Statistics of deaths on UK roads, 1999-2008
The UK police authorities have released data covering all road traffic related fatalities for the past 10 years, during which time some interesting trends have emerged.
Death on Britain's roads
First, some headline numbers that make for unsavoury reading. In 2008 2,538 people died and around a quarter of a million injured on British. This makes traffic accidents the largest single cause of death for people between ages 5 and 35.
However, the good news is that these figures are much improved from 10 years ago. In fact, they are down 25% compared to 1999, which means 1,000 less people have died on Great Britain's roads. What are the reasons for this huge improvement?
Firstly, improved car design. European standards have transformed the average car into a far safer vehicle for drivers, passengers and pedestrians alike. Consumers now buy cars on the strength of their safety ratings, and manufacturers compete to offer the best rated cars.
Secondly, road design. Traffic calming measures are now commonplace, with speed bumps and more controversially speed cameras bring down average speeds in built-up areas. 10 years ago, two thirds of drivers would be travelling at over 30 mph. Now that proportion is down to less than half.
Thirdly, driver behaviour and responsibility is markedly improved. Years of drink driving campaigns have turned a once accepted practise into a decidely anti-social activity. And yet still 20% of fatalities are caused by drivers under the influence, and other drugs becoming a larger problem.
The dangers of weather conditions and time
A few myths are debunked by the statistics. Given the varied weather across the UK, it is surprising that 83% of deaths occured when the weather was reported as fine. Rain, snow, fog and other conditions have perhaps been mitigated by improvements in engineering design.
Looking at the incidents by time of day/week, another interesting trend emerges. Monday and Tuesday rush hours are the most dangerous (accidents between 7am and 9am account for 12% - 13% of the daily total), but then as the working week progresses the early commute seems to become safer (the same 2 hours on Friday account for just 6%).
However, the opposite trend can been seen for the drive home from work. Monday between 4pm and 6pm accounts for 12% of the deaths, compared to 18% on a Friday.
Drink related incidents can clearly been seen as spikes on weekend days around midnight.
Young and old
As expected drivers between 17 and 25 cause the highest number of deaths. Inexperience and over-exhuberence are obvious causes.
Going up through the age brackets the proportion of incidents decreases as drivers become calmer and more experienced... until the over 75 range who cause double the number of deaths than their 66-75 peers.
The timings of accidents caused by these two groups also merit attention. Between 6pm and 6am, 17 to 25 year old drivers experience 66% of their fatal accidents. The complete opposite is true of the 75+ group - only 16% of their fatal accidents occur in these later hours. In fact, out of the 289 deaths reported for people over 75, not a single one of them occured between midnight and 6am.
The BBC have in-depth section dedicated to the statistics called Crash, with some thought provoking first hand stories, and a selection of well designed tools to visually view and compare the statistics.