New research reveals the extent to which pressure to meet business targets post-recession is compromising road safety

• A fifth of business drivers* exceed the speed limit, and as many as one in ten drive through red lights to get to appointments on time or meet targets.
• Sales reps are the most dangerous business drivers, but van drivers are more likely to ignore vehicle faults and haulage drivers are not given enough time to sleep between shifts.
• Business drivers in Scotland are more likely to drive dangerously for work purposes than any other region.
• Men driving for work purposes are significantly more likely to drive dangerously than women.

New research released by RSA, the UK’s largest commercial insurer, reveals that a staggering one in four business drivers are being put under pressure to get to appointments on time and meet ambitious sales or delivery targets, leading to dangerous and in some cases illegal driving practices.

The study commissioned by RSA examines the extent to which businesses and their employees are turning a blind eye to road safety as they try to cope with increased pressure to perform post-recession. The findings show that a fifth of business drivers exceed the speed limit, while one in ten drive through red lights, undertake slow vehicles or drive when tired. In addition, as many as one in seven answer work calls while driving without using hands-free equipment, more than a third eat and drink on the move and a fifth smoke behind the wheel.

The study also questions the roadworthiness of some business vehicles. Almost a third of workers say they have driven with a blown light or faulty windscreen wipers, around a fifth have ignored a cracked windscreen – potentially impairing their vision – and more than one in ten have driven with a slow puncture.

With as many as a third of road traffic accidents involving someone driving for work, amounting to a £10 billion cost to the UK economy every year¹, dangerous driving while working is not just a serious safety issue but also a significant business, social and economic issue.

Commenting on the findings, Jon Hancock, Managing Director, Commercial at RSA, said: “This research demonstrates the frightening disregard for road safety that exists within some businesses and employees as the pressure to perform becomes more pronounced post-recession. Employers have a duty of care to ensure the legality of their vehicles as well as the safety of their drivers and, by extension, other road users, yet these findings suggest that due diligence is not being adhered to in all parts of the country or by all types of business drivers.

“Employers have a legal and a moral obligation to ensure that business vehicles are fit for purpose and that employees are fit to drive. Closer attention to road, vehicle and driver safety will not only reduce potentially fatal accidents, but also save businesses money on repairs and increased insurance premiums. The importance of implementing the right procedures and levels of protection should not be underestimated.”

The study highlights real variations between genders, UK regions and types of business drivers. Men are far more likely to engage in dangerous practices than women when driving for work – for instance, they are twice as likely as women to send emails while at the wheel.

Business drivers in Scotland are significantly more likely to be engaged in dangerous driving practices than elsewhere in Great Britain, with three quarters of Scots being pestered by work calls on the move and more than a third of these calls being answered without a hands-free kit.

Sales reps are the most dangerous business drivers. More than half eat and drink on the move, while a fifth juggle driving with checking text messages and calendar appointments on a mobile device. A third also openly admit to breaking the speed limit. In contrast, haulage drivers are the most responsible group surveyed; however more than a third say they are not given enough time to sleep between shifts, despite strict legislation governing statutory breaks.