Official figures mask true road risk: Road Safety Analysis

12.00 | 1 November 2012 | | 6 comments

Road Safety Analysis has published a new report which shows that “the way official figures are presented disguises how recent road safety performance differs significantly across the country”.

The DfT’s performance measures, known as Key Outcome Indicators, were first published in 2011 as part of the Strategic Framework for Road Safety. Road Safety Analysis says that concerns were raised at the time that these were not sufficiently reliable measures to show how performance was changing at a local level.

Road Safety Analysis’ new report, National Road Safety; Performance & Progress, looks at the level of risk experienced by road users around the country and measures the level of risk experienced by residents in every local authority nationwide. The report reveals that many authorities who appear to be doing well according to the official measures are performing poorly when the figures are examined in greater detail.

For example, 14 London boroughs feature in a list of the 20 poorest-performing local authorities in the country when compared to the national average. The districts that are witnessing the best improvement nationwide are spread across Scotland, Wales, the North West and the Midlands.

To assist those interested in seeing how a particular area of the country is performing, Road Safety Analysis has also published a set of interactive charts showing comparative performance by local authority.

Richard Owen, director of Road Safety Analysis, said: “At a time when the DfT is relying on public pressure or local politics to be the driving force for improvement in road safety, it is remarkable that almost 90% of those injured on the roads are ignored in the official local performance figures.

“Furthermore, the primary measure used by the DfT to assess risk rates does not appear to allow true, meaningful comparisons to be made on a nationwide basis.

“In order to avoid this pitfall, road safety professionals, service managers and council members (both in office and opposition) need to make reliable judgements on local performance. Therefore, high quality comparative performance data is the key requirement for policy makers and practitioners if they are to place local priorities in context.”

Click here to download a full copy of the report and the interactive charts, or for more information contact Dan Campsell on 01296 731810.


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    As stated on page 4 of the report we use the national STATS19 data. Under-reporting is of course a problem with analysis based on anything other than fatal crashes as it has long been acknowledged that the reported figures in STATS19 are only a small percentage of all injuries on the roads. Our analysis looks beyond KSI casualties and considers those with ‘slight injuries’ meaning we have much more information to work with than even the HES dataset. It isn’t necessary to know the true number of injuries to establish local and regional patterns and the millions of records used in our report is more than sufficient.

    Your question about Slough residents crashing in Birmingham is a good one. Of course, the number of Slough residents who are injured on the roads of Birmingham is very small (MAST puts the figure at 5 since 2004) but it is important to know how the work you do locally affects your residents’ road risk. Around 2 in 5 local residents are injured outside their area and understating this distribution enables a greater insight into risk and encourages cross-border working. Concentrating on those injured on ‘your’ roads lead to a more myopic picture of road safety; although it is of course relevant to engineering.

    I have conducted many analyses over recent years that have identified clear trends with residents from one area crashing in another which poses questions about the most effective way to change behaviour. For example, if you were managing a motorcycle campaign in order to ‘target’ those most at risk you need to know where they are from and if only say 40% of the motorcyclists injured on your roads come from your area you need to carefully consider how to carry out your road safety interventions. A good example of how to do this effectively is which has been highly praised for its use of analysis on constructing the campaign and carefully considers cross-border movements.

    We offer training courses to road safety professionals on how to better understand their data and have delivered this service to hundreds of people over the last few year. For more information visit our website

    Richard Owen, Banbury
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    May I thank Richard and Dan for clearing that up and also congratulate RSA on the 2 opening paragraphs on “National Signposts 2012”. They are exactly what I have been saying for years, especially “…high quality comparative performance data is the key requirement…”.

    May I ask, when I look at Slough, is that the casualty rate taken from Police figures? And is it for Slough residents on all roads in GB? If I am injured while in Birmingham, how does that help Slough BC to evaluate their road safety projects?

    Due to the significant under-reporting of casualties in Police figures, surely the real numbers (and the actual costs) in road safety should be calculated from hospital figures? Is it that data from that source might violate privacy that it cannot be used?

    Dave Finney – Slough
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    There’s no need to purchase any of the local reports Dave, you can download the national report from the website:

    We tried to keep the report reasonably concise but it does take 20 minutes or so to go through it.

    We will be at the RSGB National Road Safety Conference and will be more than happy to talk through the results with delegates.

    Richard Owen, Banbury
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    The issue is that the Key Outcome Indicators (KOIs) that are presented in Annex B of the Strategic Framework for Road Safety are based on KSI numbers.

    As KSIs represent only 12% of casualties, this means that the vast majority of the data is not observed in the national performance framework.

    The effect this has is that some local authorities, particularly those which are densely urban, have a low proportion of injury collisions that would be measured in these KOIs.

    So its not that we are suggesting under reporting rates of 90%, what the report highlights is that among the weaknesses of the Outcomes Framework is a failure to make use of nearly 90% of data that is available and regarded as a worthy of being approved as a national statistical set.

    For a more detailed understanding of our thoughts on appropriate KOIs you can see our submission to the TSC last year

    Hope that helps.

    Dan Campsall, Banbury
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    I think that RSA are referring to the DfT public comparison website that is under development and are suggesting that a wider data set should be issued for that comparison to be made. I don’t think they are saying that 90% of casualties are not taken into account in Local Highways Authority collision data analysis – this is certainly not the case. Perhaps RS Analysis would elaborate?

    Honor Byford, North Yorkshire
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    I’d like to know how “almost 90% of those injured on the roads are ignored in the official local performance figures”. We know that the DfT have estimated that total injuries are around 3.5 times the number recorded by Police and that makes around 70% not reported.

    Are RSA presenting new evidence of even lower reporting figures than already estimated, and where has this information come from?

    This is potentially very important information, especially if it is reliable enough to base policy decisions on, although obviously I can’t afford to purchase the RSA product to find out.

    Dave Finney – Slough
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