Background Cycling is widely perceived as an unsafe mode of transport in England and many other countries. However, numbers of road deaths in England have fallen sharply since 2007. We explored whether differences in fatality rates by age and mode persist, and the impact of deprivation on these.
Methods Comparative fatality rates by distance (bn km) and time travelled (million hours’ use, mhu) were calculated by age, travel mode, and sex or area deprivation (Index of Multiple Deprivation of residence). Data for Travel-related deaths, including pedestrian falls, were drawn from the ONS mortality database (2007–2012). Data for distance and time travelled by age and sex or age and IMD quintile were drawn from National Travel Survey data 2007–2012.
Results Fatality rates for walking, cycling and driving fell significantly between 2007–2009 and 2010–2012, particularly among men. Male fatalities per bn km fell from 3.4 (95% CI 3.3–3.6) to 2.2 (2.1–2.4), for driving, 32.1 (28.5–36.0) to 20.8 (18.1–23.9) for cycling, and 51.4 (48.5–54.4) to 36.7 (34.3–39.3) for walking.
Fatality rates varied by age, sex, and mode, ranging in males from 1.2–26.4/bnkm (0.05–1.01/mhu) for driving, 14.1–231.4/bnkm (0.22–2.59/mhu) for cycling, and 13.1–708.9/bnkm (0.05–2.55/mhu) for walking. For males aged 17–20, fatality rates were 25.9 (23.9–28.1)/bnkm; 1.01 (0.93–1.09)/mhu) for drivers and 22.5 (14.2–33.7)/bnkm; 0.28 (0.18–0.42)/mhu) for cyclists. Age-specific rates showed a J-shape for cycling, a U-shape for driving, and an exponential increase with age for walking. Fatality rates for adults aged 80+ were an order of magnitude higher in each mode than the all-age mean. For both f/bnkm or f/mhu, rates were significantly above mode-specific all-age rates (p < 0.05) for male drivers <30 y and 80+ and female drivers <25 y and 75+ (75+ and 70+ respectively using f/bnkm); male cyclists 50–64 and 70+; and pedestrians aged 70+ (65+ for men, using f/bnkm). Fatality rates were generally higher for males than females.
People in the most deprived quintile had higher fatality rates than people in the least deprived quintile overall (all modes combined), for walking and for driving, but not for cycling. Differences in risk were greatest for younger drivers and older pedestrians.
Conclusion Fatality rates for walking, cycling and driving are higher for males than females at almost every age and vary more by age than by travel mode. Deprivation exacerbates the risks of walking for age groups >34 yo and driving for age groups <55 yo.
- road traffic fatality
- perceived risk
- active travel
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