By Jane Woodcock, Senior Legal Executive, Neil Hudgell Solicitors
August is a poignant month when it comes to road traffic accidents, hence its label as National Road Victim Month. The world’s first motor vehicle death occurred on 31st August 1869, whilst a horrific car crash in Paris claimed the life of Princess Diana on the same day 128 years later. Britain’s first road death also occurred in August 1896, with the coroner declaring “this must never happen again.”
Except we live in an age where road traffic accidents are now amongst the biggest causes of death in the UK, particularly in young people.
As part of a drive to reduce the number of road traffic accidents, traffic calming measures, such as speed limit reductions, road chicanes and speed cameras to name a few, have been introduced in abundance throughout the country.
And it seems that these preventative measures, in conjunction with other initiatives, may be having a positive impact in reducing the number of accidents occurring annually.
Government statistics revealed that the number of road deaths for 2013 stood at 1,713 – the lowest figure since records began. In addition, casualties of all severities have decreased steadily since 2000, with personal injury road accidents now at their lowest level in 86 years.
Yet, road accidents still accounted for 1.3% of all recorded attendance at secondary care units during the 2012-2013 period – equating to 243,351 visits.
Whilst this is an improvement on previous years, the figure remains extremely high, placing additional strain on NHS resources. With many road accident victims being admitted as emergency cases, scheduled treatments are being regularly delayed, leading to mounting dissatisfaction amongst NHS patients.
As an experienced road traffic accident claims handler, I’ve dealt with a broad range of cases. From those arising from simple bad luck or minor misjudgement on the one hand, to those involving reckless driving and causing death by dangerous driving, and indeed others where the actions of the motorist involved has been quite deliberate.
We also continue to see cases involving drink driving, speeding and non-wearing of seat belts, despite the fact that all of these involve breaching laws that have existed for many years.
The measures already put in place have no doubt proved integral in the campaign to reduce road traffic casualties, but perhaps the next step is now to introduce harsher penalties for motorists choosing not to abide by the law.