Laws: Who’s Breaking What

A one-stop-shop for all your scofflaw argument needs.


The aim here is to present various percentage-based statements about who’s breaking which laws on the road (plus who’s indulging in which dangerous behaviours), backed up with references. I’ve tried to include only statistics which are derived from either (a) reasonably convincing research studies, (b) reasonably trustworthy evidence such as conviction rates and police data, or (c) “self-admission” surveys (ie those involving respondents confessing to their own behaviour, which are highly unlikely to overestimate non-compliance) – but, as with all statistics, handle with care. If you have any sense, you should realise that apparently similar phrasing below does not necessarily equate to directly comparable data once you look at the source.

If you know of further sources which can be added, please leave a comment; I’ll check it out, remove the comment, and replace it with an entry if it’s usable. Thanks.

Stopping at junctions

A note on red light jumping: most statistics do not account for the opportunity to jump lights. Two-wheeled vehicles (bicycles and motorbikes) have much greater opportunity, because they can filter; whilst full-lane-width vehicles must remain behind any which have not jumped the lights.

So, for instance, if 10% of cyclists jump lights when they all have opportunity to do so, then that may reasonably indicate that 10% of cyclists willingly jump lights. And if 14% of drivers admit to willingly jumping lights then, despite fewer drivers being observed jumping lights, this figure is arguably directly comparable with the 10% of observed cyclists, because for the majority of the time the drivers do not have the opportunity.

Hence in the vast majority of cases, where opportunity is not accounted for, the statistics distort the compliance picture in favour of full-width vehicles. For more discussion, see a Response to the IAM and  a Response to The LDTA.

Mobile phones and other devices


Drink and drugs

  • 7% of drivers admit to having driven whilst knowing or suspecting they were over the drink driving limitRAC Report on Motoring 2012

Other unsafe behaviours

Licensing, insurance and taxation

Commercial and corporate vehicles

Rejected sources

Data from the following sources have not been included because they are considered to be of particularly low quality; generally either highly distorted sample sets or partisan summaries of opaque data.


Thanks to the following for contributing links: Solihull Cyclist.

8 thoughts on “Laws: Who’s Breaking What

  1. Dave H (@BCCletts) 31 December 2013 / 10:38

    UK average 54% of drivers admit to driving on a footway, by admission that they park on a footway – a detail which can only be achieved by driving on a footway (RNIB survey by YouGov April 2013). Frustratingly whilst cyclists get pilloried for the same offence (HA 1835 s.72 / R(Sc)A 1988 s.129(5)) and hit with FPN’s no one is after the car drivers.

    HGV’s have stronger legislation RTA 1988 s.19 which specifically prohibits parking on verges and footways, and GLA also has footway parking legislation for London.

  2. Geoff Hickman (@steppenjiff) 24 July 2014 / 10:31

    I can’t help with additionall sources for data, but I’ve got loads of anecdotes from me and my mates based on our pre-existing biased beliefs if that’s any good?
    Am I on the right Blog?

  3. James 21 November 2014 / 19:08

    I’d be tempted to reject or heavily caveat some of the commercial vehicle stats – they probably aren’t from random samples, but from targeted roadside inspections: 70% of vehicles that looked dodgy to a trained VOSA inspector, turned out to be dodgy. In particular, not sure how 89% can be overloaded if (simplistically) half of journeys involve empty vehicles returning from a job.

    • Bez 24 November 2014 / 09:11

      Fair points.

  4. rdrf 25 February 2015 / 23:44

    Speed figures: Most of you (very high) figures are for some speeding, even if regular of often that isn’t all the time, and otherwise you have one road. Generally you need to look at percentiles: the kind of figure you would get is that when drivers can peed (it doesn’t apply when congestion stops them) you have something like 40% doing so in 30 mph areas. So it is a high figure, but not as high as the ones you quote. As Andy R points out, the official DfT figures are better on this.

    Unregistered (non VED paying and not 3rd party insured): This is a lot higher than 0.6%. In London it is about 5 – 10%, nationally around 5%. Of course nobody knows because , er, the drivers are unregistered.

    There are figures of about 2% for those who can’t see properly or who don’t use their glasses.

    James is right about the figures in targeted checks, which will inevitably be a higher proportion than in the total population of HGVs.

    But I think gathering these figures is a very good idea if you can do this more tightly and update.

    • Bez 26 February 2015 / 07:28

      Yes, it’s carefully phrased but perhaps not noticeably so: if 83% of people regularly break the limit, that doesn’t mean they’re doing so all the time. For instance, years ago I used to regularly drive at 80 on motorways, but would stick to the speed limit elsewhere. I’d have been one of those 83%, but much less than 83% of my driving would have been above the speed limit.

      The figure is really more one of who has a lax attitude to the law (ie people in general, it’s just that different vehicles cause this to be manifested differently) rather than how prevalent a certain misdemeanour is in a certain location (though inferences about the former can be made from the latter).

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