Despite figures showing Britain as the second safest place to drive in Europe, with Sweden leading the way, ministers are concerned that the amount of deaths and serious injuries on its roads has not reduced.
The Department for Transport (DfT) are alarmed that the rate of casualties has remained unchanged since 2010, despite significant improvements in the safety of vehicles.
Reliance on car infotainment systems and mobile phone use are thought to have contributed to a ‘plateauing’ of figures, triggering warnings from officials.
Currently five people die on the roads and 68 are seriously injured every day, figures that have pushed the DfT to announce a major review to address ‘public disquiet’ over the state of road policing.
In a ‘call for evidence’ document, the DfT say the failure to reduce casualties on UK roads could be a result of infotainment systems and mobile phones driving motorists to distraction.
They also admit laws against using mobiles at the wheel are being routinely flouted.
It says: “Vehicles have become inherently safer with more warning systems alerting the driver to maintenance issues and growing safety focused automation and driver assistance systems. At the same time advances in car infotainment systems and mobile phone technology mean that there are increasing sources of potential distraction for drivers.
“All this is set against a background of increasing traffic volumes leading to the economic and environmental threats posed by the ever-present threat of increasing congestion.”
The DfT has said it is engaged in work to understand better what lies behind the plateauing of casualty figures and how the current trends can be addressed to deliver reductions in casualties on Britain’s roads.
The current GB road casualty picture and its historical context are illustrated by the figure 1 graph:
These trends are not unique to Great Britain. While fatal road casualties in the European Union overall have also plateaued since 2013 some countries continue to make reductions. Figure 2 shows how road casualty trends in the 5 countries in Europe with the best road safety records compare with the UK.
Figure 2: Road Deaths per Million Population 2010 to 2018
As well as the loss of life, serious injury and distress, these casualty figures also have an economic value. The cost to the British economy is estimated to be in the region of £36 billion a year, the DfT have said.
Title image credit: Pixabay. Other images: Department for Transport