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Road Accidents Scotland 2004

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Introduction

This publication presents statistics of the numbers of injury road accidents (that is, road accidents in which one or more people are injured or killed) in Scotland which were reported by the police using the "Stats 19" statistical returns (which are described in Annex B). Each accident is classified according to the severity of the injury to the most seriously injured person involved in the accident.

Following this Introduction, this publication has several parts. The Summary section shows the main trends in the numbers of road accidents and casualties in recent years. The Commentary includes descriptions of the trends in the numbers of road accidents and casualties, more detailed analyses (of the numbers of accidents, of the statistics about motorists, and of the numbers of casualties) and comparisons of the Scottish figures with some other countries' numbers. The next section provides information on the Casualty Reduction Targets for 2010. This is followed by the Charts and Statistical Tables. There are a number of Annexes, such as a calendar of events affecting road traffic, notes on the collection of road accident statistics (including examples of the kinds of forms that might be used), the definitions of various terms, and information about the changes to the trunk road network and the frequency of use of the values of most of the "Stats 19" variables. There is also an Index, and information about Scottish Executive Road Safety Research publications and Scottish Executive Transport Statistics publications.

The rest of this Introduction consists of sections on:

1. the status of the statistics;
2. the years covered in the tables;
3. road accident casualty reduction targets for the year 2010: comparisons with the annual averages for 1994-98;
4. estimates of the total volume of road traffic

1. The status of the statistics

Most of the data used in this publication were extracted from the Road Accidents statistical database at the beginning of November 2005. The statistics given here may differ slightly from those published elsewhere (such as the provisional figures which appeared in " Key Road Accident Statistics", or previous editions' figures for the earlier years) because they were extracted on a different date, and the database may have changed between the two dates ( e.g.) due to late returns, or due to late corrections being made to returns which had been received earlier.

The information held in the Scottish Executive's Road Accident Statistics database was collected by the police following each accident, and subsequently reported to the Executive. The statistics produced from the Scottish Executive's database may differ from the figures which the relevant local authorities would provide, because the statistical data held by the Scottish Executive do not take account of any changes or corrections that local authorities may have made, for use at local level, to their copies of the statistical information. For example, local authorities may have corrected, in their copies of the data, the information about the location of some accidents, based upon their knowledge of the roads and areas concerned. In some cases, they may have concluded that an accident occurred in a different local authority area from that which was shown in the statistical return which was made to the Scottish Executive. Therefore, the numbers of accidents and casualties published here for some local authorities may differ from the figures that the local authorities themselves would quote.

2. The years covered in the tables

Some tables have figures for several individual years ( e.g. for each year from 2000 to 2004) so that any trends in the key statistics can be seen. However, the more detailed tables provide figures only in the form of 5-year annual averages ( e.g. for the years 2000-2004), and do not give figures for the latest single year. If readers need versions of the detailed tables for single years, they can be provided on request (for which a charge may be made).

Some of the detailed tables in some earlier editions of the publication have not been repeated since. A list of statistics covered in more detail in previous editions can be found at the end of the Index. Readers may request updated versions of such tables (for which a charge may be made).

3. Road accident casualty reduction targets for the year 2010: comparisons with the annual averages for 1994-98

In many of the tables, the latest figures are compared with the annual averages for 1994-98. This is done because, in March 2000, the UK Government, the Scottish Executive and the National Assembly for Wales announced a new national road safety strategy and casualty reduction targets for 2010. These new targets were introduced to focus on achieving a further substantial improvement in road safety over the next ten years, with particular emphasis on child casualties. The new targets, which are given in the document "Tomorrow's roads - safer for everyone", are based on the annual average casualty levels over the period 1994 to 1998. By 2010 it is hoped that there will be, compared with the average for 1994-98:

  • a 40% reduction in the number of people killed or seriously injured in road accidents.
  • a 50% reduction in the number of children killed or seriously injured; and
  • a 10% reduction in the slight casualty rate, expressed as the number of people slightly injured per 100 million vehicle kilometres.

Annual averages for 1994-98 are therefore included in many tables, so that readers can see how the latest figures compare with the "baselines" for these targets.

In addition, the section on the Casualty Reduction Targets for 2010 provides statistics related to these targets, plus a selection of key points. It contains charts and tables for each of the three targets showing the main trends in casualty numbers compared with the 1994-98 baseline averages, and with the numbers that might be expected in each year if the targets were to be achieved by means of a constant percentage reduction in each year.

The previous casualty reduction target, which was adopted by the Government in 1987, was to reduce the number of road casualties by one third from the 1981-85 average level by the year 2000. Tables in " Road Accidents Scotland 2000" showed for which types of casualty this target was achieved.

4. Estimates of the total volume of road traffic

Some tables include figures for the total volume of traffic, or accident or casualty rates calculated from them. The traffic estimates were provided by the Department for Transport (DfT), which produces estimates of the total volume of road traffic for Scotland and for other parts of Great Britain, using methods which are described in Chapter 6 of "Scottish Transport Statistics". These estimates are based on data from a very small cross-section of the roads in Scotland: traffic counts taken at under 800 sites per year plus data from automatic traffic counters at about two dozen sites in Scotland (which are combined with data from similar sites in England and Wales).

DfT's estimates are based on an "urban / rural" classification of roads, not on the "built-up / non built-up" classification of roads used in the traffic estimates which were made up to 2002 (which is still used for the accident and casualty statistics). In general:

  • an "urban" road is a road (other than a Motorway) which lies within the boundaries of an urban area which had a population of 10,000 or more in 2001;
  • a "built-up" road is one which has a speed limit of 40 m.p.h. or less.

The two classifications may differ markedly in some areas - for example, an area which has only small settlements will have all its traffic classed as being on roads which are "rural" (because all of the settlements' populations are under 10,000), but may have a number of accidents which occur on roads which are classed as "built-up" (because their speed limits are 40 m.p.h. or less). One would get the wrong answer if one were to estimate ( e.g.) that area's accident rate for "built-up" roads by dividing its number of accidents on "built-up" roads by its estimated volume of traffic on "urban" roads. Therefore, estimates of "built-up" and "non built-up" accident rates are provided in Table 5 only for Scotland as a whole - and it must be remembered that those estimates may not be precise, because of the difference between the two classifications.

The DfT traffic estimates provide only a rough indication of the likely total volume of traffic in each Council area. The estimated totals for such areas are not National Statistics. For example, DfT believes that its estimates of the volume of traffic on minor roads ( i.e. B, C and unclassified roads) for Scotland as a whole are of acceptable quality. However, the 320 or so counts now taken per year at minor road sites across Scotland represent an average of about 10 per local authority per year - clearly too few to be the basis of reliable estimates for individual local authority areas for each year. DfT must therefore estimate the total volume of traffic on minor roads in individual local authority areas in other ways, using assumptions which are described in "Scottish Transport Statistics". The resulting estimates, which are consistent with the overall totals for Scotland as a whole, can only provide a broad indication of the likely total volume of traffic on minor roads in each local authority area. As a result:

  • it is not possible for DfT to quantify the possible "margins of error" around them;
  • they are not classed as National Statistics;
  • more detailed breakdowns of the estimates for individual local authority areas ( e.g. separately for B, C and unclassified roads; or for urban roads and rural roads) are not published.

In addition, DfT's estimates of traffic on major roads in each local authority area are also not classed as National Statistics. They too are not based on much data: as manual traffic counts are taken on a "rotating census" basis, there may be several years between successive counts at a particular site. Therefore, DfT notes that there could be some large errors in its traffic estimates for the major roads in some of the smaller local authority areas.

Similar considerations apply to DfT's estimates of the total volume of traffic on all roads in each area, which are produced by adding together its estimates of traffic on major roads and on minor roads.

In conclusion: DfT provides its estimates of the volume of traffic in each local authority area as the best that it can produce from the limited amount of data available to it - rough indications of the likely volume of traffic in each area, for use with caution, as no better estimates are available.