Figures released by the Department for Transport (DfT) show 1901 people were killed in British road accidents last year – a 3% rise on 2010 – while the overall number of serious injuries including deaths went up for the first time since 1994.
The statistics were described as "sobering" by the RAC Foundation, while the AA said they should provide a "wake-up call" for the UK Government, which has abandoned targets on cutting casualty rates and cut road safety advertising.
Scottish Government figures this month showed a trend for falling road traffic injuries continued north of the Border last year, with 186 people killed, a reduction of 11% on 2010. Pedal cycle casualties rose 6% over the same period.
Analysis carried out by the DfT showed the accident rate for serious injuries and deaths – taking into account how much people drive – had also increased, by 2%.
Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: "These figures are sobering. We have got used to falling numbers of deaths on the roads, but this shows casualty reduction is not a one-way street."
AA head of road safety Andrew Howard said: "We have to suspect that the price of fuel throughout 2011 is all that has prevented road casualties for 2011 being much higher"
Transport Secretary Justine Greening said the Government was committed to improving road safety, adding: "As far as I am concerned, one accident is too many. We are concerned to make sure we improve our road safety record."
Keith Brown, Transport Minister for Scotland, added: "One death on our roads is too many."