Getting to work, driving the kids to school, doing the supermarket shop, visiting friends and family – it’s an undeniable fact that the majority of us have to take to the roads on a daily basis to go about our lives.
At the end of September 2019, it was reported there were 38.9 million licensed vehicles in Great Britain – further evidence of just how many people all over the country use cars, buses and bikes to get around.
But the sheer weight of traffic means that, sadly, accidents are an inevitability. The Department for Transport (DfT) recently released a report into road casualties in Great Britain in 2018, breaking down the numbers and comparing them to previous years. So, are our roads safer than ever before?
How to define ‘casualty’
First and foremost, it’s important to understand what is meant by the term ‘casualty’ in this context. Many assume it to mean anyone who died as a result of a road accident, but the DfT defines casualty as: “A person killed or injured in a reported accident on a public road. Casualties are sub-divided into killed, seriously injured and slightly injured.”
Total casualties the lowest on record
The DfT’s report, released on 26 September 2019, revealed there were 160,597 casualties of all severities in road traffic accidents in 2018. That number represents a 6% drop on the previous year and is the lowest mark on record.
It continues the downward trend seen since around the turn of the century, and represents a 30% decrease since 2008. To give the numbers a wider context over a greater timeframe, the number of total casualties in 1979 stood at 334,513.
Fatalities falling – but not by much
There were 1,784 deaths from road accidents in Great Britain in 2018 – down from the 1,793 in 2017, a fall of just nine, or 0.5%. As with total casualties, the number has declined significantly over the past 50 years, from the 6,352 that were recorded in 1979.
Worryingly, though, after a substantial fall between 2006 and 2010, the graph has begun to plateau. Meanwhile, car accidents accounted for 44% of the fatalities in 2018, followed by pedestrians (26%) and motorcycles (20%). Cyclists accounted for 6% while ‘other’, which includes bus accidents, made up 5%.
Historic data for serious injuries hard to compare
There were 25,511 serious injuries from road accidents in 2018, up from 24,831 in 2017. However, it is difficult to accurately compare figures dating back much further due to changes in police forces’ severity reporting, which were introduced in 2016.
Slight injuries are falling
The DfT report shows that the number of slight injuries from road traffic accidents continues to fall. The adjusted figures reveal that there were 130,691 casualties of this nature in 2018, an 8% drop from 2017.
It’s worth remembering that slight injuries may not always be reported to the police, so the actual figures may be higher, but a 32% drop from 2008 is an encouraging sign of progress.