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Annual road statistics unfortunately confirm the definition of vulnerable road users remains true

What measures is the Gov proposing to implement that may reduce the level of future vulnerable road user casualties?

The Department for Transport’s annual statistics on reported road casualties in Great Britain in 2020 provides a definitive insight into how the reduction of traffic on the roads resulting from the COVID pandemic and the recent change in travel behaviour has impacted on road accidents.

The data highlights that whilst the majority of accidents occur on busy urban roads, most fatalities take place on rural roads, which are often subject to the higher speed limits, restricted visibility and reduced opportunities to avoid collisions.

The headline findings for 2020 are:

  • Road traffic decreased by 21%, in comparison to the 2019 data
  • The number of total casualties dropped by 25%, suggestive of a strong link between the reduced road traffic and the number of casualties.
  • Fatalities were reduced by 17%, with at least three-quarters of these accidents involving at least one car.
  • The number of serious injuries reduced by 22 %.
  • Looking at the total casualties by road user type, the biggest reductions from 2019 were:
    • Bus and coach occupants -51%
    • Pedestrians -32%
    • Car occupants -28%
  • The highest number of reported road casualties involved male adults in the 25-to-49-year age group.

The Government’s e-scooter factsheet, states that there were 484 reported casualties involving e-scooters (trial and private) in 2020, the majority of which were e -scooter users. Of the 484 casualties, one person (an e-scooter user) was sadly killed, 128 were seriously injured and the remaining 355 were slightly injured. Unfortunately, the level of reporting of e-scooter casualties is affected by the shortcomings in STATS19 definitions, hospitals having no standardised method of collating these incidents and the unwillingness of private e-scooter riders to self-report incidents as they would effectively be reporting themselves as committing a crime.

The British Horse Society has received reports of 1,010 road accidents in 2020, 80% of which occurred due to vehicles passing too closely, with nearly half of horse riders having been subject to road rage.

As the levels of motorised and non-motorised traffic on the roads increase, this is likely to translate into more road casualties over the next year. Given the high number of vulnerable road user casualties and the increasing popularity of active travel, such as walking and cycling, more must be done to reduce the number of accidents and their severity amongst this road user type.

Encouragingly, the Government has identified and is putting in place a number of measures that may reduce the level of future vulnerable road user casualties. The Government remains committed to the ongoing implementation of its Cycling and Walking Strategy, which aims to create additional physically segregated pedal bikes lanes, extensive and connected safe cycling and walking corridors, low traffic and low-speed residential neighbourhoods and bus lanes. Furthermore, the Government strategies: “Future of transport” and “Future of mobility” focus not only on the urban strategy but also rural strategy and the way in which they can ensure a more integrated (and presumably safer) transport service.   

The proposed changes to the Highway Code, if approved by Parliament this Autumn, may also reduce the number of road casualties further by emphasising the need for motorised traffic to exercise greater care and patience around vulnerable road users, as they are most at risk of injury on the roads. Guidance as to how to safely pass a horse should reduce the number of accidents involving horses and their riders.

We will watch with interest as to whether next year’s annual statistics indicate the implementation of the above measures has resulted in a welcome downward trend in the overall road casualties and in the vulnerable road user type, in particular.

“Cracking the Code” - the proposed changes to the Highway Code and what it means for vulnerable road users…

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