Shock reverse in road fatalities

The number of children killed or seriously injured on UK roads has risen for the first time in 20 years, according to the latest figures from the Department for Transport.
Last year, 2,060 children under the age of 16 were killed or seriously injured, a 3% increase on 2013. Fatal or serious road casualties involving children increased in each quarter of 2014 compared with the same periods in 2013, the first jump in rolling year-on-year comparisons since the 12 months ending in March 1995. There was also an increase in the total number of child casualties, up 6% on 2013 at 16,640. However, deaths or serious injuries among child pedestrian dropped by 1% over the same period. This suggests most of the deaths and injuries occur in cars.

Grim reading

The statistics make grim reading, although officials claim it is too early to say if the figures mark the end of the long-term downward trend in child deaths and serious injuries. Some experts blamed parents and other adults for failing to properly secure their children in cars. Edmund King, president of the AA, says: “These latest road casualty statistics indicate a clear rise in in-car child casualties. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest this could be linked to the failure of parents to properly fit their children’s child seats. “There is also separate research showing that some parents may not be keeping their children belted-up in the back of the car.”

In-car safety

A recent study by the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory found that 13% of child passengers were not properly restrained, compared with just 1.9% of drivers caught without a seatbelt. A survey by consumer group Which? also highlighted the potential danger of ill-fitting child seats. It’s not just children who are at risk on the roads. The total number of road deaths at 1,730 was 1% higher than the previous year. There was also a 4% increase in the number of people killed or seriously injured on the roads at 24,360. There were 192,910 reported road casualties of all severities, 5% higher than last year.

Worsening statistics

Even if you take into account a 2% rise in motor traffic levels, the overall casualty rate per vehicle mile increased by 3%. Cyclists are particularly vulnerable. There were 3,500 pedal cyclist deaths or serious injuries in the year ending September 2014, an increase of 8% on the previous year. Motorcyclist deaths and serious injuries were also up 6% to 5,490. The number of car users who were killed or seriously injured rose by 3% to 8,770.

Blame game

Robert Goodwill, transport minister, was anxious to defend the government’s safety record, claiming that Britain’s roads are among the safest in the world, with 40% fewer road deaths a year than a decade ago. But campaigners are not convinced. The Institute of Advanced Motorists suggests that a cut in the number of traffic police could explain the rise in casualties. Road safety charity, Brake, wants the government to implement a three-point road safety plan amid mounting concern about road safety, particularly for cyclists and children.

20-20 vision

Brake is calling for a change in the default urban speed limit to 20mph and the introduction of a zero-tolerance drink drive limit of 20mg per 100ml of blood. It also wants to introduce graduated driver licensing, to allow new drivers to build skills and experience gradually while exposed to less danger. Julie Townsend, Brake’s deputy chief executive, says: “We’re in no doubt these measures would put us back on the path of stopping needless loss of life on our roads, and creating safer streets and communities for all.”

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