The Government has published the latest annual road casualty data for Great Britain. This does include of course periods (April to June and November in 2020) when the country was in lockdown from the coronavirus pandemic and when travel of all kinds was reduced. So the figures may not be typical – they do include a separate analysis of the impact of lockdown.
There were 1,460 reported road deaths and 23,529 KSI (Killed and Seriously Injured) which are substantial reductions on prior years – see chart above of fatal trends. Fatalities reduced by 17% over the prior year and KSIs by 22% when road traffic reduced by 21%, i.e. there was no significant difference assuming accidents directly relate to traffic volumes although anecdotally increases in traffic speed were reported during lockdowns.
Total casualties, including slight ones, were down by 25% although that might be due to less reporting and changes to the way data was collected by the police using Stats19 forms. Although adjustments were made to allow for the latter, people may have been less willing to visit police stations to report slight injuries during the pandemic.
Cycling casualties rise
One anomaly in the data is that there was a substantial increase in the number of cyclist deaths – up by 41% to 141 from 2019. Presumably this might be because of encouragement to cycle during the pandemic or more inexperienced cyclists on the roads. Other data suggests there was some increase in cycling in 2020 particularly during the summer months although whether that continued into 2021 is not clear.
Politicians and civil servants should be aware that encouraging cycling does lead to more deaths and injuries to cyclists, i.e. it’s not a risk free move. Cycling is still very much a minority interest for most journeys but as more people worked from home and had more leisure time for cycling this may account for the change in numbers.
Bus casualties fall
Another significant change during 2020 was the reduction in bus casualties by 51%. Many such accidents are caused by the elderly or disabled falling over in buses and as they were probably being wary of using public transport during the pandemic that may account for this change. For similar reasons there were greater reductions in casualties in those aged up to 16 and over 60 as they travelled less.
In summary, there was a welcome reduction in overall casualties last year but that was almost certainly down simply to reductions in travel on our roads.
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