Safety campaigners rap 'truly shocking' 22% rise in child road accident victims
The number of children killed or seriously injured (KSI) on Britain's roads has risen by more than a fifth, new figures show.
There were 650 child KSI casualties between July and September last year, up 22% on the same quarter in 2015, according to the Department for Transport.
RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams described the figures as "truly shocking".
He said: "We need to understand as a matter of priority why these increases have occurred and take action to save young lives before more are lost."
AA president Edmund King said: "T he one worrying fact that shines through is that vulnerable road users consistently account for three-fifths of all killed or seriously injured incidents."
KSI casualties for all road users in the year ending September were up by 6% compared with the previous 12 months, reaching 25,160.
The DfT said there was "some uncertainty" over the data as police forces are changing the way that incidents are recorded.
Separate provisional figures show the number of annual KSI casualties in drink-drive crashes has risen for the first time since 2010.
There were an estimated 1,380 such casualties in 2015, up 5% on the previous year.
Between 180 and 250 people are believed to have been killed in drink-drive collisions in 2015.
This means the number of fatalities "should be regarded as having remained unchanged since 2010", according to the DfT.
Neil Greig, director of policy and research at road safety charity IAM RoadSmart, said the lack of progress in reducing alcohol-related casualties suggests there is "a hard core of drivers" who insist on drink-driving.
He added: "The only way to catch those who ignore the limit is through intelligence-led high-profile policing, so investment in roads policing must be protected."
The Scottish Government reduced the legal alcohol limit for drivers from 35 micrograms (mcg) to 22mcg in every 100 millilitres of breath in December 2014, but the legal level in England and Wales remains 35mcg.
Mr Williams said: "These estimates for 2015 are a real cause for concern as they show a statistically significant rise.
"With Scotland having lowered its drink-drive limit, you would hope to see figures at least staying the same, not rising. The only logical conclusion is that more drivers are prepared to risk breaking the law, sadly with tragic consequences."
DVLA data released in response to a Freedom of Information request by the Press Association in December revealed that more than 8,000 motorists have been caught drink-driving twice in the past five years.
Nearly 450 were prosecuted three times, while two were caught on six occasions.
A Department for Transport spokesman said Britain has some of the safest roads in the world and claimed the Government is "determined to do more" to protect people.
He added that £175 million is being spent on improving safety on 50 of England's most dangerous roads, the law on drug-driving has been tightened and tougher penalties for using a hand-held phone behind the wheel are being introduced, as part of measures to improve safety.