Road casualties increase across Scotland.

The Glasgow Herald has reported that road deaths in Scotland are up for the first time in eight years.

The increase, the first since 2006, emerged in the Scottish Government's annual casualty statistics. It is difficult to explain. The best guess of some road safety experts is that it is one of the gloomier bellwethers of economic recovery combined with lower fuel prices, encouraging more motorists back into their cars for longer - and faster - drives. Sales of new cars have been soaring and hit record levels in April. Overall vehicle traffic is also up.

The figures for Scotland coincided with a separate Department of Transport report which revealed a similar pattern for Britain as a whole, albeit the increase in road fatalities north of the Border was steeper - 16 per cent compared to a four per cent national average.

Of the 200 people killed on Scotland's roads last year, the majority - 93 - were car users. This was four more than 2013.

The major increase, however, were in the numbers of pedestrians and motorcyclists killed. While the actual number of pedestrians struck by vehicles declined slightly, the number killed - 56 - was up 47 per cent compared to 2013. By comparison, Britain as a whole experienced a year-on-year increase in pedestrian deaths of 12 per cent. In other words, pedestrians in Scotland were four times more likely than the British average to be killed crossing the road last year.

Among motorcyclists, there were 31 road deaths - a 35 per cent increase year-on-year.

On the face of it the statistics are alarming, yet the long-term trend actually shows our roads are becoming safer - and are already among the safest in the world.

Scotland has reduced the drink-drive limit in line with European levels. In England, roadside drug testing is being rolled out to detect motorists impaired by illicit or prescription medications.

Historically, the number of people killed on Scotland's roads peaked at around 900 in 1969 and has been falling almost steadily ever since. In 2013, road deaths fell to their lowest level since records began in 1950, dropping to 172. The most recent increase does not signal a reverse in this trend - 200 is still the fourth lowest number of deaths on record, and lower than any number recorded last decade.

Serious injuries have followed a similar pattern, falling from a peak of more than 10,000 in 1973 to an all-time low of 1,672 in 2013. Even with the increase last year - up to 1,694 - they were still at their second lowest level on record.

Even among cyclists, arguably the most vulnerable of road users, there are some positive indicators over the long-term. While on average, there were 153 cyclists a year seriously injured on Scotland's roads between 2010 and 2014, up from an average of 134 per year from 2004-2008, this has coincided with a significant increase in the number of people commuting by bike.

Yet between 1994 and 1998, when cyclist numbers were far lower, the number seriously injured each year averaged 238 - 56 per cent higher than it is now.

We are a long way from eliminating road deaths altogether, but the long-term trends show we are headed in the right direction.

Our Partners

Our Partners