Indicator Specification

Transport accident fatalities

Indicator Specification
  Indicator codes: TERM 009
Published 01 Jul 2010 Last modified 04 Sep 2015
8 min read
This page was archived on 08 May 2015 with reason: No more updates will be done
The definition of the indicator is the number of persons killed each year in transport accidents by mode expressed both as absolute totals and per million of population. The modes covered by this indicator are road, rail, air and sea.
This indicator is discontinued. No more assessments will be produced.

Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)
  • No published assessments


Justification for indicator selection

The Commission first launched an Action Programme on Road Safety in 1993. The Commission Communication "Promoting Road Safety in the EU: the Programme for 1997-2001" (European Commission, 1997) followed on from there. The current road safety programme, covering 2002-2010, is aimed at halving the number of fatalities on EU roads by 2010 (European Commission, 2001).
The indicator provides an insight into the trends in fatalities of road, rail, air and water transport, and also covers the number of accidents with injuries. It demonstrates the relative safety of different groups of road users and the need for improvement of safety measures as well as infrastructure.
The best way of comparing transport safety in different countries is by providing overall trends and rates (per million inhabitants and per passenger-km) figures over a given period of time. The European Commission has set up an accident database, CARE, for the comparative study of situations in which accidents happen, assisting in information dissemination and comparison of solutions. Projects such as ERSO (2009) provide a more detailed assessment of the safety situation on European roads and in the future should include most, if not all, countries of the EU.

Scientific references

  • No rationale references available

Indicator definition

The definition of the indicator is the number of persons killed each year in transport accidents by mode expressed both as absolute totals and per million of population. The modes covered by this indicator are road, rail, air and sea.


The number of persons killed in traffic accidents are provided in absolute numbers.

Relative change in road fatalities (base year 2000).

Road fatalities per million: absolute number of people/1 million people.


Policy context and targets

Context description

During the last decade, a considerable effort has been made to reduce the number and severity of transport accidents, via educational programmes, limitation of permitted blood alcohol level, speed limits, technical measures such as safety belts and air bags, and traffic control measures. Harmonization of the national laws on the technical condition of vehicles was one of the Community's most remarkable achievements. It included:

  • Roadworthiness test for motor vehicles (Directive 77/143/EEC of 29 December 1976, and amendments);
  • Making the use of safety belts compulsory in vehicles of less than 3.5 tonnes (Directive 91/671/EEC of 16 December 1991);
  • Making speed limiters compulsory for vehicles of more than 3.5 tonnes, in Directive 92/6/EEC of 10 February 1992. Directive 2000/30/EC introduced the possibility of road side technical inspection of commercial vehicles.

In 1997, the European Commission launched a programme for promoting road safety in the EU (European Commission, 1997) and set out a programme for the period 1997-2001 (referred to as the second road safety programme). In September 2001, the Commission published a White Paper "European transport policy for 2010: time to decide" (European Commission, 2001), where it proposed:

  • A new road safety action programme covering the period 2002-2010 to halve the number of deaths on the roads;
  • Harmonisation of penalties, road signs and blood-alcohol levels;
  • Development of new technologies such as electronic driving licences, speed limits for cars and intelligent transport systems as part of the e-Europe programme. In this connection, progress is being made on protection of vehicle occupants, on making life safer for pedestrians and cyclists and on improving vehicle-speed management.

In June 2003, the Commission introduced a new action programme to increase the safety on European roads (European Commission, 2003). Three pillars can be recognised from this strategy to improve road safety:

  • Encouraging road users to change their behaviour in particular through greater respect of existing rules, initial and continuous training of private and professional drivers and a better enforcement against dangerous behaviour;
  • Using technical progress to make vehicles safer through improved technical safety performance standards; 
  • Encouraging the improvement of road infrastructure, in particular through the identification and diffusion of best practices and the elimination of black spots (Euro-RAP & Euro ).

To commit all stakeholders to the strategy and to obtain maximum effectiveness, the stakeholders are invited to sign the road safety charter, in which they can promise to improve progress in road safety.
The accident statistics database (CARE) was set up to evaluate the efficiency of road safety measures, determine the relevance of Community actions and facilitate the exchange of experience in this field. The database is available through the European Road Safety Observatory (ERSO) website:


The target is set in the White Paper on "European transport policy for 2010" to halve the number of road fatalities by 2010 from 2000 year level (European Commission, 2001).

Related policy documents

  • 93/704/EC
     Decision 93/704/EC on the creation of a Community database on road accidents
  • COM (2001) 370 final. European transport policy for 2010.
    WHITE PAPER European transport policy for 2010: time to decideCOM (2001) 370 final
  • COM(97) 131
    Promoting road safety in the European Union: The Programme for 1997-2001, COM(97) 131
  • COM(2003) 311
    European road safety action programme; halving the number of road accident victims in the European Union by 2010: a shared responsibility COM(2003) 311 fin


Methodology for indicator calculation

Road traffic accidents

A road injury accident is an accident involving at least one road vehicle in motion on a public road or private road to which the public has right of access, resulting in at least one injured or killed person (European Commission, 2003).

  • Killed (fatalities): Any person killed immediately or dying within 30 days as a result of an injury accident. Suicide, criminal or natural death is not considered a result of a traffic accident. For countries that do not apply this definition, conversion coefficients are estimated so that comparisons on the basis of the 30 day-definition can be made (European Commission, 2003).
  • Injured: Any person not killed, but who sustained an injury as result of an injury accident, normally needing medical treatment. 

Rail accidents

Three types of victims are generally considered in rail accidents: passengers, employees and others.
Both statistics on road traffic accidents and statistics on rail traffic accidents will, according to the definitions, include accidents at level crossings between roads and railways. In order to avoid double counting comparing road and rail accidents, accidents at level crossings should be reported separately.
A railway operating accident is an accident occurring on main lines or service tracks operated by the railway, associated with railway stock movements on open tracks or on station premises and resulting in death of a person or a serious injury, or in extensive damage to stock, track or other installations, or extensive disruptions to traffic. Accidents in workshops, warehouses and depots are excluded as well as suicides (UNECE, 2009).
Rail accidents and casualties (UNECE, 2009):

  • Accident: an accident in which at least one moving rail vehicle is involved. There are the following categories of accidents: collisions, derailments, level crossing accidents, and accidents to persons caused by rolling stock in motion, fires in rolling stock and others.
  • Injury accident: Any accident involving at least one rail vehicle in motion, resulting in at least one killed or injured person. Accidents in workshops, warehouses and depts. Are excluded.
  • Persons killed (fatality): Any person killed immediately or dying within 30 days as a result of an accident. It includes passengers, employees and other specified or unspecified persons involved in a rail injury accident.
  • Person injured: person seriously injured is any person injured who was hospitalised for more than 24 hours as a result of an accident; person slightly injured is any person injured excluding persons killed or seriously injured. Persons with lesser wounds, such as minor cuts and bruises are not normally recorded as injured.

Aviation accidents

Aviation accidents and casualties (UNECE, 2009):

  • An injury resulting in death within thirty days of the date of the accident is classified as a fatal injury
  • Accident on national territory: An accident on the national territory of a state                                 
  • An accident on a nationally registered aircraft: An accident involving an aircraft on the national aircraft register of a state

Methodology for gap filling


Methodology references

No methodology references available.


Data specifications

EEA data references

  • No datasets have been specified here.

External data references

Data sources in latest figures



Methodology uncertainty

In general, data on road fatalities from the policy statistical records are reliable, but concerns have been raised in earlier years that the total number of persons injured in road traffic accidents are underreported and that the records from the health sector (casualty departments) are more realistic. Furthermore, there is no agreed methodology for reporting road and rail injuries and hence datasets are not comparable across Member States.  Definitions such as severe casualties may vary among the European countries. This uncertainty is one of the reasons for reporting only on fatalities and injury accidents. 

Data sets uncertainty

Road data can be considered as reliable, accurate and robust. Data for other modes is sufficiently available.

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Further work

Short term work

Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.

Long term work

Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Cinzia Pastorello


European Environment Agency (EEA)


Indicator code
TERM 009
Version id: 1
Primary theme: Transport Transport

Frequency of updates

This indicator is discontinued. No more assessments will be produced.


DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)



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