Costly fuel slows road death rate

The toll of deaths and injuries on Norfolk's roads fell to a 50-year low as drivers eased off the throttle to beat soaring fuel prices, new figures have revealed.

The toll of deaths and injuries on Norfolk's roads fell to a 50-year low as drivers eased off the throttle to beat soaring fuel prices, new figures have revealed.

The number of serious accidents across the county has been dropping steadily since the mid-1990s, but the decline has steepened since petrol prices caught drivers' attention by breaking the £1 a litre barrier last November.

Road safety experts said motorists were driving more slowly to make the costly fuel in their tank go further, which helped push the annual accident tally below 400 in July - when pump prices in East Anglia were at their peak.

Safety camera and breakdown patrols also reported seeing fewer people speeding as fuel economy became an increasingly important influence on driving behaviour.


You may also want to watch:


The county council's statistics relate to the number of casualties killed or seriously injured during the year leading up to the target month, in order to eliminate seasonal variances.

Between November 2007 and July 2008, the accident figure fell by 13.9pc from 462 to 398 - almost twice as fast as the previous nine months when it dropped by only 7.1pc.

Most Read

Nev Calder, manager of Norfolk County Council's casualty reduction engineering team, said the figures were the lowest on the authority's records and had reached a level not seen since the post-war decade.

He attributed the downward trend to investments in safety campaigns and targeted road improvements but said economic driving had helped to accelerate the process.

“We could not say definitively what the reason is, but if drivers are being a bit less heavy on the accelerator this can only help,” he said.

“The suddenness of the fall in the early part of the year was quite dramatic and the logic is that people are being a bit more cautious.

“But it could be short-lived - people's concern about the price of petrol can be quite elastic. This will only have a slowing effect as we all get used to the prices again.”

Bryan Edwards, operations manager for the Norfolk Safety Camera Partnership, said his team had also noticed a change to safer driving habits.

“The impression we are getting from our vehicles and operators on the road is that people are speeding less,” he said.

RAC spokesman Eric Nelson said insurance data was not available to show whether fewer claims were made during the petrol price surge.

But he said a “significant” 10pc drop in breakdown call-outs between June and August 2008 compared to the same period in 2007 was a strong indication there were fewer cars on the road.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter