Reported Road Casualties Great Britain: 2008

Reported Road Casualties Great Britain: 2008 - Annual Report

National Statistics logo The Department for Transport has published the statistical report “Reported Road Casualties Great Britain 2008: Annual Report”, according to arrangements approved by the UK Statistics Authority. These National Statistics are based on information about personal injury road accidents reported to the police within 30 days.

Headline final figures on the number of people killed and injured on the roads in Great Britain in 2008 were first published in June 2009. This report provides more detailed information about accident circumstances, vehicle involvement and the consequent casualties in 2008, along with some of the key trends in accidents and casualties. There are also seven articles containing further analysis on specific topics. Key results include:

General overview and progress towards casualty reduction targets

This article shows progress towards the Government’s casualty reduction targets for Great Britain and reviews the main trends in road casualties in 2008 compared with recent years.

  • There were a total of 230,905 reported casualties of all severities, 7 per cent lower than in 2007. 2,538 people were killed, 14 per cent lower than in 2007, 26,034 were seriously injured (down 6 per cent) and 202,333 were slightly injured (down 7 per cent).
  • The number of fatalities fell for almost all types of road user, with a fall of 12 per cent for car occupants, 11 per cent for pedestrians, 16 per cent for motorcyclists and 15 per cent for pedal cyclists.

In 2000, the Government set a new target for a reduction in the number of casualties in road accidents. By 2010 the aim is to achieve, compared with the average for 1994-98, a 40 per cent reduction in the number of people killed or seriously injured in accidents reported to the police; a 50 per cent reduction in the number of children killed or seriously injured; and a 10 per cent reduction in the slight casualty rate.

Compared with the 1994-98 average baseline, in 2008: 

  • The number of reported killed or seriously injured casualties was 40 per cent lower;
  • The number of children killed or seriously injured was 59 per cent lower; and
  • The slight casualty rate was 36 per cent lower.
  • Overall traffic rose by an estimated 16 per cent.

Drinking and driving

This article examines the subject of drinking and driving. It explains how drink drive accidents and casualties are defined, followed by a description of the methodology and sources of data used to produce the estimates and to ensure their reliability.   

  • In 2008, it was estimated that 13,020 reported casualties (6 per cent of all road casualties) occurred when someone was driving whilst over the legal alcohol limit.
  • The provisional number of people estimated to have been killed in drink drive accidents was 430 in 2008 (17 per cent of all road fatalities), an increase of 20 fatalities compared to 2007.
  • The provisional number of KSI (killed or seriously injured) casualties in 2008 was 2,060, less than a quarter of the 1980 level and 5 per cent below the 2007 level.
  • Provisional figures for the number of slight casualties in 2008 fell 7 per cent since 2007, from 11,850 to 10,970. 

Contributory factors to road accidents

The article describes the scope and limitations of the contributory factors information recently added to the national road accident reporting system, and presents results from the fourth year of collection, including:

  • Failed to look properly was again the most frequently reported contributory factor and was reported in 37 per cent of all accidents reported to the police in 2008. Four of the five most frequently reported contributory factors involved driver or rider error or reaction. For fatal accidents the most frequently reported contributory factor was loss of control, which was involved in 32 per cent of fatal accidents.
  • Fourteen per cent of accidents had a speed related contributory factor reported, either exceeding the speed limit or travelling too fast for conditions. This rose to 24 per cent for fatal accidents, accounting for 25 per cent of all road deaths. Twenty three per cent of fatalities in these accidents were motorcyclists.
  • Young drivers were more likely to have a speed related contributory factor reported than those over 25, and more than four times as many male drivers had a speed factor reported as female drivers. Forty one per cent of male fatalities aged 16-25 were in accidents where a speed factor was reported.

Comparing police data on road accidents with other sources

Two articles present results of work to compare police and other sources of data on road accidents. The first discusses sources of data on road accident and casualties and provides a broad estimate of the total number of casualties. The second article provides an example of the type of analysis that can be done using the database of individual matched records containing detailed information on accident circumstances of reported accidents from police data and medical consequences from hospital admission data.

  • Comparisons with death registrations show that very few, if any; road accident fatalities are not reported to the police.  It has long been known that a considerable proportion of non-fatal casualties are not known to the police and hospital, survey and compensation claims data all indicate a higher number of casualties than are reported.
  • Our best current estimate, derived from survey data with cross-checking against other data sources, is that the total number of road casualties in Great Britain each year, including those not reported to police, is within the range 680 thousand to 920 thousand with a central estimate of 800 thousand.  Part 2 of this article contains further details.
  • Police data on road accidents (STATS19), whilst not perfect, remains the most detailed, complete and reliable single source of information on road casualties covering the whole of Great Britain, in particular for monitoring trends over time.  However, both hospital and survey data are likely to provide further useful evidence on trends in the future.

Two further articles give information on the valuation of accident and casualty costs and an overview of the research programme, including information on some specific studies that provide evidence to inform our understanding of accident causation and road user behaviour.

The Department is also publishing 2008 accident and casualty figures for English local authority areas and Government Office Regions.


1. Reported Road Casualties Great Britain: 2008 - Annual Report is available online. The Stationery Office will publish a book edition at the same time.  It provides a fuller account of road casualties in Great Britain than the summary of main results published on 25 June 2009.

2. The statistics relate to personal injury accidents on public roads that are reported to the police.  Figures for deaths refer to persons killed immediately or who died within 30 days of the accident.  This is the usual international definition, adopted by the Vienna Convention in 1968.  This is the usual international definition and differs from that used in other contexts by the Registrars General, whose published statistics cover all deaths on public roads, generally by date of registration.

3. Very few, if any, fatal accidents do not become known to the police. However, research conducted on behalf of the Department in the 1990s has shown that a significant proportion of non-fatal injury accidents are not reported to the police. In addition some casualties reported to the police are not recorded and the severity of injury tends to be underestimated. The Department is undertaking further research to investigate whether the levels of reporting have changed. The most recent work on levels of reporting and links to other research can be found in Article 5 (pages 58-79) of the report.

4. The system for collecting and processing statistics on road accidents involving personal injury is subjected to review about every five years. The external consultation process for the current review has now ended. The aim will be for any changes to the system to be agreed this year and implemented in January 2011. 

Publication details

Published on 24 September 2009 by Transport Statistics.

Copies are available from: TSO Online Bookshop.

Price: £40.00

Email: for queries concerning road casualties.

For information about release of this product see National Statistics Online.

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