Road fatalities rate in EU falls to all-time low

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Fatalities on EU roads fell 17% in 2020 as a result of the reduced traffic during the pandemic.

Fatalities on EU roads fell 17% in 2020 and 36% between 2010 and 2020

Preliminary figures from the European Commission indicate an estimated 18,800 people were killed in a road crash last year, down nearly 4,000 compared to 2019.

The EU said that lower traffic volumes, as the result of Covid-19 lockdowns, had a clear, though unmeasurable, impact on the number of road fatalities.

But despite the fall in road fatalities, the EU is behind its target for the last decade; while the number of road deaths dropped by 36% between 2010 and 2020, this is short of the target of 50% fewer deaths that had been set for that decade.

The figures do however show that the EU remains the continent with the safest roads in the world, with 42 road deaths per one million inhabitants; the global average lies at more than 180.

Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean said: “With almost 4,000 fewer deaths on EU roads in 2020, compared to 2019, our roads remain the safest in the world. Still, we are behind our target for the last decade and joint action is needed to prevent a return to pre-COVID levels. In our Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy, we have reiterated our commitment to implementing the EU road safety strategy and bringing down the death toll for all modes of transport close to zero.”

The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) also called for swift action on road safety in the EU.

Antonio Avenoso, executive director of the ETSC, said: “The EU has a new target for 2030 to reduce deaths and serious injuries by half.  If we are to succeed this time, we need to avoid the mistakes of the past decade. The EU needs to act now, not wait years before taking action. Measures agreed in law should also not be weakened during the implementation phase. That, regrettably, is what we are seeing today with mandatory vehicle safety measures including Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA), Electronic Data Recorders (EDR) and Direct Vision standards for lorries.  Once the laws were agreed, these new standards have ended up facing death by a thousand cuts in working groups.  Industry interests get too much say and, in the case of EDR, there has been an overly strict approach to data privacy.  Both factors could lead to lasting damage to the safety potential of this legislation.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has shown how quickly the road safety situation can change.  As traffic levels reduced and police time was spent on other things, speeding went up in several countries.  On a positive note, as cities put in place new cycling infrastructure, cycling numbers increased.  We need to learn the lessons and build a safer and more equal system for all road users – giving back separated space for healthier, sustainable activities like walking and cycling.

“Finally, EU Member States need to step up.  Road safety is an EU, national and local issue – which requires action at every level.  The EU can set a framework, but Member States and cities can and must take bold and rapid action.  The Covid pandemic has shown that this can happen, let’s not lose that momentum.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 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. Natalie edits all the Fleet World websites and newsletters, and loves to hear about any latest industry news - or gossip.