Warning that cheaper fuel could lead to more crashes on Norfolk’s roads

Police accident.

Police accident. - Credit: ©Archant Photographic 2010

Falling fuel prices could lead to an increase in crashes on Norfolk's roads this year - because more people may take advantage of cheaper costs to get behind the wheel, traffic safety officers have warned.

And officers at Norfolk County Council have said that could 'present a particular challenge' when it comes to preventing crashes involving older drivers, who are more likely not to drive when fuel is expensive - as are younger drivers.

In the 12 months from November 2014 to November last year, 402 people were killed or seriously injured on the county's roads. While the full year's tally for 2015 is not yet available, there were 379 such casualties in 2014 as a whole.

There were 97 crashes in which people were killed or seriously injured where one of the drivers was aged 17 to 25, and 57 people were killed or seriously injured after crashes which involved older drivers.

The figures were discussed at a meeting of the county's road casualty reduction partnership yesterday, where officers provided predictions of what proportion of road users were likely to be involved in crashes in which people were killed or seriously injured in 2016.

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The partnership has been targeting what it calls vulnerable groups, including older drivers, aged 70 or over, younger drivers, aged 17 to 25, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.

It is estimated that those four groups will be involved in 85pc of the crashes in which people are killed or seriously injured in the year ahead.

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Dave Stephens, who heads up the traffic analysis team at Norfolk County Council, said: 'We can expect, in the coming year, to see our overall level of people killed and seriously injured to remain at around 400, which is about where we are at the moment.

'We have to recognise that very low fuel prices and other encouraging signs on the economic side are likely to represent a challenge in terms of maintaining the current levels, particularly in the older drivers group.

'There tends to be a large element of discretionary car usage in that group, which is likely to increase with lower fuel prices.'

County councillor Jenny Chamberlin, a member of the partnership's committee, said: 'Because we are an ageing population, there are going to be an increasing number of people who are still driving as we grow older.

'Some of those people are deaf or have sight issues. I was talking to a lady the other day who has a hearing aid and she says she only wears it when she's talking to people, so does she wear hers when she is on her own and driving a car?'

Officers also warned there was pressure on roads maintenance budgets. But they said continued speed management and new vehicle safety measures would go some way to offsetting the other factors.

And they would continue to focus on getting safety messages to vulnerable groups.

In Suffolk, the 2015 death toll on the county's roads - 35 - was the highest in six years. But the total killed or seriously injured fell to 126 from 156.

What do you think? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor. Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email EDPletters@archant.co.uk

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