The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has urged greater focus on road safety following the publication of annual casualty figures which show the first increase in road deaths since 2003.
The figures for 2011 for Great Britain, published by the Department for Transport, show that road deaths rose by three per cent from 1,850 in 2010 to 1,901 in 2011.
Child deaths rose by nine per cent from 55 in 2010 to 60 in 2011, which is particularly disappointing given that the two previous years showed substantial reductions in child deaths.
The number of seriously injured children fell by four per cent to 2,352 in 2011.
At 19,474, the overall number of child casualties (killed, seriously injured and slightly injured) barely changed between 2010 and 2011.
There were 453 pedestrian deaths in 2011, a rise of 12 per cent from 2010 and the number of seriously injured pedestrians increased by five per cent to 5,454.
The number of cyclists killed fell by four per cent from 111 in 2010 to 107 in 2011 despite the increasing number of cyclists on the road.
However, seriously injured cyclists increased by 16 per cent to 3,085, emphasising that we must find ways to make the roads safer for cyclists, through a combination of road designs that make cycling safer and better education and training for both motorists and cyclists.
A welcome ten per cent fall in motorcyclist deaths to 362 was accompanied by a disappointing ten per cent increase in serious injuries to 5,247 and an eight per cent increase in overall motorcyclist casualties.
Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at RoSPA, said: “After a long period of deaths falling year on year, we are very disturbed that they have risen, particularly among children and pedestrians.
“We are concerned that this may be the end of the downwards trend in people being killed on our roads because this is the first time that annual road deaths have risen since 2003 and follows three years where deaths reduced by several hundred per year.
“RoSPA is concerned that reduced public spending on road safety, especially cuts to local authority and road policing budgets, may be partly to blame. The Government and the road safety profession need to urgently get together to understand why road deaths have now started to rise.
“It is crucial that the Government demonstrates strong leadership by examining what more it can do to help local authorities, the police and other bodies involved in road safety to refocus and reinvigorate their services.
“One of the ways they could do this is through the changes to public health in England, which provide an opportunity to encourage local action.
“However, national leadership of this area is crucial because the experience of the last three decades shows how effective a strong, comprehensive national road safety strategy can be in saving lives and reducing injuries.”
Simon Best, chief executive of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said: “It is unacceptable that road deaths and serious injuries rose last year, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists who saw the greatest rises. Road accidents usually drop during an economic recession, so this rise after continuous reductions over the last ten years, is particularly concerning.
“Ministers should take this as a serious warning. Cutting road safety education, scrapping casualty targets, and reductions in local authority spending all suggest that road safety isn’t a major priority for this government.”