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Road collisions responsible for 1 in 5 trauma admissions to hospitals

News from Brake
Monday, 20 November 2017
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  • One in five patients admitted to trauma centres last year were involved in road crashes – the second largest cause of admissions, according to figures obtained by road safety charity Brake
  • An additional analysis of more than 75,000 road crash trauma patients in the last decade shows that:
  • Young people account for more than one in five (21%) admissions – the largest affected age group
  • Children make up the biggest age group of pedestrian casualties, comprising almost one in six (17%) admissions
  • Motorcyclists comprise the largest proportion of admissions (25%), followed by drivers (23%), pedestrians (21%) and cyclists (16%)
  • Almost a third (32%) of pedestrians, and almost a quarter (24%) of cyclists, suffer serious head injuries
  • Speeding was a factor in almost a quarter (22%) of fatal crashes on roads in Britain last year, according to Government statistics
  • The analysis marks the start of Road Safety Week, which this year urges people to slow down to cut crashes and fatalities, and reduce the severity of injuries on roads.

One in five (20%) patients admitted to trauma centres were involved in road crashes in 2016 according to new figures obtained by Brake, the road safety charity. Road collisions were the second largest cause of trauma admissions, after falls from less than two metres.

Last year, 11,486 road users – the equivalent of 31 a day – were admitted to trauma centres in England and Wales with life-threatening injuries.

The regions with the highest proportion of road collision trauma patients were the Thames Valley (25%), North West London (23%), the West Midlands (23%), the East Midlands (22%) and East England (22%).

Brake commissioned an analysis by the Trauma Audit and Research Network (TARN), which records information about patients admitted to trauma centres, set up to deal with the most severe injuries in England and Wales [1].

Table: Admissions to trauma centres and units following road traffic collisions, 2016

TARN network region

Road collision admissions as  proportion of all trauma admissions (2016)

Number of road crash trauma admissions (2016)

Thames Valley



North West London



West Midlands



East Midlands



East of England



North East London and Essex



South East London, Kent and Medway



Yorkshire and Humber



Cumbria and Lancashire






Hampshire, Dorset and the Isle of Wight (Wessex)



Somerset, Bristol, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire (Severn)






South West London and Surrey



Greater Manchester



Devon and Cornwall (Peninsula)



Merseyside and Cheshire



North East England (Northern)






Source: TARN. Note: size of population and number of trauma centres vary between regions.

Brake also analysed data covering 75,820 road crash victims admitted to trauma centres during the last decade [2]. The data reveals that young people (16-25 year olds) are the most affected age group, accounting for more than one in five (21%) road traffic trauma admissions, including the largest group of vehicle passenger (32%), motorcycle (27%) and driver (21%) admissions. In the past decade, 5,657 children (under the age of 16) were admitted to a trauma centre following a road crash, making up seven per cent of all admissions; almost a third (32%) of these were admitted with serious head injury. Children also comprise the biggest age group for pedestrian casualties, accounting for nearly one in six (17%) trauma admissions. 

According to the analysis, motorcyclists comprise the largest proportion of admissions (25%), followed by drivers (23%), pedestrians (21%), cyclists (16%) and vehicle passengers (12%).

Due to the severity of many road traffic collisions, almost a quarter (24%) of trauma patients go straight to intensive care following a crash. In terms of road user type, almost a third (32%) of pedestrians, and almost a quarter (24%) of cyclists, suffer serious head injuries, while over a quarter (28%) of drivers suffer severe chest injuries. Almost two in five (39%) motorcyclists are admitted with serious injury to their arms or legs. Five per cent of all admissions in 2016 later died from the injuries sustained [2].

Recent figures from the Department for Transport reveal that exceeding the speed limit or travelling too fast for conditions contributed to 349 fatal collisions on roads in Britain last year – almost a quarter (22%) of all fatal crashes [3]. Travelling at higher speeds increases the distance it takes to stop in an emergency – both in terms of thinking and braking time – increasing the severity of any crash, the risk of loss of life and the extent of serious injury.

The analysis has been published at the start of the UK’s biggest road safety event, Road Safety Week (20-26 November), coordinated by Brake. This year, thousands of organisations, schools and community groups are backing its Speed Down Save Lives campaign, helping to raise awareness about the dangers of driving too fast.

Jason Wakeford, director of campaigns for Brake, the road safety charity, said: "Not only do needless road collisions cause untold suffering but they also place an enormous strain on the NHS and other public services.

"Speeding is a factor in many deadly crashes and remains a major problem. Driving is unpredictable and if something unexpected happens on the road ahead, such as a child stepping out from between parked cars, it's a driver’s speed that determines whether they can stop in time and, if they can’t, how hard they will hit. That's why we're encouraging everyone to 'Speed Down Save Lives' for Road Safety Week this year.

"Brake is also calling for a default 20mph limit in all built-up areas, increased enforcement and 'Intelligent Speed Adaptation', which helps drivers stay within the limit, to be fitted as standard to new vehicles."

Ben Walton, adult clinical lead for major trauma in the Severn area, hosted by North Bristol NHS Trust, said: "We know that injuries sustained following road traffic collision account for a significant proportion of seriously injured patients admitted to the Major Trauma Centre at North Bristol NHS Trust.

"Road traffic incidents have a serious, often devastating impact on individuals and their families. Even if people survive and make it to the Major Trauma Centre - where specialists work together to help treat their different injuries - the long-term outcome can still be life-changing. There are many ways in which road traffic collisions can be prevented. In particular we urge people to be mindful of the speed they are travelling."

Lucas Bergmans, head of brand for Aviva, said: “At Aviva we’re all too familiar with the outcomes of road collisions, so we’re 100 per cent behind Brake’s Road Safety Week campaign. Travelling over speed limits can have catastrophic consequences, and these can be easily avoided. Aviva research shows that seven out of ten UK drivers admit to travelling over the speed limit from time to time, so we’d urge all motorists to pledge to keep their speed down, and help to make our roads safer."

Stephen Wornham, managing director of BriteAngle, said: “It is unacceptable that, with vehicles getting safer and more intelligent, so many people are admitted to trauma hospitals after a road collision. This data shows that more needs to be done to ensure motorists are aware of the hazards around them, and drive accordingly.”

Brake volunteer: Nick Bennett from Cambridge

On 25 July 2002, aged just 17, Nick’s life was changed forever when he made the decision to dangerously overtake. He was on his way to work and impatiently stuck behind two cars. The sun was low, he couldn’t see properly, and yet he overtook both cars; straight into the path of a three tonne lorry. He wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. Nick spent the next two years in hospital and now lives with injuries so severe that he requires daily care.

Nick said: "As someone who has been seriously injured as a result of a road crash, I don't want any other family to go through the same suffering I am. Breaking the speed limit means it takes longer to react and brake in the event of an emergency, increasing the chance of causing death and serious injury to yourself and others. Speeding is really dangerous and so I'm fully supporting this year's Road Safety Week and encouraging everyone to speed down to save lives."


For more information please contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 07976 069159.

Notes to editors:

Please contact Brake for:

  • Further regional breakdowns of the data
  • Case studies of, and interviews with, Brake volunteers who have been seriously injured following road crashes
  • Interviews with Brake campaigners
  • Attendance at a photo call at Southmead Hospital, Bristol (Severn major trauma centre) at midday on Monday 20 November.

[1] Major trauma centres and units are designed to care for patients with multiple serious injuries that could result in death or serious disability, including head injuries, life-threatening wounds and multiple fractures. Major trauma centres operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They are staffed by consultant-led specialist teams with access to the best diagnostic and treatment facilities, including orthopaedics, neurosurgery and radiology teams.

Brake requested an analysis by the Trauma Audit and Research Network (TARN) of patients admitted as a result of road traffic collisions. Further details of TARN patient inclusion requirements can be found in its Procedure Manual

[2] Figures relate to cases where TARN was advised of outcome.

[3] Contributory factors in reported accidents by severity, Great Britain, 2016: Table RAS50001, Department for Transport, 2017.

Road Safety Week

Road Safety Week is the UK’s flagship event to promote safer road use, coordinated annually by the charity Brake and involving thousands of schools, communities and organisations across the country. Road Safety Week 2017 takes place 20–26 November, with support from the Department for Transport and sponsors Aviva and BriteAngle.

About Brake

Brake is a national road safety and sustainable transport charity, founded in 1995, that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies.

We do this through national campaignscommunity educationservices for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.

Follow Brake on TwitterFacebook or The Brake Blog.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

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