Monday, 21 June 2010

Road casualties in London 2009

Road casualty statistics are invariably spun to proclaim the message that Britain’s roads, which are already allegedly the safest in the world, are getting safer than ever. Friday’s Transport for London press release began like this

Thousands of lives saved on the roads

Figures released by the Mayor and Transport for London (TfL) today (18 June) show that the capital is beating road safety targets, with deaths and serious injuries on London's roads having halved compared to just over a decade ago.

In reality London’s roads are very dangerous places and getting MORE dangerous. Last year saw an INCREASE in road collisions involving injury:

23,239 road traffic collisions involving personal injury were reported to the Metropolitan and City Police during 2009 within Greater London. This is a 0.5% increase in collisions compared with 2008.

They resulted in 27,979 casualties. Of these, 184 were fatally injured, 3,043 were seriously injured, and 24,752 were slightly injured.

This horrific total (which is sanitized and marginalized by a mass media which is highly selective in the violence it chooses to focus on) may well be linked to the continuing reduction in road traffic law enforcement:

Cuts in the money that Transport for London gives to the Met Police for road safety have led to a reduction in the number of fixed penalty notices for drivers jumping red lights, which dropped from 27,400 in 2008 to 17,684 in 2009.

Injuries to cyclists and pedestrians were both UP.

The number of cyclists killed and seriously injured fell by 3% in 2009, but cyclist casualties slightly injured rose by 17%.

Pedestrian casualties increased by 2%. Pedestrian fatalities decreased by 6% from 94 to 88, serious injuries decreased by 2% but slight injuries increased by 6%.

Pedal cyclist casualties overall increased by 15%. Fatalities reduced from 15 to 13, serious injuries decreased by 2% but slight injuries increased by 17%.

All that is happening is that the CONSEQUENCES for those road users most exposed to risk are becoming less severe. That reduction in severity is not due to better standards of driving but a variety of miscellaneous factors. London’s growing traffic congestion means that drivers who collide with cyclists and pedestrians may be traveling at slower speeds. Speed cameras and 20 mph zones also restrain driving speeds. Those who travel in motor vehicles enjoy ever greater protection from collisions (air bags particularly quite literally cushion drivers and passengers from what would once have been fatal smashes – and all the evidence is that the more you protect drivers personally from the consequences of their bad driving, the more bad driving you will get). Modern medicine gets better all the time at saving human life, and air ambulances whisk people to hospital who once would have died at the roadside.

2009 saw an increase in road crashes and an increase in injuries to the two most at-risk groups in a motorized car-centric city, i.e. pedestrians and cyclists, who in most cases are innocent parties when they are hit by a driver.

During 2009, 140 out of the 184 fatalities (76%) were people outside of vehicles (pedestrians, pedal cyclists and powered two-wheeler users).


Pedestrians accounted for 19% of all casualties, cyclists accounted for 13% of all casualties.

And for those who believe in that delusionary concept ‘safety in numbers’ here’s food for thought:

Pedal cyclist casualties showed a 14% increase in inner London, and a 16% increase in outer London.