Why are more serious road accidents now fatal?


Based entirely on official figures, we have been comparing the proportions of fatal, serious and casualty numbers on UK roads from 1950 until 2002. You can download our spreadsheet with full references to official source data. (click here)

We welcome comments on the figures or our conclusions. (click here) to email a comment about the contents of this page. 


Consider the graphs below. From around 1960 until 1990 fatal road accidents ran at about 8% of the rate of serious accidents. But since 1993 the proportion of fatal accidents has been climbing (blue curve). It's now at the highest level since 1951 and looks all set to continue climbing. We note that the modern upwards trend started in 1993 / 1994, exactly the time when UK road safety policy was realigned with "speed kills" and cameras were introduced.

A similar trend may be emerging in the fatal / casualty plot (red curve). Instead of following the modern trend from 1978 to 1993/4 it too shows signs of an increasing proportion of fatal accidents.

The serious / casualty plot (yellow curve is very interesting indeed. It has shown an excellent downwards trend over the period 1984 to about 1996. We think perhaps that this downwards trend is evidence (at last!) of the benefits of seat belts. (Benefit from seat belts has been tremendously elusive in the accident statistics. - some have suggested that there was no benefit at all.) But even this advantageous trend has faltered and stalled with the advent of "Safety Camera partnerships" in 2000. 

Safe Speed concludes

It isn't easy to be sure what these curves represent. It's possible that changes in reporting practice have an influence on the shape of the curves. For example, if people are now less inclined to report minor accidents to the Police, then we might expect the Fatal / Casualty and the Fatal / Serious curves to start rising. What worries us most is that the biggest rises are in the fatal serious curve, where we would expect reporting to be at its best.

So if the graph of fatal / serious is rising, what does that tell us? It tells us that the average severity of a high energy crash is increasing. We're extremely saddened that it's increasing, but the increase is exactly the sort of effect that we've been predicting as over 30 million drivers are distracted to a tiny degree by cameras and enforcement. This is closely coupled with effects that may result from false safety priorities being fed to drivers. See this page: (tiger)

Ask yourself:

If cameras and slow down messages were effective, why can't we see a positive and substantial benefit in these graphs and figures?

Why on earth is the proportion of fatalities in serious road accidents now at its highest since 1951? 

update: It may well be that there's something wrong with our national serious injury figures causing this effect. (click here)

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Let's make speed cameras as unacceptable as drink driving

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Created 3/09/2003. Last update 7/03/2004