Road Safety - Transport Committee Contents

1  Introduction

Road casualties in Great Britain

1.  2011 saw the first annual increase in the number of people killed in road accidents since 2003 (figure 1). The number of fatalities increased 3% to 1,901. [1] Fatalities increased for car occupants (by 6% to 883) and pedestrians (by 12% to 453). The number of people who were killed or seriously injured (KSI) increased by 2% in this period to 25,023. In particular, KSI figures increased for cyclists (by 15% to 3,192) and motorcyclists (by 8% to 5,609).[2] Although the number of people killed or seriously injured in road accidents was lower than in any year since national records began in 1926 except 2010, the 2011 figures are a very worrying departure from a long-term trend of decreasing road casualties.

Figure 1 Graph showing the number of road deaths across different user groups since 2000. [3]

Table 1 The number of people killed or killed/seriously injured (KSI) in 2011 and the percentage change from 2010.[4]
Road user type Casualty2011 % change from 2010
Pedestrians Killed453 12
KSI 5,9075
CyclistsKilled 107-4
KSI 3,19215
Motorcyclists Killed362 -10
KSI 5,6098
Car occupants Killed883 6
KSI 9,225-5

Key themes

2.  The Government published its Strategic Framework for Road Safety in May 2011. It is based on what the Government describes as the "key principles" of localism, the "Big Society", non-regulatory approaches and deficit reduction.[5] Its vision is for the UK to remain a "world leader" in road safety. The Government aims to maintain ongoing reductions in casualty numbers, whilst tackling specific issues for cyclists and children from deprived areas.[6] The Government believes this can be achieved by encouraging best practice amongst local authorities. The Strategic Framework states that central Government's main responsibilities are: providing national leadership, setting the legal or regulatory framework, agreeing international standards, managing the strategic road network, setting standards for safe driving, providing information and educational materials and sharing research or best practice amongst stakeholders.[7] Empowering local decision makers, improving education and targeted enforcement efforts are the core components of the strategy.[8] We have looked at aspects of enforcement activity previously.[9]

3.  The UK has one of the lowest road fatality rates in the EU.[10] In 2010 the European Commission set a target to achieve a 50% reduction in deaths on European roads by 2020.[11] The Department for Transport supports the EU target, but does not subscribe to it. It notes that the target "does not mean that each member state is expected to deliver this reduction." Those countries with higher casualty levels are expected to be able to achieve higher reductions than countries such as the UK.[12] Various aspects of road safety policy are negotiated at an EU level, for example motorcycle training, drivers' working hours, and various technological regulations on vehicle safety.[13]

Our inquiry

4.  We launched our inquiry in September 2011. We asked for evidence about the Government's Strategic Framework for Road Safety, in particular: the absence of targets from the framework, the role of decentralisation, the efficacy of the Road Safety Act 2006, and the Strategic Framework's action plan. We received over 60 submissions of written evidence and held five oral evidence sessions.[14] During oral evidence we heard from both Mike Penning MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for road safety, and Norman Baker MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for sustainable travel. During the course of our inquiry The Times started a high-profile cycle safety campaign and we heard evidence about their goals. In addition, we visited Halton Borough and Liverpool City Councils to discuss their road safety work. We saw driver training in action with Young Driver at Brent Cross. We also saw some HGV safety features in action from CEMEX at Parliament. We are grateful to those who provided evidence and hosted our visits and we would like to thank our specialist adviser Mike Talbot for his assistance.

5.   As part of our call for evidence we asked about the Road Safety Act 2006, following the publication of a post-legislative scrutiny memorandum.[15] The Act contains a range of provisions that related to enforcement, sanctions and driver education. We asked for evidence about whether this legislative framework is still appropriate. Witnesses told us that, broadly-speaking, it is.[16]

6.   In this report we comment on a number of aspects of the Government's strategy for improving road safety. We consider the Government's leadership in road safety, and the drive for a more localist approach to road safety, as these are key themes in the Government's strategy. We explore the issues associated with certain road user groups that have been described to us as being particular vulnerable, noting those faced by young drivers and cyclists. We comment on continuing issues with the motorcycle test. We then assess broader road safety issues such as speed limits and the role of technology and engineering in the Government's strategy.

1   In 2010 there were 1850 fatalities, in 2011 there were 1901. Back

2   Reported road casualties in Great Britain: main results 2011, DfT, June 2012. Back

3   2010 data from data from Reported road casualties: 2011 main results Back

4   Reported road casualties in Great Britain: main results 2011, DfT, June 2012. Back

5   Strategic Framework for Road Safety, Department for Transport, May 2011, p14-15 (hereafter referred to as Strategic Framework) Back

6   Strategic Framework p11-12 Back

7   Strategic Framework p 38 Back

8   Strategic Framework, p 6-11 Back

9   Drink and drug driving law, First Report of Session 2010-12, HC 460 Back

10   Data available from Sweden has the lowest fatality rate in the EU. Back

11   Ev 111 para 27 Back

12   Ev 87 para 24 Back

13   Halving the number of road accident victims in the European Union by 2010, Commission Communication COM (2003) 311 Back

14   See p 37 for full witness list. Back

15   Post legislative assessment of the Road Safety Act 2006, DfT, July 2011, Cm 8141 Back

16   Ev 87 para 16, Ev 92 para 5, Ev 94, Ev 103 para 3.1, Ev 107 para 2.7, Ev 122 para 17, Ev 136 para 6,  Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2012
Prepared 18 July 2012