The Government’s road safety record has been criticised after figures showed a 1.9% increase in the number of people killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads.
In the year ending March 2016, 1,780 people were killed with a further 22,830 seriously injured. The total casualty figure in the previous 12 months was 22,404.
Experts suggest that one in three road casualties is work-related, which equates to approximately 11 at-work drivers being killed each week.
Up until 2011, figures from the Department for Transport (DfT) showed that year-on-year there were significant reductions in road casualties. But, during the past five years that downward trend has stagnated – indeed, since 2013 there has been a 6% increase in the number of fatalities, which has risen from a low of 1,676.
David Davies, executive director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS), said: “The Government is failing in its manifesto commitment to reduce the number of road users killed or seriously injured. We need to see stronger action on a range of fronts, particularly drink-driving, which accounts for 13% of all deaths.”
Looking at incident rates according to road type during the year ending March 2016, crashes involving fatalities on motorways and A roads increased by 3% from 1,014 to 1,040. Fatal accidents on minor roads fell by 2%, from 644 to 630 over the same period.
In terms of speed, more than half (56%) of fatalities also occurred on roads with a speed limit of more than 40mph (non-built-up roads). DfT figures suggest that the number of crashes increased by 4% on this type of road, while there was a 4% decrease on roads with a speed limit of up to and including 40 mph (built-up roads).
However, there is some uncertainty over the DfT figures. The provisional statistics are based on data supplied by police forces, which some failed to supply – leading to the DfT having to estimate incident rates.
Four forces – Dorset, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and the Metropolitan Police – have not provided data for March 2016 and three – Gwent, North Wales and South Wales – have not provided any data for the whole quarter (January to March).
Davis said: “The Home Office needs to make clear that accurate and timely reporting is essential.”
The Government’s figures come in the wake of new research from Aviva which shows 83% of drivers ‘switch off’ during routine car journeys. More than a third (38%) had a suffered a near miss and 16% had been in an accident or damaged their car after not giving the road their full attention.
Road safety expert Terry Lansdown, senior lecturer at the Heriot Watt University, said: “Driving is a complex task, in which many things compete for our attention with safe control of the vehicle.
“Often, a second or two of distraction doesn’t have a detrimental effect. However, in some situations, even a very brief loss of attention can have tragic consequences.”
The Aviva study indicates that, when on familiar routes, motorists are more likely to listen to music (73%), talk to other passengers (40%), look at something outside (24%) and think of things other than driving (21%), all of which can lead to dangerous driving. But, when driving on unfamiliar routes, motorists take more precautions. They plan the route in advance (73%), leave more time to reach their destination (58%) and make more effort to drive carefully (29%).
Adam Beckett, propositions director for Aviva, said: “It is important that drivers stay focused no matter how routine the journey is, not just for their own safety, but also for the safety of passengers and other road users.”