This month the Department for Transport released up to date road casualty statistics for Britain. The statistics covering a 12 month period to June 2013 show that overall there was a 6% decrease in the total number of road accidents compared to the previous year and a 7% decrease in the number of casualties.
The number of people injured in road accidents fell by more than the actual number of accidents indicating that those who are involved in a collision are statistically less likely to suffer injuries.
I was also pleased to see that the number of children killed or seriously injured on our roads fell by 8%, but this still means that 1,440 child pedestrians were killed or seriously injured in road accidents despite extensive campaigning by the government on reducing speed and increasing awareness in built up areas. So it appears that more work is still needed to reduce this number.
Similarly there was a drop in adult fatalities and serious injuries of 6% but this still means that 8,560 car users lost their lives or suffered serious injuries in the 12 month period ending June 2013.
Serious and fatal injuries to cyclists
Whilst accidents involving pedal cyclists and motorcycles fell overall, the number involved in fatal or serious injury accidents actually rose. It was then sadly no surprise when only last week (14 November 2013) I heard of two more fatal accidents involving cyclists in our capital, with the BBC quoting 5 deaths in 9 days across London.
The number of pedal cyclists using our roads on a regular basis has increased, particularly since the sport was in the media spotlight during the Olympics in 2012, and in the last 12 months there have been numerous high profile campaigns regarding the safety of the London roads. Safety schemes have been introduced such as the Cycle Superhighway but at least one of the accidents in the last 9 days occurred on this supposedly safer transport route.
London Mayor Boris Johnson has come out to reiterate everything the city is doing to improve cycling safety, but ultimately reminded all road users to be considerate and abide by our road laws.
Still though, some cyclists appear to be reluctant to wear protective gear. The Metropolitan Police are quoted as saying that the cyclist killed in Whitechapel was not wearing a helmet when the collision occurred and he suffered head and neck injuries. Could those injuries have been reduced to a level where they were not life threatening if the cyclist had worn a helmet?
Should the wearing of a cycle helmet become compulsory; I would certainly advocate that.
An article in The Telegraph told the story of 16 year old Ryan Smith who refused to wear a cycle helmet, for fear of messing up his hair, and was knocked off his bike by a van. The Lincolnshire teenager now lies in a coma. However the country's largest pro-cycle charity (CTC) appears surprisingly to be against helmet legislation and has said that such a move would discourage many from getting on a bike in the first place, quoting statistics from Australia and New Zealand.
Whilst I am not necessarily in favour of the 'nanny state', I do think more can be done to change perceptions in relation to the image of cycle helmets, there are now some big hitting personalities in cycling media who could get behind such a campaign, and education needs to start from a very early age in order to change this perception that it is not cool to protect yourself from serious harm, and even death.
The devastating story of Ryan Smith should serve as a warning to us all to wear a helmet. Personally, I never go out on my bike without it. My helmet is from a regular high street supermarket and it cost me no more than £10, it could save my life, and it is worth every penny.
About the author
Louisa Chambers is a Solicitor and Chartered Legal Executive within Spencers complex injury team. Louisa deals with high complexity cases that involve serious spinal cord, brain or head injuries occurring as a result of road traffic accidents.