Government admits underestimating casualties.


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Unveiling the figures for casualties on Britain's roads last year, the DfT has conceded that figures provided by the police have dramatically underestimated how many people are being hurt as a result of traffic accidents.

According to the latest statistics the police recorded 230,000 injuries on Britain's roads last year.

But now the DfT believes the real figure is somewhere between 680,000 and 920,000, with the Department estimating that the most accurate figure is around 800,000.

The higher figure has been calculated by taking into account information from a number of other sources, including figures provided by hospital accident and emergency departments.

Up until now the Government has justified its safety strategy – which includes the use of an extensive network of speed cameras – on the reported drop in the number of people killed and seriously injured in accidents.

It has claimed that it has now met its target of reducing this figure to 60 per cent of the annual average between 1994-8.

According to its latest figures, 2,538 people were killed in 2008, and 26,034 were reported to the police as having sustained serious injuries, a six per cent reduction on 2007.

However this assertion has been questioned with hospitals claiming to have dealt with around 40,000 serious injuries, a reduction of just over two per cent.

The pattern reflects the trend of recent years. Police figures – known as Stats 19, based on the form filled out by officer on the scene – have fallen sharply.

But the same is not true for hospital figures which for much of the decade have risen, only showing a slight decline in the past two years.

"Injuries are hard to define especially for a policeman at the roadside," said Andrew Howard, the AA's head of road safety. "At the same time hospitals have changed how they produce their data too, with more injuries being recorded.

"Over time the Department's figures have been as consistent as reasonably possible."

But critics of the Government's speed camera programme said that the figures cast serious doubt on the strategy.

"Although were are encouraged to see the deaths falling a little bit overall. With a serious recession in progress we would have hoped to have seen the figures drop more dramatically.

"However the fact the fact that the Government is admitting casualty figures are higher justifies what we have been predicting for some time," said Claire Armstrong, co-founder of the anti camera group, Safe Speed.

"The justification for the camera programme has depended on the fall in casualties. But now it appears that the police statistics, upon which the Government relied, can be called into question.

"Our initial reaction is one of concern that the Government is continuing to follow a strategy which, on these findings, has shown little evidence of having been effective."

The Tories, meanwhile, said the figures showed that Britain was lagging behind other countries when it came to improving road safety.

‘‘With the UK’s rate of improvement on road safety now only 16th in the world, behind countries like Germany, Spain, and Greece, today's figures show that Labour needs to rethink their “one club golfer" approach to road safety and speed cameras," said Theresa Villiers, the party's transport spokesman.

“The time has come to ask whether Labour's decision to give such a dominant role to fixed speed cameras is the best way to make our roads safer.”

Meanwhile the willingness of the DfT to accept that its past figures could have been flawed was welcomed by Robert Gifford, executive director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety.

“It is also encouraging to note the DfT analysis of sources of data other than STATS19 in terms of the number of road crashes," he said. "“All sources of data have their strengths and weaknesses.

"Under-recording or mis-definition of serious and slight injuries has been common knowledge for many years. We need to get a better understanding of the scale of under-reporting and this article helps us to begin to do so."

The DfT defended its road safety strategy. “Britain has the joint safest roads in the world alongside Sweden and road safety has improved significantly in recent years – 1,000 fewer people now die on the roads in a year than in the mid-1990s and the 14% fall in road deaths last year was the largest percentage fall in the post-war period.

“We have always been clear that the police statistics do not provide a complete count of non-fatal road casualties but they remain the most detailed and complete source of data, providing reliable information to monitor progress and target further road safety improvements.

“We continue to work to reduce road casualties through a range of initiatives, including our award-winning THINK! campaigns, measures to create safer vehicles and tougher laws and direct police enforcement to tackle dangerous drivers.”

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This situation sounds familiar to me since the spanish traffic authorities start using the new casualties recounting system. There's a huge difference, meanwhile UK's authorities recognices their problem, DGT boasts of their "good results" hiding to the society the truth.

Anyway, cash-maker, hidden-taxes...choose what you prefer.

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