Road deaths rise 10 per cent in 2022 to pre-Covid levels

Casualty stats spark calls for greater police presence to tackle seat belt and drug offences

Road deaths - drug driver

A fifth of car occupants killed on British roads in 2022 were not wearing seatbelts, latest government data has revealed, while reported drugged driving related road casualties topped 1,000 for the first time. 

The figures just released by the Department of Transport have sparked renewed calls for a stronger police presence on the roads, and more action on roadside drug testing.

Overall there were 1,711 fatalities on British roads last year, which represents a 10 per cent rise compared to 2021, but a small two per cent decline compared to the last pre-Covid figures from 2019. The total number killed or seriously injured - the so-called KSI statistic - fell three per cent to 29,742, while the figure for casualties of all severity fell 12 per cent against the 2019 total to 135,480.

Interrogating the data further reveals pedestrian deaths fell the most in 2022 compared to pre-Covid levels, down 18 per cent on 2019, while car occupant casualties accounted for 44 per cent of road fatalities and 53 per cent of all road injuries. Looking more closely at vehicle types, we see 1,331 reported fatalities involved cars in 2022, while 220 involved heavy goods vehicles, 214 light goods vehicles, 361 motorcycles and 94 pedal cycles - the latter showing a 13 per cent decline from 2019. 

The three major contributory factors attributed by police to road fatalities in 2022 were loss of control at 24.4 per cent, failing to look properly at 22.3 per cent and a driver who was careless, reckless or in a hurry at 21.8 per cent. Exceeding the speed limit was a factor in 19.7 per cent of fatal accidents, while impairment through drugs or alcohol accounted for 10.4 per cent of reported road deaths. 78 per cent of fatalities and 62 per cent of casualties were male, while 25 per cent of fatalities were aged 17-29, and 23 per cent aged 70 or older.

“Confirmation that last year saw a rise in the number of casualties on our roads – and that men are so much more likely to be involved – is a chilling reminder that there remains so much work to do be done to improve road safety in the UK, even if statistically we have some of the safest roads in Europe,” commented RAC road safety spokesperson Rod Dennis. “The data shows there were more fatal collisions last year than at any point over the last decade caused by drivers or riders being distracted, impaired (458 lives lost) or breaking the speed limit (303 lives lost). 

“It’s time the Government turned the dial up on tackling these issues which, while complex, result in hundreds of people losing their lives every year. We also continue to urge the Government to treat this issue with the upmost seriousness by reintroducing casualty reduction targets which were scrapped in 2010.”

Edmund King, Director of the AA Charitable Trust, said; “Every death on our roads is a tragedy and it is worrying that after the pandemic, road deaths are rising.

“Although on the face of it this year’s results represent cause for some celebration, having dropped from 30 per cent in the previous year, the figure for fatalities not wearing a seatbelt has remained stubbornly around a fifth for numerous years. There needs to be concerted and targeted education to reach those drivers who choose to risk their lives for the sake of a two second action.

“Worrying still is that the number of people killed or seriously injured due to the driver of a vehicle being under the influence of drugs reached a record high of 1,023. We need an increase in police drug drive testing at the roadside so that those tempted to do so will think again.”

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Current affairs and features editor

Chris covers all aspects of motoring life for Auto Express. Over a long career he has contributed news and car reviews to brands such as Autocar, WhatCar?, PistonHeads, Goodwood and The Motor Trader.

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