The economic downturn has dramatically cut the number of deaths on Britain’s roads, new research suggests.
Since Britain went into recession the number of people killed on the roads has fallen by more than a third, from 2,946 in 2007 to 1,901 in 2011.
The dramatic drop coincided with a general fall in traffic as cash-strapped motorists cut down on journeys, a reduction in drink-drive casualties as people sacrifice nights out and a drop in young males taking their driving tests.
According to the national research commissioned by road safety experts at Surrey County Council, other contributing factors included motorists cutting their speeds as they save fuel, rising prices at the pumps, an increase in the use of bikes and a reduction in HGV traffic.
Colder recent winters and advances in vehicle safety also played a part in making Britain’s roads safer, the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) study showed.
TRL pulled together a mass of Department for Transport figures and analysed them to produce the report for the council, which is running a Drive SMART campaign with Surrey Police to encourage road users to abandon selfish habits. So far this year 13 people have been killed on Surrey’s roads and deaths have halved since 2007.
Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Safety Kay Hammond: “The economic downturn is changing people’s driving habits. This research shows motorists are using vehicles less, driving more slowly and putting off taking their tests as purse strings are tightened.
“This is the missing evidence we wanted when we requested this research after noticing a decline in road deaths and our challenge now is to continue making roads safer as the economy recovers.”
John Furey, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment, said: “I would urge everyone on the roads to help protect themselves, loved ones and other road users. Our Drive SMART campaign is about getting everyone to play their part and I’m sure it has contributed to saving lives in Surrey.”
TRL senior statistician Louise Lloyd said: “It is important to understand the reduction in fatalities to ensure that everything possible is done to continue this trend.
“It appears that in prosperous years people may have been over-confident in their driving style, taking more risks with speed and drink-driving for example. External influences such as the recession and weather patterns have caused people to be more cautious about their safety on the roads, leading them to drive more carefully. It is this change in behaviour which is directly affecting the number of fatalities on our roads.”
The research, which will be made available to all local authorities in Britain, has been presented to the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety and will be discussed at the Road Safety GB conference tomorrow (14 November).