Today’s announcement that road deaths increased in 2016 to their highest level for five years has produced a flurry of reaction from concerned road safety organisations, including Road Safety GB.
The DfT statistics show there were 1,792 reported road deaths in 2016, a year-on-year rise of 4% – and the highest annual road deaths total since 2011.
The DfT describes the increase as ‘statistically insignificant’ and says ‘it is likely that that natural variation in the figures explains the change’.
However, road safety organisations have expressed almost universal concern – not least because new casualty data reporting systems appear to have compromised the quality of information, leading Richard Owen from Road Safety Analysis to describe the 2016 KSI figures as ‘meaningless’.
Read stakeholder reaction from:
Road Safety GB
Road Safety GB says it is important to understand the reasons why fatalities rose in 2016 and in turn establish new policies and practices to resume progress on bringing casualties down.
Iain Temperton, director of communications, said: "It is worrying that we are seeing a reversal in the gains we have made in previous years; clearly we need to understand the reasons for this and establish policy and practice to resume progress in reducing casualties.
"We cannot function without a robust data set, in a time when every penny counts all road safety interventions must be based upon evidence, research and best practice.
"There is significant concern within our profession that the introduction of new casualty data reporting systems have compromised the quality of information at both a local and national level. We hope that the current issues around reporting can be quickly and effectively resolved."
In a blog post analysing the statistics, Road Safety Analysis has highlighted the inconsistencies in casualties classified as ‘seriously injured’ brought around by the change in the way they are reported.
Richard Owen, operations director, said: "One significant issue that all of us are going to have to deal with is the fact that our national, and in many case local, KSI figures are now meaningless for 2016.
"With many authorities such as Highways England and Transport for London adopting KSI targets, what are the next steps? Well, using the ‘all casualties’ data is one option but ultimately a set of correction factors will need to be applied.
"The DfT will almost certainly have to do this for 2016 and 2017 (when the rest of the forces should switch to CRASH), but how can individual forces and highway authorities do this on their own data? We have some ideas of how this can be done and will be talking to fellow analysts, and the DfT stats team about how this can be expedited to bring confidence in KSI analysis.
Road safety charity Brake says the figures ‘graphically illustrate the daily carnage taking place on roads across Britain’ and is calling for the creation of a road collision investigation branch.
Jason Wakeford, Brake’s director of campaigns for Brake, said: "On average, five people continue to lose their lives each and every day – a deeply worrying figure which has not improved for some six years.
"Progress on road safety has stalled, pressing the need for a road collision investigation branch, similar to those already in existence for air, rail and sea, so that lessons can be learned to prevent future crashes.
"Only through in-depth investigation, at a national level, can solutions be found to stem the needless deaths on the roads every day."
Pete Williams, RAC road safety spokesman, said: “Every road user, and certainly all of those working to improve road safety, will view today’s figures with dismay. While the statisticians say the rise isn’t significant, every life lost on our roads is surely one too many.
“The report clearly states that ‘there is unlikely to be as large falls in casualties as there were earlier on without further significant interventions’. This is surely an admission that more could, and should, be done to save lives.
“Away from government a lot of organisations are working hard to improve road safety – from the internationally-focused Project EDWARD, the FIA’s #ParkYourPhone campaign, through to countless campaigns by charities and local authorities and even the RAC’s own Be Phone Smart campaign.
"These can all have a tangible impact on future road casualty numbers, but there is absolutely no question that the Government needs to redouble its efforts to ensure that progress is once again made to bring road deaths down. This includes giving its THINK! campaign the resources it needs to play a much greater role in doing this."
Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, said: “Road safety in the UK seems to be bumping along the floor with yet another year without improvement in key fatal and serious injury statistics.
“With six 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.
“Road safety is everyone’s responsibility and it is clear that working in partnership to promote it is the key to returning to long term downward trends. Accelerating the uptake of AEB (autonomous emergency braking) equipped cars and promoting best practice in driving for work are just two examples where quick gains could be made.”
The Transport Research Laboratroy (TRL) says the increase in road casualties reinforces the need for the establishment of a UK Road Collision Investigation Branch.
Richard Cuerden, TRL’s academy director, said: "We are very disappointed to see that road casualties increased in 2016 and this further motivates our multi-disciplinary team of psychologists, engineers and scientists to improve our understanding of these events, so future tragedies can be prevented.
“The increase in road casualties reinforces the need for the establishment of a UK Road Collision Investigation Branch to gather and make available better data to provide the evidence base to reduce the number of fatalities and injuries on our roads.
"Every single person killed on our roads represents a tragedy and it is imperative that road safety is given the same level of attention as that of air and rail."
Nick Lloyd, RoSPA’s road safety manager, said: “When there’s an increase in traffic with economic growth, generally casualty statistics do tend to go up, but this in no way justifies these shocking figures.
“Britain traditionally has one of the best road safety records in the world, but we must focus our efforts through effective education, engineering and enforcement if we are to make our roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
“These statistics demonstrate the need for motorists to be extra vigilant when travelling during school-run hours – young children can be impulsive, so there is a need to be constantly aware of what’s happening around the car. More than 90 per cent of road crashes involve human error, which demonstrates the need for drivers to concentrate at all times, watch their speed, and avoid distractions.
“We also urge parents to kit their children out in high-visibility gear for the school journey, especially as the nights are now drawing in.”
GEM Motoring Assist
GEM Motoring Assist has warned the Government that specific action is needed in order to revitalise casualty reduction.
Neil Worth, GEM’s road safety officer, said: “We will no doubt hear a minister explaining that Britain has some of the safest roads in the world. But the truth is that our roads are considerably less safe than they were six years ago, and that is very worrying.
“We urge the Government to accept that these figures are deeply troubling. With support from the highest levels of Government, we know that far more lives could be saved. So let’s waste no time in investigating thoroughly why each death has occurred.
"Let’s also accept that we can do so much more to protect new drivers. For that to happen, we need to be willing to learn from countries who have successfully implemented graduated driver licensing schemes."
Stuart Jackson, chairman of TyreSafe, said: “While it is, of course, welcome to see the number of casualties from tyre-related incidents decreasing, however slight, there are potentially thousands of families who have been affected. While maintenance checks won’t guarantee your safety, the chances of being involved in an incident will be significantly reduced if they’re carried out regularly.
“Tyre safety is often taken for granted. Nobody expects to be a road casualty when they set off – check your tyres are roadworthy before you leave to reduce the risks.”