FEWER council staff are being involved in road crashes after a crackdown that has saved millions of pounds.

Local authority workers were involved in 174 smashes in 2008, leading to £462,769.50 being paid out by insurance companies representing the council.

Now figures obtained by The Bolton News under The Freedom of Information Act show a drastic reduction each year since, and there were just 68 collisions in 2013 triggering insurance payouts of £27,344.

The saving does not directly impact on taxpayer spending, because ins-urance firms pay out the cash after the council has paid regular premiums.

But fewer accidents means the council pays less for insurance if its vehicles cause fewer accidents and it means staff and vehicles spend less time off the road.

Council bosses welcomed the figures after spending years addressing the issue.

They have taken measures including not employing lorry drivers unless they have special training on defensive driving and avoiding accidents.

A council spokesman added: “Also, whenever an incident does occur involving one of our drivers, it is investigated thoroughly by our in-house team. We interview drivers as soon as we can following an incident while the facts are still fresh in their minds.

“We find that by doing this we are giving our insurers the best possible opportunity to defend claims.

“We are pleased that the number of claims against our drivers has reduced significantly over the past five years.”

The figures show that 160 crashes in 2009 triggered payouts of £543,079; 144 crashes in 2010 meant payouts of £412,249; in 2011, there were 129 crashes with payouts of £250,029; and in 2012, 82 incidents prompted payouts of £127,440.

The cash paid out covered damage, injury, vehicle hire charges, solicitor fees, medical fees and expert fees.

Bolton Council’s transport representative, Cllr David Chadwick, said: “I applaud those who have made these positive changes and those who drive on behalf of the council for implementing them.

“I recently took an advanced motorist test and passed and I feel a better driver for it.

“The council is having to be more efficient and I think that has focused the minds of department heads when it comes to issues like reducing the number of crashes.”