EU road fatality figures show need for swift action on safety

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Although fewer people died on European roads last year, further concrete and swift actions on road figures are needed, as shown by new road fatality figures from the European Commission.

The UK continued its excellent road safety record with an estimated 28 fatalities per million inhabitants in 2018

The preliminary data shows there were around 25,100 fatalities in road accidents in the EU28 in 2018; down 21% compared to 2010, and 1% compared to 2017.

For the majority of Member States, the road fatality rate was below 60 deaths per million inhabitants in 2018. The EU countries with the best road safety results in 2018 were the United Kingdom (28 deaths/million inhabitants), Denmark (30/million), Ireland (31/million), and Sweden (32/million). The countries with a higher-than-average decrease in road deaths from 2017 to 2018 were Slovenia (-13%), Lithuania (-11%), Bulgaria (-9%) and Slovakia and Cyprus (both -8%).

Although the figures confirm that European roads are by far the safest in the world, they also show that the EU is off track to reach its target of halving the number of road deaths by 2020. As such, the Commission says this underlines the need for swift action by Member States and the entire road safety community to deliver on the EU’s strategic road safety action plan. This will see a number of safety features mandated for all new vehicles from 2022 while risk mapping will be carried out for all motorways and for primary roads, and vulnerable road-users will have to be systematically taken into account in all safety assessments, audits and inspections.

Commenting on the new road safety data, Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said: “While I of course welcome any reduction in road traffic fatality figures, even a single road death is unacceptable. We have been assertive and ambitious in tackling road safety, adopting a strategic action plan, concrete actions on vehicle and infrastructure safety, and a policy framework for the next decade. As we continue to work towards ‘Vision Zero’ – zero road deaths by 2050, we are committed to working with all Member States, as well as the Parliament and road safety community, to provide a level of safety that EU citizens demand and deserve.”

The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) also commented on the figures.

Antonio Avenoso, executive director of the ETSC, said: “It’s very disappointing that road deaths in the EU hardly declined in 2018. This is now the fifth year in a row that hardly any progress has been made. However there are reasons to be optimistic for the future.

“In recent weeks, the EU has finalised two important pieces of road safety legislation: updated minimum safety standards for new vehicles and a significant expansion of the scope for rules on infrastructure safety management. But these initiatives will take time to bear fruit. It will be another five years before all new cars are required to be fitted with life-saving technology such as Automated Emergency Braking and overridable Intelligent Speed Assistance.  And the required improvements to infrastructure safety will also take time to implement.

“In the meantime, EU member states will have to take bold action: increasing levels of enforcement, taking meaningful steps to address speeding, drink / drug driving and distraction and ensuring that vulnerable road users get the safe infrastructure they need, particularly in our towns and cities.

“Tackling road safety issues can lead to controversy, which social media now has a tendency to magnify and distort. But the deaths of 70 people every day or 500 people every week on EU roads cannot be ignored. It is not fake news. And that’s especially true for the thousands of families, friends and co-workers affected by road deaths and serious injuries. The issue must be given the political priority it deserves.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.