Road deaths plummet in wake of lockdown

Friday, 29th January 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Friday, 29th January 2021, 8:59 am

The number of people killed or injured on Britain’s roads fell significantly last year as the coronavirus lockdown slashed traffic levels around the country.

Data from the Department for Transport shows that in the 12 months to June 2020, deaths were down 14 per cent and there was a 16 per cent drop in casualties of all severities. However, the figures reflect a dramatic fall in road traffic and show little real progress on casualty reduction.

According to the provisional figures, there were an estimated 1,580 road deaths between June 2019 and June 2020, down from 1,827 in the previous year. Of those, 670 deaths occured between January and June 2020 - a 21 per cent decrease on the same period in 2019.

The total number of all casualties from June 2019-20 fell to 131,220 with an overall 11 per cent reduction in killed or seriously injured cases - to 24,470.

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However, the DfT warned that the data needed to be interpreted with caution due to the lockdown’s impact on traffic levels and on police forces’ ability to supply data.

The report notes: “During the first half of 2020, the change in accidents and casualties compared to the previous year varies notably by month, with the largest reductions corresponding to the periods of COVID-19 lockdown.”

In January and February, the number of casualties was broadly consistent with 2019 but then fell dramatically. In March, casualties were down 33 per cent and in April they were down 67 per cent.

However, accounting for the dramatic drop in traffic levels during the first half of last year, the figures show little improvement in deaths per mile travelled. From April to June 2020 deaths were down an average of 48 per cent but traffic volume was down 49 per cent.

Traffic levels fell dramatically during the first lockdown (Photo: Shutterstock)

Figures for the full year paint a similar picture.The fatality rate per billion vehicle miles remained stable at 5.1 and the overall casualty rate per billion vehicle miles decreased by two per cent.

The report also noted that there had been a smaller reduction in the casualty rates for cyclists, possibly because of an increase in bicycle use as people try to avoid public transport.

Neil Greig, director of policy and research at IAM RoadSmart, said that the figures suggested drivers need to be more aware of the increased number of cyclists on the road.

He commented: “Despite fears that speeding has increased substantially during the first lockdown it does now look as if the number of casualties has gone down in line with falling traffic numbers. This is certainly good news as it shows that the vast majority of car, van and lorry stuck drivers to the rules.

“While the reduction in overall casualties is good news for road safety generally, the reduction in casualties for cyclists was less impressive. We therefore urge all road users to continue to be extra vigilant for cyclists as more people take to their bikes during lockdown.”