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Latest Road Casualty Figures Continue to Disappoint

Today sees the release of quarterly provisional estimates for up to the end of quarter 3 of 2014, bringing with it the news of increases in casualties on Great Britain’s roads.

The headline figures are that there has been a 1% increase in road deaths and a 4% increase in killed or serious (KSI) casualties in the year ending September 2014, compared to the previous year. Motor vehicle traffic also increased by 2% over the same time period.

The Department for Transport’s report detailing quarter 3 statistics explains that “part of the reason for these increases over the rolling years is the unusually low number of casualties in the first quarter of 2013. This resulted in a large increase in casualties between Q1 2013 and Q1 2014 with offsetting falls in other quarters.” However, as we explored in our blog last September, there has been a flat-lining in casualty trends since 2010 and no single explanation (weather, recessional pressures, changes in traffic levels, unusually low casualties in one quarter) seems to be able to account for the new trend.

One of the biggest concerns from these statistics is the continued upward trend in the number of pedal cyclists killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads. Not only has there been an 8% increase in the number of pedal cycle KSI casualties in the year ending September 2014 compared to the previous year, this also represents a 38% increase in these casualties compared to the 2005-2009 average. Whilst cycling has become more popular in recent years, the increases in casualties do not wholly reflect a rise in cycling traffic – in fact, in the year to October 2013 compared to the previous year, the prevalence of cycling in England reduced from 15.3% to 14.7%.

Whilst other road users have seen increases in KSI casualties in the year ending September 2014 compared to the previous year, comparisons with the 2005-2009 average show overall reductions. However, the chart does show that for both pedestrians and motorcyclists, the largest gains in reductions were experienced before 2010. Only car occupant casualties have reduced at a gradual consistent rate.

It is also concerning to see the first rise in rolling year comparisons for child KSI casualties since the year ending March 1995. There was a 3% increase in the number of under 16 year olds being killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads in the year ending September 2014, compared to the previous year.

It is always worth looking at mileage figures in order to put casualty numbers into context. There has been very little change in billion vehicle miles driven in Great Britain in the last 10 years (as shown in the chart, there was a 0.4% reduction in traffic in the year ending Q3 2014, compared to the 2005-2009 average). This means that the reductions in KSI casualties experienced before 2010 were against a backdrop of similar traffic levels as seen in the era of lower levels of casualty reduction since 2010.
We ended our blog 5 months ago with “whilst data for one quarter should not be considered statistically significant and figures are currently provisional, it is concerning to see that the trend of poor casualty reduction appears to be continuing, with increases in the numbers of pedal cyclists and motorcyclists killed or seriously injured (KSI) in the year ending at Quarter 1 of 2014. There has also been little change in pedestrian or car user KSIs.” Provisional data for Q2 and Q3 of 2014 do nothing to allay these concerns.