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Linking Road Traffic Accident Statistics to Census Data in Lothian - Research Findings

DescriptionThe aim of this report was to provide an insight into relationships between social, demographic and housing characteristics and the likelihood of being involved in a road accident.
ISBN0 7480 5674 2
Official Print Publication Date
Website Publication DateDecember 29, 1998
Development Department Research Programme Research Findings No. 27 (1996)
Linking Road Traffic Accident Statistics to Census Data in Lothian

Ibrahim M Abdalla, Robert Raeside and Derek Barker, Napier University

ISBN 0-7480-5674-2Publisher The Scottish OfficePrice £5.00
The Scottish Office commissioned research to investigate whether road accident casualty rates are higher among residents of particular types of neighbourhood. The study related road accident casualty data to a range of census variables with the aim of providing an insight into possible relationships between social, demographic and housing characteristics and the likelihood of being involved in different types of road accident. The work was based on an analysis of accidents in Lothian Region, Scotland, between 1990 and 1992.
Main findings
  • When compared with the average Lothian casualty rate, total casualty rates were higher in areas which had a high proportion of rented dwellings, a low percentage of car ownership and a high proportion of lone parent households.
  • Residents from areas with fewest adults in employment had significantly higher road casualty rates, for all groups except car drivers.
  • The rate for pedestrian casualties was significantly higher in areas with a high density of population and in areas with the highest percentage of residents from Social Class V.
  • Areas with the most pensioners had a higher rate of pedestrian and bus or coach casualties.
  • Car driver casualty rates were higher for residents from areas with the highest number of economically active adults; female car driver casualty rates however were highest for areas with lower car ownership.
  • There was a higher pedestrian and car driver casualty rate in areas with a high proportion of migrant households who had moved house within the past year.
The research
In recent years the typology of road accident casualties has attracted increasing attention. In 1994 research carried out for The Scottish Office examined the value of linking road traffic accident statistics to the characteristics of the home area of the casualty, defined in terms of census of population variables. The Scottish Office commissioned Napier University to carry out research which refined that analysis further, by studying casualty home address at the geographically smaller census output area. It is intended that this work will inform those working in the road safety field of any link between casualty rates and the characteristics of the neighbourhood lived in, and hence assist in targeting special initiatives.
Methodology
The analysis considered all road accidents occurring between 1990 and 1992 where the casualty had a Lothian address, totalling 8560 casualties. The home address of each casualty was obtained from the casualty record (STATS 19 form from the police accident reporting system) and a postcode was attached. The casualty records were then sorted on the basis of resident Output Area (OA). There are 5851 OAs in the whole of Lothian Region. Of this number some OAs are communal establishments such as military establishments or hospitals. These were omitted from the analysis, leaving a total of 5774 OAs.
A range of census variables was selected to represent different characteristics of an area. These variables fall into the broad groups of household type, employment, socio-economic structure and housing tenure. Each variable was measured by taking the proportion of households or individuals with that characteristic in an OA. The method of analysis ranked the OAs for each variable. It then matched the casualty record to the variables for each OA and compared the number and rate per 10,000 resident population of accident casualties in the bottom 15% (lowest) with those in the top 15% (highest) for each variable. This comparison between the extremes of the distribution enabled conclusions to be drawn about the relationship between each census variable and each casualty variable.
Results
Total Casualties
Figure 1 below indicates that main groups of casualties in Lothian were car drivers (32%) followed by pedestrians (26%), but that a higher percentage of pedestrians were fatally or seriously injured.
Figure 1
Distribution of Road Casualties in Lothian by Status and Severity
Figure 1 Distribution of Road Casualties in Lothian by Status and Severity
Further analysis indicated that there were significantly more male driver casualties and cyclist and motor cyclist casualties. However, the distribution of passengers or drivers of bus and coach casualties indicated that there were twice as many female than male casualties in this group. These distributions are likely to reflect the relative numbers of each sex travelling by private and public transport and hence exposure to risk of accidents.
Census Variables
The analysis examined the relationship between the number of casualties and different census variables, and compared the results to the average casualty rate for Lothian. The average Lothian rate, per 10,000 population, 1990 to 1992 was 119.6. The results are summarised in Figure 2 below.
It can be seen that the strongest relationships between high (total) casualty rates and census variables occur for areas with the highest proportion of rented dwellings; the lowest percentage of Social Class I and II residents and the highest of Social Class V; the highest proportion of lone parent households; the least amount of people in employment; and the highest percentage of households without a car.
Figure 2
All road accident casualty rates by census variables compared with Lothian average rate.
Figure 2 All road accident casualty rates by census variables compared with Lothian average rate
In areas with the highest percentage of pensioners, rates of pedestrian casualties were significantly higher (36 per 10,000) than those with the lowest proportion of pensioners (27 per 10,000) A similar pattern was evident for cyclist, motor-cyclist and bus or coach passengers or drivers, with the casualty rate being 33 per 10,000 population in areas with the highest percentage of pensioners, compared to 15 in areas with the lowest percentage.
Areas with higher and lower numbers of economically active adults were compared. It can be seen from Figure 3 below that residents of areas with the lowest percentage of adults (16+) in employment had significantly higher casualty rates for most groups. Similarly, areas with a high percentage of economically inactive adults had higher casualty rates, with the exception of rates for car drivers.
Figure 3
Rate of accident casualties in areas with the 15% lowest and highest percentages of employment and economically inactive adults.
Figure 3 : Rate of accident casualties in areas with the 15% lowest and highest percentages of employment and economically inactive adults.
Figure 4 below indicates that areas with a low percentage of Social Class I and II, and areas with a high percentage of Social Class V suffer higher casualty rates, with the exception of car drivers.
Figure 4a
Casualty rates for people from the 15% lowest and highest social class I and II or V areas
Class I & II

Figure 4a : Casualty rates for people from the 15% lowest and highest social class I and II or V areas

Class V

Figure 4b : Casualty rates for people from the 15% lowest and highest social class I and II or V areas

Other variables which were examined were type of dwelling, level of car ownership, non-white and migrant populations, and mode of travel to work. Analysis found that:
  • casualty rates tended to be higher in areas with a higher density of population and a smaller than average household size
  • people from areas with the lowest car ownership rates had significantly higher casualty rates, with the exception of car drivers which were significantly lower
  • there was no significant difference between casualty rates for areas with either a high or low non-white population, but areas with a high percentage of migrant households ie moving within the previous year, had generally higher casualty rates
  • casualty rates tended to be higher in areas where there was a low percentage of people travelling to work by car, and a high percentage of those travelling to work by bus.
Conclusions
It is clear from this analysis of casualty rates and area characteristics that the rate and type of casualty varies between different neighbourhoods. The main points which have emerged from the study are that accident rates are generally higher amongst people from a neighbourhood classified as having:
  • a higher density of population
  • a smaller than average household size
  • a higher number of lone parents
  • more pensioners
  • fewer economically active adults
  • fewer detached or semi-detached houses and more flats
  • more private or public rented households
  • lower car ownership
  • fewer people travelling to work by car
  • a higher percentage of migrant households
  • more people from Social Class V and less from Social Class I and II.
Higher car driver casualty rates for residents from areas with the highest number of economically active adults probably reflect a greater exposure to accident risk through increased travel activity. Female car driver casualty accident rates however are highest for areas with lower car ownership.
A relationship does exist therefore, between the type of neighbourhood and the rate of road accident casualties. The research indicates that people who reside in poorer, disadvantaged areas generally suffer higher casualty rates. It should be emphasised, however, that these relationships are not necessarily causal and other, unquantified factors may be influencing the pattern of casualties. In particular, the relationship between casualty rate and neighbourhood will be affected by differences in exposure resulting from differences in travel pattern and mode of travel.
Nevertheless, in drawing attention to the disparities in casualty rates between affluent and disadvantaged neighbourhoods, the findings of this research study provide useful information in assisting the targeting of local education and information campaigns, as well as informing road safety practitioners on the most vulnerable groups of road user and the area in which they live.
1 Bus or coach drivers or passengers
2 Including passengers
3 Pedal cyclists and motorcyclists
3
"Linking Road Traffic Accident Statistics to Census Data in Lothian", the research report summarised in this Research Findings, is available price £5.00.
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