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Are we becoming safer drivers? 260 fewer road related deaths and 25,000 fewer injuries reported in 2020

Insights / / Bristol

With road-related deaths decreasing significantly in 2020 and further reductions expected in the 2021 figures, Leigh Woodham, Personal Injury specialist examines the statistics and questions whether we are becoming safer drivers after all.

Annual road casualties 

In just over a month’s time, the Department for Transport (DfT) will start to prepare its annual Estimate of Reported Road Casualties in Great Britain.  Everyone is hoping that we will see a further reduction in road-related deaths and injuries for July 20 - June 21, following on from the apparent decrease in both last year.

The DfT’s statistics for last year (published 28 Jan 2021) show that the number of estimated road deaths from July 19 - June 20 had decreased compared to the previous year by 14% to 1,580. The number of estimated road casualties decreased by 16% to 131,220.  

On the face of it, this is encouraging.  The number of annual road-related deaths had plateaued for many years at around 1,750 (from 2012 to 2019).   Now the figures had dropped noticeably.  So could such significant reductions in deaths and injuries be an indication that road safety is generally improving in the country and people are taking more care on the roads?

The impact of lockdown

The 2019/2020 statistics include 3 months during which the country was in lockdown due to COVID-19 restrictions (April – Jun 2020), and as a result there was approximately 14% less traffic on the roads in the 12 months to June 2020.

So in fact, it looks like a 14% reduction in traffic led to a 14% reduction in road deaths and a 16% reduction in road casualties.  Disappointingly, this suggests that irrespective of the number of cars on the road, the relative proportion of road deaths and casualties seems to have remained the same.

So had there been no lockdown, the number of road deaths would have probably have continued to ‘plateau’ at around 1,750.     

260 fewer deaths and 25,000 fewer injuries

The one positive to be taken from these statistics is that although the number of road deaths and casualties has remained proportional to the amount of traffic on the road, the actual number of deaths and casualties last year was the lowest we have seen for a long time. So that means there were approximately 260 fewer people were killed on the road last year, and 25,000 fewer people were injured, than we might have expected to see in a year without COVID travel restrictions.

That is still of course 1,580 deaths and 131,220 injuries too many, but any reduction is a welcome start.

Next year, having had even more COVID travel restrictions in place than last year, one might expect to see further reductions in the numbers of road-related deaths and casualties. But it would be even better if next year, instead of those reductions simply being attributable to less traffic on the roads, the statistics demonstrated that these reductions were due to better driving and safer road use all round. 

How we can help 

If you or a loved one have been affected by a serious or fatal road traffic collision, please contact Leigh Woodham.

The Charity Roadpeace is able to provide emotional support and advice to those affected by serious crashes, and you may contact them on roadpeace.southwest@gmail.com or if you contact Leigh Woodham or Kay McCluskey using the details above, we will be happy to introduce you to the Chair of the local South West Roadpeace group. 

If you have an interest yourself in improving your own standard of driving, you may wish to consider training to become an ‘Advanced Driver’ through IAM Roadsmart (previously ‘the Institute of Advanced Motorists’).  Please contact Leigh Woodham for further information. 

Leigh Woodham

Leigh Woodham Managing Associate

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