NORTH-East motorists using their vehicles for business are more likely to be in a crash than drink drivers, a new study has found.

One in five road accidents in the region have involved people who were driving for work during the last five years, compared to one in 20 involving someone driving while over the alcohol limit.

Road Safety GB North East is launching its Driving Down Your Risk campaign today (January 27) and is warning businesses that they could be prosecuted if they neglect their employer responsibilities.

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The group revealed that between 2008 and 2012, 7,778 people were involved in collisions in the region while they were on a journey for work.

During that period, there were 6,402 collisions involving business travel, which resulted in the death of 74 drivers and riders, the serious injury of 748 people and the slight injury of 8,262.

The figures do not include drivers of public service vehicles.

Casualty numbers are highest during the autumn and winter months, with the majority happening Monday to Friday and peaking after 8am.

Alan Kennedy, Road Safety Manager at Durham County Council, said employers, as well as drivers, had to take responsibility for road safety.

He said: “Motorists need to watch their speed and must give themselves ample time to reach their destination.

“However, businesses have a duty of care to their staff to make sure they have enough time to reasonably get to appointments, have sufficient stop breaks and are not discussing business on the phone whilst driving, and are not suffering stress.”

Mr Kennedy also suggested businesses take advantage of a free driving course for employees who drive, entitled Safety and Fuel Efficient Driving (SAFED), which is funded by the Local Sustainable Transport Fund and may be obtained through local authorities.

Newton Aycliffe-based manufacturing company Husqvarna has already sent its drivers on the course and said it is already seeing improvements with staff cutting fuel costs by driving more efficiently.

Paul Mather, Health and Safety and Risk Manager at Husqvarna, said: “We all felt it was beneficial and driving has become less stressful as a result.

“It is a free course, so what have businesses got to lose – they can save money and relax in the knowledge that they are doing something to reduce the risks to their drivers.”

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