Today government announced the first road casualty increase since 2003 despite a levelling off in vehicle traffic levels.

Reported Road Casualties in Great Britain: 2011 shows that the annual number of people killed in road accidents increased by 3% from 1,850 in 2010 to 1,901 in 2011 – the first increase since 2003. The number killed or seriously injured rose by 2% from 24,510 to 25,023, the first annual increase since 1994.

In the last decade, the reduction in road deaths has largely come from improved ‘passive’ safety in new vehicles, such as lairbags and crumple zones feeding through the vehicle fleet. The combination of the financial crisis, and the hike in fuel prices and insurance costs, has driven particularly lower income drivers in older vehicles off the road.

Dr Joanne Marden, director of the Road Safety Foundation says: “Now, as things stabilise, we must get safety policies back on track.

“For drivers that means tackling hard core drinkers, excessive speeding and those not wearing seat belts.

“For vehicles, it means continuing the introduction of safety features in 4 and 5-star cars and accelerating the adoption of technologies such as electronic stability control and emergency brake assistance that help drivers avoid crashes.

“On the roads it means persuading authorities to recognise the long term benefits of investing to bring single carriageway ‘A’ roads up to at least 3-star safety standards by 2020, following the lead of Sweden and the Netherlands.

“Failure to act not only means more pain and suffering but higher costs. The cost of road crashes in Britain has been estimated at between 1.2 and 2.3% of GDP annually.  The Road Safety Foundation’s annual programme of mapping and tracking road safety risk on Britain’s motorways and A roads shows that simple and relatively low cost measures such as signing, lining and marking can pay back the costs of investment in weeks.

“The international community is moving on preparing policies Towards Zero road deaths. Today’s sharp warning reminds Britain that it cannot sit on its laurels for policies it led 20 years ago.”

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