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Accidents in Germany Caused by Driver Error

Sep 2017

The Human Factor

Instances of drunk-driving combined with excessive speed have fallen considerably, but excessive speed alone remains the single biggest cause of fatal accidents

According to official figures, 253,504 of the 378,156 accidents resulting in personal injury on German roads in 2015 were caused by driver error. In 1991, this figure was 378,373 instances of driver error among 510,357 drivers, a reduction of 33%. Instances of drunk-driving have fallen significantly (by 75% from 29,800 to 7,553). Another cause that has fallen significantly is excessive speed (by 63% from 84,380 to 31,559). A rise was seen in the number of accidents caused by the failure of drivers to maintain sufficient distance from the vehicle in front (by 5% from 37,975 to 39,982). These figures show that measures to combat drunk-driving and excessive speed in particular have helped to make roads safer.

While excessive speed used to be by far the most common single cause of driver error in accidents resulting in personal injury, it is now only the fourth most common cause. When it comes to fatal accidents, however, excessive speed is still the most common sole cause.

The success of measures to combat alcohol- related accidents is reflected not only in the figures pertaining to accidents in which car drivers were the main culprits, but also in the decrease in the number of all road users killed in alcohol-related accidents. In 1991, 2,229 people were killed in alcohol-related accidents; by 2015 however, this figure had fallen by 89% to 256. The number of people killed in alcohol-related accidents as a proportion of all traffic fatalities fell from 19.7% to 7.4% in the period under analysis.

This major decline can be attributed not only to raised awareness of responsible drinking, but also undoubtedly to medical- psychological assessment (MPU). According to the current legal situation, drivers stopped by the police with a blood alcohol level of at least 1.6 or who have been stopped repeatedly for drunk-driving, have to undergo an MPU once their ban period has expired in order to demonstrate that they are once again fit to drive on the roads. Various studies confirm that this procedure for re-issuing drivers’ licenses does indeed contribute to lower levels of re-offending. This effect is also aided by the fact that, prior to an MPU, many of the persons affected have already taken measures to change their drinking habits.

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Car driver error

Trends in the number of accidents recorded by the police resulting in personal injury and caused by human error on German roads from 1991 to 2015

By clicking the colour buttons you can display or hide data. Please note that the real absolute values can have minor differences (<1%).
Data source: StBA

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