UK road deaths
Road deaths and injuries are rising again. Dodgy data clouds the issue, and while Brexit issues hog the headlines, the drink-drive message isn’t getting through. Simon Hacker asks has health and safety gone AWOL?
1 At 240 deaths per year, the figures for drink-drive deaths are stagnating. They’ve not come down since 2010, which suggests an intransigent core of drivers who either canít hear or understand the government’s message. More broadly, a total of 24,610 people were killed or seriously injured (KSI casualties) in the year ending March 2016, with figures for serious injury rising by two per cent, while 49 more people died than in 2014. Within that data, the bottom-line statistic that goes virtually unreported, is that we are certain-ish of 1,780 deaths.
2 The uncertainty comes with a sanity warning. The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS), which rounds up all the UK figures for the DfT, has a problem: the council hasnít actually been able to declare with total accuracy what the final statistics for death and injury are. Yes, you read correctly: the loss of a loved one, the loss of anyone, might seem enough of an earthquake to be registered on official records, but police forces are blaming resource pressure for this crucial missing paperwork. PACTS has consequently hit out at some forces, including the Met and Greater Manchester, for failing to supply the data. A spokesman says: ‘A separate issue that is becoming increasingly evident is the vulnerability of the entire casualty reporting system due to lack of prioritisation by some police forces.’
3 If weíre to tackle this dreadful issue, the first priority has to be clear information. With dodgy data, what chance for a clear, articulate message that gets through to the right driver ñ the one most likely to kill or be killed? When we look at past drink-drive data, for instance, a picture emerges of specific risk areas. As safety campaign group Brake has pointed out in 2014ís data: ìit was not the youngest age group (17 to 25) but 25 to 39 year olds who were most likely to be casualties.î Has this factor changed for 2015ís figures? Sadly, with missing data from police forces, we donít properly know.
4 But we do know this year’s figures have to be a red line for any government hoping to improve our road system. As Brake research advisor Lucy Amos says: ‘The statistics reveal a worrying level of stagnation.’ So what might the solutions be? PACTS has perhaps the best perspective, being at the centre of the information network. Among its recommendations, it calls for: more support from the pub and drink industry to promote alcohol-free drinks and designated driver campaigns, better enforcement of drink-driving by the police, a lower drink-drive limit in England and Wales, as in Scotland and (soon) Northern Ireland, and full analysis of the impact of the lower limit in Scotland.
5 If we donít listen to this year’s bungled figures as a wake-up call, 2016ís figures may see yet another wrong turn on the graph, given that 2015’s in themselves were a four per cent rise on the preceding year. PACT is certainly not pulling punches at the implications for the future: ìThe Government is failing in its manifesto commitment to reduce the number of road users killed or seriously injured every year. There has been very little reduction in these figures since 2010Ö We need to see stronger action, particularly in drink-driving, which accounts for 13 per cent of all deaths.î