Safety drives fail to dent road deaths toll

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The death toll on Britain's roads remained virtually the same in 1995 as in the previous year, ending a series of sharp declines. The figures will disappoint road safety campaigners and will provide ammunition for those seeking more radical measures to be taken against speeding motorists.

In 1995, 3,621 people died on Britain's roads compared with 3,650 in 1994. While this is again a record low since statistics were first collected in 1926, the very small reduction suggests that the figures are bottoming out at a level which the roads minister, Steven Norris, said still means "nearly 10 people a day are dying in road accidents". Between 1989 and 1994, deaths went down sharply each year, reducing from 5,373 to 3,650.

Provisional figures issued in March had indicated a slight increase in the number of deaths, but the Department of Transport said yesterday that these earlier figures had been based on inflated estimates in some areas. Serious injuries were down by 2 per cent to 45,523, while slight injuries reduced by 1 per cent to 261,362. In 1987, the Government adopted a target to reduce road casualties by one-third from the average during the 1980s. While this target has been met for fatalities and serious injuries, slight injuries are 8 per cent above the baseline figure.

Pedestrian deaths went down by 8 per cent to 1,032 and pedestrian casualties decreased by 3 per cent. This is partly explained by a reduction in walking revealed in other surveys as more and more people use cars even for very short journeys.

The number of cyclists killed on the roads rose to 213, an increase of a quarter on 1994, but this may be explained by an increase in the number of people using bikes. It is still well below the early 1980s average of 312.

The end of the declining trend has led the Government to launch a hard- hitting campaign against speeding motorists, who are thought to be responsible for one-third of road deaths.

However, there was criticism yesterday because the Department of Transport has decided to stop issuing quarterly statistics on road casualties "because of financial cutbacks".