Number of road fatalities in EU is decreasing

18 April 2019 — Cosmin CONCEATU
Number of road fatalities in EU is decreasing
In 2018, more than 25,000 people lost their lives on EU roads, European Commission data shows. Last year the number of fatalities at EU level decreased by 21% compared to 2010. On April 2019, EU has initiated new programs to be introduced, to further reduce the number of accidents and improve road safety.

The average fatality rate in 2018 was 49 road deaths per 1 million inhabitants. This represents a decrease of 1% compared to 2017. Only 2 EU member states registered a higher than 80 deaths per million inhabitants: Romania and Bulgaria. This reflects an improvement though; in 2010 there were 7 countries exceeding this level.


The figures based on preliminary data show that the countries with the safest roads in EU were UK, Denmark, Ireland and Sweden, with less than 32 deaths per million inhabitants. At the other end of the spectrum, the most dangerous roads, with fatality rates of over 76 deaths per million inhabitants, stood 5 CEE countries: Poland, Croatia, Latvia, Bulgaria and Romania.

It is worth mentioning that, while at an EU level the road fatality rate dropped only 1% in one year, some countries (especially CEE and SEE countries) made significant progress in the 2017-2018 period. The Slovenian road fatality rate dropped 13%, Lithuania 11%, Bulgaria 9%, Slovakia and Cyprus 8%.

Analyzing the 2010-2018 timeline, the largest improvements in reducing fatalities caused by road accidents rate were seen in Greece (-45%), Lithuania (-43%), Portugal (-35%) and Slovenia (-34%).

The European Commission offered a description for each EU country in the study, regarding road traffic fatalities. In 2018, EU members from CEE & SEE regions were described in the report as it follows:

  • Bulgaria: The number of road fatalities per million inhabitants in Bulgaria (88) is the second highest in the EU despite a 9% decrease compared to the previous year.
  • Croatia: Following good progress in lowering the number of road accident fatalities from 2010 (-26%), the number of deaths decreased by a further 4% in 2018, reaching 77 per million inhabitants.
  • Cyprus: The number of deaths decreased by 8% from 2017 to 2018 (57 fatalities per million inhabitants in 2018 compared to 62 in 2017). However, because of the country's small size, the figures tend to fluctuate from year to year.
  • Czech Republic: The number of road fatalities per million inhabitants is above EU average, and increased by 14% since the previous year, from 55 to 62.
  • Estonia: After years of impressive results, Estonia's fatality rate reached 51 deaths per million inhabitants in 2018, compared to 36 in 2017, representing a 40% increase. As Estonia is a relatively small country, the figures tend to fluctuate from year to year.
  • Greece: Greece has made impressive improvements in its road safety performance since 2010 (45%). However, the number of road fatalities in Greece is still considerably higher than the EU average: 64 per million inhabitants in 2018.
  • Hungary: Hungary's road safety performance is below the EU average. In 2018, 64 people per million inhabitants died on Hungarian roads, representing a 1% increase compared to the previous year.
  • Latvia: Although Latvia has achieved an impressive 31% decrease since 2010, last year its road safety score deteriorated by 10% compared to 2017. With 78 deaths per million inhabitants, Latvia needs sustained efforts to reach the EU average.
  • Lithuania: The road fatality rate in Lithuania improved by 11% in 2018 compared to the 2017 figure, sinking to 61 deaths per million inhabitants. However, this rate is still above the EU average (49).
  • Poland: Poland has made good progress over the last decade, with a 26% decrease from 2010 to 2018, but still reports a higher number of road fatalities than the EU average (76 per million inhabitants compared to the EU28 average of 49).
  • Romania: Romania's road safety performance improved by 4% between 2017 and 2018. However, Romania is still at the bottom of the EU performance list, with 96 deaths per million inhabitants last year.
  • Slovakia: Slovakia has improved its road safety performance since 2010 by 28% - more than the EU average. In addition, from 2017 to 2018, Slovakia registered an 8% decrease in the number of road deaths, reaching 46 fatalities per million inhabitants.
  • Slovenia: Slovenia has made good progress in its road safety performance, ranking now above the EU average with 44 deaths per million inhabitants, representing a 13% decrease from 2017 to 2018. Given the small size of the country, the figures tend to fluctuate from year to year.

EU roads are among the safest in the world. Average road mortality in the EU is 49 fatalities per million inhabitants, while the global average sits around 174 deaths per million. However, while the number of accidents has almost halved in the past 2 decades, in recent years evolution of road fatalities rate seemed to be stagnating.


Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) took initiative on 16 April and adopted a set of rules meant to make road traffic safer for everyone inside the EU. The new rules will start to apply to all vehicles sold on the EU markets, from May 2022 for new vehicles and May 2024 for existing models.

Some of the technologies proposed by MEPs to be included in all new vehicles are:
  • intelligent speed assistance (ISA) to make drivers aware when exceeding the speed limit;
  • driver drowsiness and attention warning, to help the driver keep attention on the surrounding traffic;
  • tire pressure monitoring system, warning the driver when a loss of pressure occurs;
  • alcohol interlock installation facilitation, allowing aftermarket alcohol interlock devices to be fitted;
  • event data recorder to register relevant data shortly before, during, and immediately after a road accident ("black box" like);
  • passenger and light commercial vehicles will be equipped with emergency-braking system (already compulsory for lorries and buses) as well as an emergency lane-keeping system;
  • trucks and buses will also be required to include "direct vision" features, allowing the driver to detect vulnerable road users, like cyclists and pedestrians, in vehicle's proximity;
  • improved passive safety requirements, including crash tests, as well as windscreens to mitigate the severity of injuries for pedestrians and cyclists.
The new compulsory safety measures could drastically reduce the number of road accidents and fatalities, considering that human error is the cause of accidents in most cases.

"This law paves the way to saving thousands of lives in the coming years. Our focus was always on the safety of road users, especially vulnerable ones. The additional obligatory equipment for cars, trucks and buses will help to save lives," said Roza THUN (EPP, PL), who steered this legislation through parliament.

More details about the subject can be found here: 
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