Local councils in England slashed their road safety budgets by 15% last year compared to average spending cuts of just 6% for other council services.
Research by road safety charity the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) said the cuts represented a £23m drop in safety spending.
This includes cuts to services such as rehabilitation courses for motoring offenders, training and information for young drivers, safe routes to schools schemes and school crossing patrols.
The research also shows that over half of English councils cut their spending on road safety and traffic management by more than 10% with huge variations across the country.
London’s Camden Council cut road safety spending by more than 70% despite the fact that road casualties have increased by 10.6% there since 2006.
At the same time, neighbouring Islington Council increased funding for road safety and traffic management by £134,000.
Spending on roads also varied. Thirty councils cut spending on road maintenance by more than 10%, but generally, road maintenance fared well with an overall increase of 0.37%.
IAM chief executive Simon Best said: “In difficult times, councils can be more innovative and flexible in their approach by working with the voluntary and private sectors to provide the services they can no longer afford.
“Austerity is forcing councils to make difficult choices, but the fact that these cuts only represent the first year of savings under the coalition’s spending review is deeply worrying.
“Cutting road safety so hard makes no sense. The average wage of a lollipop lady is £3,000 a year while the cost of each road fatality is £1.6 million. So the returns on investment are huge.
“Cuts of this scale risk lives as well as the UK’s table-topping status as the best in the world for road safety. The government needs to bring back casualty reduction targets so that councils make road safety a priority.
“I’m also concerned that patchy spending on maintenance will not keep pace with our crumbling roads.”