The latest road casualty statistics published yesterday (7 August) show a year on year increase for the 12 months ending March 2014 – and a sharp hike in Q1 2014 casualties compared with Q1 2013.
Often quarterly increases can be attributed to weather patterns (heavy rain, snow, extreme cold etc) but in this instance the DfT says the reasons for the increases “aren’t fully clear”.
The year on year stats show a 4% increase in road deaths (1,750) and a 2% increase in KSIs (24,160) during the year ending March 2014. There were 189,880 casualties of all severities, 1% higher than the 188,884 for the year ending March 2013.
The overall KSI increase was due to a rise in pedal cyclist and motorcyclist KSIs which both increased by 7%.
Traffic levels increased by 3% in the same period which means the overall casualty rate per vehicle mile decreased by 2% for the same period.
Looking at Q1 2014 (Jan-Mar), there were 380 road deaths, a rise of 13% compared with Q1 2013. KSIs and slightly injured casualties also increased by 17% and 15% respectively. The overall casualty rate for all severities increased by 10%.
Both child casualties of all severities and child KSIs increased, by 21% and 17% respectively. Child pedestrian casualties and KSIs also increased, by 15% and 9% respectively.
Over the same period, traffic levels increased by 5.1%, and as a result, the casualty rate per billion vehicle miles increased for all casualty severities compared to the same period in 2013.
However, the DfT points out that Q1 2013 was the lowest quarter for casualties since detailed reporting began in 1979. Fatalities in Q1 2014 were still at their second lowest level and KSIs, slight injuries and total casualties at their third lowest level since detailed records began.
Commenting on the Q1 figures, the DfT bulletin says: “The first quarter of 2013 was very cold which may have reduced the numbers of vulnerable road users (particularly pedal cyclists and motorcyclists) on the road, reducing their exposure to accidents.
“In comparison, the first quarter of 2014 was milder and above average in temperature, despite heavy rain.
“2014 marked the third wettest January and February since records began and several areas in Great Britain experienced severe flooding. We might have expected the heavy rainfall to have reduced vulnerable road user activity during Q1 and thus suppress casualty numbers.
“However, given the large increases in casualties for all road user types in this quarter (particularly pedal cyclists and motorcyclists) it is reasonable to assume that the high rainfall did not have the expected impact. It’s also possible that had rainfall been lower in this quarter there could have been even more casualties and thus a larger increase on the same quarter in 2013.
“In conclusion, at this stage it is difficult to say what has caused the increases in the latest quarter on quarter and rolling year comparisons. However, as more 2014 data becomes available later in the year, we will get a clearer picture of the longer-term trend.”