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What's the Likelihood of Getting in a Car Accident in the UK?

From city streets to motorways, the roads in Britain feel busier than ever. With the rise in vehicles on the road, are you more or less likely to be in a serious/fatal road traffic accident? And how does Britain compare in terms of road safety to other countries around the world? We've gathered official data from the Department for Transport, the Office for National Statistics and the World Health Organization in order to gain a better understanding of road safety in the UK.

Probability of a Car Accident in Great Britain/UK

The number of serious or fatal road traffic accidents has generally fallen in the past few years. From 2012 to 2020, the number of people seriously injured in Great Britain dropped 33%, from 33,089 to 22,069. Over the same time period, the number of fatal accidents dropped 17%, from 1,754 to 1,460. Why the huge improvement? While drops in the years up until 2019 could be down to safer cars or drivers, in 2020 the remarkable improvement is simply down to people driving fewer miles due to the pandemic lockdown.

chart showing Number or Serious or Fatal Road Accidents in Great Britain
Number or Serious or Fatal Road Accidents in Great Britain

Interestingly, even before the pandemic lockdown the risks of serious injury due to a road traffic accident were improving—despite increasing population and numbers of vehicles on the roads.

It makes sense that more vehicles and people mean more accidents. But from 2012 to pre-pandemic, the figures for road traffic serious injuries were dropping. Pandemic lockdown aside, the number of fatalities due to road accidents has been relatively steady in the UK at the mid-1,700s per year.

The real question is—has the probability of any one person being killed in a road accident changed? In order to answer this, we've standardized the data for the entire UK by calculating the fatalities per 100,000 people. These standardized numbers essentially remove the impact of rising populations to give us a clear picture of accident probability for the average person.

As you can see in the following table, the fatality rate by population has remained relatively steady between 2012 and 2019, hovering around 2.8 deaths per 100,000 people. The roads are, generally speaking, as safe as ever for the average person despite more cars on the road. (The figure drops noticeably to 2.24 in 2020, but again this reflects the pandemic lockdown not normal driving scenarios.)

Road Traffic Fatality Rates in the UK

YearNumber of Licensed VehiclesNumber Seriously Injured (adjusted)Number of FatalitiesFatality Rate per 100,000 People
201234,522,32233,0891,7542.83
201335,034,48731,2031,7132.75
201435,633,10732,9211,7752.83
201536,467,48731,5251,7302.73
201637,256,80330,2671,7922.81
201737,734,99229,1261,7932.79
201838,184,02729,5741,7842.76
201938,682,71928,4351,7522.70
202038,581,79422,0691,4602.24

Are UK Roads More Dangerous than the Rest of the World?

While our research indicates that road safety is holding steady in the UK, how safe are our roads compared to other countries in the world? It turns out, the UK ranks 8th safest out of the 175 countries participating in the WHO Global Status Report on Road Safety, 2018; with 3.1 fatalities per 100,000 people, the UK was only beaten by San Marino (0), Maldives (0.9), Micronesia (1.9), Norway (2.7), Switzerland (2.7), Singapore (2.8) and Sweden (2.8). The following chart gives a sample of fatality rates around the world.

(Note, the WHO data regarding estimated fatalities returns a slightly different rate than the Department for Transport data.)

chart showing Road Accident Fatality Rates Around the World per 100,000 people
Road Accident Fatality Rates Around the World (per 100,000 People)

To truly understand how dangerous it is to drive in a country, it can be more useful to consider fatalities per vehicle. In many countries, relatively few people drive and are therefore not exposed to the risks of road accidents. In that case, understanding the risks per vehicle instead of per person can give a more accurate picture of road safety. Generally speaking, fatality rates are higher in countries with lower car ownership levels—when the fatality rate is calculate on a per vehicle (not per person) basis.

CountryFatalities per 100,000 PeopleFatalities per 100,000 VehiclesVehicle Ownership % (registered vehicles/population)
CountryFatalities per 100,000 PeopleFatalities per 100,000 VehiclesVehicle Ownership % (registered vehicles/population)
Sweden2.84.462%
UK3.14.758%
Spain4.15.571%
Germany4.15.769%
Japan4.15.764%
Australia5.67.176%
France5.58.265%
America12.412.587%

As you can see, UK roads are still very safe relative to other countries in terms of fatalities per 100,000 vehicles, despite the relatively low vehicle ownership rate in the UK compared to other high-income countries.

chart showing Road Accident Fatality Rates Around the World per 100,000 vehicles
Road Accident Fatality Rates Around the World (per 100,000 Vehicles)

We have separately examined the contribution of alcohol to road traffic fatalities and found that Great Britain contrasts favourably to most other EU countries; it is certainly the case that less drink driving contributes to better overall road safety and, hopefully, lower auto insurance rates.

If this article has got you thinking about your car insurance, you can find more information on choosing the best insurance company for your needs in our article on top UK car insurance companies.

Road Traffic Fatality Statistics by Country

RankCountry/AreaPopulation numbers for 2016Reported number of road traffic deathsEstimated road traffic death rate per 100,000 population
1San Marino33,203-0
2Maldives427,75640.9
3Micronesia (Federated States of)104,93721.9
4Norway5,254,6941352.7
5Switzerland8,401,7392162.7
6Singapore5,622,4551412.8
7Sweden9,837,5332702.8
8United Kingdom65,788,5721,8043.1
9Netherlands16,987,3306213.8
10Denmark5,711,8702114
11Germany81,914,6723,2064.1
12Ireland4,726,0781884.1
13Japan127,748,5124,6824.1
14Spain46,347,5761,8104.1
15Israel8,191,8283354.2
16Kiribati114,39554.4
17Finland5,503,1322524.7
18Cyprus1,170,125465.1
19Austria8,712,1374325.2
20West Bank and Gaza Strip4,790,7051595.3
21France64,720,6883,4775.5
22Australia24,125,8481,2965.6
23Barbados284,99695.6
24Italy59,429,9363,4285.6
25Belgium11,358,3796375.8
26Canada36,289,8241,8585.8
27Czechia10,610,9476115.9
28Estonia1,312,442716.1
29Malta429,362226.1
30Slovakia5,444,2182756.1
31Luxembourg575,747326.3
32Slovenia2,077,8621306.4
33The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia2,081,2061486.4
34Iceland332,474186.6
35Portugal10,371,6275637.4
36Serbia8,820,0836077.4
37Hungary9,753,2816077.8
38New Zealand4,660,8333277.8
39Antigua and Barbuda100,96387.9
40Lithuania2,908,2491928
41Croatia4,213,2653078.1
42Cuba11,475,9827508.5
43Azerbaijan9,725,3767598.7
44Belarus9,480,0425888.9
45Greece11,183,7168249.2
46Grenada107,317109.3
47Latvia1,970,5301589.3
48Qatar2,569,8041789.3
49Fiji898,760609.6
50Egypt95,688,6808,2119.7
51Poland38,224,4083,0269.7
52Republic of Moldova4,059,6083469.7
53Republic of Korea50,791,9204,2929.8
54Bulgaria7,131,49470810.2
55Romania19,778,0841,91310.3
56Montenegro628,6156510.7
57Dominica73,5431010.9
58Samoa195,1251711.3
59Uzbekistan31,446,7962,49611.5
60Trinidad and Tobago1,364,96213512.1
61Indonesia261,115,45631,28212.2
62Philippines103,320,22410,01212.3
63Turkey79,512,4247,30012.3
64United States of America322,179,61635,09212.4
65Chile17,909,7541,67512.5
66Timor-Leste1,268,6717112.7
67Mexico127,540,42416,03913.1
68Uruguay3,444,00644613.4
69Peru31,773,8402,69613.5
70Albania2,926,34826913.6
71Jamaica2,881,35537913.6
72Mauritius1,262,13214413.7
73Ukraine44,438,6244,68713.7
74Argentina43,847,4325,53014
75Papua New Guinea8,084,99115814.2
76Pakistan193,203,4724,44814.3
77Panama4,034,11944014.3
78Suriname558,3687414.5
79Turkmenistan5,662,54454314.5
80Sri Lanka20,798,4923,00314.9
81Afghanistan34,656,0321,56515.1
82Bangladesh162,951,5522,37615.3
83Georgia3,925,40558115.3
84Kyrgyzstan5,955,73481215.4
85Bolivia10,887,8821,25915.5
86Bosnia and Herzegovina3,516,81631815.7
87Nepal28,982,7722,00615.9
88Seychelles94,2281515.9
89Vanuatu270,402915.9
90Oman4,424,76269216.1
91Mongolia3,027,39848416.5
92Guatemala16,582,4692,05816.6
93Lao People’s Democratic Republic6,758,3531,08616.6
94Costa Rica4,857,27479516.7
95Honduras9,112,8671,40716.7
96Tonga107,1221816.8
97Armenia2,924,81626717.1
98Cook Islands17,379517.3
99Bhutan797,76512517.4
100Solomon Islands599,4191117.4
101Kazakhstan17,987,7362,62517.6
102Kuwait4,052,58442417.6
103Cambodia15,762,3701,85217.8
104Russian Federation143,964,51220,30818
105Lebanon6,006,66857618.1
106Tajikistan8,734,95142718.1
107United Arab Emirates9,269,61272518.1
108China1,411,415,37558,02218.2
109Colombia48,653,4207,15818.5
110Morocco35,276,7843,78519.6
111Brazil207,652,86438,65119.7
112Myanmar52,885,2244,88719.9
113Iran80,277,42415,93220.5
114Iraq37,202,5724,13420.7
115Ecuador16,385,0682,89421.3
116Nigeria185,989,6325,05321.4
117El Salvador6,344,7221,21522.2
118India1,324,171,392150,78522.6
119Paraguay6,725,3081,20222.7
120Tunisia11,403,2481,44322.8
121Mali17,994,83654123.1
122Gabon1,979,7865423.2
123Senegal15,411,61460423.4
124Angola28,813,4642,84523.6
125Côte d’Ivoire23,695,92099123.6
126Malaysia31,187,2647,15223.6
127Botswana2,250,26045023.8
128Jordan9,455,80275024.4
129Equatorial Guinea1,221,4904124.6
130Guyana773,30312824.6
131Mauritania4,301,01818424.7
132Ghana28,206,7281,80224.9
133Cabo Verde539,5604125
134Eritrea4,954,64513025.3
135Sudan39,578,8282,31125.7
136South Africa56,015,47214,07125.9
137Libya6,293,2532,41426.1
138Niger20,672,98897826.2
139Viet Nam94,569,0728,41726.4
140Comoros795,6012326.5
141Syrian Arab Republic18,430,45271426.5
142Ethiopia102,403,2004,35226.7
143Eswatini1,343,09820326.9
144Somalia14,317,99616527.1
145Congo5,125,82130827.4
146Benin10,872,29863727.5
147Sao Tome and Principe199,9102327.5
148Chad14,452,5431,12227.6
149Kenya48,461,5682,96527.8
150Guinea12,395,92445828.2
151Belize366,95410128.3
152Madagascar24,894,55234028.6
153Saudi Arabia32,275,6889,03128.8
154Lesotho2,203,82131828.9
155Uganda41,487,9643,50329
156Togo7,606,37451429.2
157United Republic of Tanzania55,572,2003,25629.2
158Gambia2,038,50113929.7
159Rwanda11,917,50859329.7
160South Sudan12,230,73013029.9
161Cameroon23,439,1881,87930.1
162Mozambique28,829,4761,37930.1
163Namibia2,479,71373130.4
164Burkina Faso18,646,43287830.5
165Malawi18,091,5761,12231
166Guinea-Bissau1,815,69812231.1
167Thailand68,863,51221,74532.7
168Central African Republic4,594,62119333.6
169Democratic Republic of the Congo78,736,15238533.7
170Venezuela31,568,1807,02833.7
171Dominican Republic10,648,7913,11834.6
172Burundi10,524,11711234.7
173Zimbabwe16,150,3621,72134.7
174Saint Lucia178,0151535.4
175Liberia4,613,82317535.9

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