How Vehicle Defects Can Cause Car Accidents – and How They Can Be Avoided

Car crash dangerous accident on the road. SUV car crashing beside another one on the road.

The Department for Transport (DfT) reported that there were 38.8 million licensed vehicles on Great Britain’s roads as of September 2020. With so many of us getting behind the wheel on a regular basis, it’s a sad inevitability that accidents will happen.

Thankfully, the number of fatalities has fallen from 3,221 in 2004 to 1,752 in 2019, but there is always more that can be done to improve safety and protect the wellbeing of all drivers, riders, cyclists and pedestrians.

Some accidents can occur as a result of reckless behaviour or driving under the influence, and anyone who suffers in the aftermath may have grounds to make a claim for compensation through specialist personal injury solicitors. Other collisions may be due to conditions such as fog, snow or ice, while there are also plenty of examples of those that are caused by vehicle defects. But just how many fall into that latter category? How do they happen? And what can road users do to reduce the chances of it happening to them?

How many car accidents are caused by vehicle defects?

In 2018, there were 1,329 road accidents in Great Britain that were caused by vehicle defects. These were categorised as follows:

  • Brakes: 521
  • Tyres: 459
  • Steering and suspension: 200
  • Lights and indicators: 139
  • Mirrors: 10

Of those accidents, 42 resulted in fatalities while a further 308 were classed as serious. 

How do vehicle defects cause accidents?

  • As the numbers show, brakes are the most common vehicle defect and can be extremely dangerous – data from the DfT reveals they contributed to 3,894 accidents in Britain between 2013 and 2018. If the brakes are not working properly, drivers may be unable to stop in time and in some cases they may be powerless to slow the vehicle at all.
  • Tyres contributed to the highest number of fatalities (17) among all vehicle defects in 2018. Flat or underinflated tyres can make a car difficult to control, while blowouts at high speed can be extremely dangerous.
  • Problems with steering and suspension can mean a driver is unable to guide their car away from hazards or other vehicles, which puts both them and other road users at risk.
  • If one or more mirrors is broken or left at the wrong angle then a driver may not be able to assess their surroundings correctly, which in turn could cause grave misjudgements in manoeuvring.
  • Any defects with lights and indicators might mean that the driver is struggling to see where they are going, while other road users may not be alerted in time to their presence or any turns they are about to make.

How can drivers reduce the chances of an accident caused by a defect?

There are a few simple maintenance checks that all road users can carry out before they get behind the wheel:

  • Check your brakes on a regular basis to ensure they are working correctly. It’s recommended that the pads are changed every 10,000 miles and the fluid every 25,000 miles.
  • Assess the tread and pressure of your tyres to ensure they meet the required standards. Practice changing a tyre so that you won’t be caught out during a journey.
  • Be alert to any changes in how your steering and suspensions feels or sounds. If any problems do arise, book your car into the garage immediately.
  • Ahead of every journey, check that all your mirrors are undamaged and are set at the correct angle to give you a full view of your surroundings.
  • Ask a friend or family member to walk around the vehicle and confirm that all lights and indicators are working properly when you turn them on.
Alicia Baker
Alicia is a Canadian writer whose enthusiasm for cultural and automotive are combined in her writing. Her background includes links to insurance, finance, and automotive safety.