It is important to reflect on the human and economic cost of road traffic accidents in Britain. The Department of Transport (DofT) releases annual statistics on road casualties. In their last report published in September 2017 the following key data was released for 2016:

  • Kills – 1,792
  • Serious injury – 24,101
  • Kills/serious injury (KSI) – 25,893
  • Slightly injured – 155,491
  • All casualties – 181,384

The breakdown of deaths was as follows –

  • Car occupants 46%, pedestrians 25%, motorcyclists 18% and cyclists 6%.
  • In 12% of all deaths at least one driver was over the drink-drive limit.
  • 26% of pedestrian casualties were children aged between 0 – 15 years.

The DofT report also estimates that the economic cost of all accidents amounts to £36 billion per annum.

The behaviour of drivers, riders and pedestrians is a key factor in the cause of these casualties.

It is, of course obvious, that the higher the impact speed the higher the risk of serious injury or death. There are 2 reasons for this – firstly the stopping distance increases at a higher speed and secondly higher velocity causes greater damage.

In 2004 The World Health Organisation suggested that an increase in average speed of 1 km/h typically results in a 3% higher risk of a crash involving injury, with a 4–5% increase for crashes that result in fatalities. An average speed decrease of 1 km/h leads to a 3% lower risk of an accident causing an injury although this varies depending on the type of road.

Based on a sample of 8 studies between 1982 – 2008 it can be estimated that the fatality risk for pedestrians being struck by a car is as follows:

The economic cost of preventable road traffic accidents is immense at £36bn but the misery which it inflicts on the injured and bereaved families is immeasurable. It’s simple, slow down to save lives.There is no doubt that there is a strong interaction between increased speed and the number of road casualties, particularly on urban roads. If motorists complied with speed limits and moderated their speed in built-up areas many of the circa 1,800 deaths and 180,000 road casualties which occur annually could be avoided. The human and economic cost of risky driver behaviour is immense. To put this into context, 179 British servicemen and women died in Iraq during the campaign which followed the 2003 invasion and 454 were killed in Afghanistan.