The number of deaths linked to contact with the police has fallen over the past year, the Independent Police Complains Commission (IPCC) revealed today.
In its annual review of deaths following contact with police, the IPCC found the number of people dying from all causes had fallen, with improvement most marked in the category of "death following general contact".
Nick Hardwick, chair of the IPCC, said he was "cautiously optimistic" about the fall but warned against complacency.
The report, Deaths During or Following Police Contact: Statistics for England and Wales 2006/07, records the number of people that died following: police-related road traffic accidents; deaths in or after custody; fatal shootings; or other deaths following contact with the police.
All recorded a fall on figures for 2005/06 but the overall decline was driven by a drop in the number of fatal road traffic accidents and the number of people dying after coming into contact with police without being arrested.
Mr Hardwick continued: "However, we should not be complacent.
"Whilst we've seen a significant reduction in the number of road traffic fatalities, referrals to the IPCC show that the number of serious injuries arising from road traffic incidents has increased.
"We are working with the Association of Chief Police Officers to review national guidance on pursuits with a view to reducing the number of incidents."
Road traffic fatalities remain the biggest killer, with 36 traffic-related deaths in 2005/06, down from 48 the year before.
Of these, 19 people were killed during or shortly after a police pursuit. A further 13 were killed in a vehicle seemingly fleeing the police and three pedestrians were killed by a pursued vehicle.
The number of deaths following custody fell one to 27. Of these, 21 occured later in hospital rather than in the custody suite.
There were a further 18 general deaths with no link to arrest or detention. This was down significantly on the 39 recorded in 2005-06 but the varied nature of these incidents meant the IPCC was unable to determine how this reduction was achieved.
There were also 47 apparent suicides among people released from police custody, ten of which had been arrested in relation to child sex offences.
The IPCC is conducting a separate investigation into the one fatal shooting recorded last year.
Mr Hardwick added: "Each one of these deaths is a tragedy, and we hope that by providing a detailed overview of the deaths that occurred, we can identify key areas where future policies and improvements in practice should be directed."