Last week the Department of Transport released the annual Road Accident statistics which were then turned into very clear graphics by The Guardian newspaper. The results made fascinating reading, not least because the issue of speeding as a notable cause of accidents was notable by its absence.
1901 people died on the UK’s roads last year. Compared to 2010, that was an extra 51 fatalities. However, this fatalities figure is well down (by around a third, according to the Guardian) on second half of the last decade.
While the rate for 'fatalities as car passenger' was up by 6 per cent, it was down 10 per cent for motor cyclists and down four per cent for cyclists. Perhaps more of note was that pedestrian deaths were up by 12 per cent, surely a symptom of the smart phone generation whose eyes are not always on the road ahead.
Overall, 256 pedestrians were killed by cars and taxis, 34 by buses, 18 by motorbikes and two by cyclists.
Surprisingly, the number of road accidents has also tumbled since 2009. There were 203,950 accidents in 2011, down 2 per cent on 2010 and down an amazing 17 per cent since 2009. The deaths of drivers over the blood alcohol limit are also tumbling, down from 560 in 2006 to just 280 in 2011.
One of the most instructive breakdowns are the total fatalities by road speed limit. While just seven people were killed in 20mph zones, 612 were killed in 30mph zones and 661 in 60mph zones. Although these figures included pedestrians, it shows just how dangerous urban and B-roads can be. By stark contrast 235 people were killed in 70mph zones.
However, the real surprise is the breakdown of contributory factors in the accidents attended by police. 42 per cent of the accidents were at least partly caused by failure ‘to look properly’, 21 per cent by failure to ‘judge other person’s path or speed’, 16 per cent ‘careless, reckless or in a hurry’. A further 14 per cent were ‘loss of control’, 14 per cent a ‘poor turn or manoeuvre and 10 per cent ‘pedestrian failed to look properly’.
You’ll have already twigged that speeding – breaking the local speed limit – has not been listed. It might be that breaking the speed limit has been merged into ‘loss of control’ or ‘…in a hurry’, but there can be little doubt that speeding is not one of the main causes of serious accidents and deaths.
We’ve come a long way from the ridiculous and simplistic ‘speed kills’ mantra and the speed camera rage generated by the last government. Bad driving causes death and destruction. Tailgating, drink, drugs, going too fast in poor weather, using the phone… there are many reasons and only speeding at a fixed point – surely the cause of a tiny number of accidents – can be patrolled by a camera.
Unusually, two Autocar staffers have recently been pulled for speeding and are heading for ‘speed awareness’ courses. I’d be much happier about the current approach of traffic cops if drivers were also pulled for the reasons listed above and that these courses were called ‘road awareness’ courses.
After all, by the police’s own accident investigation figures, speeding is not nearly the biggest problem. Lack of attention, poor judgment and limited driving skill are the real killers.