DfT annual report confirms rise in UK road casualties

12.00 | 24 September 2015 | | 6 comments
The number of road deaths, seriously injured and total casualties all increased year-on-year in 2014, the DfT has today (24 Sept) confirmed in its annual report on road casualties.
The headline figures match those first announced in June and show 1,775 fatalities on the UK roads in 2014, an increase of 4% (62 deaths) compared to 2013. The DfT points out that this is still the third lowest year on record, behind 2012 and 2013, and says the increase is ‘not statistically significant’.
Reported Road Casualties Great Britain: annual report 2014 confirms that the number of people seriously injured in collisions reported to the police rose by 5% to 22,807 in 2014 – the first rise in serious injuries since 1994. 
There was a total of 194,477 reported casualties in 2014, up 6% from 2013 – the first rise in overall casualties since 1997.
The report points out that traffic levels in 2014 were 2.4% higher than in 2013, which could in part account for the  increase in collisions and casualties.
Almost three-quarters of the increase in fatalities were pedestrians. There were 446 pedestrian fatalities in 2014, up 12% (48 deaths) from 2013. 
There was also a significant rise in the number of cyclists seriously injured, from 3,143 to 3,401. This number has been increasing almost every year since 2004.
The report also examines contributory factors to reported road accidents, the most common of which was drivers failing to look properly, named in 44% of collisions. This factor has remained the most frequently occurring since 2005, when contributory factors were first introduced.
The contributory factor ‘loss of control’ was reported in 32% of fatal collisions in 2014.
The impact of the weather on casualty statistics is also evaluated in the report. 
2014 was the warmest year on record which, according to the report, often encourages extra trips, thereby increasing exposure. It was also one of the wettest on record with 175mm more rainfall than the Long Term Average (LTA), heightening the risk during travel.
The report estimates that had the weather in 2014 been closer to the LTA there would have been 43 fewer fatalities during the year. 
The report also includes drink drive estimates for 2013, which we covered in a news report in August 2015
The report states that 6.2% of drivers said that they had probably driven while over the legal alcohol limit and 0.9% of drivers thought that they had driven under the influence of illegal drugs. Neither figure is significantly different from those reported in the previous year.
The report also says in comparison with other countries, the UK remains one of the world leaders in terms of road safety, and its rate for child fatalities is well below the European average. 
The trend across Europe is similar, with a number of countries seeing increases in fatalities during 2014. 
The recent ETSC (European Transport Safety Council) 2015 PIN report identified 13 countries – including the UK, Sweden, Germany, France and Ireland – where road fatalities increased in 2014.


“We understand the need to compare figures year-on-year, but looking at figures over a three year average is a more robust statistical approach; especially when drilling down to smaller numbers associated with individual road user groups. It will be more concerning if the increase continues in future years. We agree that factors such as the economy, the weather, fuel prices and funding are likely to have played a part in the increase. Going forward more money has been provided to Highways England, which will allow safety improvements to continue to be made on motorways and strategic roads, but for local authorities the pressure is on to balance the books in terms of road safety spending. Local councils are responsible for most of this country’s roads, including the rural roads with the higher rates of collisions and casualties. Councils are having to make tough decisions across all areas and there is no doubt that there has been and will continue to be less money for road safety engineering improvements on the majority of roads and also for our Road Safety GB members involved in road safety education.”
James Gibson, director of communications, Road Safety GB

“To claim, as the DfT has done, that a 4% rise in fatalities is ‘not statistically significant’ is an outrage. Try telling that to the relatives and friends of the 1,775 people who lost their lives. To blame the increase on a rise in traffic levels is a monstrous abrogation of responsibility. The worst year for road deaths in this country was 1941, when traffic levels were just a fraction of what they are today. The Government needs to face up to its responsibilities and accept that a strong, robust lead in road safety is now a pressing priority.”
David Williams MBE, GEM chief executive

“As our economy improves, we can expect traffic levels to continue to increase, so we must do everything we can to make sure this does not lead to even more increases in road crashes and casualties. The reductions in road death and injury in recent years will not automatically be sustained, without a continued commitment to road safety. We must remain focussed on making our roads safer for everyone, and especially for people travelling on foot and by two wheels. The number of pedestrian fatalities involving those over 60 has increased by 16%, together with a 7% increase in car occupants. With an aging population we must renew our efforts to reverse this phenomenon. It is estimated that between 240 and 340 people were killed in Great Britain when at least one driver was over the drink-drive limit. We must renew our efforts to highlight the dangers of drink driving.”
Nick Lloyd, road safety manager at RoSPA

“These figures are very worrying, especially the fact that driver behaviour remains the top cause of crashes. We are clear on what needs to be done here. We call again for road safety targets to be reintroduced – they are an internationally recognised way of ensuring reductions are measured and achieved. There also must be a greater focus on driver and rider quality and incentives for companies and individuals to continuously develop their skills. There also needs to be a focus on tackling pedestrian deaths, an area which is often ignored. We believe that car technology and design should now shift from occupant protection to protecting the vulnerable outside cars. We also need better pedestrian facilities to segregate traffic and vulnerable users where speeds are high, and campaigns to educate pedestrians themselves as they are most often at fault in crashes.”
Neil Greig, IAM director of policy and research

“We should be under no illusions as to the seriousness of these figures. The government needs to get a grip of this situation, and it can start by reintroducing ambitious casualty reduction targets, with an ultimate aim of reducing deaths and serious injuries on our roads to zero. The increases in serious casualties among pedestrians and cyclists are especially horrifying, given the importance of protecting vulnerable road users and enabling people to walk and cycle more."
Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake

“Whilst we are pleased to see continued KSI casualty reductions across the London region, we are concerned by the national rise in KSI casualties.  We urge the Government, regional and local authorities to make road safety an urgent priority to avoid further rises in casualty numbers.  After all, when DfT calculations show that each prevented road fatal casualty has a value of over £1.8 million and each seriously injured casualty, over £200,000 it makes reductions in road safety budgets completely nonsensical.”
Councillor Wendy Brice-Thompson, chairman, LRSC


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    Re your comment “…this (eradicating SMIDSY’s) could be easily achieved in a relatively short space of time..” Could you outline for the benefit of the Dft, or other appropriate authorities, what the ‘easy solution’ is please, so it may be passed on to them as soon as possible?

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    While it is important to recognise that the £1.7m figure is not the actual cost associated with a road fatality (which it is often misquoted as being), it is also important to acknowledge that the willingness to pay approach far better reflects the overall societal value of prevention and is therefore more appropriate to use for the cost-benefit analysis of interventions.

    Matt Staton, Cambridgeshire
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    Thanks, Honor, for confirming the adverse effects of targets in hospitals and policing. I have no doubt that they did in other policy areas too.

    While I agree with much of the rest of your comment I am not aware of any identifiable causal link between targets and REAL outcomes in road safety. I say REAL because (as you must be aware) official KSI numbers met the 2010 target of a 40% reduction only because (as the DfT confirmed* towards the end of that period) SI reporting levels fell by 28% from 1 in 2.7 to 1 in 3.7. That the 3% pa average compound fall in fatalities – by far the most reliable parameter, for obvious reasons) from 1972 to 1994 slowed to 1% pa from 1994 to 2006 is hardly a ringing endorsements of targets. Equally, the 37% fall in K from 2007 to 2010, a surely unprecedented 10% pa compound during the worst of the depression, tends to confirm Al Gullon’s analysis that recessions reduce K by far more than the fall in traffic volume.

    One more point – the cost of fatality to the state in hard cash is a few tens of thousands of pounds not £.17m. Please stop pretending that spending large sums of money on road safety will pay for itself in cash terms – however desirable the outcome, it costs money in cash terms and for that reason should always be compared in cost effectiveness terms with other ways of spending that money.

    Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield
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    Maybe our problem is that we are trying to fix all the problems at once rather than fixing them one at a time. By trying to do everything at once, valuable resources become stretched until they no longer have any effect on the outcomes. Why not set out to eradicate the SMIDSY first as that is an accident type that plagues both cyclists and motorcyclists? Given a budget of £1.8 million (the price of a life) this could be easily achieved in a relatively short space of time. The lessons learnt from that eradication programme could then be applied to the next problem and so on until they are all solved.

    This would also have the benefit to the industry of squeezing more resources out of central Government as the more intractable problems will require greater efforts than some of the simpler ones.

    Duncan MacKillop. No surprise – No accident.
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    Economic downturns do impact on road collision and casualty figures and so do the subsequent upturns. Whether that fully explains the increases in this year’s data it is too soon to say.

    Idris is correct about the effect that setting targets had within some hospitals and also in policing. However, the setting of targets in reducing road casualties was a, largely unsung, success and is an example of how targeted and ring fenced funding combined with challenging targets can cut though the many other political and practical demands to make a real difference.

    For just a very few years, 2007-2011, significant, funding was available to be directed at a mix of road safety infrastructure, education and enforcement work which preceded the economic crash of 2008-09.

    Casualty prevention, engineering benefits and behavioural changes are mainly medium to long term programmes that should not be expected show an effect within weeks or months or even the first year. We should also take a more holistic approach to deliver and assess the benefits of coordinated education, engineering and enforcement investment focussed on specific issues or routes not just by assessing each element by itself.

    The short-term nature of politics has meant that, unless they are part of very large scale schemes, these kinds of programmes are most often cast aside or never get going because they are not likely to show enough results before the next electoral round. The huge benefit of the Road Safety Grant system was that it over-rode that short term calendar and enabled investment in longer term works and larger programmes to take place.

    With reducing budgets and increasing demand from communities for safety issues to be addressed, agencies must work together in partnership – as per the recent re-launch in Essex. We will get better value from this combined approach than from each agency working in isolation.

    Honor Byford, Chair, Road Safety GB
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    We had unprecedented reductions during the recession and what we are seeing now is merely a normal correction as the economy recovers – and by far more than the increase in traffic alone could account for.

    However the very large increase in cycling clearly contributes to those casualties.

    Yet again we see calls for “targets” – do those people still not realise what happened in hospitals subjected to them? The books were cooked, A&E patients admitted as in-patients to score points on 4 hour waiting times and all the other malpractices? Targets? Bah!

    Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield
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