The number of fatalities on British roads fell markedly from 2007 to 2010. This has clearly been “good news”, but the reasons for this success had been poorly understood so there could be little confidence that the number would not begin to rise.
In the absence of central government investment to investigate this trend, Surrey County Council took the unusual decision to commission TRL to do so. The relevant datasets for the period from 2000 to 2010 have been analysed to investigate this major reduction, including a wide selection of exposure data.

The decrease in overall traffic probably contributed, especially the large reduction in HGV traffic, and a fall in the number of young male drivers. The substantial increase in pedal cycling tended to lessen the overall reduction.

Statistical models were developed to look at casualty trends and the effects of car secondary safety improvements. Improvements in vehicle safety made a vital contribution to increasing safety throughout the decade, but the reduction of overall fatalities between 2007 and 2010 was not directly related these improvements.

The economic downturn from 2007 appears to have had a beneficial effect on driver behaviour, with less speeding and drink driving. The effect of weather on the fatality trend is less certain, but people may have driven more cautiously in the progressively colder winters since 2007.

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