The government has published its annual report on road casualty figures for 2018, with a broadly similar number of fatal, serious and slight injury incidents being reported by Police forces to 2017.
Given that the UK population continues to increase by an estimated 430,000 people every year, (ONS figures) and there are more vehicles on the roads – especially vans and bicycles – plus roads are not being maintained properly as the plethora of pot-holes amply demonstrates, the figures are surprisingly positive. Across most of Europe, the UK has the safest roads except for Norway and Switzerland, when vehicle mileage and population are factored into the equation.
However, anyone who ventures out on two wheels knows only too well how potentially dangerous our UK roads are, with large numbers of holes ready to trap an unwary bike or scooter rider and cause them to fall off. There are also very few visible traffic Police on UK roads, which has undoubtedly led to an increase of drivers using the roads without the correct insurance, or a valid MoT.
Campaigns once a year by the Met, or West Yorkshire’s Operation Steerside, which targets illegal vehicles and seizes them on the spot, are commendable, but no substitute for 24/7, everyday patrol work. Illegal drivers need to have their vehicles seized often, so that the current calculation of insurance at £1000 per year, vs cheap Gumtree car for £400 plus £250 fine, no longer makes sense.
Buried deep within the government report for 2018, there is one fact that really stands out; over 20 percent of all drivers involved in fatal road collisions were NOT wearing a seat belt. That suggests those drivers were also likely to be committing other offences at the time of the incident, although the research data is simply not in the report.
It is regrettable that the government report waffles on at length about the effects of GDP and recession, or fuel prices, when it comes to accident causes, but fails to dig deeper into the culture of illegal driving, or riding of motorcycles and quadbikes. There is also no separation of fatal accidents involving Police chases, or impromtu road racing, vs regular commuting or leisure driving. This really is a crucial factor, because those drivers engaged in late night versions of GTA are not driving normally, and their actions should not form the basis of broader road safety policy or laws.
Reacting to the publication of the 2018 road casualty figures by the Department for Transport, RAC head of policy Nicholas Lyes said:
“This latest set of data makes for disappointing reading. In short, there has been no meaningful reduction in fatalities at a national level for seven consecutive years now. While we welcome the Government’s renewed focus with the publication of its recent road safety statement, there needs to be a significant shift in policy that will result in far fewer serious collisions.
“Of particular concern are the rises in fatalities among older age groups and a spike in fatalities on motorways – some worrying trends are emerging here that require immediate investigation, to understand the reasons for these increases and what can be done to reduce them. In addition, the Government’s data suggests an increase in motorway collisions where at least one driver has been under the influence of illegal drugs.
“Historically, Great Britain has been proud of its road safety record, but these figures clearly show that is no room for complacency.”