Last week the Department for Transport released its 2014 figures for road casualties, showing slight increases across the board from 2013. The headline figures were as follows:
Statistics continued to show that cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians were at the highest risk, together accounting for approximately 50% of all road deaths, a disproportionate amount considering the comparative usage of the forms of transport.
The increase will be cause for concern as it is noted that, with the exception of 2010 to 2011 (which was affected by severe weather), this is the first rise in fatalities since 2003. Similarly, it is the first rise in those seriously injured since 1994. It is however noted that compared to the 2005 to 2009 average, all the above groups continue to show significant improvement, with road deaths down 37% and all casualties down 21%.
A number of factors have been credited with the general downward trend in road deaths and casualties in recent years, most notably, a decrease in the proportion of drivers exceeding the speed limit, improved education and training, and technological and engineering improvements in vehicles. The increase in the figures in 2014 however is harder to explain, with suggestions including better weather meaning that more road users were tempted to walk or cycle and an increase in traffic volumes in 2014.
William Broadbent of Penningtons Manches commented: “We have become used to seeing an improvement in figures relating to road deaths and serious injuries and so this year’s figures do raise alarms. The cross-the-board nature of the increase suggests that it could be driven by real changes rather than random variation.
“Credit must be given to organisations such as Brake and Think! for their tireless campaign for road safety in recent years. There is however a fear that due to the improvements we have seen, complacency may be sneaking into our driving again. Road safety is not something to be considered on a one-off basis, it is a continuing obligation which we must have in mind every time we venture onto the roads.”