According to new data issued by the Department for Transport the number of people killed in road accidents increased 3% last year to 1,901 from 1,850 in 2010. It was the first increase in fatalities since 2003.
Additionally, the report reveals that the number of people seriously injured increase 2% to 23,122 from 22,660, the first annual increase since 1994.
However, a reduction in the number of slight injury road crashes meant that the overall downward trend in casualties continued with a 2% fall from 208,648 in 2010 to 203,950 last year.
Pedestrians saw the biggest increase in deaths – there was a 12% rise in pedestrian fatalities last year, rising from 405 in 2010 to 453 in 2011. Serious injuries for cyclists rose from 2,660 in 2010 to 3,085 in 2011 (a 16% increase). Cyclist fatalities remained similar to last year at 111 deaths in 2010 compared to 107 in 2011 (a 4% reduction).
Simon Best, chief executive of theInstituteofAdvanced Motoristssaid: ‘It is unacceptable that road deaths and serious injuries rose last year, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists who saw the greatest rises. Road accidents usually drop during an economic recession, so this rise after continuous reductions over the last 10 years, is particularly concerning.
‘Ministers should take this as a serious warning. Cutting road safety education, scrapping casualty targets, and reductions in local authority spending all suggest that road safety isn’t a major priority for this Government.’
Road safety charity Brake also urged the Government to give a far greater priority to preventing road casualties and making communities safer.
Brake says successful road safety measures are an investment, not an economic drain, through preventing costly crashes and casualties. The value to society of preventing just one death on our roads is estimated at £1.6 million, it says.
Julie Townsend, Brake deputy chief executive, said: ‘It is unacceptable and shameful that after years of progress in road safety and consistent casualty reductions, we are now seeing an increase in people dying and being maimed on our roads. These violent deaths and injuries cause unimaginable suffering, they are a costly drain on health and emergency services, and yet they are preventable.
‘It is vital the Government wakes up to the very real and human consequences of inadequate action on road safety and moves quickly to address the biggest killers on our roads.
‘We need to see greater ambition on bringing casualties down and making our communities safer places. We need decisive policies on young driver safety and drink driving, and we need investment in measures to protect people on foot and bicycle – which can bring about health, environmental and economic benefits, as well as tackling needless suffering.’
Brake particularly wants to see more 20 mph limits, a graduated driver licence scheme to improve the safety of young and inexperienced drivers and a reduced drink-drive limit similar to that recently announced inScotland.
KevinClinton, head of road safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said the organisation was ‘very disturbed’ at the increase in fatalities and serious injuries.
He added: ‘RoSPA is concerned that reduced public spending on road safety, especially cuts to local authority and road policing budgets, may be partly to blame. The Government and the road safety profession need to urgently get together to understand why road deaths have now started to rise.
‘It is crucial that the Government demonstrates strong leadership by examining what more it can do to help local authorities, the police and other bodies involved in road safety to refocus and reinvigorate their services.
‘National leadership of this area is crucial because the experience of the last three decades shows how effective a strong, comprehensive national road safety strategy can be in saving lives and reducing injuries.’
However,Adrian Walsh, director of RoadSafe and the Driving for Better Business campaign, refused to jump on the call for action bandwagon.
Saying that much was happening behind the scenes with the development of legislation and engagement with the insurance industry, he said: ‘My belief is that the Government is fully aware of the facts and is highly unlikely to deviate far from its current strategic framework.’