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23rd May 2019

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EU to miss road safety target at current rate

  • In 2017, 25,300 people died on the road in the EU (Photo: Ian Valerio)

The European Commission tried to give a positive spin to the annual EU road fatalities statistics on Tuesday (10 April), but acknowledged it was unlikely that a 2020 road safety target will be reached at the current trend.

In 2017, 25,300 people died on the road in the EU, which was 300 fewer deaths than in 2016.

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  • 'The good news is that we are making progress,' EU transport commissioner Violeta Bulc said at a press conference in Brussels. (Photo: European Commission)

"The good news is that we are making progress," EU transport commissioner Violeta Bulc said at a press conference in Brussels.

"The average EU fatality rate for 2017 was 49 road deaths per 1 million inhabitants, which is the lowest ever in EU history. It is also the lowest in the world," the Slovenian added.

"This means for the second year in a row a two percent decrease in the number of fatalities compared to the previous year. So there is a positive trend, but I really hope we can strengthen it even more," she said.

However, Bulc also said she was "afraid" that the EU "might not" reach the 2020 goal, which is a halving the number of road fatalities compared to 2010, or from 31,500 to 15,750.

"At this rate we will be struggling to reach the goal, our target of halving the number of road deaths by 2020," she noted.

If from now on there is an annual absolute reduction of 300 deaths, like last year, it will be the year 2049 when the number of fatalities first drops below 15,750.

Moreover, the two percent reduction which Bulc cited, was rounded up.

If indeed the fatality rate dropped by 300 from 2016 to 2017, that means it decreased by 1.17 percent, at which rate the 2020 target will be reached in 2058.

A commission press officer said that according to its estimates the reduction would be between 1.5 and 2 percent, and that this is why the commission's press release Tuesday said the reduction figure was "around 2 percent".

However, it remained unclear why different versions of a infographic on the road safety statistics emerged on Tuesday.

In an online factsheet, the infographic showed a much sharper decrease from 2016 to 2017 than in a booklet, also available online.

One suggested a much steeper decline from 2015 to 2017 than actually happened.

The European Commission released two versions of an infographic with road fatalities on Tuesday. The one above was published in the booklet 'Road safety in the European Union', the one below in the factsheet '2017 road safety statistics: What is behind the figures?'

The commission said that there was no ill-intention behind the graphic.

'Progress, even if incremental'

Meanwhile, the Brussels-based lobby club of European motoring organisations FIA Region I said the decrease was good news.

"Progress, even if incremental, is being made in road safety," the organisation's director general Laurianne Krid told EUobserver through a spokeswoman in a written comment.

She said national governments and the commission needed to implement "strong additional efforts".

"As the figures demonstrate, member states face different challenges today when it comes to road safety," said Krid.

"In order to reach our common vision, we need to speed up our efforts on cars, infrastructure and traffic education from a young age onwards. We also need appropriate awareness on newly emerging issues, such as mobile phone distraction."

'Unacceptable'

Bulc said that to reach the 2020 goal, a 14-percent annual reduction was needed, and said that "we might even have a chance" to reach that goal, referring to new commitments by national governments, who are mostly in charge of road safety.

She asked journalists' help by reporting about road safety – something she also did two years ago – and praised a declaration on road safety adopted by EU transport ministers last year in Malta.

Bulc also noted that the figures were "unacceptable", and that the commission would present new measures in May.

She also stressed that behind the cold statistics are actual lives lost.

"We must not forget that we are talking about 25,300 individuals who have lost their lives last year," she said.

In 2017, road accidents also caused 135,000 serious injuries.

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