Big Differences Around the World

Big Differences Around the World

Jun 2017

The development in the number of traffic fatalities in many countries around the world is a clear indication of the huge challenges involved in improving road safety in the long term. While there was a positive trend in the EU in 2016, for example, the number of traffic fatalities in the USA increased significantly, meaning that the USA has the highest traffic fatality rate among industrialized nations. Action is urgently required. However, the EU must also continue to work hard to achieve the stated objective of halving the number of fatalities on the road by 2020 in comparison with 2010.

Around 25,500: The number of people who died on the road in EU member states in 2016 according to preliminary figures released by the EU Commission. This is 600 less than in 2015, and over the last six years the number of traffic fatalities has decreased by 19%. Although the positive trend observed over recent years is generally pleasing, according to statements made by the EU Commissioner for Transport, Violeta Bulc, this still might not be enough if the EU wants to achieve its objective of halving the number of traffic fatalities between 2010 and 2020. She believes that everyone involved needs to do even more to support this objective. This applies in particular to national and local authorities that bear the most responsibility on a day-to-day basis for implementing regulations and raising the awareness of all road users, for instance.

Comprehensive package of EU measures

The EU has already established a general regulatory framework with legal provisions and recommendations for improving road safety – for example, by introducing minimum requirements for managing safety across trans-European networks and technical requirements for the safe transportation of hazardous goods. Furthermore, the cross-border enforcement directive that entered into force in May 2015 enables driving offenses committed abroad to be punished. In addition, the new legal provisions implemented in April 2014 regarding the testing of the roadworthiness of vehicles are designed to reduce the number of accidents caused by technical faults.

According to the EU Commission, the agreement on the introduction of new lifesaving technology in 2015 represented another milestone for road safety: From March 2018, all new models of cars and light commercial vehicles will be equipped with the eCall system. In the event of a serious traffic accident, this system automatically contacts a permanently manned emergency call center, for example via the Europe-wide emergency number 112, and sends emergency services the exact location of the vehicle involved in the accident, as well as information about the anticipated severity of the accident. With eCall, the time taken for emergency services to arrive should be cut by up to 50% in rural areas and 40% in urban areas. According to estimates, this will reduce the number of fatalities by at least 4% and the number of serious injuries by 6%.

A comparatively high level of safety EU-wide - with big differences between member states

Nevertheless, Europe's roads remain some of the safest in the world according to a fact sheet issued by the EU Commission: the road traffic fatality rate was 50 per million inhabitants in 2016 in the EU, compared with 174 worldwide. There are big differences in this figure between the individual EU member states. In 2016, Sweden was the country with the fewest number of traffic fatalities per million inhabitants (27), followed by the United Kingdom (28), the Netherlands (33), Spain (37), Denmark (37), Germany (39) and Ireland (40). On the other end of the scale are Bulgaria (99), Romania (97), Latvia (80) and Poland (79). The countries that saw the biggest decrease in the number of traffic fatalities in 2015 and 2016 include Lithuania (22%), Latvia (16%) and the Czech Republic (16%). 2016 was the second year in a row in which none of the member states exceeded a traffic fatality rate of 100 per million inhabitants, with most figures staying below 80. Furthermore, almost half of the member states recorded their best road safety levels since 1965. In terms of types of road, on average only around 8% of all fatalities occurred on highways in 2016 across the EU, with 37% occurring in urban areas and 55% on country roads. At 46%, car occupants are the largest group of traffic fatalities. Combined, the most vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists make up the same percentage and are particularly at risk in urban areas. Pedestrians represent 21% of all traffic fatalities. Tis Figure is decreasing more slowly than for other road users (by 11% since 2010, compared with a decrease of 19% overall). 8% of all people killed in road accidents in the EU are cyclists. Motorcyclists, who also have very little accident protection, represent 14% of traffic fatalities. The decrease in the number of deaths of more vulnerable road users is significantly lower than that of all road users. As mentioned, the traffic fatality figures for 2016 again differed greatly between EU member states.

While Germany, for example, recorded a decrease of 7.3% in traffic fatalities compared with the previous year, thereby halting the negative trend of the two preceding years, the figure for France remained relatively consistent with a very small increase of 0.2% from 3,461 to 3,469 traffic fatalities. This does, however, mean that France saw an increase in the number of traffic fatalities for the third year in a row. A large proportion of the accidents involving personal injury were caused by excessive speed, drunk-driving (particularly among young drivers), violations of the rules of the road and driver distraction. With 15% more traffic fatalities, the biggest increase was among pedestrians.

Spain also saw an increase of 2.5% from 1,130 to 1,160 traffic fatalities in 2016, while Italy is one of the EU member states that recorded a significant decrease in the number of traffic fatalities in 2016. According to preliminary figures, 5% fewer people died on the road at least in the first six months of 2016 compared with the first half of 2015.