Road safety: Europe’s roads are getting safer but progress remains too slow

Road 2020

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.


Compared to previous years, fewer people lost their lives on EU roads in 2019, according to preliminary figures published today by the European Commission. An estimated 22 800 people died in a road crash last year, almost 7 000 fewer fatalities than in 2010 – a decrease of 23%. Compared with 2018, the number fell by 2%. With an average of 51 road deaths per 1 million inhabitants, Europe remains by far the safest region in the world when it comes to road safety.

Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean said: “No deaths and serious injuries on European roads by 2050. This is our goal. We aim at 50% fewer deaths, and 50% fewer serious injuries by 2030, and we know our target is achievable. The EU has seen a substantial decrease in road fatalities in the past, but stagnating figures in recent years. In addition, disparities among countries remain huge. We will reach our goal only through a combination of legislative measures, adequate funding, standards for vehicles and infrastructure, digitalization, and best practices exchange.”

The underlying trend remains downward. Eight Member States registered their lowest fatality numbers on record in 2019: Croatia, Finland France, Germany, Greece, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden. However,progress has slowed in most countries. As a result, the EU target of halving the number of road deaths between 2010 and the end of 2020 will not be met. Although it is likely there will be significantly less road fatalities in 2020 following the measures taken to tackle coronavirus, this will not be enough to meet the target.

While Member States’ performance in road safety is converging, there are still four times more road deaths in the worst-performing country than in the best. The safest roads were in Sweden (22 deaths/million inhabitants) and Ireland (29/million), while Romania (96/million), Bulgaria (89/million) and Poland (77/million) reported the highest fatality rates in 2019. The EU average was 51 deaths per million inhabitants.

Some countries have made enormous progress: Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, the three Baltic countries (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) and Croatia recorded higher-than-average reductions (between 30 and 40%) of road fatalities.

Background

For the next decade, the EU has set in the EU road safety policy framework 2021-2030 a new 50% reduction target for deaths and, for the first time, also for serious injuries by 2030. The Stockholm Declaration of February 2020 paves the way for further global political commitment for the next decade.

It is estimated that, for every life lost, five more people suffer serious injuries with life-changing consequences (around 120 000 people in 2019). The external cost of road crashes has been estimated to be around 280 billion euros, or around 2% of EU GDP.

The Commission’s Strategic Action Plan on Road Safety and EU road safety policy framework 2021-2030 also set out ambitious road safety plans to reach zero road deaths by 2050 (‘Vision Zero’).

To reach “Vision Zero” the Commission is implementing the Safe System in the EU. This Safe System requires safer vehicles, safer infrastructure, better use of protective equipment, lower speeds and better post-crash care. In addition, the EU will work toensure better cross-border enforcement of traffic offences, digitalise driving licences and develop new ways to help Member States with comparatively poor road safety records.

For More Information

MEMO: 2019 road safety statistics: what is behind the figures?

Commission’s road safety work and EU road safety statistics

Road deaths per million inhabitants – preliminary data for 2019*

  2010 2018 2019 % change 2018-2019 % change 2010-2019
Belgium 77 53 56 6% -24%
Bulgaria 105 87 89 3% -19%
Czechia 77 62 58 -6% -23%
Denmark 46 30 35 20% -20%
Germany 45 40 37 -7% -16%
Estonia 59 51 39 -22% -34%
Ireland 47 29 29 1% -33%
Greece 113 65 65 -1% -45%
Spain 53 39 36 -6% -31%
France 64 49 48 0% -19%
Croatia 99 77 73 -6% -30%
Italy 70 55 55 -1% -20%
Cyprus 73 57 59 6% -13%
Latvia 103 78 69 -12% -39%
Lithuania 95 62 66 6% -38%
Luxembourg 64 60 36 -39% -31%
Hungary 74 65 62 -5% -19%
Malta 31 38 32 -11% 23%
Netherlands 32 35 34 -3% 9%
Austria 66 46 46 0% -26%
Poland 103 76 77 0% -26%
Portugal 80 66 61 -8% -33%
Romania 117 96 96 0% -22%
Slovenia 67 44 49 13% -25%
Slovakia 65 48 51 7% -25%
Finland 51 43 37 -14% -24%
Sweden 28 32 22 -32% -17%
EU 67 52 51 -2% -23%
United Kingdom 30 28 28 0% -3%
Switzerland 42 27 22 -20% -43%
Norway 43 20 20 1% -48%
Iceland 25 52 17 -67% -25%

 

* The 2019 figures are based on provisional data for some countries and may be subject to minor changes when the final data are released in autumn 2020. The percentage changes in the table are based on the absolute number of fatalities, not the rate per million inhabitants. Unless otherwise stated, all EU aggregate figures reflect the situation in the EU without the United Kingdom. While this inevitably leads to a smaller number of fatalities in the Union, the EU rate per million inhabitants has increased due to the UK’s comparatively good road safety record.

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