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Are car accident rates really falling in the UK?

Worldwide more than 3,000 people are killed in road accidents on a daily basis and an astonishing 1,500 drivers and passengers die as a result of car accidents in the UK every year. Since the first recorded car accident death was recorded in London in 1896 it seems that the number of personal injuries and fatalities of those involved in car accidents has just continued to rise.

The government are striving to decrease these figures with their 10-year road safety targets and some research shows that they are already making progress. However, there is question about whether the UK's roads are actually getting safer.

What do the experts say?
Department for Transport (DfT) figures show that during 1930 there were just 2.3 million motor vehicles on our roads but over 7,000 people were killed as a result of road accidents. Yet today there are more than 27 million vehicles on our roads and just 3,201 people were killed during 2005. This not only shows a drastic increase in traffic but also a significant decrease in the number of deaths on the road.

Reasons for an increase in vehicles on our roads undoubtedly results from a population boom, increased availability of finance options and a culture very much concerned with material gain. On the other hand, the signs which suggest the roads are becoming less risky could be due to a number of factors including more difficult driving tests, a general increased awareness about road safety as a result of Government multimedia campaigns and the introduction of lower speed limits in car accident black spot areas.

It also appears that the DfT is on course to cut the number of personal injuries and deaths of adults involved in road accidents in the UK by 40% by 2010. Just five years into the scheme statistics show that casualties are down 33% on the 1994-98 average. Dft figures revealed that 85.9 per 100,000 had either suffered a fatality or serious personal injury in 1996 compared to 59.4 per 100,000 in 2004.

What do the researchers say?
All is not what it at first may seem. According to Oxford University researchers, hospital admissions during the same time-scale revealed a completely different story. There was a difference of just 1.1% between those admitted to hospital in 1996 and 2004.

They concluded that: "The findings from hospital admission statistics cast doubt on whether there were reductions in serious road injuries from 1996 to 2004 and on whether the government's targets will be met by 2010."

It has been suggested that this discrepancy may be due to the fact that many car accidents still go unreported. While some car accidents are caused as a result of adverse weather conditions, mechanical failures and other unexpected factors, over the vast majority are still at the hands of either careless or inebriated drivers.

What the majority believe?
Human error accounts for 80% of all fatal car crashes with speeding and drink- driving being the most common car accident causes. Unfortunately, many of these are hit-and-run accidents, where the drivers flee before the police find out.

The penalties for motoring offences are, quite rightly, harsher that ever before. New drivers can lose their licence if they receive six penalty points for any offence within the first two years of gaining their qualification. Additionally, drivers will automatically have their licence revoked if they are found to exceed the drink-drive limit.

Therefore, many car accidents are not reported to the police by the reckless drivers who caused them and those harmed as a result of such crashes are sometimes left in the road for dead. This, of course, means that there are probably far more road accidents occurring on our roads than we realise and far more serious personal injuries and fatalities suffered as a result.

While speed cameras and road-side breathalyser tests are excellent in theory, many are able to avoid them if they know their local area well enough. Safety experts countrywide are pushing to get more comprehensive road safety training for drivers in order to increase their awareness about potential car accident hazards and educate them about their responsibilities while behind the wheel.

The general consensus believe that this will be the most effective way to keep road accident rates down and protect drivers, passengers and pedestrians from sustaining personal injuries in car accidents.

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