UK reports fewer road deaths in 2020

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Provisional figures released by the Department for Transport (DfT) have revealed that 2020 road deaths in the UK are down for the first time in eight years. It is thought that the global pandemic and national lockdowns, which reduced traffic levels by 25%, are the main reasons for the fewer less deaths and injuries. On average, four people are still dying on UK roads every day, compared to five people a day in 2019.

The UK’s largest independent road safety charity, IAM RoadSmart, is appealing to the UK Government to demonstrate real leadership to build on these reductions in death and injury in the years to come.

A quick overview of the provisional figures revealed:

  • An estimated 1,472 reported road deaths in 2020 which includes a total of 4 months of national lockdown (April to June and November) – a 16% fall.
  • An estimated 23,486 killed or seriously injured (KSI) casualties in 2020, a decrease of 22% compared to the same period in 2019.
  • The reduction in road traffic followed a similar trend in the same period and decreased by 21%.
  • Pedal cyclist casualty rates saw the greatest percentage decrease (34%) compared to all other road user types (because many more people cycled).
  • Actual numbers of cyclists killed went up by 40 and by 40 % (100 were killed in 2019 and 140 in 2020).
  • Children (aged 0 to 16 years) and older people (60 years and older) had the greatest percentage decrease of 84% and 74% respectively, compared to the three-year average for 2017 to 2019.

The rise in cycling injuries is worrying and shows the government must do more to protect them by building higher quality segregated cycling facilities. White paint and temporary bollards are not enough to protect cyclists from motorized traffic.

“These results are not unexpected,” says Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart’s director of policy and research. “The reductions in deaths and serious injuries on roads are obviously related to the global pandemic and resulting lockdowns. We need UK Government to show real leadership and push road safety up the political agenda if we are to see real, sustainable return of year-on-year improvements.”

“While the reduction in deaths comes after eight years of flat lining with no improvement in Britain’s road safety performance, it means we are now bottom of the international league for rate of improvement,” Neil continues. “However, 2020 presents an opportunity for the Government to get its new road safety strategy in place and ‘build back safer’ for all road users.”

“Up to date collision information is essential to avoid transport policy being developed in a data vacuum,” Neil warns. “We urge the Government to issue road safety figures more frequently so that informed decisions can be made. This is particularly important following the significant shift we’ve seen in the last 15 months due to the pandemic and increasing use of new modes of transport. Any new strategy must be well funded to ensure long term investment in safer roads, better facilities for vulnerable road users, fixing potholes and delivering more traffic police to raise the fear of being caught. Lockdown showed that investment in road policing could help catch those criminals who continued to speed and drive under the influence.”

The full report from the DfT can be found here.

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Lauren is acting associate editor for Traffic Technology International and freelance journalist. Over the past 15 years, she has worked on a wide variety of B2B publications and websites, including a stint as deputy editor of Traffic Technology International from 2014-2016. She has a degree in English from the University of Exeter. Lauren is mum two busy little girls. She is always in demand!