They provide important data for those working in the road safety sector. With this information, it is possible to direct road safety initiatives to where they are needed most.
Overall the number of people injured in Scotland's roads continues to see a downward trend. In 2019 there were 7,638 casualties, which shows a fall of 9% on the previous year. This is the lowest level of casualties since records began.
However there are stark and concerning findings about the death rates on Scotland's roads, as well as severe injuries. There was a rise in the number of fatalities between 2018 and 2019. With the overall number of casualties reducing, you might have expected to have seen a similar reduction in fatalities. Analysis of the statistics suggests that there has also been an increase in serious injuries. Added to this is the surprising and concerning finding that Scotland has a 12% higher fatality rate on the roads (per head of population) than England and Wales.
Why are the rates of fatalities and serious injuries so much higher in Scotland? There is much research into the cause of road traffic crashes. Experts analysing the data which has been published by Transport Scotland will be considering the location of the casualties, the speed limits on the roads where those casualties occurred, the age and other demographics of the drivers involved, and what type of vehicle the casualties were travelling in. The data suggests that serious injuries and fatalities are more common on roads with higher speed limits. It can also be seen that the groups of individuals with the highest percentage increase in fatalities are pedestrians and cyclists.
Our own anecdotal evidence is in line with this data from Transport Scotland. We are generally instructed in road traffic cases where there has been serious or fatal injuries. We have seen an increase in these types of cases over the past 12 months. What has been surprising is that the number of new cases we are involved in has not reduced during the period of lockdown for the Covid-19 pandemic. While there may have been periods when the overall traffic on the roads was reduced, this has not necessarily resulted in improved road safety. It may be that there are greater number of pedestrians and cyclists on the roads, those individuals who the statistics show may be more susceptible to serious or fatal injuries. It will be interesting to see how the figures change when the data for road casualties in Scotland in 2020 is published next year.
Meantime, this data will be used to feed into research on how road safety can be improved. The Scottish Government intends to carry out a consultation on road safety for the next decade. Until now, it has been working to the ten year targets which were launched in June 2009 as part of the Scottish Road Safety Framework.
There are many organisations with an interest in road safety. One which is in the spotlight this week is Brake. They campaign for safe streets and the rights of road victims. They also support people who are bereaved and seriously injured by road crashes. This week they are co-ordinating Road Safety Week which is the UK's biggest road safety event. Their theme this year is "No Need To Speed". With the statistics from Transport Scotland showing the greater severity of injury occurring when crashes happen at higher speeds, the importance of the "No need to speed" message speaks for itself.