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Sound and independent information
on the environment

Transport accidents

Indicator 7: Traffic accident fatalities

Road fatalities in the EU fell from 74 000 to 44 000 per year between 1970 and 1996. Rail fatalities fell from some 2 400 to 829 per year over the same period. Aircraft fatalities within the EU territory peaked in 1992 (143) and increased again in 1995 (73), after dropping dramatically in 1993.

Figure 1.19: Road and rail transport fatalities per year (EU)

Source: Eurostat

Objective

Reduce annual number of fatalities and injured.

Definition

Numbers of persons killed each year in road and rail transport accidents, including passengers, rail operators and other people involved.

 

 

Policy and targets

Road accidents are responsible for a large number of injuries and fatalities. During recent decades, a considerable effort has been made to reduce the number and severity of transport accidents, including educational programmes, limitation of permitted blood alcohol level in drivers, speed limits, technical measures such as safety belts and air bags, as well as traffic control measures. With its road safety strategy (CEC, 1997b), the Commission aims to reduce the annual number of fatalities by at least 18 000 by 2010 (from the current level of 45 000).

Some Member States have specific traffic safety objectives, mainly for reducing road traffic accidents. Sweden, for example, aims at a reduction of at least 50 % in road accident fatalities by 2007 (compared with 1996 levels), and a halving of accidents from private aviation during the period 1998-2007. The long-term objective for traffic safety in Sweden is that no one should be killed or seriously injured as a result of a traffic accident (Government Bill 1997/98:56). Similarly, the Dutch Second Transport Structure Plan (VENW, 1989) established targets for reducing fatalities and injuries from transport by 1995 and 2010, against the 1986 base year.

 

Findings

The number of road accident deaths fell by 40 % in the EU as a whole between 1970 and 1996, despite the steady increase in road traffic. This reduction is attributable 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. However, the rate of improvement has slowed over recent years, and with many thousands of fatalities each year (44 000 in 1996), about 40 times as many injured and significant material damage, road traffic still makes heavy demands on society. Significant efforts will be needed to reach the target from the Community Action Programme on Road Safety to reduce the annual number of fatalities by at least 18 000 from current levels.

Between 1970 and 1996 the greatest reductions (more than 60 %) were in the Netherlands and Finland, while the numbers increased in Greece, Spain and Portugal, the Member States where the number of passenger-km grew most rapidly.

Far fewer deaths are caused by rail (around 829 in 1996) than by road accidents. The decrease of around 70 % between 1970 and 1996 was due partly to the general decline in rail transport demand. The United Kingdom, Finland and especially Italy showed the largest reductions (more than 80 % decreases since 1970) for non-passenger deaths. The majority of rail transport fatalities are among non-passengers (most occurring at level crossings, and during shunting procedures and track maintenance work).The number of passenger deaths remained constant, but was so small that no statistically significant conclusions can be drawn. This is also true for overall rail fatalities in some Member States (notably Luxembourg and Denmark).

Figure 1.20 shows average fatality figures per bn passenger-km for the EU. Average road transport fatalities per passenger-kilometre fell by more than 70 % between 1970 and 1996 (from 40 to 11). Only Greece showed a substantially smaller fall (40 %) over the same period. Average rail transport fatalities per passenger-km also fell by more than 70 % (but by less than 30 % in Greece).

A more detailed breakdown of fatality rates by transport mode shows that motor cyclists, pedestrians and bicyclists are the most vulnerable road users (Figure 1.21).

Water transport resulted in two major accidents, in 1987 when the Herald of Free Enterprise ferry capsized off Zeebrugge, and in 1989 when the Marchioness and the Bowbelle collided on the River Thames; these are not included on the chart, but are included in transport statistics.

The safest mode of transport appears to be aviation. The incident involving Pan Am Flight 101, in which 270 people died over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988, is not classified as an accident, since accident analyses exclude acts or suspected acts of terrorism.

Figure 1.20: Road and rail transport fatality rates (EU)

Source: Eurostat

Figure 1.21: Transport fatality rates by transport mode, United Kingdom (selected years between 1985 and 1992)

Source:
Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (UK)

 

Future work

  • Further development of this indicator requires a more detailed analysis of individual means of transport, including data on deaths and injuries caused by all modes of transport and for all Member States, along the lines of the United Kingdom data shown above. Ideally, these should be reported per passenger-km, and should include information on accidents resulting in serious environmental pollution. The EU data presented here gives numbers of deaths of passengers and non-passengers involved in transport accidents. Only fatalities within 30 days of the accident are reported. Some Member State data had to be standardised to obtain comparable statistics based on the 30-day threshold value.
  • There is no agreed methodology for reporting on injuries and hence datasets are not comparable across Member States. While some general information on trends can be given, regular reporting on injuries is unlikely to be possible in the near future.

Data
Road transport fatalities
Unit: fatalities per billion passenger-kilometre

 

1970

1980

1990

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

Austria

53.3

30.2

19.6

20.7

17.8

16.4

16.9

15.4

13.1

Belgium

50.4

32.2

21.6

20.0

17.4

16.9

16.7

14.0

13.1

Denmark

31.9

15.2

10.1

9.4

8.8

8.4

8.0

8.1

6.9

Finland

34.4

13.0

10.9

10.7

10.3

8.4

8.3

7.6

6.9

France

45.7

25.7

16.4

16.3

15.0

14.6

13.0

12.6

11.9

Germany

46.1

24.9

14.6

14.6

13.5

12.4

12.4

11.8

11.0

Greece

51.7

28.3

26.1

31.1

31.2

29.8

29.8

30.5

30.8

Ireland

29.0

17.4

11.9

10.7

9.7

9.7

8.7

9.2

9.2

Italy

41.8

22.4

10.9

12.5

11.6

10.5

10.4

10.0

9.5

Luxembourg

55.0

32.7

16.1

17.6

15.5

15.5

14.8

13.3

14.1

Netherlands

41.1

16.6

9.2

8.5

8.2

8.0

8.1

8.3

7.4

Portugal

64.9

46.5

30.8

40.7

37.2

28.5

24.4

24.1

23.0

Spain

49.2

23.1

22.0

26.9

22.9

18.3

15.7

15.6

14.5

Sweden

21.5

11.5

7.8

7.5

7.5

6.3

6.3

6.0

5.3

United Kingdom

21.4

13.9

8.4

7.4

6.9

6.2

5.9

5.8

5.6

EU15

39.7

22.3

14.1

14.9

13.6

12.4

11.8

11.4

10.7

Source: DG Transport / Eurostat

 

Rail transport fatalities (non-passengers)
Unit: fatalities per billion passenger-kilometre

 

1970

1980

1990

1991

1992 1993 1994 1995

1996

Austria

17.1

9.9

6.2

       

6.9

4.8

Belgium

11.9 7.5

3.1

       

3.0

3.8

Denmark

7.3

4.0

1.2

       

2.0

 

Finland

30.1

7.5

10.8

       

5.3

3.7

France

6.7

3.7

2.9

       

2.3

2.3

Germany

10.5

5.4

4.0

       

4.3

4.4

Greece

32.7

26.0

17.2

       

21.0

24.0

Ireland

6.6

19.4

11.4

       

5.4

6.2

Italy

8.5

5.3

4.2

       

0.2

 

Luxembourg

9.8

16.3

9.6

       

10.5

 

Netherlands

10.5

3.0

3.9

       

2.5

 

Portugal

56.4

30.6

23.1

       

19.8

27.1

Spain

5.0

5.0

1.8

       

1.4

1.3

Sweden

8.8

7.0

3.0

       

1.5

2.5

United Kingdom

4.2

1.9

2.3

        0.9

0.8

EU15

9.4

5.5

4.0

       

2.8

2.7

Source: DG Transport/ Eurostat

 

Rail transport fatalities (passengers)
Unit: fatalities per billion passenger-kilometre

 

1970

1980

1990

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

Austria

4.0

1.2

0.7        

0.7

0.3

Belgium

0.4 0.6

0.0

       

0.4

0.9
Denmark

2.0

0.7

0.2

       

0.0

0.0

Finland

2.3

1.2

0.0

       

0.3

0.9

France

1.3

0.6

0.5

       

0.4

0.2

Germany

2.7

1.2

0.8

       

0.5

0.5

Greece

0.7

0.7

0.0

       

1.9

0.0

Ireland

0.0

15.5

0.8

       

0.0

0.0

Italy

1.2

1.1

0.2

       

0.1

0.0

Luxembourg

0.0

4.1

0.0

        0.0

0.0

Netherlands

1.2

0.9

0.2

       

0.0

0.1

Portugal

5.4

4.8

3.9        

2.5

2.2

Spain

1.1

1.1

0.2

       

0.0

0.0

Sweden

1.3

3.6

0.5        

0.3

0.0

United Kingdom

1.3

1.5

1.1        

0.3

0.5

EU15

1.8

1.3

0.6

       

0.4

0.3

Source: DG Transport/ Eurostat

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