News casualty stats give grounds for optimism

Highways Reporters

Latest government statistics suggest there could have been a 5% fall in road traffic casualties in Great Britain in the year ending June 2017.

The news provides some reason for optimism after recent end of year figures revealed the number of fatalities rose by 4% last year to the highest level since 2011.

Provisional estimates suggest there were 176,500 casualties of all severities in the year ending June 2017 – down by 5% from the previous year – while motor traffic rose by 1.4% compared with the year ending June 2016.

Department for Transport officials said: ‘This change is statistically significant at the 99% confidence level.’

In the year ending June 2017, there were 1,710 reported road fatalities, a 5% decrease from 1,799 in the previous year, although officials said this change could be explained by natural variation.

In drawing conclusions of the data, the DfT said: ‘Although there has been a decrease in fatalities and total casualties in the year ending June 2017 these changes should be interpreted with caution. The decrease in fatalities in the year ending June 2017 is not statistically significant.

‘Therefore we cannot be sure that there has been a real change in fatalities. Instead this decrease is likely to have come about by chance.

‘The decreases in total casualties are statistically significant so this indicates that there has been a real improvement even this cannot be taken for certain though. An alternative explanation could be that police forces are less likely to attend accidents [incidents] which only result in slight injuries. This would lead to a decrease in casualties recorded.’

Highways has approached the police for comment.

A total of 27,130 people were killed or seriously injured in the year ending June 2017 according to the estimates however comparisons with early years ‘should be interpreted with caution due to changes in systems for severity reporting by some police forces’.

New reporting system

Approximately half of English police forces adopted the CRASH (Collision Recording and Sharing) system for recording reported road traffic collisions at the end of 2015 or the first part of 2016 although Surrey has been using the system since November 2012.

In addition, the Metropolitan Police Service switched to a new reporting system called COPA (Case Overview Preparation Application) from September 2016. In CRACH or COPA the police officer records the types of injuries suffered by the casualty rather than the severity (severity is measured simply as slight or serious).

Under other systems, to record severity directly, police officers need to determine themselves which injury type classifies into each of the two severity types.

CRASH and COPA, in contrast, automatically converts the injury type to a severity classification, which eliminates the uncertainty that arises from the officer having to make their own judgement.

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