The number of people killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads rose last year, according to the latest government data.
The Department for Transport’s annual road casualties report reveals that 29,906 people were killed or seriously injured in 2018, a two per cent increase on 2017.
Fatalities were down by one per cent but 1,784 people still died, while 28,122 were seriously injured.
Overall, casualties of all types fell by six per cent to 160,597 but the data has prompted calls for the Government to rethink its approach to road safety and even seen some suggest that a focus on Brexit has hurt efforts to reduce casualty rates.
RAC head of policy Nicholas Lyes said: “This latest set of data makes for disappointing reading. In short, there has been no meaningful reduction in fatalities at a national level for seven consecutive years now. While we welcome the Government’s renewed focus with the publication of its recent road safety statement, there needs to be a significant shift in policy that will result in far fewer serious collisions.”
No room for complacency
The figures revealed that while most deaths still occur on rural roads (58 per cent) there was a marked increase in deaths on motorways, up eight per cent to 107 despite there being no change in the amount of traffic.
Car occupants accounted for 44 per cent of all casualties and 777 car occupants were killed in 2018 – a decrease of one per cent. Overall car occupant casualties decreased by six per cent to 93,979 – the lowest figure on record.
Pedestrian fatalities also decreased by three per cent from 470 to 456 but child pedestrian deaths were up 27 per cent from 22 to 28 and motorcyclist deaths were up one per cent to 354.
Lyes added: “Of particular concern are the rises in fatalities among older age groups [up five per cent] and a spike in fatalities on motorways – some worrying trends are emerging here that require immediate investigation.
“Historically, Great Britain has been proud of its road safety record, but these figures clearly show that there is no room for complacency.”
Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart’s director of policy and research, said: “The uncertainty surrounding Brexit has swallowed up the attention of the decision makers for too long now, which means people are still dying on our roads at the same level as six years ago – as a developed nation, that is pretty disgraceful.
“It is really time the government renews its commitment to this issue which is affecting all communities in society, young and old, and make sure we don’t continue to kill and injure people in ways that could so easily be prevented.”
Nick Lloyd, acting head of road safety at RoSPA, added: “It is disappointing to see there has been little to no improvement in the number of fatalities on our roads. In light of this, we continue to urge the Government to implement road safety targets to help prevent tragedies in the coming years.”
Recent months have seen England’s smart motorway network blamed for several deaths which critics claims could have been avoided. Highways England, which manages the England’s motorways and A roads, disputed this but admitted the number of casualties across its network was “concerning”, especially the six per cent rise in fatalities.
Its head of road safety Richard Leonard said: “Our aim is to provide a network where no one is killed or injured while travelling on our roads – today’s report indicates there is still much more that needs to be done.
“The numbers are very concerning and while over the last 15 years safety has improved and our roads are amongst the safest in the world, each incident is a tragedy for the individuals and the families involved.
“Improving road safety needs safe roads, safe vehicles and safe drivers. Safety is our top priority and we’re working hard to improve England’s motorway and A roads.
“Increases in the number of KSIs have been reported on all road types on the network. Separate analysis of smart motorway all-lane running schemes continues to indicate that they are as safe as our wider motorway network.”
The latest figures come after government data showed the number of deaths linked to drink-driving had reached an eight-year high.