User guide – Injury road accidents

User guide – Injury road accidents

Notes and definitions

Fatal injury

An injury which causes death fewer than 30 days after the accident;

Fatal accident

An accident in which at least one person is fatally injured;

Serious injury

An injury which does not cause death fewer than 30 days after the accident, and which is in one (or more) of the following categories:

  • an injury for which a person is detained in hospital as an in-patient
  • or any of the following injuries (whether or not the person is detained in hospital): fractures, concussion, internal injuries, crushings, severe cuts and lacerations, severe general shock requiring treatment
  • or any injury causing death 30 or more days after the accident;
Serious accident

An accident in which at least one person is seriously injured, but no-one suffers a fatal injury;

Slight injury

An injury which is neither fatal nor serious – for example, a sprain, bruise, or cut which is not judged to be severe, or slight shock requiring roadside attention;

Slight accident

An accident in which at least one person suffers slight injuries, but no-one is seriously injured, or fatally injured.

It follows that whether some injuries are classified as serious or as slight could depend upon hospitals' admission policies, or upon other administrative practices, and therefore changes in the numbers of injuries of these two types could result from changes in admissions policies or other administrative practices.

Built-up roads

Accidents which occur on built-up roads are those which occur on roads which have speed limits of up to and including 40 miles per hour (ignoring temporary speed limits on roads for which the normal speed limit is over 40 mph). Therefore, an accident on a motorway in an urban area would not be counted as occurring on a built-up road, because the speed limit on the motorway is 70 mph. An accident on a stretch of motorway with a temporary speed limit of 30 mph would not be counted as occurring on a built-up road, because the normal speed limit is 70 mph.


People under 16 years old.


Includes people riding toy cycles on the footway; people pushing or pulling bicycles or other vehicles or operating pedestrian-controlled vehicles, those leading or herding animals, occupants of prams or wheelchairs, and people who alight from vehicles and are subsequently injured.

Estimated Accident Costs

These are intended to encompass all aspects of the costs of casualties including both the human cost and the direct economic cost. The human cost covers an amount to reflect the pain, grief and suffering to the casualty, relatives and friends, and, for fatal casualties, the intrinsic loss of enjoyment of life over and above the consumption of goods and services. The economic cost covers loss of output due to injury and medical costs. The cost of an accident also includes:

1. the cost of damage to vehicles and property; and

2. the cost of police and insurance administration.

Also estimated are the number of damage only accidents (around 14 times the number of injury accidents) and their average costs.


The statistics were compiled from returns made by Police Scotland, which cover all accidents in which a vehicle is involved that occur on roads (including footways) and result in personal injury, if they become known to the police. The vehicle need not be moving, and need not be in collision - for example, the returns include accidents involving people alighting from buses. Very few, if any, fatal accidents do not become known to the police. However, there will be non-fatal injury accidents which are not reported by the public to the police, and so are not counted in these statistics. Reported Road Casualties Scotland provides more information on this matter.

Damage only accidents are not included in the above definition, and so the road accident statistical returns do not cover damage only accidents. It is thought that the number of damage only accidents is about fourteen times the number of reported injury road accidents.

Further information

Within Scottish Transport Statistics, further information can be found in:

  • Chapter 1 – Road transport vehicles
  • Chapter 4 – Road network
  • Chapter 5 – Road traffic

Other Transport Scotland Publications:

These publications contain more detailed statistics of injury road accidents and a full description of the terms used. The figures they contain may differ slightly from those published here due to late returns and amendments made to the database in the periods between the finalisation of the statistics for the purpose of the publications.

Analysis of alternative data sources for road casualties statistics in Scotland were included in an Article 3 of Reported Road Casualties 2011. An article on undercounting of road casualties was also included.

The Department for Transport produces a number of related publications:

< Previous | Contents | Next >