3. Motor vehicles, traffic and road casualties
3.1 Motor vehicles
3.1.1 The number of motor vehicles licensed in Scotland in 2006 was almost 2.6 million, 2% more than the previous year, 32% higher than the number in 1996 and the highest figure ever recorded. Over the longer-term, the number of vehicles licensed has increased from an estimated 0.8 million in 1962. Figure 1 shows the trends since 1975: there have been increases in almost every year.
3.1.2 There were about 243,000 new vehicle registrations in Scotland in 2006, a fall of 3% over the previous year. However, it was still the fifth highest figure ever recorded, 33% more than in 1996 and almost three times the number (86,000) in 1962. Figure 2 shows that the number of new registrations of vehicles has risen and fallen a number of times during the period since 1975, and that it has been around a quarter of a million per year only within the last five years.
3.1.3 In 2006, there were 51 vehicles per 100 population in Scotland compared with 57 in Great Britain. Figure 9 shows that the number of vehicles per head of population has been rising steadily, and has been consistently lower in Scotland than in Great Britain.
3.1.4 The Scottish Household Survey ( SHS) found that, in 2006, 68% of households had at least one car available for private use - up from 63% in 1999. 24% of households had two or more cars in 2006, compared with 18% in 1999. As the SHS is a sample survey, its results are subject to apparent year-to-year fluctuations.
3.1.5 2004 is the latest year for which one can compare the availability of cars to households in Scotland and GB as a whole, using the results from the combined samples of some GB-wide surveys (such as the National Travel Survey). In 2004, around 69% of households in Scotland had the regular use of a car compared to 74% in Great Britain as a whole. Any year-to-year fluctuations, and differences between these results and those of the SHS, are likely to be due to sampling variability.
Figure 1 Vehicles licensed
Figure 2 New registrations of vehicles
3.2 The road network
3.2.1 There were about 54,900 kilometres of public road in Scotland in 2006. The trunk road network accounted for 6% of the total. Relative to the size of the population, the length of the road network is greater in Scotland than in Great Britain: in 2006, Scotland had 10.7 kilometres of road per 1,000 population; GB had only 6.8 kilometres per 1,000 population.
3.3 Road traffic
3.3.1 The estimated total volume of traffic on Scotland's roads in 2006 was almost 44 billion (thousand million) vehicle kilometres. This figure was 3% more than the previous year and 16% more than the figure for 1996. The total volume of traffic is at its highest ever level: the estimates show increases in every one of the past ten years apart from 2000, which was affected by the fuel protests.
3.3.2 The pattern in Scotland was similar to that for Great Britain as a whole. The total volume of traffic for Great Britain rose by 1% between 2005 and 2006, and was 15% higher than ten years earlier, with increases in every year (including a very slight rise in 2000).
3.3.3 Figure 7 shows the longer-term trends in Scotland. It is estimated that the volume of car traffic on major roads (Motorways and A roads) has more than doubled, from an estimated 9,300 million vehicle kilometres in 1975 to around 22,000 million vehicle kilometres in recent years. Figure 7 shows that the main rise was between 1983 and 1995.
3.3.4 Per head of population, there is less traffic on Motorways, more traffic on A roads, and less traffic on all roads taken together (including B, C and unclassified roads) in Scotland than in Great Britain.
3.4 Toll bridges
3.4.1 In 2006, around 23.7 million vehicles were estimated to have crossed the Forth Road Bridge (about 64,900 per day), approximately 0.5% less than the previous year. The Tay Bridge had an estimated 8.9 million vehicles crossing, 1% less than in the previous year. Tolls for the Skye Bridge were removed on 24 December 2004, and for the Erskine Bridge on 31 March 2006, so figures for their numbers of crossings are no longer available.
3.5 Road casualties
3.5.1 The number of road deaths in Scotland in 2006 (314) was 10% more than in 2005, but still the fifth lowest figure since current records began more than 50 years ago. 2,611 people were provisionally recorded as seriously injured in road accidents in 2006, 2% fewer than in 2005, and the lowest figure since records of serious injuries began in 1950. Over the past ten years, the number of people reported injured in road accidents has fallen by 21% to 17,165 in 2006, the lowest number for more than 50 years. Figure 8 shows that that there have been falls in most years since 1979. Although in some years the drop appeared to be levelling off, over the longer-term the number of casualties injured in road accidents has fallen steadily.
Figure 3 Passenger numbers: local bus and rail
Figure 4 Passenger numbers: rail, air and ferry (selected services)
3.5.2 Since 1996, the number of people killed or seriously injured in road accidents has fallen by almost the same percentage (33%) in Scotland as in Great Britain (34% lower). The number of people killed or seriously injured per thousand population was almost the same in Scotland and Great Britain in 2006 (about 0.6 per thousand population).