Opinion Former Article

Significant rise in serious road casualties

Government has been urged to take action after latest figures show a 6% rise in the number of people reported killed or seriously injured (KSIs) on Great Britain’s roads.

The statistics from the Department for Transport (DfT) reveal that there were 25,160 KSIs from October 2015 to September 2016 – up from 23,824 during the previous 12 months.

“The figures are heading in the wrong direction,” commented road safety charity Brake’s campaigns director Gary Rae.

“We’re calling for the reintroduction of ambitious road casualty targets, increased investment in infrastructure, and vehicle development to ensure our roads are safe and our vehicles secure. We also need more resources available to the police to enforce the law.” 

However the DfT suggests that the ‘statistically significant’ rise in KSIs may be down to a change in the way casualties are recorded by police forces through the CRASH system. Under CRASH, officers record the types of injuries suffered rather than the severity. This is then automatically converted to a severity classification.

“There is increasing evidence that police forces using CRASH are more likely to record a casualty as being ‘seriously’ injured than when they were using their old systems,” the DfT’s report says.

Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety executive director of David Davies commented: “It only takes a small percentage of slight casualties to be reclassified as serious to have a big impact on the figures.”

But he added that there has been little evidence of progress on the Government’s promise to reduce the number of cyclists and other road users killed or injured on our roads every year and described reductions in road policing as “very worrying”.

DfT figures also show a 2% increase in road deaths in the year ending September 2016 but an overall 4% reduction in casualties of all severities. Car occupant KSI casualties increased by 10%, with a 5% increase seen among motorcyclists, a 3% increase among pedestrians and a 2% rise among pedal cyclists. The number of children (aged 0-15) killed or seriously injured rose by 8%.

Meanwhile statistics indicate a continuing lack of progress on reducing road deaths where drink driving was a factor since 2010. Newly published statistics for 2015 show that there were 220 deaths in accidents where at least one driver was over the alcohol limit. This represents about 13% of all deaths in reported road accidents in that year.

In reaction road safety organisation IAM RoadSmart called for England and Wales to follow Scotland’s lead in slashing drink drive limits, while increasing high profile and intelligence led policing.

“The Government should introduce a lower limit in England and Wales,” said the organisation’s director of policy and research Neil Greig. “It won’t eradicate the problem completely but it will deliver a small but significant decrease in drink drive casualties and underline the clear message that driving and drinking don’t mix.” 

A DfT spokesperson said: “Britain continues to have some of the safest roads in the world but we are determined to do more. We are also spending £175M on improving the safety on 50 of England's most dangerous roads. We are tightening the laws on drug driving and will shortly have tougher penalties for using a mobile phone while driving.

These are just some of the measures set out in our Road Safety Statement that are designed to further protect road users.”

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