Almost 26,000 people lost their lives in road accidents in Europe in 2014. This is almost as many as the year before and some distance from the annual decrease of 6.7 per cent that would lead to the EU target of reducing road deaths by 50 per cent by 2020. Globally, the number of serious injuries is decreasing at an even slower pace than those of fatalities in many countries, so why has road transport become such a danger for people? And what needs to happen to make roads safer? Polis’ Dagmar Köhler spoke with three experts to understand the local perspective given by Suzanne Andersson from the city of Gothenburg, the international view of Véronique Feypell from the International Transport Forum, and the academic insight of Athens University’s Prof. George Yannis
Why are our roads so much more of a danger compared to waterways, railways or air travel?
George Yannis, Athens: The main difference between roads and the other modes is that most road vehicle drivers are not professionals, not having received heavy training and not following the very high and strict behaviour standards of the professional drivers and pilots of all the other transport modes. Furthermore, the road environment, especially in urban areas, is much more complex than the railways, waterborne and air routes.
Suzanne Andersson, Gothenburg: Roads are an open system, they are not regulated as traffic on rails or in the sky.
Veronique Feypell, ITF/OECD: For aviation, rail and maritime transport the notion of a “safe system” has been the norm for many years and aircraft, trains and ships are operated by professionals with the corresponding preparation and responsibility, individual and corporate. For the road sector, the vast majority of drivers are not professional. It is therefore a radical shift to create a road environment which recognises that humans make mistakes and to move to a vision of no fatalities or serious injuries. Unlike other modes, the road transport system has not been developed with safety for its users as the main focus. The road system was designed to facilitate the transport of goods and people, and the fast movement and delivery is sometimes privileged at the detriment of safety. Also, road transport involves a much larger number of actors and operators, and their actions are often not well co-ordinated.