New statistics released by the UK government have revealed that the number of road fatalities increased by 7% year on year in 2021, with 1558 people losing their lives in crashes.
The figure is up from 1460 deaths in 2020, when Covid-related restrictions heavily impacted levels of traffic on UK roads, but down 11% on pre-pandemic 2019, largely because numbers in 2021 were also kept down by lockdowns.
Some 128,209 casualties of varying severity occurred in 2021, which was down 16% on 2019, equating to 425 casualties per billion miles – also a drop from 2019.
The figures also revealed that pedal cyclist fatalities dropped by 21%, following an increase in 2020, associated with the pandemic. However, the number of cyclist casualties slightly increased by around 1%.
“While the overall number of road deaths is down on pre-pandemic levels, the fatality rate per billion miles driven has increased, suggesting little progress is being made in making our roads safer,” said Simon Williams, the RAC’s spokesman on road safety.
“We urge the government to publish its updated road-safety plan, which focuses on both improving car safety – including mandating technology such as intelligent speed assist in new cars – as well as measures to tackle poor driving standards and illegal behaviour behind the wheel.”
A deeper dive into the figures showed that not wearing a seatbelt contributed to 30% of road deaths in 2021, a figure that increased to 47% at night.
The Department for Transport said that 34% of men killed in car accidents weren’t wearing a seatbelt, compared with 20% of women.
The statistics also showed that people aged between 17 and 29 were the most likely to lose their life when not wearing a seatbelt, making up 40% of the overall figure.
“This is a dreadful jump in road deaths where wearing a seatbelt may well have been the difference between surviving or dying in a road crash,” said Jack Cousens, the AA’s head of roads policy.
“Release from pandemic lockdowns may have fuelled some of the surge, but the rate of death while not wearing a seatbelt was surging even before Covid.
“There may need to be a road safety campaign to raise the danger once again. Clearly the message is being forgotten.”