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Sharp rise in cycling casualties revealed by latest road safety statistics - Government safety record slammed

Policing cutbacks to blame with effect of recession masking true picture say critics as casualties rise for all road users

The government's record on road safety has come under attack after new figures revealed nearly 25,000 people were killed or seriously injured on Great Britain's roads in the year to September 2014, a 4 per cent rise over the previous year. 

The sharpest growth was recorded among cyclists, with 3,500 killed or seriously injured, a year-on-year increase of  8 per cent, while the number of riders suffering slight injuries was up 11 per cent to 17,650.

Compared to the 2005-09 average, the number of cyclist casualties, including slight injuries, was 28 per cent higher during the latest 12-month period, but the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured was up by 38 per cent.

According to the Department for Transport (DfT), among all road users 24,360 people were killed or seriously injured during the year to September, a 4 per cent rise over 2013/14. Some 168,540 people were slightly injured, a 5 per cent year-on-year increase.

Within that, there was a 3 per cent increase in the number of children killed or seriously injured, and 6 per cent in child casualties of any severity, the first rise in rolling year-on-year comparisons in two decades.

The figures have seen the government criticised for cutbacks to roads policing, with the reffects of the economic downturn believed to have masked the true underlying picture, leading to politicians becoming copmplacent about road safety.

Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said: “It is disappointing that after many years of solid falls in the numbers of people killed and injured on our roads, the Government has taken its eye off the ball.

“These figures reflect our view that cuts in visible policing and road safety spending has had an impact, with a third successive quarter of increases. We have had pretty much two decades of falls in the KSI (killed/seriously injured) figures, and while these new figures can in no way be regarded as a trend, they are a big concern.

“Recent transport ministers have been lucky. The recession had slowed traffic growth, new car technology has delivered safer roads year on year and most accident black spots have now been engineered out of existence.”

According to Greig, their needs to be a change in attitude among motorists before the situation would improve.

“This is an opportunity for us to prove the key underlying part that driver skills and behaviour play in road safety,” he said.

“Most crashes are caused by human error, and technology can only deliver so much. If we don’t change policy we will still be killing 1,000 people a year in 2030 – that is unacceptable. Driver behaviour, skills and training will be the key focus for our future research and policy work.”

Austerity measures have caused police forces across the country to slash the number of road policing officers by 12 per cent.

Last week, the Police Federation’s lead on traffic, Jayne Willetts, told The Independent: “Police officers are absolutely frustrated by the rise in fatalities because, at the end of the day, we need more officers in marked cars acting as a deterrent.

“We welcome hi-tech developments, including the emerging smart motorway network, but the increasing reliance on automated technology and cameras can’t compensate for the decline in traffic police, who are the most effective way of combating dangerous drivers, drink drivers and people using mobile phones while driving,” she added.

Road safety charity Brake said that the rise in deaths and serious injuries among cyclists and children were “of particular concern.”

Julie Townsend, the charity’s deputy chief executive, said: “These casualty increases are the tragic result of a failure of ambition.

“They come on the back of three years of flat-lining road death and serious injury figures, during which the government congratulated itself on having ‘some of the safest roads in the world’, rather than making forward thinking decisions and setting targets to secure further reductions.

“We need a commitment to a long-term vision of nobody being killed or seriously injured on our roads, rather than settling for the status quo. Every road casualty causes appalling suffering, and everyone can be prevented, but only if we make the right moves.”

Brake called on political parties to make three key commitments to road safety in their manifestos for May’s general election.

Those are making 20 miles an hour the default speed limit in urban areas, bring in graduated licensing of drivers to help new motorists acquire the skills to drive safely over time, and introduce a “zero-tolerance” limit for drink driving of  20mg per 100ml of blood.

“We’re in no doubt these measures would put us back on the path of stopping needless loss of life on our roads, and creating safer streets and communities for all,” added Townsend.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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