TRL helped the council analyse and understand the causes of road traffic fatalities, to support its work in continuing to reduce deaths on Surrey’s road.

60 Surrey road fatalities in 2007
Surrey road fatalities in 2012

The challenge

Surrey has seen a halving in the number of people killed on its roads in the last four years. By October 2012 there had been just 13 fatalities, compared with typical fatalities five years ago of 60 each year. To understand their casualty trends, Surrey County Council commissioned TRL to carry out innovative research into the links between casualties and demographic data, and into the effect of vehicle design.

Our approach

There was little understanding of the reasons for the downward trend in fatal and serious casualties, so it was not possible to be confident that the reduction would continue. International literature and expert knowledge variously suggested the change could be due to vehicle safety, weather, exposure or economic factors. We assessed each of these hypotheses using casualty information and demographic data.

The results

We found that the onset of the economic recession has had a positive effect on aspects of road user behaviour, with drivers tending to behave more cautiously at a time of uncertainty about their financial future. This restricts some of the extreme behaviour that can lead to fatal accidents.

This innovative research was for the benefit of all local authorities to help understand traffic accident trends. It provides insight into what causes casualties and what local authorities can do about it.

Want to know more about this project?