The Government is facing criticism after statistics revealed the first year-on-year rise in road fatalities and casualties in more than 30 years.
There were 1,711 deaths, a 1% increase, and 24,360 killed or seriously injured (KSI) casualties in the year ending September 2014, a 4% increase compared with the previous year.
Child KSI casualties also rose by 3% over this period and for the year ending September 2014, there were 192,910 reported road casualties of all severities, 5% higher than the 184,087 for the year ending September 2013.
Road safety experts the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) have expressed disappointment at the rise in numbers of killed and seriously injured on UK roads.
The charity blames many years of Government cutbacks and the resulting drop in visible policing for the increase in figures.
Neil Greig, IAM director of policy and research, said: “It is disappointing that after many years of solid falls in the numbers of people killed and injured on our roads, the Government has taken its eye off the ball.
“These figures reflect our view that cuts in visible policing and road safety spending has had an impact, with a third successive quarter of increases.”
Greig added that the Government has been ‘riding its luck’ and that the recession has played its part in artificially making the figures seem better than they really are.
He said: “Recent transport ministers have been lucky. The recession had slowed traffic growth, new car technology has delivered safer roads year on year and most accident black spots have now been engineered out of existence.”
Greig believes that this is the perfect opportunity to stress that a change in driver attitude must happen before we see any major falls in numbers killed and injured on our roads.
He said: “This is an opportunity for us to prove the key underlying part that driver skills and behaviour play in road safety.
“Most crashes are caused by human error, and technology can only deliver so much. If we don’t change policy we will still be killing 1,000 people a year in 2030 – that is unacceptable. Driver behaviour, skills and training will be the key focus for our future research and policy work.”
The RAC has similarly voiced its concerns over the rise in road fatalities and casualties.
RAC head of external affairs Pete Williams said: “It is alarming to see that years of progress on road safety appears to have come to an abrupt halt, and in fact we have witnessed the first year-on-year rise in road fatalities and casualties in over 30 years.
“Most worrying of all is that child fatalities and casualties in England and Wales are on the up for the first time since 1995 with the figures showing an increase in each quarter of 2014 over 2013 – the first time in 20 years that we have witnessed a year-on-year increase.
“Similarly the increase in deaths and serious injuries among cyclists, 8% up in the year to September 2014, is a trend we cannot ignore.”
The RAC has highlighted the lack of focus that the current Government has shown to road safety, but Williams said this is surely “the wake-up call that is needed to give the topic the attention and resources it deserves”.
He continued: “The public will not accept complacency and we should not be satisfied until we reduce fatalities on UK roads to zero.
“In the run-up to the May election the RAC is calling on all parties to make road safety and road safety education a priority in their manifestos, and to address the urgent need to invest in high-profile campaigns to tackle some of the worst driving behaviours.
“This should include clearly placing road safety education on the national curriculum for school children, and for that matter for all road users.
“These worrying figures are also a reminder for this and the next Government of the need to set national targets for reductions in road fatalities and serious accidents.
“There can no longer be any justification to resist setting these, and we know historically such targets have proved effective in helping to focus efforts and prioritise actions to reduce casualties.”