The DfT has published figures confirming there was a 17% fall in the number of road fatalities during 2020 – a trend which can be associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.
The figures, published on 30 September, show there were 1,460 reported road deaths in 2020 – compared to the 1,752 reported in 2019.
There were slightly larger reductions in the number of people killed or seriously injured (down 22% to 23,529) and casualties of all severities (down 25% to 115,584).
The reduction in road traffic followed a similar trend in the same period and decreased by 21%.
The DfT acknowledges that the casualty statistics for 2020 are impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and associated travel restrictions.
Road casualties saw the greatest monthly percentage decrease of 68% in April 2020 compared to three-year average for 2017 to 2019. This aligns with the first full month of national lockdown and the reduction in motor traffic (63%).
One of the key questions is what this means for casualty rates.
The overall casualty rate saw a small decrease in 2020, which the DfT suggests shows ‘a correlation between road traffic and road casualties’.
While seriously and slightly injured casualty rates decreased by 2% and 6%, respectively, fatality rates differed to the overall trend and increased by 5%
Casualties by road user type
In 2020, there was a shift in travel behaviours brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The National Travel Attitudes Study reported 79% of survey respondents used buses less when comparing travel before and during the pandemic. For the same period, 34% of respondents reported they were cycling more.
This could explain why the reduction in casualties varied by road user type. There were smaller reductions for pedal cyclist casualties (3%), and larger reductions for bus occupants (51%) and pedestrian casualties (32%).
Looking specifically at pedal cyclists, traffic increased by 46% in 2020, compared to the overall traffic reduction of 21% previously stated.
This means compared to other road users, pedal cyclist casualty rates saw a greater reduction of 34%.
Meanwhile, there was a 16% increase in other vehicle occupant casualties in 2020. The DfT says this may be linked to the increase in vehicles classified in this group, for example e-scooters.
Statistics also published by the DfT on 30 September show there were 484 casualties in collisions involving e-scooters in 2020, of which 384 were e-scooters users.