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  • Mark Salisbury

Road casualties increase after Covid dip

The number of drivers and road users killed and seriously injured is back to pre-pandemic levels, and businesses need to take action to reduce this tragic toll, says RED Corporate Driver Training.

The latest road casualty figures for 2022 from the Department for Transport show nearly 1,700 people were killed on Britain’s roads in 2022 while almost 30,000 were seriously injured. Both figures were just below 2019’s figures, and a significant increase on those during the height of the pandemic.

“The reported road casualty figures from 2022 show a worrying return to ‘business as usual’ with the number of people killed and seriously injured heading back to pre-covid levels. We just can’t let this happen. More needs to be done in terms of training, technology and awareness,” said RED Corporate Driver Training CEO Seb Goldin.

“From the businesses we work with, it’s clear that people are travelling less than before the pandemic, using technology to replace some in-person meetings. Yet the number of life changing accidents is almost back to where it was before. It’s a very disturbing trend. Exactly why is hard to pinpoint, but it seems that we’ve lost some experience on our roads – often the more you drive the better you get at identifying risky situations.”

The figures do show that minor incidents have dropped significantly: there were 136,002 casualties of all severities, a decline of 11% compared to 2019.

This is good news, said Goldin, but it also shows a growing divergence between minor and major incidents which RED believes is down to technology and improvements in vehicle safety.

“Clearly there are fewer lower-level injuries as a result of accidents, which is a very positive trend. We believe this is because of the improvements in vehicle safety technology, which are either helping to avoid accidents altogether, or reducing the effect of them if they are unavoidable,” he said.

“But the fact that the KSI numbers refuse to drop illustrates that technology is not a silver bullet that stops all accidents. In fast moving, highly dynamic incidents technology can only do so much and, as a result, to improve road safety it must work hand-in-hand with better driving standards and awareness.

“You cannot forget about the person behind the wheel. They’re still the determining factor in almost all accidents, and technology can only go so far in protecting a bad driver and other road users. Training those drivers better, to recognise shortcomings and see problems before they occur, while using technology as a safety net, is the solution to reducing major accidents.”

One other area of concern, said Goldin, was the increase in KSI numbers for goods vehicle occupants, which over the past decade has risen from 537 to 729 a year – or more than 35% – while the overall casualty numbers have fallen.

“Yet again, we’re seeing a widening gap between a stabilising of overall casualties and the most serious ones, which are on the rise. The logistics and delivery sector is growing, but it cannot come at a higher price in terms of serious injuries and lives lost,” added Goldin.

“We must ensure that all commercial drivers are ready and able to do the job to the best of their abilities, and that behind the wheel they are as safe as they can be.”

RAC spokesperson Rod Dennis said: “There’s no doubt these figures make for gloomy reading – after a reduction in fatalities on our roads during the coronavirus lockdowns, the numbers are now rising again. And, while the lack of progress over many years in bringing overall casualty numbers down is itself a cause for concern, the figures for the number of men - of all age groups, but especially the young – who are killed on our roads is stark.

“Every person killed is one person too many and we feel improving road safety needs to be given the attention and resources it deserves. We urge the Government to take a serious look at reintroducing casualty reductions targets to give the whole topic much more focus on a national stage.

“RAC research also shows an increasing proportion of drivers are concerned about the poor standard of driving – as many as one-in-three say it is one of their main concerns. As a result, we strongly believe the Government should look at whether the long-term decline in full-time road traffic police officers has led to a worsening in driver behaviour and a rise in casualties as a result.”

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