DfT scoops top stats award for work on road safety

Royal Statistical Society praises Transport department for "honest" and "innovative" presentation of official statistics

Judges at the Royal Statistical Society said the DfT team had given an "honest appraisal" of strengths and weaknesses of its stats. Image: PA

By Civil Service World

08 Jul 2016

Civil servants at the Department for Transport have been handed a prestigious award for the “thoughtful and innovative” way they presented official statistics on road safety.

The Royal Statistical Society’s annual official statistics award — held in conjunction with the UK Statistics Authority — aims to flag excellent examples of the use of stats by public bodies, with a particular focus on developments that improve the user experience.

This year’s overall winner was the DfT’s road safety team for its road safety statistics, which provide regular updates on levels of personal injury and casualties recorded on Britain’s public roads. Notably, the DfT’s releases include clear explainers about what can and cannot be concluded from each set of statistics.

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For example, June’s release covering reported road casualties reported to the police in 2015 says there has been a statistically significant decrease in the number of people seriously and slightly injured in road traffic traffic accidents between 2014 and 2015. But it points out that the 2% year-on-year fall in the number of people killed in accidents “is small enough that it can be explained by the natural variation in deaths over time“.

The release adds: “There is no evidence that the number of fatalities has changed over recent years.”

The Department also pulls together key information in a single-page infographic, and has set up a dedicated Twitter handle (@DfTStats) to share its work.

Jill Leyland, chair of the organising Committee for the Official Statistics Awards told CSW why judges had decided to reward the DfT for its work.

“The entry combined a clear appreciation of user need, interesting insights, thoughtful and innovative methodology and excellent communication including honest appraisals of the degree of statistical certainty or uncertainty,” she said.

“Work on the impact of weather on road accidents was particularly impressive and showed how good statistical thinking can draw out new, and sometimes counter-intuitive, conclusions from available data."

Leyland said the DfT’s work “should inspire other statisticians to think creatively about what information really helps decision makers tackle difficult problems." 

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) was also commended for its work with Oxford Consultants for Social Inclusion (OCSI) to update stats on relative deprivation in parts of England.

DCLG and its predecessor departments have collected data on local measures of deprivation since the 1970s, and the 2015 update pulls together findings from 37 separate indicators, ranking all 32,844 neighbourhoods in England by levels of deprivation.

The panel said DCLG, which was a runner-up in the awards, had shown “exemplary user engagement, excellent quality assurance, clear communication of the results including their strengths and limitations”.

Last year’s main award went to the Welsh Government for its own index of deprivation, while the DfT again scooped best statistical release for its work presenting official bus stats.

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