The number of UK road deaths fell by more than a fifth during the first six months of 2020 as the coronavirus lockdown cut traffic levels. Between January 1 and June 30, 2020, Department for Transport (DfT) figures show an estimated 670 people were killed on the roads of the UK – down 21 percent on the same period in 2019.

It’s a reduction largely credited to the coronavirus lockdown, which began in late March and continued until mid-May. However, restrictions remained in place for most of last year, with pubs and restaurants not re-opening until early July.

As a result, the DfT says traffic decreased by 49 percent during the second quarter of 2020, bringing the number of road fatalities down with it. In April, the only full month of lockdown, deaths fell by half (48 percent), dropping to 80 for the whole month. May, meanwhile, a smaller 30-percent reduction as people were encouraged back to work and allowed slightly more freedom to exercise. Those two months were followed by a June that saw UK road deaths fall by a tenth (nine percent) compared with the same month in 2019.

Traffic accident Stone Cross East Sussex UK 2018

However, the number of people killed or injured in accidents fell even more dramatically, with April seeing 3,930 people either die or suffer an injury on UK roads. It’s a huge number, but it was still 67 percent lower than the number seen in the same month of 2019. That result was followed by a May in which casualties fell by 45 percent, and a June that saw casualties down by 33 percent.

That said, the DfT has warned that these figures appear to be down to the Covid-19 pandemic, rather than improvements in road safety, and one road safety charity has bemoaned a few concerning statistics hiding among the figures. IAM Roadsmart said the increase in cycling during the first lockdown had seen the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured fall by just four percent. In contrast, deaths and serious injuries among drivers fell 26 percent.

Car accident with cyclist on country road

“Despite fears that speeding has increased substantially during the first lockdown it does now look as if the number of casualties has gone down in line with falling traffic numbers,” said IAM Roadsmart’s director of policy and research, Neil Greig. “This is certainly good news as it shows that the vast majority of car, van and lorry stuck drivers to the rules.

“However, the only way to confirm these trends and measure the true impact of local traffic closures and temporary cycle lanes is for the government to publish more details on what has happened throughout the rest of 2020.

“IAM RoadSmart thinks that it is unacceptable that we may have to wait until June 2021 to get the full picture for UK road safety during the pandemic. Other countries seem to be able to produce crash statistics much more quickly, allowing planners to deal with safety issues as they emerge and not after the event.”

“While motor traffic reduced as a result of national lockdowns, cycling traffic increased and there has unfortunately not been the same positive impact on cycling casualties when compared with other road users. We therefore urge all road users to continue to be extra vigilant for cyclists as more people take to their bikes during lockdown.”

Car accident with bicycle on road in rainy weather