Accidents Caused By Component Failure

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Whether we consider ourselves safe in the knowledge that our car has “only just” been through its MOT, or whether we spend every Sunday morning meticulously checking our vehicles ready for the week ahead, statistics still show that numerous car accidents are continually caused as a result of basic component failure. But how?

Types of component failure

You only have to take a quick glimpse at the publication entitled “Categorisation of Defects” published by the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency to see exactly how serious component failure can actually be. [1]

There can be very little doubt that driving a car is one of the riskier things many of us do each and every day of the week; ultimately resulting in thousands of fatal accidents across the UK. However, whilst official data might well put “driver error” as the leading cause of all accidents, vehicle defects can actually account for around 2.8% of all fatal road accidents – and here’s how:

Many motorists neglect to take care of their tyres

It perhaps goes without saying that tyres – on whatever type of vehicle we might prefer – are among the most hard-working and relied upon components. And yet they still receive little attention in terms of day-to-day upkeep.

According to the Department for Transport, poor tyre maintenance still continues to cause more car accidents on the UK’s roads than any other vehicle defect and in fact, during 2016 alone, led or contributed to more than 400 traffic collisions. [2] During the same year, of the 1,066 accidents which contributed solely to a given car defect, 446 of those were due to “illegal, defective or under-inflated tyres” – closely followed by faulty brakes, which accounted for 365 accidents involving cars alone.

So what can be learned from this?

Firstly, it seems there needs to be a general improvement when it comes to both awareness and the actual implementation of ensuring all tyres are fit for use. Whether this should be incorporated into driving lessons still remains a much-debated topic, but it seems that many of these incidents occur simply because the driver wasn’t aware that their tyres weren’t fit for purpose.

However, underinflated tyres quickly reduce a vehicle’s ability to grip the road properly and will also compromise on handling; particularly in wet weather conditions when braking distances are already reduced.

By the same token, over-inflated tyres are equally as dangerous since this means that they have a much smaller contact area with the road, thus resulting in an increased stopping distance and reduced grip.

To alleviate both of these situations, drivers and motorcyclists should check their tyres on a regular basis, either by using a portable hand-held device or simply stopping by at a local garage or service centre where these can literally be checked within minutes, thus providing at least some assurance that they’re doing what they should be.

All vehicles will have a ‘recommended tyre pressure’ which can either be found in the manufacturer’s handbook, inside the fuel cap, stamped on the drivers’ door, imprinted onto the tyre or even online by conducting a simple search. If the tyre pressure falls below the minimum requirement then you should simply add more air – or, if they’re considered to be over-inflated, slowly remove air through the valve cap by lightly pressing on the needle inside the valve. Many drivers find that, once they’ve done this just the once, it’s an incredibly easy thing to check. It’s simply a question of doing it.

Failure to react to car dash icons

Despite many motorists spending a little bit more when it comes to in-car road safety features, you’d probably be surprised to learn how few motorists then proceed to ignore basic safety warnings – usually with the only exception being the fuel gauge, since this is considered to be the “most important”.

Depending on the type of vehicle you have, safety features very often include tyre pressure monitoring systems, electronic stability control and so on. However, they all exist for a reason – not simply to be ignored or with all good intentions of ‘checking it later’. All too often, “later” is never achieved in the “here and now” – and that’s a fact.

Failure to maintain brakes

Already identified as being the second most likely type of component failure, brakes are very often overlooked until it’s quite literally too late and they fail altogether.

Both the hydraulic and mechanical components in braking systems have a very limited lifespan, so it’s essential that brake fluid levels are properly maintained – not to mention regular checks on the brake pads, shoes, discs and wheel cylinders. Should you have any concerns about your brakes whatsoever, then you should certainly have them checked by a local garage or service centre.

Defective lights and/or indicators

Because you can’t see your indicator lights from inside your vehicle, it’s important to give them a quick check every now and then – just to ensure that they’re working properly and/or aren’t flashing too quickly (which can often suggest a wider electrical issue).

Defecting steering and/or suspension

Certainly more common among older vehicles, common steering or suspension issues can often include either a shaking sensation or light vibrations which will be felt through the steering wheel. The vehicle may also feel as though it’s pulling to one specific side or can even make screeching noises. Should you encounter any of these, then it’s important to get it checked as soon as possible. Remember, of all your car’s components, the steering and suspension take some of the heaviest wear so you should never underestimate any initial signs that something might be wrong.


Although vehicle defects only account for a very small percentage of all road accidents they represent a considerable risk factor – and one you can easily reduce by simply taking better care of your car or vehicle.

Unfortunately, it’s a readily accepted fact that many motorists will simply assume that their vehicle’s OK purely because it passed its last MOT. However, that should never act as an indicator that there aren’t any underlying component problems – nor should it prevent you from doing very basic maintenance checks every now and then, just to make sure that’s everything in order.

Of course, not every motorist knows the in’s and out’s of their vehicle (whether intentionally or not) so, if in doubt, ask a professional and help keep both yourself – and other road users – safe and secure whilst out and about on Britain’s roads.


[1] Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency – Categorisation of Defects.

[2] Department for Transport –