Rear-end collisions have risen by 7% over the past three years, increasing the likelihood of motorists driving accident-damaged vehicles, according to new research by Accident Exchange.
These type of collisions now constitute for more than a third of all accidents, at an average cost of £2,150 for remedial work.
The increase comes despite the adoption of collision avoidance systems in some vehicles.
Due to the low speed nature of the majority of this type of accident, thousands of drivers could be unaware of underlying damage, mistaking potentially serious problems for minor cosmetic blemishes.
Fleet managers need to educate drivers about the possibility of more sinister problems beneath superficial damage and the importance of OEM-quality repairs.
The risk is that damage done by minor bumps is more than cosmetic and that the structural integrity of the vehicle may be compromised, despite not being visible.
Components at the front of the car such as the ‘crash box’ or airbag sensors, if damaged even at low speeds, can reduce the effectiveness of safety features.
Liz Fisher, director of sales development at Accident Exchange, said: “After almost any accident, it’s important that any damage is checked by a professional at an approved bodyshop because apparently light damage can hide a multitude of sins.
“Anecdotally, we have heard stories about some non-fault drivers who will settle privately and keep the insurance money rather than have repairs done.”
Under section 126 of the Highway Code, typically if a driver hits another vehicle in the rear, they will be at fault for the incident. However, there are exceptions to the rule. For example, if the driver in front changes lanes and immediately brakes, or slows down suddenly for no reason.
But, whatever the circumstances, dealers, bodyshops and fleet managers should make drivers aware that even low-speed accidents can cause unexpected damage.
Fisher continued: “The advent of better, more sophisticated safety technology on cars has certainly not yet eliminated low-speed accidents.
“For dealers, this is an opportunity because, if all vehicles are not being repaired as they should be after a crash, there must be a need to improve awareness among customers.”