Drivers pressured to take crash blame

Article date: 21 May 2008

  • New report reveals different crash reaction types and provides advice on dealing with an accident

One in five motorists (19%) who have been involved in a crash felt pressured by the other driver to take the blame, when in 71% of cases it wasn't actually their fault, according to new research out today.

The study by Norwich Union of 1,556 drivers also found that two in five (40%) respondents had suffered post-traumatic stress symptoms following a crash, including recurring memories (15%) and feelings of distress when recounting what had happened (17%), because they had mistakenly taken the blame.

One in three (32%) drivers don't know what to do in the event of a crash and now Norwich Union is urging motorists to be prepared for the eventuality of a crash in order to better deal with the stressful situation and not take the blame unnecessarily.

Leading driving behaviour expert Dr Cris Burgess, who developed the research with Norwich Union, comments: "It's normal to react differently to how you would usually in a high stress situation like a car crash, because when you're in shock your sense of logic and reason can be impaired. That's why it's so important to be as prepared as possible for a crash - the more you know, the better you'll be able to deal with the situation, whatever your feelings at the time."

To help British drivers deal with and respond to motor crashes more effectively, Dr Cris Burgess has identified four different ‘crash reaction' personality types based on insights from the research:

1. Arbiters

  • React calmly and confidently to crash situations
  • Tend to be older, more experienced drivers
  • Least likely to suffer from negative psychological effects following a crash
  • Most likely to correctly report details of the accident

2. Copers

  • Cope well overall but feel nervous and slightly hesitant about dealing with a crash
  • Tend to be older and more experienced drivers
  • Generally don't experience any negative psychological effects following a crash, but sometimes the stress can lead to them to take the blame if challenged

3. Doubtfuls

  • Normally these people are calm and in control, but the stress of being involved in a crash can cause these drivers to panic
  • Tend to be young, inexperienced drivers
  • Likely to take the blame for a crash despite not being at fault, leading to negative psychological effects such as post-traumatic stress

4. Hopefuls

  • Rely on and trust others involved in the crash to deal with the situation, hoping for the best
  • Tend to be young, inexperienced drivers
  • Likely to be responsible for a crash and feel pressured by the other driver(s) involved to take the blame, and suffer from negative psychological effects

Nigel Bartram at Norwich Union comments: "Our research shows that factors such as driving experience and gender can influence the way people react to a crash. So while it's impossible to predict your exact reaction to an accident, you can get a better understanding of how certain factors could influence the way you might behave and prepare yourself accordingly. This can be as simple as familiarising yourself with the correct procedures following a crash and keeping details of your insurer in your glove compartment."                                                                             

Norwich Union has developed the following advice to help motorists to deal with a crash situation:

  • First you need to remove yourself and passengers to a position of safety, especially if you're on a high speed road. The only exception to this is if damage appears to be minor but you feel threatened by the other driver, in which case you should stay locked in your vehicle until you feel it is safe to leave
  • Take a deep breath, sit down and try to deal with the situation as calmly as possible and don't admit liability If you can, get yourself a hot, sweet drink to help calm your nerves and check if you or anyone else are injured, in which case you should call emergency services. Do not attempt to drive on until you feel calm enough to do so
  • Call a friend or family member to tell them what has happened. You may be suffering from shock, in which case you could ask them to join you at the scene of the accident and/or drive you home
  • If you are the driver, the damage was minor and there was no injury to anyone, no offences committed, no animal involved and no roadside signage or devices damaged, simply exchange names and addresses with the other driver
  • Contact your car insurance company as soon as possible for the claim to be processed - if you're comprehensively insured, they will arrange for recovery of the vehicle and can offer advice on dealing with the situation
  • If you don't contact your insurer, you could risk the other driver reporting it to their insurer, which could result in you losing your no-claims discount, so it really is best to keep your insurer informed
  • In more serious accidents, you should:
    • Call an ambulance if someone has been injured
    • Get the registration number of the other vehicle as soon as possible in case the other driver leaves the scene
    • Call the police to attend immediately or report the matter in person to any police station as soon as possible and within 24 hours of the accident/incident
    • Exchange names and addresses with the other parties involved
    • Produce your car insurance certificate to the police within seven days
  • If possible, photograph the accident scene for insurance/police purposes

Nigel Bartram added: "Our advice to drivers involved in an accident is to remain calm. If you're unsure about what to do or feel confused by the situation, take time out and ask for help. Your insurer will have a dedicated team of experts on hand to offer advice and assistance to customers who have been involved in accidents, so if you are not clear about what you should do give them a call."

For drivers struggling to get back on the roads following an accident, driver confidence training is included as standard on all Norwich Union motor policies and is designed to help drivers gain confidence behind the wheel following a car accident. The two-hour driver confidence session is carried out by a professional instructor from Norwich Union's sister company, BSM.


Notes to editors:

Further findings from the report are available on request.

Figures relate to drivers who have been involved in a crash situation. 13% of drivers reported they were shocked or injured so were unable to recall how they reacted

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1,556 British drivers who drive. Fieldwork was undertaken between 14-17 March 2008.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

Press office contacts:
Sophie Lam, Lexis PR, 020 7908 6482 or
Emilie Lien, Lexis PR, 020 7908 6421 or
Erik Nelson, Norwich Union press office, 01603 682 264,

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