Indicator Assessment

Transport accident fatalities

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-87-en
  Also known as: TERM 009
Published 05 Jul 2010 Last modified 11 May 2021
12 min read
This page was archived on 08 May 2015 with reason: No more updates will be done

The number of road fatalities within the EEA member countries has fallen 23% over the past 10 years (between 1996 and 2005). However, the total number of road fatalities stands at 50,349. To reach the ambitious EU-25 target of halving the numbers of 2001 fatalities between 2004 and 2010, while transport volumes are expected to continue to grow, further accident prevention policies are necessary.

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

Annual road transport fatalities by region.

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Although the number of fatalities due to road transport accidents has fallen significantly during the past decade, road transport still places heavy demands on society. Significant efforts will be required from Member States if the ambitious target of 50% reduction in fatalities by 2010 is to be achieved. However, with improved implementation and enforcement of safety measures, progress can be made towards achieving this target.


Changing behaviour related to the use of alcohol and drugs whilst driving, observing speed limits and wearing seatbelts are measures which can significantly reduce the number of victims, as ignoring these factors can be attributed to around half of the fatalities in road transport accidents. With improved observance of these measures by road users, it is anticipated that the target of halving the number of road fatalities between 2004 and 2010 can be reached.

Road Transport

The total number of fatalities related to road transport accidents within the EEA member countries has declined steadily over the past decade (1996 to 2005). In 2005 the number of road transport fatalities was 50,349, a reduction of 23% since 1996. Key findings of the Mid-Term Review of the Road Safety Action Programme (EC, 2006a) are as follows:

  • In overall terms, the number of motorcyclists killed rose by 5.6% between 2000 and 2003, while the total number of people killed on the roads fell by 12% over the same period.
  • The number of motorcyclists killed as a proportion of total road deaths, a figure which was relatively stable at around 9.5% until 1996, has risen relentlessly in the meantime to 14% in 2003.
  • Young people between 18 and 25 are a high risk group. These people represent 10% of the population as a whole, but accounted for 21% of all fatalities in 2003, with four-fifths of those killed being male.
  • Pedestrians (5,400 killed) and cyclists (2,000 killed) are still particularly vulnerable.
  • Pedestrians over 65 years of age account for about 27% of all pedestrians killed, more than their percentage of the population as a whole (18%).
  • Lorries are involved in 6% of all accidents but 16% of fatal accidents, providing confirmation of the most serious nature of these accidents. However, the number of lorries involved in accidents is falling faster than the overall accident rate.
  • Accidents outside built-up areas (but not on motorways) are the most serious: they represent only 28% of all accidents, but account for 60% of all road accident victims.
  • Accidents in built-up areas account for 67% of all accidents and 31% of all road accident victims.
  • Motorways account for 5% of accidents and 9% of fatalities (EC, 2006a).

The largest proportion of road transport accident fatalities within the EU-15 Member States in 2005 were drivers of vehicles (65%), followed by vehicle passengers (20%).


Rail, Air and Shipping

There are far fewer fatalities as a result of rail, air and shipping accidents than those related to road transport. This is partially due to the limited size of these sectors in comparison to the road transport sector, and the fact that they are inherently safer modes, but also the limited volume of vehicles on the networks (rail, air), increased protection (rail, bus) and the need for certificated to access the networks as the driver may play a role. Problems with excessive speeds and alcohol consumption are small for rail, air and shipping accidents in comparison to private road transport.

The number of air fatalities shows an irregular pattern due to a combination of a low number of accidents and varying numbers of people involved. Trends show a general decline in air accidents from 2000 onwards, until a sharp increase to a total of 135 lives lost by any operator over EU-25 territory in 2005 (144 lives lost by EU-25 operators anywhere).

Whilst fatality data related to shipping accidents is not available, the number of sea transport accidents is showing a declining trend (number of ships lost and gross tonnage). The number of rail passenger fatalities also shows a declining pattern, particularly within the EU-15 Member States (total number of rail fatalities for 1970 - 864; 1980 - 740; 1990 - 550; 2000 - 550; 2004 - 388). 


Supporting information

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.



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

Data sources

Other info

DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • TERM 009
Frequency of updates
This indicator is discontinued. No more assessments will be produced.
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