UK accident rates fell last year, but motorists need to stay vigilant when behind the wheel.
The number of road traffic casualties reported across England, Wales and Scotland fell last year, new data from the Department for Transport (DfT) has revealed.
Despite this, the figures showed at least five people still died each day on Britain’s roads, meaning more could still be done to improve road safety.
A promising result, but dangers still remain
According to the DfT’s statistics for the whole of 2012, the number of individuals killed in road traffic accidents reported to the police fell by eight per cent from 1,901 in 2011 to 1,754 last year, marking the lowest annual fatality rate on the country’s roads network since records began in 1926.
This was coupled with a 0.4 per cent reduction in serious injuries from 23,122 to 23,039 and while this may not seem like much, last year’s figure is 15 per cent lower than the average recorded from 2005 to 2009.
Furthermore, total child casualties – individuals aged zero to 15 years old – fell by 11 per cent to 17,251, despite vehicle traffic levels remaining relative stable over the 12 months.
It was not all positive news for the sector, however, as the number of vulnerable road user’s injured – cyclists in particular – rose for the eighth consecutive year to 3,222 and a total of 108 deaths.
Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, commented: “[We] welcome a return to the long-term improvements in road safety that the UK has been rightly recognised for. Last year was a clear warning for government that complacency in road safety cost lives.”
Remember to stay vigilant
With the news of decreasing casualty and fatality rates, motorists might be forgiven for thinking the roads are now much safer, but in reality, this is not necessarily the case.
Improvements in vehicle safety and better education and understanding of the dangers of excessive speed and also drink and drug-driving among motorists has played its part in the falling numbers, but what drivers need to remember is the fact they run the risk of being involved in an accident every time they get behind the wheel of their vehicle.
Indeed, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) warns the most common cause of road traffic accidents in the UK and around the world is sadly still that of driver error.
As such, the organisation has highlighted on average the number of people killed on the roads each year by the most common driver mistakes.
Excessive speed has been found to be one of the biggest killers, with approximately 400 people killed each year by driving too quickly for the conditions they find themselves in. Meanwhile, 280 people die every year in accidents where a car owner has been found guilty of drink-driving.
Surprisingly, another of the most common causes of death in a traffic accident remains individuals not wearing a seatbelt, this is despite a major push over the last 30 years to get the message across to motorists that wearing a seatbelt really does save lives.
One-fifth of all accidents on the UK’s roads can be attributed a lack of awareness, particularly when a driver fails to correctly assess the speed or direction of other road users.
Inexperience is also a problem, with more than 400 people killed every year in accidents involving motorists aged between 17 and 24.
While it was a good year for the majority of road users across the UK, more effort now needs to be focused on protecting the most vulnerable users of the roads network as the number of children injured and killed each year remains far too high, while cyclists also require additional protection.
Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at RoSPA, concluded: “The good news of a large drop in road deaths in 2012 is marred by an increase in cyclist deaths, which occurred despite the poor weather in the main cycling seasons of spring and summer, which probably meant fewer cyclists were on the road.
“If the weather had been better, there may have been even more cyclists killed and injured.”