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Accident Statistics in Germany

Nov 2020


With regard to accident statistics for two-wheeled vehicles in Germany, a welcome downward trend can be seen, at least when comparing 2019 to 2018. In total, 129,207 users of two-wheeled vehicles were involved in accidents on German roads – 4.5 percent fewer than in 2018, when the number was 135,103. The number of motorcyclists involved in accidents fell almost nine percent from 31,419 to 27,927, with the number of fatalities dropping from 619 to 542. A total of 13,925 users of two-wheeled motor vehicles with an insurance plate were involved in road accidents in 2019. One year earlier, the figure was 14,792. 63 users of two-wheeled motor vehicles with insurance plates lost their lives – 15 fewer than in 2018. The number of cyclists involved in road accidents in 2019 fell around one percent compared to the previous year, from 88,880 to 87,342. The number of deaths in this group remained the same, at 445. 118 of these cases were pedelec users, compared to only 89 in 2018. This means that the number of pedelec users who died on German roads increased by a whopping 32 percent.

As the German Federal Statistical Office wrote in its 2019 annual report on motorcycle and bicycle road accidents, the comparative risk of being involved in a road accident is higher for users of motorcycles than of other motor vehicles. In 2019, six motorcyclists per 1,000 officially registered motorcycles with license plates were involved in an accident, as opposed to five car users per 1,000 cars. The risk of being killed in a road accident was also significantly higher for users of motorcycles with license plates than for occupants of cars, at 12 fatalities per 100,000 motorcycles compared to three fatalities per 100,000 cars. These figures underline the fact that motorcycles come with a higher overall risk of injury than cars, and also that the consequences of accidents are more severe for users of motorcycles with a license plate than for occupants of cars. In 2019, the comparative risk of being killed while riding a motorcycle that requires a license plate was actually more than four times higher than for occupants of cars – despite the fact that the mileage covered by motorcyclists was much lower.

Motorcyclists are also at a much higher risk when newly licensed: 35.4 percent of motorcycle users involved in an accident and over 18 percent of those killed in an accident in 2019 were between 15 and 24 years old. The reason for this is obvious: Young motorcyclists often have little experience on the road, and also tend not to know their own limits. Aside from young people, the elderly were the most likely to suffer an accident on a light motorcycle: 28.6 percent of fatally injured users of light motorcycles were aged 65 or older. This figure was even higher among cyclists, with this age group accounting for more than half of all fatalities.


As stated by the German Federal Statistical Of-fice in its annual report on road accidents in Germany for 2019, 31 percent of those involved in accidents and almost 27.5 of motorcycle users killed in accidents suffered their injuries in single-vehicle accidents. In collisions involving a motorcyclist and another road user, the second party was a car in almost 81 percent of cases. In more than 26,200 collisions of this type, 1,653 occupants of cars and 22,036 motorcycle users were injured. This means that around 93 percent of the victims of these accidents were motorcyclists or their passengers, even though 68 percent of these accidents were caused by car drivers.

With regard to accidents that resulted in motorcyclist fatalities, single-vehicle accidents accounted for almost 28 percent of accidents in built-up areas and almost 27 percent in non-built-up areas. In total, this means that around 27 percent of all the motorcyclists killed on the road lost their lives in accidents that did not involve other road users. In accidents involving two parties, the data shows that cars played the largest role as the second party. Taking into account all road classes, almost 50 percent of these accidents were caused by the driver of the car. In total, almost a third of the accidents that resulted in motorcyclist fatalities were caused by the motorcyclist themselves.

Of the 87,253 bicycle accidents resulting in personal injury that were reported to the police, almost 22.5 percent were single-vehicle accidents. The most common second party in bicycle accidents was a car, accounting for around 64 percent of such accidents, and in such cases the driver of the car was the main cause of the accident 75 percent of the time. If we look at the bicycle accidents that resulted in cyclist fatalities, we can see the following pattern: Of the 173 cyclists who lost their lives on roads in non-built-up areas, 35 died in single-vehicle accidents. 87 died in accidents involving a car. 51 of these accidents were caused by the cyclist themselves. Particular note should also be taken of the single-vehicle accidents that occurred in built-up areas. Of the 272 cyclists who lost their lives in such areas, 100 died in accidents that did not involve any other party. Cars were the most common second party; the driver of the car was deemed to be the main cause of the accident in 45 cases, and the cyclist in 40 cases. The analysis shows that much more emphasis needs to be placed on preventing single-vehicle accidents. The main objectives here are to improve the infrastructure, massively increase the number of cyclists who wear helmets, and provide training for pedelec use, especially for senior citizens.

Generally speaking, it should be noted that there is a high number of unreported cases. Someone who falls off their bike and injures themselves will rarely call the police, and will usually opt to go to a doctor under their own steam, even if severely injured. Even when an ambulance is called, the police are not always notified. As a result, these single-vehicle accidents do not appear in the official statistics.


E-Scooter Accident
In accidents involving bicycles and e-scooters, a quick response from the emergency services is often the difference between life and death.


The pedelec (pedal electric cycle) has pre-sented road users with a new form of mobil-ity. The pedelec boom is well underway, and the number of these vehicles on our roads is rising continuously. In Germany, for example, a total of 5.4 million pedelecs were in use in 2019, compared to just 2.1 million in 2014. Pedelec sales are also booming in other countries. This should come as no surprise – after all, many towns and cities are promoting cycling heavily. However, both in Germany and in other countries, the number of pedelec users involved in accidents has risen dramatically.

It is no coincidence that pedelecs are popular among senior citizens. The assistance offered by the built-in electric motor enables them to cycle further without over-exerting themselves. This is reflected clearly in the accident statistics for this user group. 60 percent of the pedelec users killed in Germany in 2019 were over 70 years old. Those over 75 alone accounted for almost 51 percent of pedelec fatalities in 2019.

But why is riding a pedelec so dangerous, especially for senior citizens? There are a myriad of reasons for this phenomenon. One of the main problems is the fact that other road users often drastically underestimate how fast a pedelec can move. In addition to this, older people are often out of practice, as a lot of time has elapsed between when they were last on a conventional bicycle and their venture into the world of the pedelec. As a result, they often underestimate the fast acceleration and high braking power, as they are not used to these features. On top of this, reaction speed diminishes with age (due to problems with sight or balance), as do the general physical abilities required for cycling. Likewise, older bodies are less capable of withstanding falls. Older people can be injured more easily – and, more importantly, more severely – than young cyclists if they fall, so even the smallest of tumbles can have fatal consequences.

In light of the age distribution of the German population, this is likely to remain a challenge for many years to come. In particular, those born during the baby boom years of 1975 and earlier are gradually reaching the age where the likelihood of being severely or fatally injured when riding a pedelec or a bicycle increases dramatically. In 2018, pedelec users aged 45 and over made up 93.2 percent of deaths on German roads. This age group also accounted for a large portion of the bicycle fatalities for that year – 79.5 percent. The percentage of pedelec users who suffered severe injuries on the road in 2018 that were aged 45 and over was similarly high, at 87.2 percent. For severely injured cyclists, the figure was 58.6 percent. As such, urgent action is required if we are to put a stop to this trend.


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