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Transport accident fatalities

Indicator Fact Sheet (Deprecated)
Topics: ,

Assessment made on  01 Jan 2003

Generic metadata


Transport Transport (Primary theme)

DPSIR: Impact


Indicator codes
  • TERM 009
Geographic coverage:

Key messages

  • Even though road fatalities per year have fallen by 29 % since 1990, they still numbered almost 40 000 in 2001. The number of road injuries in 1999 was 2 % lower than in 1990, but this number has been rising since 1993. Hence, further limiting the number of deaths, while the overall passenger and freight transport volumes are expected to continue their growth, demands further development and implementation of accident preventing policies. Road is the least safe transport mode (road accidents represent the main cause of death for persons under 45). Aviation and rail are the safest transport modes

  • The annual number of people killed in road accidents decreased significantly, by 30 %, in AC-10 between 1990 and 2001 despite growing road transport volumes. However, road accidents still claim more than 10 000 lives a year. The number of road injuries increased, by 7 %, over the same period.


Key assessment

The annual number of road fatalities in the EU is gradually falling, despite the increase in passenger and freight transport. This reduction is attributed to improved road design, changes in legislation on drinking and driving, higher vehicle safety standards, introduction of speed limits, stricter rules on truck and bus driving times and reduced truck load capacities. The number of road accident fatalities in the EU fell by 29 % between 1991 and 2001, from 56 000 to about 40 000. This still corresponds to 110 persons killed each day on European roads: the equivalent of one medium-sized aircraft crashing somewhere in Europe each day.

Far fewer deaths are caused by rail: 117 in 12 EU countries (EU-15 excluding Greece, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) in 1997 (more recent EU-wide data are not available). In those countries for which data are available, a decreasing number of persons killed in rail accidents can be observed. Most fatalities are registered in accidents occurring at railway level crossings, during shunting procedures and track maintenance work.

Waterborne transport resulted in several major accidents in the past decade, but the total number is still low:

  • the sinking of the Estonia off the Finnish coast (1994) - 852 lives lost;
  • the sinking of the Express Samina in the Aegean Sea (2000) - 80 lives lost.

Air transport is one of the safest modes of transport. Accidents hardly occur but are, however, mostly catastrophic. The number of fatalities shows no clear development. In 1999, 2000 and 2001, respectively 72, 114 and 151 people died within the EU territory in plane crashes.

The number of road injuries increased between 1990 and 2001, following the pattern of road accidents, which increased by 2 % in this period in the 10 new member states (AC-10) area. The severity of accidents has decreased significantly, in particular in the most recent years for which data is available. The total number of road fatalities in AC-10 declined by 30 % between 1990 and 2001. Road accidents still claimed 10 500 lives in 2001 in AC-10. The number of people injured in road accidents increased by 7 % between 1990 and 2001, up to 170 000 injured persons in 2001.

The increase in the number of road accidents, together with a decrease in the number of road transport fatalities and an increase in the number of injuries can be explained by:

  • improved technologies of newer vehicles and higher vehicle safety standards;
  • better quality of roads, improved road design and road signals;· changes in legislation on drinking and driving;
  • introduction and better enforcement of more stringent speed limits.

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