The government has been criticised for a lack of leadership after the first increase in road deaths for nearly a decade.The tone of the article was a surprise to me because this news pinged into my inbox on the 10th, and seemed to be a pretty unremarkable set of stats. Indeed, it was only prioritised as 7th article of 12 in my regular VOSA bulletin.
Here's how it looks in a graph produced by the ONS.
OK, so it's a blip, yes. However, as the report itself points out, once road conditions are taken into account, there's really not a lot to see here.
Adverse weather (heavy snow falls) experienced in the first and last quarters of 2010 but not in 2011 are likely to be a factor in the increase in serious road casualties and fatalities recorded in 2011.Or, to put it another way, unusually cautious driving during those periods - plus the least confident not taking to the road at all - led to a bigger fall in deaths for 2010 than would have otherwise been the case.
Sadly, as has become customary, the usual groups have taken this opportunity to call for more road schemes, interventions and - of course - money (cuts were inevitably mentioned by implication as a blame factor), and MPs are puffing their chests out and declaring that "something must be done".
It's the ministerial and single issue version of empire-building; the Westminster equivalent of trying to look busy instead of being caught shuffling paper clips around the desk through lack of work (when most of the time, it would be preferable if they just stuck to the paper clips).
In reality, these figures merely lend further credence to the theory that making drivers take more notice of what is around them is a far better road safety approach than convincing them that they needn't worry because government has their back and is eradicating all risk.