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The Pedestrian Casualty Problem in Scotland: Why So Many? - Research Findings

DescriptionThe main element of this work was a detailed statistical analysis relating casualty rates to possible causal factors.
ISBN0 7480 5155 4
Official Print Publication Date
Website Publication DateDecember 29, 1998
Development Department Research Programme Research Findings No 19 (1996)
The Pedestrian Casualty Problem in Scotland: Why So Many?

Gordon Harland and Derek Halden, Transport Research Laboratory

ISBN 0-7480-5155-4Publisher The Scottish OfficePrice £5.00
The likelihood of pedestrians being involved in a road accident in Scotland is higher than in England and in many other European countries. The Scottish Office commissioned research to investigate why pedestrian casualty rates are different in Scotland. The main element of this work was a detailed statistical analysis relating casualty rates to possible causal factors.
Main findings
  • The number of pedestrian casualties, at local authority District level, can chiefly be explained by pedestrian exposure to traffic.
  • Casualty numbers in Scottish Districts are similar to those in other Districts in Great Britain with matching levels of exposure, car ownership and other factors.
  • Other factors being equal, pedestrian casualty numbers are lower the higher the level of household car ownership in a District.
  • Because car ownership is lower in Scotland than in England and Wales, the Scottish pedestrian casualty rate is higher than that in the rest of Great Britain.
  • The effect of car ownership on casualty rates is strongest for young children and male pedestrians injured at night, which accounts for the main differences between Scotland and England and Wales.
  • Districts where there is some segregation of pedestrians and vehicles, such as those with new towns, have fewer casualties than is predicted by a simple model relating exposure to casualty rates.
  • Reducing casualty numbers to the predicted level in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow, should achieve a 6% reduction in the Scottish pedestrian casualty total.
The research
For some time policy makers and planners with responsibility for road safety in the UK have been concerned about the level of pedestrian casualties. Although road deaths per 100,000 population are among the lowest of the developed countries of the world, the pedestrian death rate is higher than that found in many comparable countries including some with markedly higher levels of road casualties. There is particular concern in Scotland because the rates there are higher than those found in the other countries in Great Britain.
In consequence, The Scottish Office commissioned TRL to investigate why Scotland's pedestrian casualty rates are higher than those for the rest of Great Britain. The specific objectives of the research were to:
  • analyse the pedestrian casualty problem in Scotland, using existing data, and identify the main areas where Scotland differs significantly from Great Britain;
  • determine the most significant factors involved in Scotland's pedestrian accidents, and how these differ from those for Great Britain as a whole;
  • identify the reasons why the Scottish pedestrian casualty rates are higher than those for the whole of Great Britain;
  • recommend appropriate practical and/or policy interventions which will address the Scottish pedestrian problem based on the findings of the study.
The casualty problem in Scotland
A detailed examination of existing data on pedestrian casualties in Great Britain revealed that children under the age of 12 are twice are likely to be fatally injured in Scotland when compared with children of the same age in England and Wales. In the same group, children in Scotland are 1.5 times more likely to be seriously injured, and are 1.2 times more likely to be slightly injured than children in the rest of Great Britain.
Figure 1
Pedestrian casualty rates - 1993
The daily child casualty numbers are highest on school days in the summer months, when children play out in the evenings. There are large differences between Scotland and the other countries in the months of July and August because Scottish children have an earlier summer holiday than other children in Great Britain.
For adults, the difference between Scotland and the other countries is not as marked as the difference for children, but varies with the season and reaches a maximum in the December to March period. Previous research has shown that of the countries in Great Britain, Scotland had the highest proportion of alcohol related pedestrian fatalities, and the highest proportion of fatalities with over twice the legal limit of blood alcohol for drivers.
Why Scotland has high pedestrian accident rates
The research developed a method for predicting casualty numbers in the Local Authority Districts of Great Britain, in order to examine any fundamental differences between Districts in Scotland and those in the rest of Great Britain. The model was based on the hypothesis that variations in numbers of casualties are explained by exposure of pedestrians to accident risk. A test for differences between Scottish and other Districts, taking into account the factors of household population, car ownership, road space and the urban/rural nature of the District, found that the Scottish Districts were not significantly different from the others.
Thus, the hypothesis that the number of casualties can chiefly be explained by exposure to traffic, was confirmed. Further analysis showed that casualty numbers increase as car ownership decreases. The same effect was shown in similar equations developed to predict casualty numbers for four subgroups of the population; children aged 0-11, children aged 12-15, males aged 18-44 and injured between 2000 hours and 0500 (which includes most drinking pedestrians), and other adults. The car ownership effect was strongest for the younger group of children, then for the males at night, and weakest for other adults.
The most single important factor affecting pedestrian casualty levels is exposure, moderated by factors associated with car ownership, road space and local environment (urban or rural). Overall District casualty numbers are reduced as car ownership increases. These results confirm that Scotland, with comparatively low car ownership, can expect a higher pedestrian casualty rate than England and that the effect will be stronger for younger children and for drinking pedestrian casualties. If car ownership rates increase, as is predicted, pedestrian casualty rates should fall.
Recommendations for the future
Scottish road safety campaigns should aim to achieve reductions greater than those predicted from the current downward trend in accident rates.
  • Of the four largest Districts, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen have higher than expected pedestrian casualty levels. Reducing pedestrian casualties in these Districts to the level predicted by the model would have saved 291 casualties in 1993, 6% of the Scottish total.
  • Separating pedestrians from vehicles, and controlling vehicle speed where they cannot be separated, has been found to be an effective strategy for reducing pedestrian casualties.
  • Scottish child pedestrians are at greater risk of injury than children in other parts of Great Britain. Social as well as environmental factors are important in determining the accident liability of children, and child safety initiatives should focus on families in deprived areas. The Children's Traffic Club, for example, which is aimed directly at families, can help in this regard.
  • The pedestrian skills of children aged between five and seven years can be improved by training, and such training or publicity is still needed beyond the beginning of primary education.
  • At secondary level, children play less in the street but are making longer journeys and crossing busier roads. Programmes to reduce their accidents need to start in the last year of primary schooling, and be applied equally to girls and boys.
  • Casualty rate data emphasises the vulnerability of certain age groups, such as children and the elderly. However, in Scotland, almost half of pedestrian casualty numbers and a similar proportion of the casualty costs, fall upon the adult population aged 16 to 69. Programmes to reduce the number of adult pedestrian casualties, and supporting research, are needed if Scotland is to maintain the recent downward trend in casualty numbers.
About the research
The research was desk based and included a literature review of relevant research studies on pedestrian accidents. Data from national accident statistics (STATS 19), the National Travel Survey and the Census of Population were used in the development of a statistical method for predicting casualty rates at District levels. The hypothesis used in developing the prediction was that the number of pedestrian casualties in a given period of time in a District depend on a measure of exposure - pedestrian traffic, vehicle traffic and the space available for collisions. Proxy variables were used to represent these 3 factors, viz population, car ownership, and area. The equation developed explained 94% of the variance in the logarithms of the total number of District casualty numbers over the 3 years 1991-1993. Within the limits of experimental error therefore, there was found to be no obvious differences between Scottish Districts and those in the rest of Great Britain. The total number of cars owned by District households (used as a proxy for vehicular traffic) was an influencing factor in the number of pedestrian casualties, and the equation indicates that casualty numbers increase as car ownership decreases.
"The Pedestrian Casualty Problem in Scotland: Why So Many?", the research report summarised in this Research Findings, is available priced £5.00.
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