune)
Does the presence of a passenger affect a driver’s decision to speed or not?
Studies have shown that having a passenger with them, is likely to have little effect on a driver’s decision to speed or not. If he or she is inclined to drive at an inappropriate speed whilst they are alone in the vehicle, in most cases they will also do so if they have a passenger.
A YouGov survey of more than 1000 people found that almost two thirds of those surveyed said that as a passenger they had felt uncomfortable about the speed of the car in which they were travelling. Half of those who took part, also expressed concerns about inappropriate driving by the driver such as not slowing down when in the vicinity of schools or as they approach pedestrian crossings.
Despite these findings, a third of those questioned in the survey said that they would find it difficult to tell the person driving the car, to slow down.
Whether a passenger is likely to take issue with the driver over the speed at which the car is being driven will depend on the relationship they have with that person. There’s a difference between asking a partner or close friend to slow down and making the same request of a boss, or a business client.
It has been suggested that this reluctance on the part of passengers to challenge drivers who are seemingly oblivious to the fact that they are driving too quickly, means that bad driving habits are going unchallenged.
Ultimately this is why campaigns like Road Safety Week’s NO NEED TO SPEED, are so important and it is why Spencers Solicitors are supporting the initiative.
More reduced speed limit zones, extra enforcement by the authorities, increased penalties for speeding and re-designing highways to give the desired message about maximum safe speeds, are all welcome initiatives.
However, altering the public’s mindset as a whole, about the consequences of speeding must surely be the long term way forward. Drink driving was not always considered to be the taboo that it has now become. Getting people to regard speeding in the same way, has to be the end goal.
Here at Spencers Solicitors our Complex Injury Team have dealt with many passenger claims, all of whom have suffered serious life changing injuries. One particular case that sticks out in my mind involved a young girl travelling as a front seat passenger in her boyfriend’s car. They hadn’t been together very long and he was an inexperienced driver. For whatever reason he made the decision to drive dangerously and at high speed on a dark country lane. The female passenger asked him to slow down but it was too late. He lost control and hit a tree. The driver walked away uninjured however his girlfriend suffered a head injury and spinal fractures. The drivers one split decision to drive in the way he did has changed her life forever.
About the author
Laura Reaney is a Paralegal within our Serious Injury Team.
Laura, who joined the team in 1998, originally started as an office junior before training as a Litigator. After gaining extensive experience within personal injury, Laura now specialises in assisting on complex and high value personal injury claims. Over the years she has assisted senior Solicitors in dealing with accident claims involving amputations, serious spinal injuries resulting in permanent disability, brain, head injuries and fatal accidents.
Laura can be contacted on 01246 266679.