Social factors such as long-term unemployment can affect road safety, with new vehicles and their improved safety features unaffordable to many and a lack of money for regular vehicle servicing and replacement of worn tires.

As a result, a new report from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents says, efforts to cut the number of people killed or injured on U.K. roads need to focus as much on social issues as on safety education.

The policy paper looks at how circumstances such as where people live, how much money they have and their family situations can affect their chances of being involved in a road accident.

It finds exposure to danger can vary significantly between socioeconomic groups.

The report cites research showing the number of fatalities per 100,000 children whose parents were long-term unemployed or had never worked was 20.6 times higher for pedestrians and 5.5 times higher for car occupants when compared with the children of professional or managerial parents.

Lack of money also can impact road safety. “However much advice is given on getting cars serviced regularly and replacing worn tires, some people simply cannot afford to do so,” the society says in a statement.

“Similarly, new vehicles with improved safety features can prove unaffordable to many.”

The report says family structure can influence the likelihood of injury, with children in both single-parent families and large families being more at risk.

It recommends social factors be taken into account in the planning of road-safety campaigns and initiatives, and suggests greater involvement by organizations not traditionally seen as concerned with the issue.

It makes five recommendations:

  • Social factors that cause injury need to be tackled in a systematic way by organizations responsible for road safety.
  • Common approaches to improving the health, well-being and safety of individuals and communities need to be identified. Developing closer ties and working partnerships between road safety and health professionals can help achieve this.
  • Ways of identifying the effects of local and national government policies on road-traffic injury need to be developed to identify opportunities to improve and protect road safety within them.
  • Education interventions need to help individuals and communities overcome the social factors that act as barriers to safer behaviors and empower them to have more control.
  • Wider use of evaluation on road-safety projects is essential to identify which ones are more successful at tackling inequalities.

Society road-safety manager Duncan Vernon says the report shows a wide range of social factors affect road safety and efforts to reduce casualties. “Road safety is a public health issue, and a greater integration between road safety and public health at all levels would help to create both safer and healthier environments,” he says.