While road safety organisations have expressed concern and disappointment that road deaths and serious injuries rose in 2011, the Association of British Drivers (ABD) has cautioned against a ‘knee-jerk reaction’.
The DfT report, ‘Reported Road Casualties 2011’, shows that the number of people killed in road collisions increased by 3%, from 1,850 in 2010 to 1,901 in 2011. The number of people killed or seriously injured (KSI) also increased by 2%, from 24,510 in 2010 to 25,023 in 2011.
Car occupant fatalities (883) increased by 6%; pedestrian fatalities (453) increased by 12%; and the number of cyclists seriously injured in road collisions (3,058) increased by 16%.
However, the total number of casualties in road accidents reported to the police fell by 2%, from 208,648 in 2010 to 203,950 in 2011; total reported child casualties fell by 0.5%, to 19,474 in 2011; the number of children killed or seriously injured decreased by 4%, to 2,412 in 2011; and the number of cyclist and motorcyclist fatalities fell by 4% and 10% respectively.
Alan Kennedy, chair of Road Safety GB, said: “These casualty figures are very disappointing indeed. In recent years we have seen a steady reduction in casualties, which reached an all time low in 2010. It is clear that the removal of vital funding for education, training and publicity messages is having a direct impact on our ability to influence road user behaviour.
“It is very important to have a safe road network and safer vehicles that will help to protect road users, and a strong enforcement policy; but if lack of funding prevents us from working with road users to change their attitude and behaviour, we will continue to see an unacceptable number of road casualties. The Government should get a clear message from these latest figures and reconsider its stance on investment in road safety.”
Robert Gifford, executive director of PACTS, said “These are extremely disappointing results after two years of substantial falls in deaths and injuries. They are a demonstration of the concern that all of us have expressed about the lack of leadership, priority and resources given to road safety by the current Government.
“This is the first time that deaths have risen since 2003 and serious injuries since 1994. They also occur at a time of no change in terms of the amount of traffic. For deaths to begin to rise at a time of recession should be a matter of concern to the Government.
“Ministers should see these figures as a wake-up call to review the impact of the Strategic Framework published in May 2011 on the provision of road safety at a local level and on the priority given to roads policing. They should now enter a genuine dialogue with the profession about a vision for road safety for the next decade.”
Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at RoSPA, said: “After a long period of deaths falling year on year, we are very disturbed that they have risen. We are concerned that this may be the end of the downwards trend in people being killed on our roads.
“RoSPA is concerned that reduced public spending on road safety, especially cuts to local authority and road policing budgets, may be partly to blame. The Government and the road safety profession needs to urgently get together to understand why road deaths have now started to rise. It is crucial that the Government demonstrates strong leadership by examining what more it can do to help local authorities, the police and other bodies involved in road safety to refocus and reinvigorate their services.”
Simon Best, IAM chief executive, said: “It is unacceptable that road deaths and serious injuries rose last year, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists who saw the greatest rises. Road accidents usually drop during an economic recession, so this rise after continuous reductions over the last 10 years, is particularly concerning.
“Ministers should take this as a serious warning. Cutting road safety education, scrapping casualty targets, and reductions in local authority spending all suggest that road safety isn’t a major priority for this Government.”
DCC Suzette Davenport, ACPO lead for roads policing, said: “The rise in the number of those killed or seriously injured on our roads is disappointing (but) it should be remembered that the UK’s roads continue to be amongst the safest in Europe. A recent report by the European Transport Safety Council states that the UK is the safest EU country for road use.
“There is always work that can be done to make our roads safer. ACPO is looking to build on the approach already in place to continue to work with partners to use enforcement based on the professional judgment and discretion of police officers. We will focus on an intelligence lead approach to ensure appropriate enforcement, education and engineering which all help to influence driver behaviour, and help to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads."
Brian Gregory, ABD chairman, warned against a knee-jerk reaction, saying: “It is very easy to jump to conclusions that this is all about turning off cameras. However, all the evidence from areas where this has occurred has shown little overall change and in some cases less casualties.
“In a recession, many factors could be present. For example an increase in pedestrian and cycling casualties could simply be down to more people walking and cycling due to the cost of driving.
“Whilst we would welcome an increase in the road safety budget it is vital that it is spent in the most productive areas. We must have a proper and above board analysis before any decisions are made.”
Dr Joanne Marden, director of the Road Safety Foundation, said: “Now, as things stabilise, we must get safety policies back on track. For drivers, that means tackling hard core drinkers, excessive speeding and those not wearing seat belts.
“For vehicles, it means continuing the introduction of safety features in 4 and 5 star cars and accelerating the adoption of technologies such as electronic stability control and emergency brake assistance that help drivers avoid crashes.
“On the roads, it means persuading authorities to recognise the long term benefits of investing to bring single carriageway ‘A’ roads up to at least 3-star safety standards by 2020, following the lead of Sweden and the Netherlands.”
Click here to download the DfT report.