Provisional figures released by the Department of Transport showed that 3,819 people were killed in road accidents last year - 10 per cent fewer than in 1992 when 4,229 died, the previous all-time low. Serious injuries fell by 9 per cent to 44,981 but minor injuries rose by 1 per cent to 260,475.
While the figures may have been helped by the 1 per cent reduction in traffic last year, ministers feel a number of factors were involved in reducing casualties.
Robert Key, the roads minister, said: 'Above all, it is the reduction in drink-drive accidents that has brought about this success. Road engineering, better car engineering, traffic calming and attitude changes have all played their part.'
While welcoming the figures, which show the Government is on track to meet its target of reducing road casualties by one-third during the Nineties, he warned against complacency. 'We do have the best figures in Europe for road deaths per vehicle mile and the rate is falling faster than in other countries. But it is still not good enough. We are trying to make speeding as socially unacceptable as drink-driving has become,' he said.
Britain has a bad record compared with Europe on pedestrian casualties but last year the number killed fell by 7 per cent to 1,250. Child deaths remained virtually the same at 307, compared with 310 in 1992.
When records began 68 years ago there were 4,886 deaths, despite only 1.7 million vehicles being on the roads.
By the mid-1930s the annual death figure had topped 7,000 and it reached 9,169 in 1941, made worse by the imposition of the wartime blackout. The worst peace-time annual figure was 7,985 in 1966 and throughout the 1960s and 1970s annual death figures ranged between 6,000 and 8,000.
But in 1981 the annual figure fell well below 6,000 for the first time since 1958, and by 1991 it was dropped to below 5,000 despite the presence of more than 24 million vehicles on the roads.Reuse content