Fewer Traffic Deaths – But Will The Downward Trend Hold?

Preliminary 2017 figures suggest a slight decrease in the number of road deaths. Fewer traffic fatalities than in 2016 were recorded in 20 of 29 countries of the International Road Traffic Data and Analysis Group (IRTAD) for which 2017 fatality data are available. Only five countries registered increases of 2% or more in the number of road road deaths compared to 2016.

However, “it is uncertain whether the long-term downward trend will continue”, according to the Road Safety Annual Report 2018, published on 23 May on the occasion of the global summit of transport ministers in Leipzig, Germany.

After many years of continuous decline, the number of traffic fatalities rose by 1.6% in 2016, the last year with official and validated data, compared to 2015. Compared to 2014, the year with the lowest number of fatalities over the past three decades, the death toll was up 5.6%. While 13 countries saw a reduction, only 18 registered an increase or stagnating numbers in 2016 compared to 2015.

“Very far from sufficient”

The longer-term trend is still downward: between 2010 and 2016, 3.6% fewer road deaths were counted. But this is “very far from sufficient to achieve international road safety objectives”, says the report.

Reductions of more than 30% compared to 2010 would have been needed by 2016 to be on the right track to halving road deaths by 2020. This is the target set in the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Only five countries have achieved this to date.

Behind the average figures loom large disparities in road safety performance. The results of the United States influence the overall trend strongly, as they count for nearly half of the total road deaths for the 32 countries included in the IRTAD database. The biggest reductions in fatalities between 2010 and 2016 were achieved by Portugal (-39.9%), Lithuania (-35.8%) and Norway (-35.1%).

An historic first

Five countries experienced more traffic deaths between 2010 and 2016: The United States registered the largest increase with +13.5%, driven by a 14% increase in 2014-16. Argentina (+9.0%), Chile (+5.0%), Sweden (+1.5%) and Iceland also had more fatalities.

In 2016 mortality rates ranged from 2.6 to 12.8 deaths per 100 000 population in countries with validated data. Much higher rates can be found in other countries. The lowest mortality rates were in Norway (2.6), Switzerland (2.6) and Sweden (2.8). These three countries also had the best results for risk indicators, such as road deaths per distance travelled or per registered vehicles. Based on provisional 2017 data, Norway achieved an historic first: just two road deaths per 100 000 inhabitants.