Progress in cutting death and injury on UK roads over the past five years has “varied dramatically”, with big national and regional variations, according to new analysis published by the RAC Foundation, PACTS and Road Safety Analysis.
The figures, revealed in an interim report, show KSI casualty reductions in the period 2010-13, compared with the 2005-9 average. The figures show that while the UK average KSI reduction during the period is -23%, the figures for London (-36%), Northern Ireland (-35%) and Scotland (-33%) are much higher, while in Wales the KSI reduction is lower at -15%.
The authors say that while the report highlights the dramatic differences between geographical areas, the figures “hide a flattening out of the overall downward trend” with the biggest KSI reductions occurring in 2010.
The report shows that while car occupant safety has improved markedly, casualty reduction progress among pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists has been less impressive. Although deaths among these road user groups have declined they are now a larger proportion of all road deaths, rising from 46% in 2005-9 to 49% in 2013. In addition, the absolute number of cyclists seriously injured has risen.
The final version of the report, titled Road Safety Since 2010, will be published in the summer after the 2014 casualty data has been released.
As well as examining official casualty data, the researchers conducted surveys and interviews with stakeholders, including 34 English local authorities, which demonstrated “just how varied road safety policy has become across the UK since 2010”.
In Northern Ireland, road safety is a fully devolved matter; in Scotland while road safety is not fully devolved, Holyrood has powers to set national speed limits and the drink drive limit. In contrast, very few road safety powers have been devolved to the Welsh Government.
Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “The UK risks breaking apart in terms of road safety policy with different administrations having varying levels of power, funding and political will to deal with death and injury on the highways.
“Overall, many fewer people were killed and injured on the roads at the end of the last Westminster parliament than at the beginning. But given the flattening out of casualty figures, a probable increase in casualties in 2014, and a predicted increase in road traffic, it is important that national, regional and local governments review these trends, and share best practice to learn what is, and what isn’t, working.
“Tens of millions of road users have a right to know that that their safety is regarded equally wherever in the UK they travel. They would also expect similar rules to apply whichever side of a border they are on.
“The last Westminster government was hemmed in by economic constraints which extended to road safety. It also decided against setting national road safety targets, arguing they were bureaucratic and ignored local priorities. However many of the professionals interviewed for this report say the lack of targets has pushed road safety down the priority list.
“We would like to see more cross-departmental interest in road safety. At Westminster road safety has traditionally been a matter for the DfT but other departments have crucial roles.
“Given that the NHS is left to pick up the pieces and much of the bill for crashes then health ministers should also be calling for the matter to rise up the political agenda.”