Acute risk of missing EU targets for 2020

Acute risk of missing EU targets for 2020

Accidents

Apr 2016

When it comes to road accidents with casualties, car occupants account for the highest number of fatalities and injuries. In Germany alone in 2014, almost 50% of all people killed on the roads were occupants of a car; among those suffering minor and serious injuries, this figure was more than 55%. Furthermore, almost two thirds of all people involved in accidents with casualties were car drivers. And things don’t look much different EU-wide, which is due no doubt to cars’ sheer dominance on the roads – more than half of all journeys are made by car. However, the figures also show that, in terms of mobility behavior, this vehicle category and its users still offer the biggest potential for initiating a disctinctive downturn in the number of road accident victims. At the same time, the number of vulnerable road users such as riders of two-wheeled vehicles and pedestrians is also increasing, which means that even more attention must be devoted to these road user groups in the future. Demographic change also ultimately gives rise to additional challenges.

The judgment of Violeta Bulc, the EU Commissioner for Transport, at a press conference last year in Brussels could hardly have been more sobering when she stated that, in her view, 2014 was a really bad year for road safety, particularly in terms of the unfavorable development compared with 2013. Although the number of traffic fatalities fell by 1.2% to around 25,700, this percentage decline was a long way from the fall needed to achieve the European Commission’s strategic goal of halving the number of traffic fatalities between 2010 and 2020. In figures, this would mean that the number of traffic fatalities on Europe’s roads would have to be less than 16,000 in 2020. This would be just about possible with a percentage decline of around 7.8%, as was the case from 2012 to 2013.

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Road traffic fatalities in EU-28 since 1991

The sustained downward trend is unmistakable, although it has clearly lost momentum in 2014.

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: CARE; European Commission, DG Mobility and Transport

The Commissioner noted that the EU member states above all must be responsible for everyday road safety, for example by enforcing traffic regulations, launching public information campaigns and expanding and maintaining infrastructure. The EU bears some responsibility, too: Through legal provisions and recommendations concerning, for example, minimum requirements regarding the registration of new vehicle types, technical vehicle monitoring and the harmonization of technical standards, it can play a role in improving the safety of Europe’s roads.

Big gap between poorer and richer countries

Broken down by member state, the statistics published by the EU Commission show that big differences still exist when it comes to the number of fatal accidents. The average number of traffic fatalities in the EU in 2014 was around 51 per million inhabitants. With around 30 per one million inhabitants, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom still have the fewest traffic fatalities. In four countries, 2014 saw more than 90 traffic fatalities per million inhabitants: Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania. The most dangerous roads in the EU are in Latvia, where 106 traffic fatalities per million inhabitants occurred in 2014. In Germany, the number of traffic fatalities per million inhabitants increased from 41 in 2013 to 42 in 2014. According to the European Commission, some member states – particularly Greece, Malta, Portugal and Spain – have enjoyed an above-average improvement in road safety over the years. Denmark, Croatia, Austria, Romania, Slovakia and Cyprus have also seen an abovce-average decline in the number of traffic fatalities between 2010 and 2014. In all states, nearly half of all road users involved in accidents were in cars.

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Traffic fatalities in the EU by road user group and location

Across the EU, car occupants account for the highest number of traffic fatalities – on rural roads and highways, in particular, the figure is almost 60%. In urban areas, pedestrians account for nearly 40% of fatalities, significantly ahead of other road user groups.

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: CARE

If one compares road safety in Europe with other parts of the world, it quickly becomes clear that the gap particularly between poor and rich regions is very big. As shown in the “Global Status Report on Road Safety 2015” published by the World Health Organization (WHO), there are 93 traffic deaths for every 1 million inhabitants in Europe; in Africa, this figure rises to 266. In the USA, the figure is 106; and in China, 188. According to the WHO, the greatest successes are achieved by those countries that implement strict traffic rules and that have made roads and vehicles safer. For example, safety belts are a statutory requirement for all car passengers in 105 countries. 47 countries impose speed limits of 50 km/h or lower in residential areas. 34 countries place a limit on the maximum blood alcohol content, while motorcycle helmets are compulsory in 44 countries. Regardless of this, however, the number of traffic fatalities worldwide remains high and, since 2007, has stagnated at around 1.25 million. And injuries sustained during road accidents remain the most common cause of death among 15- to 29-year-olds. According to the WHO, more than 300,000 young people worldwide were killed in road accidents in 2012.

More deaths in Germany in 2014 and 2015 than in previous years

If one looks at the statistics for Germany over the past few years, the trend looks fundamentally positive. This is the gist, too, of the mid-term review, presented by Federal Minister of Transport and Digital Infrastructure Alexander Dobrindt, of the “Road Safety Program 2011–2020.” While 4,009 people died on German roads in 2011, by 2014 this figure had fallen by around 16% to 3,377. In relation to 2010, during which 3,648 people died, the decline is just 7%.

In the minister’s view, however, Germany is still well on course to achieve the goal, specified in the 2011 road safety program, of improving road safety and reducing the number of traffic fatalities by 2020 by 40%. But it must not be forgotten that, according to figures released by the Federal Statistical Office of Germany, the number of traffic fatalities in Germany in 2014 had increased by 1.1% compared with 2013. The number of people sustaining minor and serious injuries also increased by 3.8% and 5.7% respectively. And, according to preliminary figures released by the Federal Statistical Office of Germany, 2015 saw 3,475 traffic fatalities nationwide, equivalent to a 2.9% increase on 2014.

As in most EU member states, most fatalities in Germany continue to occur on rural roads. Even so, however, the number of fatalities on rural roads fell by 17% between 2011 and 2014. The decline since 2000 is as much as 58%. Almost 30% of fatalities occur on roads within in built-up areas. Between 2011 and 2014, the number of such fatalities fell by 12%. That the risk of accidents on rural roads is much higher than on other roads is also confirmed by the ratio of persons killed to accidents with casualties: While 2014 saw five deaths in 1,000 accidents with casualties in urban areas, the corresponding figure for highways was 20 and for rural roads as high as 27.

As the Federal Statistical Office of Germany also reports, in Germany in 2014 almost all road user groups recorded more fatalities than in the previous year. The biggest increase was among fatally injured users of insurance-licensed motorcycles (87 deaths = + 19.2%), followed by cyclists (396 deaths, + 11.9%) and users of officially licensed motorcycles (587 deaths = + 3.3%). In contrast, the number of pedestrians killed (523 deaths = - 6.1%) and occupants of trucks (143 deaths = - 3.4%) fell. If one looks at these trends by road user group over the past five years, it is clear that huge advances have been made for car occupants. When it comes to cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians, however, the trend has stagnated somewhat, which is why these road user groups will continue to represent a key focus for politicians in efforts to improve road safety.

Similar trends in France, Italy and Spain

Looking beyond Germany, a similar trend can be observed in, among other countries, France. Here, too, the total number of traffic fatalities is falling – by 15.2% to 3,384 between 2010 and 2014 – although in 2014 around 3.5% more road users died than in 2013. Likewise, statistics published by the “Observatoire National Interministériel de la Sécurité Routière” (ONISR) show an almost 4% increase in the number of minor injuries and 2.6% more serious injuries. As far as traffic fatalities are concerned, the biggest increases were seen among pedestrians (+ 7.3%), cyclists (+ 8.2%), moped riders (+ 3.8%) and car drivers (+ 3.0%).

Two further statistics should also give pause for thought: More than 750 people – so almost a quarter of all traffic fatalities – died in accidents in cars driven by someone who had held a driver’s license for less than two years. And more than 10% of car occupants killed were not wearing a safety belt. The ONISR also points out another alarming trend: Pedestrians and cyclists are the only two road user groups not to be included in the positive overall trend observed since 2010. The number of pedestrians killed increased by 4% and the number of cyclists killed increased by 7%. In its latest statistics, the ONISR has also put a figure on the economic cost of all the road accidents that occurred in France in 2014: €37.5 billion, or around 1.5% of the gross domestic product. Fatalities account for €10.7 billion, serious injuries €10.5 billion and minor injuries €700 million. On top of this are €300 million for material damage caused by accidents with casualties and €15.3 million material costs for accidents without casualties.

Italy, too, has seen a positive trend over the past number of years. According to figures released by the “Istituto Nazionale di Statistica” (Istat) between 2001 and 2014, the number of traffic fatalities fell from 7,096 to 3,381 – a decline of around 52%. The majority of those killed on the roads in 2014 were car occupants (1,491), followed by motorcyclists (704), pedestrians (578) and cyclists (273). In Spain, the number of traffic fatalities in 2014 – 1,688 – was roughly the same as in 2013; in terms of road user groups, the statistical ranking mirrors that in Italy and France. The same also applies to accident locations. While any increases and decreases remained at a comparatively low level among most road user groups, a significant increase in the number of fatalities – from 52 to 100 – was observed among van occupants.