Following the release of the latest official estimated road casualty figures, the RAC is urging the Government to consider re-introducing road safety targets.

The disappointing statistics reveal a rise in the number of road deaths. This is despite lower traffic levels following the pandemic.  

The provisional estimates for 2021, published last week,  show there were 1,560 road deaths, a year-on-year rise of 7%.

There were also year-on-year rises in the number of KSI casualties (13%) and the total number of casualties (11%).

However, along with traffic levels, the figures have not reached pre-pandemic levels. But taking these factors into consideration, the RAC is labelling the figures  “disappointing”. They underline for more investigation, particularly when it comes to law enforcement and the decline of police officers.

Targeting time

Nicholas Lyes, RAC head of roads policy, says: “We urge the Government to consider re-introducing road safety targets. 

“They should also look at whether the long-term decline in full-time road traffic police officers has led to a worsening in driver behaviour and an increase in casualties as a result.

“We also once again call on the Government to look at how camera-based technology could support the police in enforcing the ban on handheld mobile phone use while driving.”

2021 figures show a year-on-year rise. Of course it is important this should be reviewed in the light of the lockdowns. This reveals distortions in the headline statistics but it does not nullify the apparent trends.

Road traffic figures for 2021 were not available in time for the release. They will however be available as part of the final annual road casualty statistics in September. This means a more accurate casualty rate can be assessed.

Possible positives

Despite this, the report says ‘monthly changes in casualties generally showed a similar trend to changes in motor traffic levels’.

When compared to pre-pandemic figures, the data shows the number of fatalities in 2021 was 12% less than the 2017-19 average.

Using the same metrics, the number of KSI casualties (13%) and total casualties (21%) are also down.

Looking at road user type, it is encouraging to see a fall in the number of pedal cyclists killed – down 20% on 2020.

The bigger picture

However, this figure remains 13% above the 2017-19 average.

Car occupants, pedestrians and motorcyclists showed the opposite trend, with increases in fatalities in 2021 compared with 2020 and decreases compared with the 2017-2019 average.

The biggest year-on-year increase was seen among car occupants, up 6%.

Again with all figures, it is worth considering them in the context of the Covid pandemic.