Road safety groups react to rise in UK road casualties

Increases in vulnerable road user casualties in 2014 prompts calls for government action to take stronger action on road safety issues.

The UK Government’s Department for Transport (DfT) has released the official figures for road casualties in the country for 2014 with deaths increasing by 4% over the previous year to 1775 and serious injuries rising by 5%. Of these, vulnerable road users were the most severely affected with a quarter of those killed being pedestrians and a 6.2% increase in child casualties.

Cyclists and motorcyclists also saw significant increases in casualty levels with cyclist casualties having now increased almost every year since 2004 to the current level of 3401, up from 3143 in 2013. Deaths amongst motorcyclists increased by 2% with a 9% increase in serious injuries in the motorcycling community.

Government targets needed

Road safety charity Brake sees the re-introduction of casualty reduction targets as an essential measure in bringing the road death toll down and advocates a “vision zero” approach embracing the notion that no amount of deaths on the roads can be acceptable.

Commenting on the latest DfT figures, Brake’s Julie Townsend commented, “We should be under no illusions as to the seriousness of these figures. The government needs to get a grip of this situation, and it can start by reintroducing ambitious casualty reduction targets, with an ultimate aim of reducing deaths and serious injuries on our roads to zero.”

“The increases in serious casualties among pedestrians and cyclists are especially horrifying, given the importance of protecting vulnerable road users and enabling people to walk and cycle more,” she concluded.

Driver behaviour improvements

The country’s Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) is also calling for Government action and the introduction of strict road safety targets set centrally. The IAM believes that this should centre on improvements in driver behaviour since one common factor which contributed to 2014 accidents was driver error and failing to look properly.

The IAM’s director of policy and research, Neil Greig commented, “These figures are very worrying, especially the fact that driver behaviour remains the top cause of crashes.”

The IAM advocates more focus on the training and quality of drivers and riders and to provide incentives both to fleet operators and individual drivers to continue with the development of their skills after receiving their initial qualifications.

Protecting the vulnerable

Commenting on the protection of vulnerable road users, he added, “We also need better pedestrian facilities to segregate traffic and vulnerable users where speeds are high, and campaigns to educate pedestrians themselves as they are most often at fault in crashes.”

UK charity RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) also believes that much more can be done to protect vulnerable road users

On protecting the vulnerable, RoSPA’s Nick Lloyd said, “The number of pedestrian fatalities involving those over 60 has increased by 16 per cent, together with a 7 per cent increase in car occupants. With an aging population we must renew our efforts to reverse this phenomenon.”

RoSPA also advocates the creation of a safe cycling environment and improvement of driver and cyclist attitudes and behaviour towards each other.

The IAM takes the protection of pedestrians a step further by appealling for the faster uptake of vehicle technology changes to help mitigate collisions with vulnerable road users such as pedestrian detection systems, pop-up bonnets and external air bags.

Neil Greig told us, “There needs to be a focus on tackling pedestrian deaths, an area which is often ignored. We believe that car technology and design should now shift from occupant protection to protecting the vulnerable outside cars.”

Increased road policing

Road safety improvements of recent years are not self-sustainable and RoSPA believes more can be done. “The reductions in road death and injury in recent years will not automatically be sustained, without a continued commitment to road safety. We must remain focussed on making our roads safer for everyone, and especially for people travelling on foot and by two wheels,” said Nick Lloyd.

At the top of the list of RoSPA’s proposed measures of improvements is increased levels of road policing to tackle the kind of deadly behaviours that automatic enforcement systems fail to deal with, including the use of mobile phones, drink driving and dangerous or reckless driving.

Targeting behavioural offences on the roads caused by those who put others at risk can only be achieved with sufficient numbers of traffic police on the roads, according to RoSPA, who proposes that the Government ensure there are sufficient road police officers to target the minority of drivers who put themselves and others at risk by speeding, drink driving and using mobile phones.

RoSPA would also like to see the drink driving limit in the country reduced to 0.05% BAC, graduated licensing to improve training for novice drivers, employer road safety schemes, faster introduction of vehicle technology improvements and a realisation of the benefits of telematics for improving road safety.

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