Road deaths fall to lowest level since 1948

THE number of people killed on Scotland's roads has plummeted by 20 per cent in only one year – the biggest drop in the 62 years the figures have been recorded.

A total of 216 people died in traffic accidents in 2009 – a fifth, or 54, fewer than the previous year and the highest year-on-year percentage fall since 1947, when annual statistics first started to be recorded regularly by officials.

The second-biggest fall in Scotland's road accident toll was between 1998 and 1999, when the number of fatalities dropped by 19.5 per cent, going from 385 to 310.

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Scotland's 216 road deaths during 2009 was also the country's lowest figure for lives lost in traffic accidents since the records began.

The number of child deaths also fell after a dramatic increase the previous year, according to the official statistics.

Meanwhile, there were 2,269 people seriously injured in road accidents in 2009 – 301, or 12 per cent, fewer than 2008, with the number of those slightly hurt coming down by 220 or two per cent to 12,528.

There was a 13 per cent fall in the number of child casualties last year, with the total falling by 215 to 1,474. Five children were killed in road accidents during 2009 – 15 fewer than in 2008.

The fall in child deaths comes a year after the number of youngsters killed in cars on Scotland's roads trebled last year to its highest level for 21 years.

An increase from four to 13 since between 2007 and 2008 saw the child road death rate at its highest level since 1987.

The figures showed there were 2,196 pedestrians who were road casualties, including 47 who died.

A total of 1,017 motorcyclists were killed or injured, including 43 who were killed – nine more deaths than in 2008.

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There were 803 casualties who were cyclists – 10 per cent more than in 2008 – though the number killed was down from nine to five.

There were also 471 casualties among bus and coach users.

Scotland's transport minister, Stewart Stevenson, said: "This is a welcome drop to the lowest number of casualties for 60 years, continuing the downward trend witnessed in recent years.

"This is an area on which we have focused over the last three years, and we'll continue to work with schools, councils, the police and other partners to minimise the number of young people involved in road accidents."

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said the fall in casualties showed the importance of agencies working together to improve safety. Kathleen Braidwood, road safety officer for RoSPA Scotland, said: "Road safety is everyone's responsibility, and I hope that the current momentum continues so we can prevent even more needless suffering."

Neil Greig, policy and research director of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said: "More people are now driving safer cars with airbags and better crash protection. But there now needs to be continued investment in roads to ensure we keep seeing a fall in road accidents."

The rise and rise of traffic congestion

SOME of the most popular cars on Scotland's roads in the late 1940s and early 1950s were the Morris Minor and Rover P4.

Engine power and vehicle speeds started to rise during this period as cars grew in popularity.

There were early mentions of bypasses at the start of the 1950s, as traffic congestion started to become a problem in parts of Scotland.

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The period also saw car sales rise as the country started to emerge from the rationing that existed during the immediate post-war years.

In the early 1950s, the Ministry of Transport wrote to local councils advising them of the new zebra crossings that were to be introduced from October that year. Councils were asked to select a third of their existing crossings, convert them into zebras and then get rid of the rest.

After the Second World War, plans began to be formulated in Glasgow for urban motorways. One of the first steps was the construction of the Clyde Tunnel and its approaches.

Work on developing the UK motorway system started in the mid-1950s. However, it was not until 1964 that the first stretch of the M8, which revolutionised motoring in Scotland, opened.

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