Road Traffic Accidents: How Does Suffolk Compare to the UK?


A Road Traffic Accident (RTA) can be experienced in a number of ways. The most common, as you might expect, is a car accident, where one vehicle collides with another (or more). However, RTAs also include collisions with pedestrians, motorcycles, and bicycles, as well as cases where an accident has occurred due to a fault in the road or with the driver’s vehicle. 
While these are an everyday occurrence up and down the country, they can fluctuate in severity – from a little bump in traffic to a serious injury and, in the worst cases, a fatality. Generally speaking, when looking at RTAs, we tend to put them into 3 categories of severity: ‘slight’, which includes minor injuries, ‘serious’, for hospitalisation, and fatality, when one or more persons are killed in the accident.


RTAs in Suffolk in 2018

1 in 5

RTAs are classed as ‘serious’


RTAs in Ipswich by Q3 2019

Road Traffic Accidents in Suffolk

All data is based on 2018 statistics from a variety of sources.

Suffolk is by no means the biggest county in the United Kingdom, but it does suffer from a large number of road traffic accidents year-on-year. According to the Department for Transport (DfT), in 2018 there were a total of 1,463 road traffic accidents across the county, ranging in severity. That equates to around four every day – one every six hours – in a county with a population of just over 700,000!

Of the reported RTAs, there were 1,199 ‘slight’ accidents, 248 ‘serious’ injuries, and 16 fatalities.

This is a high number when considering the relative size of the county and its population, however, the number of RTAs in Suffolk has actually decreased annually from 2016. This is true for slight and serious accidents, as well as fatalities. For example, 2016 saw 1,589 RTAs county-wide whilst in 2017 there were 1,573 reported incidents – with 32 and 31 fatalities respectively.

While the decrease in RTAs is great news for the people of Suffolk, it is not yet indicative of a wider trend, and we may not see evidence of any trends for a number of years. This is because in 2016 the majority of UK police forces changed the definition of what is classed as a ‘serious’ accident. This means that under the new classifications, data from before 2016 may not be entirely correct when put against current numbers. So if we want to judge the RTA rates of the last decade, we can only really start at the midpoint. Nevertheless, the data that is available and correct by the new definitions of the Suffolk Constabulary show a decrease between 2016 – 2018.

Unsurprisingly, the majority of RTAs occurred in an urban location, with Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, and Lowestoft the most densely affected. The incidents recorded in these areas were predominantly ‘slight’ accidents, but interestingly, the majority of fatal and serious RTAs occurred outside of the main urban centres. Presumably, this is due to the fact that you’re more likely to suffer a serious injury on faster roads – be that motorways or country lanes.

Ipswich, the county town and most populous region, had the highest density of accidents. According to the DfT data, Ipswich accounted for 23.7% of all RTAs in 2018, an increase on 2017 (20.4%) and 2016 (20.7%), and the highest rate in preceding five years. Freedom of Information data requested by Gotelee Solicitors indicated that Ipswich accounted for 20.9% of Suffolk RTAs in 2019. However, the available data is for the time period between January and August, which suggests that this percentage could rise about the number from 2018.

Specifically, the most hazard place in the town is the junction of Yarmouth Road and Handford Road, which saw a total of eight incidents throughout the year.

How does the UK compare?

Data is based on 2018 statistics (unless specified) from a variety of sources.

It may come as a surprise that, considering the population density, the United Kingdom has one of the lowest road fatality rates in Europe – lower than France, Spain, and Italy, all of which have comparative population sizes. That said, there are still a high number of slight and serious accidents to account for.

In 2018 alone, there were 122,635 reported RTAs across the UK. Of this, 1,671 (1.36%) ended with fatalities and 25,522 (20.8%) resulted in a serious injury to one of more of those involved. Compared to the numbers reported in Suffolk, the national trend for serious injuries as a result of an RTA is going up. In 2016 there were 24,101 incidents, and in 2017 there were 24,831. Again, it’s difficult to determine whether this is endemic of a wider trend, as the way these figures are reported by police has changed since 2016.

Interestingly, the number of ‘slight’ injuries resulting from a road traffic accident has decreased year-on-year from 2014 – in line with the figures shown from Suffolk. So the data for 2018 seems to suggest that while RTA incidents are happening less frequently on a national level, the severity of injury if they do occur is going up. This may have to do with the types of individuals and vehicles that are involved in accidents. For example, the data shows that Motorcyclists are the most vulnerable group, with 5,686 RTA casualties per billion passenger miles. This is incredibly high when compared to the average road user. By the same measure, car drivers suffer a casualty rate of 223 per billion passenger miles.

Suffolk vs Essex and Norfolk

It’s difficult to directly compare Suffolk’s RTA numbers to the rest of the UK without context. To build a better picture of where Suffolk sits in the grand scheme of things, it’s important to compare it to the two neighbouring counties: Essex and Norfolk.

In 2018, Essex had 3,163 reported road traffic incidents across all of its boroughs. Of this number 48 (1.5%) resulted in fatalities while 805 (25.45%) were classed as ‘serious’. In all areas, Essex had a significantly higher number of RTAs than Suffolk. Likewise, authorities in Norfolk reported 1,782 road traffic accidents during the same period, with 27 (1.5%) fatalities and 383 (21.5%) serious injuries. When compared to neighbouring counties, it’s clear to see that Suffolk is performing far better with regards to RTAs.

2019 and beyond

Provisional data from 2019 tells a mixed story. According to what we have available, there were 129,119 RTAs reported throughout the UK in 2019, which is a significant increase on the preceding years. However, there were 776 fatalities, which accounts for 0.6% of the total number of road accidents – a sizeable decrease from 2018. Similarly, ‘serious’ injuries made up 14.8% of RTAs, meaning that while there was a big increase in RTAs, it was only an increase in slight injuries. While this is by no means a good thing, it’s promising to see that fatalities and serious injuries are in decline on the UK’s roads.

Why is the rate in Suffolk so low?

When comparing direct data between counties it’s important to consider the respective populations. For example, Suffolk’s total population is roughly 730,000, while Essex has nearly 1.5 million – so it’s no surprise that Suffolk has fewer RTA reports each year. Norfolk also has a larger population, which would explain the higher number of fatalities and serious injuries.

Additionally, it’s important to consider the number, and types, of roads that are frequently used within these counties, as well as how they’re used. For instance, Essex has a number of major A roads which are used regularly for commuting, and part of the M25 motorway also runs through the county. As a result, 2018 saw over 38% of all RTAs in Essex occur on the motorway or A-roads, with 1 in 5 occurring on a dual carriageway. This high rate is down to the density of vehicles on the road and the comparative speed of these routes.

Similarly, Norfolk is a large county with hundreds of country roads. It also has a major urban centre with major roads coming in and out. 39.2% of all RTAs occurred on A-roads, with a massive 60.3% happening on rural roads.

In contrast, Suffolk is a relatively small county with no motorways and only a handful of major road routes. While there are a number of fast country roads – demonstrated by the fact that all RTA fatalities in 2018 have occurred in rural areas – there are not as many as in Norfolk, which contributes to the lower rate of accidents.

RTA frequently asked questions

Want to know more about the RTA claims process? In this video, Stevan Stratton, Associate Solicitor at Gotelee, talks you through everything you need to know about Road Traffic and Personal Injury claims:

What the experts say

“People can be put off from pursuing their claim because they believe that the claims process will be too complex and stressful. The claims process is however fairly straight forward and follows the steps set out in the Pre-Action Protocol for personal injury claims. Your solicitor will explain all legal terminology to you so that you are made fully aware of what is going on at each and every step of the claims process.”

Personal Injury Solicitor, Gotelee Solicitors

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