The number of deaths or serious injuries caused by road accidents has risen for the first time in 17 years, up 2% from 24,510 in 2010 to 25,023 in 2011.

According to the Department for Transport, just under half (46%) of all fatalities were car occupants, nearly a quarter (24%) were pedestrians, while motorcyclists accounted for just under a fifth (19%) of all deaths.

The number of car occupant fatalities in 2011 increased by 6% to 883 compared with 2010, while there were 453 pedestrian deaths, 12% more than the previous year.

Serious injuries for cyclists rose from 2660 in 2010 to 3085 last year, a 16% increase, although fatalities fell by 4% from 111 to 107, and there was also a 10% decrease in motorcyclists killed, down to 362 last year.

The DfT report suggested that heavy snow in the first and last quarters of 2010 is “likely to be a factor in the increase in serious road casualties and fatalities recorded in 2011”.

A number of road safety and training organisations reacted to the rise in casualties. Institute of Advanced Motoring chief executive Simon Best said: “Road accidents usually drop during an economic recession, so this rise after continuous reductions over the last 10 years is particularly concerning.

He added: “Cutting road safety education, scrapping casualty targets and reductions in local authority spending all suggest that road safety isn’t a major priority for this Government.”

Director of the Road Safety Foundation Dr Joanne Marden said: “Now, as things stabilise, we must get safety policies back on track. Failure to act not only means more pain and suffering but higher costs.

“The cost of road crashes in Britain has been estimated at between 1.2 and 2.3% of GDP annually.”

However, the Association of British Drivers warned of a knee-jerk reaction to the latest statistics, stating that extra research “must be carried out into causation factors before pandering to the inevitable demands from pressure groups to spend money in the same old failing areas”.

ABD chairman Brian Gregory said: “In a recession, many factors could be present. For example, an increase in pedestrian and cycling casualties could be down to more people walking and cycling due to the cost of driving.”

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