Better weather last year may impact figures; Sustrans urges government to make roads safer for children

The number of people killed on Britain’s roads fell by 2 per cent to 1,713 in 2013 – the lowest level since national records were first kept in 1926, according to the Department for Transport (DfT). Drops were recorded in the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured, but the DfT says it’s unclear whether that reflects an ongoing downwards trend.

During 2013, there was an 8 per cent fall in cyclist fatalities, which stood at 109 compared to 118 in 2012. The DfT pointed out, however, that during the past six years, the number of cyclists killed has fluctuated between around 100 and 120, making it impossible to assess whether the latest year-on-year reduction reflects a long-term trend, or whether it is a one-off fluctuation.

There was a similar cautionary note to the figures for cyclists who were seriously injured last year, totalling 3,143, down by 2 per cent on the previous year and the first fall recorded since 2004. Total casualties among cyclists rose 2 per cent to 19,438 as a result of a rise in the number of riders who sustained slight injuries.

Set against the 2005-09 average, while the number of deaths of cyclists last year recorded a fall of 16 per cent, the number of those who were seriously injured was up by nearly a third at 31 per cent. Total cyclist casualties were up 18 per cent in 2013 compared to the average for 2005-09.

While 2013 was an average year in terms of rainfall, the DfT points out that poor weather during 2012, the second wettest year on record, particularly between June and September, is likely to have reduced casualties among vulnerable road users such as cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists, who it says are more likely to be active during those months.

It adds: “Therefore, some caution is needed in interpreting the reduction in accidents between 2012 (very wet) and 2013 (much drier). Had the 2012 rainfall been lower, it is likely that there would have been a larger number of pedal cyclist, pedestrian and motorcyclist casualties in 2012 and thus a larger fall between 2012 and 2013.”

Cyclists made up 6 per cent of fatalities during the year, while motorcyclists accounted for 19 per cent, pedestrians 23 per cent and car occupant 46 per cent.

The DfT’s figures revealed that across Great Britain, 1,608 children were killed or seriously injured while walking or cycling, prompting Sustrans to urge the government to make roads safer for youngsters.

The sustainable transport charity’s head of policy, Claire Francis, said: “While this year has seen an overall decrease in the number of children killed and seriously injured on our roads, 32 young lives were still tragically lost in traffic incidents.

“Every child road death is one too many and it is shocking and unacceptable that on average more than four children are killed or seriously injured while walking or cycling each day.

“The tragedy is even greater when such a simple solution is at our fingertips – urgent action is needed to make our roads safer by making dedicated funding available, lowering traffic speeds and transforming local walking and cycling routes.

“The unseen consequence of these figures is a growing fear among parents that the roads are too dangerous for their children to walk and cycle. Every child has the right to walk and cycle safely; it’s time the government made this a reality – it’s a matter of life and death,” she added.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.