Road deaths ‘broadly flat’ since 2010

10.27 | 27 September 2018 | | 18 comments

A total of 1,793 people were killed on roads in Great Britain during 2017 – meaning the number of road deaths has remained largely unchanged since 2010.

The 2017 figure, published today (27 Sept) by the DfT, is one death more than in 2016 (1,792) – making it the highest annual figure since 2011.

Road safety stakeholders have greeted the 2017 stats with a mix of concern and criticism aimed at the Government for the lack of progress since 2010 (see foot of article).

The DfT figures also show that at 24,831 people were seriously injured in 2017; however, the DfT points out that this figure is not comparable to earlier years due to changes in casualty reporting methods, introduced in 2016.

The DfT acknowledges that the new system is more accurate, and has resulted in a significant increase in the number of serious injuries recorded in both 2017 and 2016 (24,101) – compared with 2015 (22,144).

In contrast, the total number of road casualties fell in 2017 – down 6% to 170,993.

In terms of road user type, pedestrian deaths rose by 5% to 470 in 2017. The 2017 figure is also 11% above the 2010-14 average of 424.

Motorcycle deaths also increased – up 9% to 349.

However, there were falls in the number of cyclists killed – down 1% to 101 – and the number of car occupants killed – down 4% to 787.

Looking at age, the number of fatalities aged between 17-24 years decreased by 7% in 2017 – down from 299 in 2016 to 279. The DfT says this ‘follows a general year-on-year downward trend’ for this age group.

However, the number of fatalities aged 60 years and over increased by 5% to 559 (from 533 in 2016). The DfT says this was driven by the number of pedestrian casualties in 2017 (216 compared to 186 in 2016).

How have road safety stakeholders reacted?
Reaction to the 2017 statistics comprises a mix of concern and criticism, with a number of road safety stakeholders condemning the lack of progress made since 2010.

Road Safety GB says the figures highlight the ‘ongoing need to remain focused on the work to educate, engineer and enforce for safer roads’.

Steve Horton, director of communications, said: “As with every annual announcement of road casualty data, there is no good news here just bad and worse, with the stark reminder of lives changed and lives ended.

“As these numbers fluctuate over time we are tempted to identify ‘good’ or ‘bad’ years based on the raw numbers, but what this data cannot provide is proper insight to the pain and suffering crashes lead to, nor the wave of emotional impact that radiates out like a tsunami through the families, friends and acquaintances that each victim has.

“So whilst the numbers are important we must not lose sight that these are people, and regardless of the size of number it is always too many people.

“What this data does highlight however, is the ongoing need to remain focused on the work to educate, engineer and enforce for safer roads; to make it easy for those who want to do the right (safest) thing – and for those who choose not to to be identified and dealt with through legal process.

“We know our road network is not ideal and in many cases we have to make the best of what we have, so sharing the roads and finding a way to be considerate to others becomes more important.”

The RAC says the figures serve as as a ‘stark reminder’ of how much work is still required to improve safety of the UK’s roads.

Pete Williams, RAC road safety spokesperson, said: “This new data makes for sobering reading – there has now been no substantial reduction in fatalities since 2010 with the numbers killed on the roads remaining stubbornly high.

“It also remains the case that casualties among some vulnerable road user groups, specifically pedestrians and motorcyclists, are rising which is a concern.

Brake says the figures highlight the ‘shocking lack of progress on road safety improvement in Britain’.

Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for Brake, said: “This stagnation must be arrested and yet the Government sits on its hands and rejects the introduction of policies which are proven to save lives.”

“Our most vulnerable road users – pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists – remain at dangerously high risk on our roads, paying the price for the dominance of the motor car in our lives.

“Pedestrian deaths increased to their highest level this decade whilst motorcyclists now account for nearly a fifth of all road deaths, despite their small numbers.

“The Government must invest in active travel to give people safe and healthy ways to get around and focus on improving the safety of our roads – starting with lower speed limits.”

IAM RoadSmart says despite the fact cars are getting safer and a step change in new road investment, careless human behaviour and increasing traffic levels are ‘cancelling this out’.

Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, said: “We appear to have reached a hard core of human behaviour related crashes that requires much more focus on driver training and quality if we are to make progress towards a long term vision of zero deaths on our roads.

“Road safety in the UK seems to be bumping along the floor with yet another year without real improvement in key fatal injury statistics.

“With seven years without progress it is clear that we have an increasingly complex picture of good news, such as safer cars and investment in new roads, being cancelled out by more traffic and a hard core of human behaviour issues that are the most difficult to tackle.”



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    Checking the politics may not be a bad idea. We know, for example, the application of the guidance and rules on safety camera conspicuity are not consistent across the different safety camera partnership areas of the uk.

    Also some police forces have put extra emphasis on policing 20mph speed limits and others no special emphasis, taking a general “ threat risk and harm” approach.

    Which camera partnership and police force is “right” ? and how are we to know unless we are aware of the local politics.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (4) | Disagree (0)

    I must remember before any journey – check water, oil, brake fluid, tyres and…what’s the other thing again? oh yes, check the local politics of the areas I’ll be driving through. You heard it here first folks – Road Safety GB – for all your safe driving needs.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (1) | Disagree (0)

    I do agree with your comments, R. Craven, however in a lot of cases the chassis are left in place – drivers who do not necessarily know the politics of the local area would be inclined to err on the side of caution.

    David Weston, Corby
    Agree (1) | Disagree (0)

    Its about ten years or so since the Gatso cameras became in the main disused. Surely they were not right, those that profounded that they did actually slow drivers down and reduce accidents. Perhaps not as since they generally became redundant there has been no massive increase either in speed related incidents or collisions.

    Agree (3) | Disagree (1)

    Apart from enforcing seatbelt usage perhaps, I can’t see how roads policing can affect numbers of fatal crashes Paul. Their influence may be able to – directly or indirectly – have an effect on collision numbers generally, but not the consequences thereof. It’s theroretically possible for numbers of crashes to go up with reducing fatalities fall and vice versa.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (0) | Disagree (5)

    Pat ; there wasn’t ,according to the graph, a gradual levelling off of road deaths but a sudden change in 2010 from a steady falling pattern to a level one. This was not predicted but suggests some specific change in circumstances is , al least, worth looking for. Level of road policing due to austerity ?

    Paul Luton, Teddington
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    If it was a safety-related industry David, say gas fitters or electricians or even those in the medical profession, in the interest of public safety I would imagine their respective licenses/authorities to operate may be removed, pending retraining and re-qualification if applicable – as we do on the roads.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (3) | Disagree (2)

    @Peter Treadgold. Why hold up Continental streets as being some sort of goal to which we ought to aspire?

    I have found in my travels around Europe that the best place to try to cross the road is the UK; in most other countries pedestrian crossings are at best a joke. I will go so far as agreeing that some European countries are better from a cyclist’s point of view, but that is as far it goes.

    David Daw, Bury St. Edmunds
    Agree (4) | Disagree (5)

    > but what do we do about those who don’t, or won’t take a pride in their workmanship

    On the grand scale of things, nothing. At least, that’s what’s being done currently to those workers who are genuinely needing some guidance to push them towards a safe work ethic.

    Those workers who are the most efficient with regards to time (due to vast experience) risk being penalised in the same ways as the workers who cut corners (due to arrogance/incompetence), as they get their assigned project finished at roughly the same time – and those looking on from afar might conflate the two groups.

    A few commenters on this production line have made references in the past in period retraining of workers – and this would be something that happens in other risk-averse industries – but would it be cost effective for this industry?

    David Weston, Corby
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Some basic life rules would help. “Don’t cut across (talking, walking, driving)”, “Stay back and give people space (cash point, right turner)”, “Anticipate (listen and think, the other person might be disabled, forgive before it’s too late)”.

    However, a safe system will have to be fully automatic to accommodate unsympathetic behaviours. So early life teaching and reinforcing could take us nearer continental streets.

    Peter Treadgold, London
    Agree (1) | Disagree (0)

    I noted a phrase from the article referred to below by Duncan MacKillop “Pride of workmanship” it then goes on “… is linked to the willingness and ability to improve without being prodded by audits or inspections” – translated to the motorised road user “if you want to be accident-free, you can be, if you take a pride in doing it right”. Fine and could explain why there aren’t more collisions than there are – but what do we do about those who don’t, or won’t take a pride in their workmanship – in this context, driving and riding?

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (5) | Disagree (1)

    Maybe the answers we seek might lie in this rather interesting article from Sydney Dekker.

    Duncan MacKillop, Lower Quinton
    Agree (2) | Disagree (2)

    By the way, is it just me, or could the headline have been phrased a little better? ‘..broadly flat..’ the context of road deaths? Insensitive?

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (2) | Disagree (7)

    The gradual levelling out of the road death statistics has been long forecast. Those who sign up to the concept of “Vision Zero” often don’t want to hear about applying the law of diminishing returns to achieving further reductions in road fatality numbers. The “Safe Systems” approach will need commitment to throw extremely large amounts of new money to make most existing roads more fault tolerant to avoid or mitigate injury.

    Of course the technology now being built into new cars helps as does the improvements over the last decade by emergency services for more effective golden hour interventions. That and a return to an adequately funded roads policing service to enforce the law as good, safe driving and compliance to speed limits will not be achieved by education alone.

    However a paradigm shift in thinking would be required by government for that level of spend to be contemplated. And where would that new money come from?

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (13) | Disagree (3)

    Superhuman powers are not necessary Charles – just ask those you know, if not yourself, who have an incident-free driving history. The roads system is as safe as it can be – it just requires users to use them properly- there’s enough guidance and rules out there to facilitate that.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (11) | Disagree (4)

    Road users don’t need to have super human powers just a bit of care and consideration and a basic understanding of right and wrong and some simple road safety principals then many more will get along with greater safety. No superhuman skills necessary.

    Without being complacent we still do very well when compared with many other countries world wide. That said obviously things could be improved as there will always be room for improvement. Talking about room for improvement, have I at all, ever mentioned that if more room was given or afforded to all other road users on the road then all road users would or could be much safer and many collisions would or could be avoided. No I didn’t think so.

    Agree (8) | Disagree (2)

    Hugh, it depends on where you think the ultimate responsibility lies. Should we expect a safe road system to be provided or should we expect all road users to have the superhuman powers necessary to stay safe on the road system we currently have? I know that in other walks of life, the onus is generally on the provider of a system to design-in safeguards against all the usage scenarios likely to be encountered in the real world.

    Charles, England
    Agree (6) | Disagree (11)

    From the tone of the article and the comments of ‘stakeholders’, it seems to be overlooked that it is individuals who are causing the accidents, not the government. Only the IAM have hinted at it by referring to “..careless human behaviour..” Is every accident somehow attributable to the government of the day?

    One could argue the opposite and say that bearing in mind the infinite number of daily interactions between all road users, moving at different speeds on mostly shared highways, the number of accidents is commendably very low and would be a lot higher thanks to efforts of local and national authorities over the years – not to mention the car manufacturers themselves. Are the ‘stakeholders’ mentioned above somehow expecting that there will be nil road accidents one day or is there a number that they find acceptable?

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (11) | Disagree (2)

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