Road Safety News

Casualty stats are 'wake up call'

Thursday 5th February 2015

Three organisations with an interest in road safety have expressed concern at the latest DfT stats which show an increase in deaths and injuries on the roads in the 12-month period ending September 2014.

The DfT figures show a 1% increase in the number of road deaths, 4% increase in KSI casualties and 5% increase in all casualties.

The RAC described the figures as “alarming” and indicate “the lack of focus that the current Government has shown to road safety”.

Pete Williams, RAC head of external affairs, said: “It is alarming to see that years of progress on road safety appears to have come to an abrupt halt, and in fact we have witnessed the first year-on-year rise in road fatalities and casualties in over 30 years.

“Most worrying of all is that child fatalities and casualties in England and Wales are on the up for the first time since 1995 with the figures showing an increase in each quarter of 2014 over 2013 (for) the first time in 20 years.

“This is surely the wake-up call that is needed to give the topic the attention and resources it deserves.”

Brake expressed “dismay” at the figures and called for political parties to commit to “vital road safety policies” to protect pedestrians, cyclists, children and young people.

Julie Townsend, Brake’s deputy chief executive, said: “These casualty increases are the tragic result of a failure of ambition. They come on the back of three years of flat-lining road death and serious injury figures, during which the Government congratulated itself on having some of the safest roads in the world, rather than making forward thinking decisions and setting targets to secure further reductions.

“We need a commitment to a long-term vision of nobody being killed or seriously injured on our roads, rather than settling for the status quo.”

The IAM expressed its “disappointment” at the rise in KSIs, blaming the increase on “many years of Government cutbacks and the resulting drop in visible policing”.

Neil Greig, IAM director of policy and research, said: “The Government has taken its eye off the ball.

“These figures reflect our view that cuts in visible policing and road safety spending have had an impact, with a third successive quarter of increases. While these new figures can in no way be regarded as a trend, they are a big concern.”


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I think government takes money in taxes from all sectors and individuals and their current and past savings, not just from private sector business and future borrowing.
But back to road safety and well said on the second part of your post, Dave: usually we road safety professionals are being castigated for using the total cost to society in our estimates to demonstrate the overall cost of road collisions and casualties to society; I am heartened by your support for this approach.
Honor Byford, Chair, Road Safety GB

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Remember that governments don't have their own cash, they can only take from the wealth-producing private sector or borrow from generations yet to be born. The real cost of any government initiative is not necessarily the cash they put up (declare as funding), but the total cost to society. This is the total cash raised (the drag they impose on the economy of the private sector) added to the debt they incur in our names (more recently called quantitative easing).

I think it quite reasonable for those in a government department to consider funding as the amount their department receives in cash, whereas citizens would perhaps consider the wider picture of the total cost to us as a society. I shouldn't need to give examples (they are numerous).
Dave Finney, Slough

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I am referring both to the Road Safety Grant and to local highways funding through the local government settlement formula. The Road Safety Grant was not only used to fund camera operations it also funded engineering and education/information programmes, local Community Speedwatch and other initiatives.

Local government funding for highways and, through that, road safety engineering and ETP has been reduced over the past number of years by successive governments and has been inadequate to achieve the level of maintenance and road safety engineering for a good number of years, hence we have had an additional (modest) amount of maintenance investment provided just this year. A welcome nibble at the huge backlog that exists.
Honor Byford, Chair, Road Safety GB

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Are you referring, Honor, to the “Road Safety fund” used to run the speed camera network? When the fund was cut, the Police simply replaced the fund with a fee taken from the profits of private companies. The overall cost to society of speed cameras has remained over £100million every year I believe (and £6.8million every year in Thames Valley alone).

We have to face facts, if we have speed cameras then, to fund them, we must have fewer traffic Police (or fewer 20mph zones or cuts to the NHS or schools or borrow it and increase the national debt). If we buy things for ourselves, we must make choices from the list of possible purchases but the government and councils never seem to lay out the choices. The heart of the problem, though, is the lack of quality research, so we don't know the effects of each choice anyway!
Dave Finney, Slough

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A watchword in the scientific community is that evidence of correlation is not evidence of causation. The IAM cites many years of Government cutbacks and the resulting drop in visible policing for the increase in figures, but then goes on to say that most crashes are caused by human error. Is it a proven fact then that ‘more police = fewer errors’ or is this one of those quirks of statistics that happens from time to time?
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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We're never going to have nil accidents, so at what level do the authorities decide they cannot do any more, short of measures which some would regard as draconian and no doubt political suicide for the respective politicians?

For the amount of traffic on the roads and for the level of mobility we desire as a nation, it's inevitable (but not unavoidable) that people collide and there must be a limit as to what the authorities can do for the individual, so it is down to the individual to look out for themselves. Those involved in this work do what they can to educate, engineer and enforce for the individual road users' benefit, but they cannot lead them around by the hand and I don't think the level of funding available for road safety/accident prevention is necessarily directly proportional to behaviour on the roads.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Road Safety funding for both engineering and education has been drastically reduced since 2010. In particular the Road Safety Grant was cut in 2010 and removed in 2011.
Honor Byford, Chair, Road Safety GB

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The issue of quality of data is not just in road safety, please watch last night's Newsnight on BBC2 here (watch the last item starting at 39:30):
Dave Finney, Slough

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The worst improvements in the death rate in my lifetime was the 12 year period starting in 1993, which concerned many independent researchers, yet I don't recall "Brake", IAM, RAC or any other official road safety group making a fuss at any time during that period.

It's good to see the importance of fatality rates at last being realised so perhaps we need to work out why the rate was good when it was good and bad when it was bad. Maybe that would help to understand which policies reduce deaths, and which increase them. The central problem, though, is that no intervention was deployed within scientific trials and this is further complicated by poor quality evaluations of the tests that were tried.

The "drop in visible policing" may be a factor but road safety funding has remained very high throughout. The authorities, though, have decided society should fund other interventions (mainly speed management) rather than traffic police.
Dave Finney, Slough

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Mark and Chris:
It seems to me that you are both singing from the same hymn book and could join me in my Space is Safe campaign. For sometime now I have been frustrated by the speed speed speed orientation of some Road Safety officers, Charities, campaigns or interventions. I believe that the public are so sick to death of it that they will nowadays totally disregard any mention of it.

Speed has a relevance to Space but the giving and receiving of Space can satisfy much of the fundamental principles of road safety. The more Space given the safer the roads will become. There will be less pressure, less stress, more room to manoeuvre, more room to see and be seen. More relaxing, more distance to stop if needs be and fewer collisions of the shunt kind etc. My Campaign will highlight these and more later this year.

If anyone wants to support my Campaign I would like to hear from them. Perhaps mention this to Nick Rawlings giving your e-mail and I would ask him to forward those on to me. I will subsequently be in touch.

Forget speed go safe and Give Space.
Bob Craven Lancs Space is safe Campaigner

Agree (7) | Disagree (4)

The speed awareness courses I was once involved in delivering included material on developing observation skills, the need to scan and plan, together with using the information gathered to select an appropriate speed for the conditions so that the driver should be able to stop in the distance they can see to be clear on their own side of the road. Factors affecting tyre grip, concentration and mental wellbeing along with other aspects of driving and riding technique were covered. Not all speed awareness courses are the same.
Mark - Wiltshire

Agree (16) | Disagree (2)

Is it a result of lack of focus on road safety or a result of the focus on the wrong things? Breaking a speed limit is only involved in around 6% of crashes, some (possibly most?) of which also involve drink/drugs/stolen vehicles and unlicensed drivers. Yet focus of government has been almost entirely upon compliance with speed limits. Time to start focusing on the real causes of crashes? The lack of training on how to set one's speed to the conditions would be a good start. All that matters with speed is observing and adjusting so that one can always stop in the distance guaranteed to be clear. It's all that matters but how often do we hear it let alone teach how to do it? The last place you will hear it is at a 'speed awareness course'.
Chris Wilson,Stourbridge

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