Road deaths up 10% in a year

The number of people killed on Britain's roads jumped by 10 per cent in a year and are now almost back to pre-pandemic levels, official figures show.

In 2022, some 1,711 people lost their lives due to crashes on our roads, up from 1,558 fatalities the year before, the Department for Transport confirmed in its latest update. It said that the rise was down to the return of normal traffic levels after the Covid pandemic.

But more than a fifth of people killed in cars last year were found to be not wearing a seatbelt, the data revealed.

The rise has also partly been driven by deaths caused in crashes where a driver was speeding or being impaired or distracted - all of which reached their highest levels seen in almost a decade in a 'chilling' reminder that more can be done to curb Britain's road casualty numbers. 

The DfT attributed the 10 per cent jump in fatalities to the increase in journeys following the lifting of coronavirus restrictions.

It stated that the total for 2022 represented a decline of 2 per cent compared with 2019 - the last full-year data from before the Covid pandemic.

Britain's roads remain among the safest in Europe, according to European Transport Safety Council figures, which show 26 deaths per million inhabitants, way below the EU average of 46. 

Only sparsely populated Norway and Sweden have safer roads, with figures of 21 and 22 road deaths per million inhabitants, respectively.

The total number killed or seriously injured - referred to as 'KSI'  - fell 3 per cent on pre-Covid figures to 29,742, while the figure for casualties of all severity fell 12 per cent against the 2019 total to 135,480 instances. 

Car occupant casualties accounted for more than two in five (44 per cent) deaths and over half (53 per cent) of all road injuries sustained last year. 

Across all road user types, pedestrian deaths fell the most in 2022 compared to pre-Covid levels, down 18 per cent on 2019. 

In terms of the vehicles most involved in incidents that led to road deaths last year, 1,331 involved cars, 220 involved heavy goods vehicles, 214 light goods vehicles, 361 motorcycles and 94 bicycles. 

Further of analysis of the DfT's report shows that loss of control of a vehicle was the biggest contributory factor listed by police for road fatalities, representing almost a quarter (24.4 per cent) of all cases in 2022.

Failing to look properly was the next most common reason (22.3 per cent) and careless and reckless driving was close behind at 21.8 per cent.

Exceeding the speed limit was a major factor in almost one in five (19.7 per cent) of road deaths last year, while impairment through drugs or alcohol was identified in 10.4 per cent of reported road casualties.

The data also shows that men are far more likely to be killed or injured on Britain's roads, with 78 per cent of fatalities and 62 per cent of all casualties.

And most at risk in terms of age demographic is the youngest and oldest people, with a quarter (25 per cent) of fatalities involving those aged 17 to 29, and 23 per cent aged 70 or older.

Edmund King, director of the AA Charitable Trust, said every death involving a motorist not wearing a seatbelt is a 'preventable tragedy', as the DfT stats showed that 21 per cent of car occupant fatalities were not buckled up.

The records also showed a stark difference in attitudes towards wearing seatbelts between genders and the time of day people are on the road.

More than a quarter (26.5 per cent) of all male deaths in cars last year were not safely secured, while this was the case for one in ten (10.1 per cent) of women killed in car crashes in 2022.

And while around one in ten (11.1 per cent) occupants killed on Britain's roads travelling in the daytime - between 8am and 6pm - were not belted up, more than two in five (41.6 per cent) killed in cars during the evening and through the night (from 6pm to 8am) were not wearing their safety restraint. 

'There needs to be concerted and targeted education to reach those drivers who choose to risk their lives for the sake of a two-second action,' Mr King says.

'It's on all of us to eliminate deaths and casualties on our roads. As well as having more cops in cars to catch people in the act, road users need to take responsibility when heading out on the roads.'

ebecca Guy, road safety manager for England at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (Rospa) added: 'The data paints a grim picture of road safety in Great Britain.

'Rospa is deeply concerned that despite car manufacturers making significant efforts to improve vehicle safety, lack of government strategy and funding means the number of people killed on our roads has reduced by just 2 per cent since 2012.

'The distinct lack of progress in publishing a road safety strategy since 2019 is deeply concerning, and we urge the Government to publish a clear, evidence-based road safety strategy before more people are killed on the roads.'

RAC road safety spokesman Rod Dennis said: 'Confirmation that last year saw a rise in the number of casualties on our roads is a chilling reminder that there remains so much work to be done to improve road safety in the UK, even if statistically we have some of the safest roads in Europe.

'The data shows there were more fatal collisions last year than at any point over the last decade caused by drivers or riders being distracted, impaired or breaking the speed limit.

'It's time the Government turned the dial up on tackling these issues which, while complex, result in hundreds of people losing their lives every year.'

A DfT spokesman said: 'We welcome the continued decrease in road casualties compared with pre-Covid levels, with our roads being some of the safest in the world.

'Nevertheless, we continue to work tirelessly to improve road safety through our world-renowned Think! road safety campaigns and £47.5million safer roads fund, so local authorities can also work to keep road users safe.'

Outside of coronavirus lockdowns there has been no significant improvement in road crash fatality figures since around 2010.

That said, Britain has some of the safest roads around the world and across Europe.