There were 1,748 deaths on Britain’s roads in 2019, which is a decline of just two per cent on the year previous and consistent with fatality figures for the last nine years, it has been confirmed today.
Preliminary records show there were 153,315 casualties of all kinds on roads last year, which is five per cent down year-on-year and the lowest level since 1979, according to the Department for Transport’s records.
However, safety campaigners called the ‘flat-lining’ stats ‘an appalling stagnation’ and demanded ministers do more to suppress the number of drivers, motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrains being killed.
The figures come as the Government has launched a review into roads policing to establish why the annual road-death toll has plateaued since 2010.
‘An appalling stagnation’ in the country’s road safety record: Some 1,748 people died on British roads last year, which is the ninth year that casualty stats have failed to be suppressed
DfT figures showed that road deaths dropped by 34 cases in Britain last year, down from the 1,782 fatalities recorded in 2018.
People killed in vehicles fell by four per cent to 743 instances, while motorcyclist deaths fell by five per cent to 335.
Pedestrian and cycling casualty rates shifted by just one per cent, while all ‘other’ types of road user deaths grew the most – by 12 per cent, rising to 110.
Accounting for increases in traffic volumes, the rate of fatalities per billion vehicle miles has fallen by two per cent from 5.38 in 2018 to 5.25 deaths last year, the department said.
This figure is statistically lower than most countries.
A recent report by the European Automobile Manufacturers Association found that the UK has the second safest roads of all EU nations, with only Sweden recording fewer casualties per million inhabitants.
Records show that there was a significant fall in road deaths between 2003 and 2009, but the figures have plateaued ever since
But campaigners have today called for increased efforts to trigger a reduction in the volume of people being killed on our roads each year.
Edmund King, AA president, said: ‘Whatever mode of transport we use on the road network, we should all expect to get to and from our destinations safely. Unfortunately, too many people are still losing their lives on our roads.
Increase in deaths of older people
The provisional data shows 637 people aged 60 and over were killed in road accidents in 2019, compared with 588 during the previous 12 months.
The number of older people who died while a car passenger or driver was up 24 per cent and 15 per cent respectively.
The DfT said the rise in fatalities for people aged 60 and over is partly due to an increase in the population for this age group.
Meanwhile, the number of people aged 17-24 who were killed in traffic accidents fell by 13 per cent to 244.
RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding said the figures raise doubts over whether there is enough focus on protecting ‘not just the fit and agile among us but also the increasing number of car occupants who are more frail and so particularly vulnerable in collisions’.
He added: ‘The reduction in the number of fatalities among young people is welcome, but more might need to be done to sustain that trend as the long decline in the number of young drivers appears to be reversing and looks set to be boosted still further by people deciding they need the mobility, security and flexibility a car offers in the post Covid-19 world.’
‘Local roads are undergoing significant changes and traffic movements are still evolving since lockdown, now is the time to set some significant and challenging road safety targets with the ambition of zero road deaths within a decade.’
Last month, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the Transport Select Committee that deaths and serious injuries on the UK’s roads had plummeted by 70 per cent since lockdown had began.
He added that deaths and serious injuries had remained low even as car traffic has increased to around 70 per cent of the pre-lockdown level in June.
Edmund King says that with more people shunning public transport and driving and cycling for their commutes, now is a ‘good opportunity for road safety messages to be shared far and wide’ by the government.
He added: ‘Reminding everyone of the dangers including; driving tired, using their mobile phone behind the wheel and looking out for cyclists and pedestrians, will all help make our roads safer.’
While road traffic deaths are substantially lower than they were decades ago – with as many as 7,985 being killed in 1966 – they have remained consistent since 2010 as road safety campaigns, the installation of more CCTV and speed cameras and a reduction in policing numbers has done little to suppress the figures.
Road safety charity Brake said the annual death toll has ‘flatlined’, calling it ‘an appalling stagnation’ in the country’s road safety record for nearly a decade.
Joshua Harris, the organisation’s director of campaigns, said: ‘We need to rid our roads of dangerous drink and drug-driving, introduce safe speeds in our towns, cities and rural areas, and reinvigorate roads policing, which has been decimated by funding cuts.’
Deaths of vehicle occupants and motorcyclists fell by the most, while casualties categorised as ‘other’ – including those on horseback and scooters – rose the most proportionally
The preliminary records show there were 153,315 casualties of all kinds on roads last year, which is five per cent down year-on-year and the lowest level since 1979
In the last fortnight, the Government has announced a full review into roads policing to understand why casualty stats have remained at the same level for almost a decade.
It will be conducted by the Department for Transport with the help of the Home Office, the National Police Chiefs’ Council and other agencies, with the call for evidence closing on 5 October.
The review will explore how to better target dangerous behaviours, work out how technology can assist in upholding road traffic laws and explore the current impact of enforcement.
It comes at a period when the number of police officers in England and Wales has fallen to their lowest level in decades and budgets continue to be trimmed.
As recently as 1 July, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced he was cutting £109.3million from Metropolitan Police budgets as part of wider cost savings amounting to £500million.
Traffic officers across the country have seen a 24 per cent decline in numbers since 2012.
Back in 2010 there were 3,472 police patrolling the UK’s roads, but by 2017 this had fallen down to just 2,643, figures showed.
Announcing the road policing review, Baroness Vere of Norbiton, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Department for Transport, said earlier this month: ‘Safety is our focus but it is recognised that other problems also arise when people do not obey traffic laws.
‘This non-compliance can lead to incidents such as breakdowns and collisions which result in roads being closed or traffic flow being restricted.
‘The consequences of such incidents are delay and disruption as well as an increase in pollution.’
The Government has announced a full review into roads policing to understand why casualty stats have remained at the same level for almost a decade
Policing numbers are at a record low, especially road traffic officers. At the beginning of this month, Sadiq Khan announced a £110million cut to funding for the London Met Police
The Government says it will be seeking to identify how the use of existing enforcement capabilities, and any enhancement of these, will deliver the biggest impact for road user safety primarily but also congestion management and the environment.
Rebecca Ashton, head of policy and research at campaign group IAM RoadSmart said it ‘strongly welcomes a review of the effectiveness of roads policing’ and that a reduction in dangerous behaviour on our roads ‘can only be gained by driver education and consistent deployment of roads policing backed-up by the best possible intelligence information’.
She added: ‘The Covid-19 lockdown has demonstrated that criminality and traffic offences are inextricably linked and the best way to deal with this is by ensuring that the police are resourced properly.
‘In our view, making roads policing a Home Office priority and a key performance indicator for chief constables and police commissioners, combined with greater emphasis on driver education, would be the most effective ways to achieve this.’
Road safety has been a huge talking point in the last 12 months, following the news that all new cars will need to be fitted with mandatory Intelligent Speed Assistance speed limiters from 2022 and BBC Panorama’s damning investigation into ‘smart motorways’, which found that 38 people had died on them in the last five years.
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