The Department for Transport (DfT) has ruled out the reintroduction of road casualty reduction targets despite repeated calls from the safety and fleet industry to do so.
The DfT told Fleet News that local authorities are better placed to improve road safety, rather than a centralised national target.
The Government axed the road casualty reduction target in 2010. Safety targets were first introduced in 1987 and helped to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries on UK roads each year.
Despite the abolition of these annual targets, there remains a strong consensus within the road safety community that targets can continue to play a key role in reducing deaths and serious injuries on the road.
Fleet News teamed up with fleet industry bodies ACFO and the BVRLA last to launch the Fleet Industry Manifesto with one of the calls being to re-introduce the safety targets.
A DfT spokesman said: “Britain continues to have some of the safest roads in the world, but every death is a tragedy and we are determined to do more.
“We are making sure that we have the right legal, education, and investment frameworks in place to make our roads safer. We have already introduced new laws, given the police tougher powers to tackle dangerous driving and are investing billions to improve the conditions of our road network.
“Local authorities are best placed to decide how to use these frameworks to make their roads safer, rather than having centralised national targets.”
Richard Owen, Road Safety Analysis operations director, said the current political administration is opposed to using targets to dictate policy.
He said: “An example of this is hospital waiting times. This was forcing hospitals to meet numbers and it was having a negative impact on patient care.
“The view from the road safety community however, is that targets do make a difference.
“There is a wider EU target to reduce road fatalities by 50% by 2020, but a lack of clear UK targets takes away focus and sends a message that road safety is not a priority.”
The DfT’s Reported Road Casualties in Great Britain Annual Report 2014 shows that 1,775 people died on the roads (a 4% increase on the year before).
A further 22,807 were seriously injured (a 5% annual increase).
Casualties of all severities rose to 194,477 in Great Britain in 2014, an increase of 6% from 2013, interrupting what was a steady downward trend since 1997.
People on foot and bike bore the brunt of the rise. Pedestrian deaths rose by 12% to 446, accounting for three quarters of the overall rise in fatalities.
Serious injuries to cyclists rose by 8% to 3,401, continuing a long-term trend that has been ongoing since 2004.
Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive at safety charity Brake, said: “We should be under no illusions as to the seriousness of these figures.
“The Government needs to get a grip of this situation, and it can start by reintroducing ambitious casualty reduction targets, with an ultimate aim of reducing deaths and serious injuries on our roads to zero.”
The RAC Foundation said the increased casualty figures come against a backdrop of reduced spending on road safety at a local level.
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Because of a lack of central focus, and faced with swingeing budget cuts, English councils have not prioritised road safety and have seen a lot of experienced staff leave.
“We need to see more systematic sharing of best practice. Why has Scotland managed to achieve a decline of nearly a third in those killed or seriously hurt on the roads over the past five years while Wales has only managed a fifth of that?”
The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) said it is clear targets must be reintroduced. Neil Greig, IAM director of policy and research, said: “Road safety targets have to be reintroduced. They are an internationally recognised way of ensuring reductions are measured and achieved.”