DEATHS on Scotland’s roads have increased for the first time in nearly a decade, research by Scotland on Sunday reveals.
The rise last year was triggered by a jump in the number of pedestrians and motorcyclists killed.
‘It is clear the pedestrian safety battle is far from won’
However, the figures, which were collated from police statements about incidents and media reports, also showed that fewer people in cars and on bicycles died.
The revelation was described as “worrying news” by one motoring group, while the Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency said any increase in deaths was “obviously of concern”.
The total number of road deaths from these sources last year was 179, seven more than the official Scottish Government figure for 2013.
If confirmed, it would be the first increase since 2006.
The total number of pedestrians killed has gone up by nearly half, from 38 in 2013 to 54 last year.
They included six killed in the Glasgow bin lorry crash in December - last year’s worst incident - and three spectators who died at the Jim Clark Rally in the Borders in May.
The motorcyclist death toll went up by one quarter from 23 to 29, despite riders being specifically targeted in a road safety campaign, with another being launched last month.
But the number of car drivers and passengers killed was down by nine to 80. The total reported cycle deaths also fell, from 13 to seven.
The other deaths involved lorries, buses, taxis and a tractor, with similar numbers to 2013.
Neil Greig, the Scotland-based policy and research director of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said: “This is worrying news, as we have not seen a year on year increase in road deaths in Scotland since 2006 and the long-term trend has been downwards for decades.
“Even if this is just a ‘blip’, it marks a slowing down in progress on death reduction, which must be taken seriously by the Scottish Government.”
Stuart Hay, head of Living Streets Scotland, which campaigns for pedestrians, said:
“It is clear the pedestrian safety battle is far from won, despite years of public information campaigns and changes to our streets.”
Derek Halden, a transport engineer and member of Roadshare, lobbying for motorists to be presumed liable for collisions with cyclists and pedestrians, said: “The most worrying trend is the rise in pedestrian and cycle injuries per distance travelled when compared with car travel.”
Police Scotland’s head of road policing said overall road casualties, including injuries, had dropped. Chief Superintendent Iain Murray said: “We will continue to do everything we can to reduce these numbers, including supporting high-profile campaigns which highlight important issues such as motorcyclist and pedestrian safety.”
Transport Scotland said provisional 2014 casualty figures would be published in June.
Its spokeswoman said: “Any indication of an increase in the number of people killed is obviously of concern and something we will investigate with the utmost seriousness.
“One life lost on Scotland’s roads is one too many, and we are taking forward a raft of measures with our road safety partners to reduce risks and to ensure education, engineering and enforcement all play a key role in our comprehensive approach.”