Blip in road safety for Europe?

Is this a blip in road safety for Europe?
Highway & Network Management / July 11, 2023 1 minute 30 seconds Read
By MJ Woof
Road safety in Europe has improved over the last 10 years, though there has been a blip between 2021 and 2022

The latest data for Europe shows an increase in road deaths for 2022 compared with 2021, a cause for concern. Compiled by the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC), the figures show that there were 20,678 deaths on EU roads in 2022, an increase of 4% compared to 2021.

The ETSC’s data shows that out of the 32 countries monitored by the PIN programme, only 13 registered a decrease in road deaths in 2022, compared to 2021. Slovenia achieved a 25% reduction, followed by Latvia with 23% and Lithuania and Cyprus with 18%.

Of concern is that road deaths increased in 19 PIN countries between 2021 and 2022. The EU has set a target to halve the number of road deaths by 2030, based on their level in 2019. Road deaths in the EU27 in 2022 were reduced collectively by 9% compared to 2019. In order to make the progress needed towards the 2030 EU target, the average annual decrease of 6.1% should have resulted in a 17.2% decrease.

Looking back over the last 10 years, the overall progress in reducing road deaths on EU roads was good in 2012 and 2013, with an 8% decrease. But the positive start was followed by six years of stagnation with only a 6% reduction over the 2014-2019 period.

In 2020 there was an exceptional drop of 17% compared to 2019. However, this result was strongly related to travel restrictions across Europe due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 2021 also saw a consistent drop of 13% with respect to 2019, but the number of road deaths increased by 5% with respect to 2020, influenced by a gradual relaxation of travel restrictions and lockdown requirements across Europe.

39,553 road deaths have been prevented in the EU over the period 2013-2022 compared with the number that would have been recorded if each Member State had continued to record the same number each year as in 2012. The figures show that 40,987 more lives could have been saved if the annual reduction of 6.7% needed to reach the EU 50% reduction target in 10 years, had been reached.

Norway is the safest PIN country for road users with 21 road deaths/million inhabitants in 2022. Sweden follows Norway with 22 deaths/million inhabitants. In the EU27, the overall level of road mortality was 46 deaths/million inhabitants in 2022 compared to 54/million in 2012.The highest mortality is in Romania and Serbia with 86 and 83 road deaths/million inhabitants respectively. In two countries – Malta and the Netherlands – road mortality is higher in 2022 than in 2012.

On 1 March, 2023, the European Commission proposed three pieces of road safety legislation: the revision of the EU driving licence directive, the revision of the cross-border enforcement (CBE) directive and a proposal for a new EU directive on driving disqualifications. These proposals were severely delayed, but it is hoped that agreement can still be reached before the end of the current EU political mandate (2019-2024) to ensure the lifesaving potential is maximised within the EU Road Safety Policy Framework 2021-2030 timeframe. It should be noted that not all elements of the proposed package will improve road safety.

Country efforts will be critical across Europe for the implementation of the Safe System approach and in the EU for achieving the 2030 targets. Of the 32 PIN countries, 20 have reported having a new road safety strategy in place, and in a further five, the plans are under development.

Poland is the winner of the 2023 ETSC PIN Award, having cut road deaths by 47% over the period 2012-2022.