The number of fatalities recorded in road traffic accidents in the European Union (EU) is estimated to be around 25 000 in 2017, corresponding to 50 fatal accidents per million inhabitants according to date released today by Eurostat, the statistical office of the EU. The annual number of deaths on EU roads has been around 25 000 since 2013, after a steady decline from 43 000 in 2007.
According to Eurostat, passenger car deaths accounted for almost half (46%) of all fatal road accidents in 2017, followed by deaths of pedestrians (21%), motorcyclists (15%), bicyclists (8%) and deaths involving other forms of road transport (10%).
In the EU member states, Bulgaria ranks highest in the passenger car category with 64 deaths per million inhabitants (2016 data), which is almost six times the lowest rate, that of Malta (11, also 2016 data).
In Cyprus, a total of 10 such deaths have been recorded in 2016. For Greece the death toll was 340 for 2016 and 285 for 2017.
More specifically, in Cyprus there were 54.2 road accident fatalities per 1 million inhabitants in 2016, out of which 11.8 in passenger cars, 7.1 in goods vehicles, 1.2 in buses and coaches 0.0 in bicycles 2.4 in mopeds, 11.8 on motorcycles, 16.5 for pedestrians and 3.5 by other means.
For Greece the same rate was 67.9 for 2017 out of which 26.5 in passenger cars, 6.1 in goods vehicles, 0.0 in buses and coaches, 1.0 in bicycles, 3.0 in mopeds, 20.1 on motorcycles, 11.0 for pedestrians and 0.3 by other means.
The rate of deaths among pedestrians in road traffic accidents is highest in Romania (37 deaths per million inhabitants) and lowest in Denmark (3).
Greece has the highest rate of fatalities in relation to motorcycle accidents (20 deaths per million inhabitants) in 2017. This contrasts with the situation in Bulgaria (2016 data) and Estonia, where the rate is zero.
Finally, regarding the number of cyclists killed in road accidents as a proportion of the population, the highest rate is in Romania (10 deaths per million inhabitants) and the lowest rate is zero, recorded in Cyprus (2016 data) and Luxembourg.
The number of fatalities counted in road traffic accidents has fallen considerably over the last 20 years: EU fatalities fell by 41 % between 2007 and 2017. In 2017, however, the figure was roughly unchanged compared to 2016, at around 25 000, or around 50 fatal accidents per million inhabitants. Given the insignificant change in road accident fatalities between 2013 and 2017, further efforts will be needed to meet the 2020 target.
Overall, the road traffic accident fatality rate in the EU in 2017 has been calculated at 49.7 persons per million inhabitants. Differences between Member States are considerable: the values range from well under 30 deaths per million inhabitants (the United Kingdom and Sweden) to over 90 in Bulgaria and Romania. The mortality rates show a clear gap between low and middle-income countries, on the one hand, and high income countries, on the other. The north-western EU Member States generally rank higher than their southern- and eastern-European counterparts. There may be a combination of reasons such as differences in the vehicle stock, better road design, and stricter enforcement of traffic rules in certain countries.
For the ratios for individual vehicle categories, Bulgaria ranks highest in the passenger car category with 63.7 deaths per million inhabitants. This is almost six times the lowest ratio, that of Malta (at 11.1). Conversely, the bicycle-friendly Netherlands, as one would expect, has a relatively high ratio for deaths among cyclists of 5.9 per million inhabitants. However, Romania, Hungary, Lithuania and Belgium (where cycling is far less widespread) have considerably higher ratios (between 6.9 and 9.7).
The high ratios for motorcyclists in Greece, Malta and Italy may be explained by greater use of motorised two-wheelers there, because motorcycle use is much more dependent on weather and the season. A more accurate evaluation of road accident fatalities can be obtained if road accident data are compared with total traffic. Reliable road traffic data are however difficult to obtain.
Finally, while pedestrian deaths in the EU are calculated at 10.5 fatalities per million inhabitants, the statistical risk of getting killed in traffic is almost 3 times higher in Latvia and Lithuania and almost 4 times higher in Romania.
Unsurprisingly, car drivers and passengers represent the largest category of road traffic deaths (45.7 % of all road traffic fatalities in 2017), pedestrians (21 %) are the second largest category in the EU, slightly ahead of drivers and passengers of motorcycles and mopeds (17.7 %). Cyclists account for 7.9 % of EU road deaths, but in individual countries, this proportion can be as high as 19 %. Moreover, cycling deaths are under-reported: some accidents involving cyclists are not reported to police. Shares of 7.7 % were accounted for by the remaining categories: goods vehicles, buses and coaches and ‘other’ (essentially, agricultural tractors and other motorised vehicles).
Over the last decade, the largest drop in the number of fatalities in the EU-28 was among buses and coaches (-51.2 %), followed by car drivers and their passengers (-44.7 %), and occupants of goods vehicles (-44.3 %). This shows that the many measures taken to improve road safety are paying off. The fall in the number of fatalities among cyclists (-26.6 %) and pedestrians (-37.1 %), though, was smaller.
The pattern for buses and coaches stands out from the rest as a single severe accident can significantly change the trend. There were 108 deaths in the EU in this category in 2011, 107 in 2012, but the number increased to 149 in 2013 before falling to 119 deaths in 2014 and to 112 in 2017.
Accidents with goods vehicles claimed just below 1 300 lives among their occupants in 2017 (the deaths of drivers/passengers of any other vehicles involved are counted in other categories). Accidents involving light goods vehicles (up to 3.5 t maximum mass) accounted for almost 60 % of the goods vehicle fatalities. These vehicles are often delivery vans, which are not required to have speed-limiting devices and/or tachographs (recording distance, speed and operation times).
In various countries, these vehicles were found to be often involved in accidents. EU-wide studies for light goods vehicles have been carried out and some action has been taken under the ‘roadworthiness package’ adopted in 2014. This includes enhanced technical inspections for high-mileage vehicles and more roadside inspections.
In countries where cycling is widespread, such as the Netherlands or Denmark, it comes as no surprise that cyclists account for a larger share of fatalities than in countries where this is less the case. Cyclists accounted for 18.9 % of all road accident deaths in the Netherlands; Denmark was at 15.4 %. At the other end of the spectrum, in Greece cyclists accounted for 1.5 % of deaths and in Luxembourg and Cyprus, no cyclists were killed.
Greece, however, had the second highest share concerning motorcycle fatalities (among countries for which detailed data are available): 29.5 % of all road accident fatalities in Greece were among motorcyclists. Malta had the highest share (39.1 %). In Portugal and the Netherlands, the remaining ‘two-wheeled’ category —mopeds — accounted for 7.1 % and 6.7 % respectively of all fatalities, a much larger share than in other countries.
In 2017, pedestrians accounted for nearly 21.2 % of all road accident deaths in the EU. This share varies considerably between countries, from under 9.6 % in Slovenia to more than 35 % in Latvia and Romania.
Member States have taken a variety of measures to reduce the number of deaths: education campaigns, legal enforcement and infrastructure improvements (pedestrian crossing design, visibility). The industry has also improved vehicle design (making the front of vehicles pedestrian-friendlier) to address this issue, states Eurostat.