Are our roads getting safer?
With Road Safety Week recently having taken place with the theme “Slow Down Save Lives”, it is an opportune moment to consider whether Britain’s roads are becoming safer. Road traffic collisions are a frequent cause of the life-changing injuries suffered by many of our clients.
Statistics from the Department for Transport’s show that the number of casualties reported to the police in road traffic collisions in Great Britain in the year ending June 2017 have decreased by 5% compared to the previous year, while traffic levels rose by 1.4%. This overall casualty rate per billion vehicle miles has decreased by 6%, leading officials to point to this as an indication that safety on the UK’s roads is improving.
However, whilst UK roads remain amongst the safest in Europe, such optimistic figures should be interpreted with a degree of caution. The number of people killed on Britain’s roads has not changed significantly in this period, with 1,710 people killed in road traffic collisions between July 2016 and June 2017. And while the numbers of car users and motorcyclists injured have decreased compared to last year by 8% and 3% respectively, Britain’s roads have this year been more dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists. 18,870 cyclist casualties were reported which represents a 2% increase from last year, whilst there was a 1% rise in the number of pedestrian casualties to 24,190. According to British Cycling, 110 cyclists are killed each year on our roads and almost all result from collisions with motor vehicles.
These latest figures also show that the number of those killed or sustaining serious injuries in road traffic collisions has increased from 24,791 in 2015-16 to 27,130. The Department for Transport attributes this increase to changes in police reporting systems.
So far, about half of police forces in England have adopted a new system for reporting injuries in road traffic accidents called Collision Recording and Sharing (CRASH). The Metropolitan Police Service adopted the Case Overview Preparation Application (COPA) in September 2016. Both of these systems require the investigating officer to report the injuries suffered, rather than make a judgment as to the severity of the injuries. The new systems aim to reduce the uncertainty generated by the subjective nature of earlier reporting systems, by automatically translating the reported injuries to a severity classification to allow for more accurate statistics.
Changes to the reporting systems used by approximately half of all police forces across the country for the severity of injuries does mean that comparisons with the numbers of people killed or seriously injured in road traffic collisions in previous years cannot be accurately drawn. However, Brake and other road safety charities have raised concerns that not enough is being done to reduce collisions and that this year’s increase is cannot, in its entirety, be attributed to changes in reporting methods. Brake is campaigning for the establishment of a road collision investigation branch to mirror those that allow lessons to be learned from air, sea and rail crashes. The charity has also called for a review of speed restrictions on rural roads, a graduated licensing system and mandatory rural driving training for learner drivers to help reduce the number of casualties and fatal collisions on our roads.