In 2010, the European Union renewed its commitment to improve road safety by setting a target of reducing road deaths by 50% by 2020, compared to 2010 levels. This target followed an earlier target set in 2001 to halve road deaths by 2010.
Since 2014, progress has virtually ground to a halt. 2016 was the third consecutive poor year for road safety: 25,670 people lost their lives on EU roads compared to 26,200 the previous year – a 2% decrease. But this followed a 1% increase in 2015 and stagnation in 2014. Out of the 32 countries monitored by the PIN Programme, 15 countries registered a drop in the number of road deaths last year (Fig.1). The best results were achieved in Lithuania with a 22% reduction, Cyprus with 19%, the Czech Republic with 17%, Latvia with 16% and Switzerland with 15%. As many as 15 countries saw an increase while progress stood still in two countries.
There has been progress over a longer time frame. Since 2010 road deaths in the EU28 were cut by 19%, equivalent to a 3.4% average annual reduction. But a 6.7% year-to-year reduction was needed over the 2010-2020 period to reach the EU 2020 target through constant progress in annual percentage terms. As a result of the failure to reduce deaths at the pace required, annual reductions of 11.4% each year are now needed between 2017 and 2020 for the EU to stay on track. Significant and urgent efforts are needed to achieve this.
The political will to improve on this poor progress is important. The lack of it at EU member state level has contributed to a decline in levels of police enforcement, a failure to invest in safer infrastructure and limited action on tackling speed and drink driving in a number of countries.
At the EU level, there has also been a conspicuous lack of action. Minimum EU vehicle safety standards have not been updated since 2009 despite rapid advances in vehicle crashworthiness and new technology that can help drivers to avoid or mitigate the consequences of collisions. Plans to update the standards were postponed and the proposal is not expected until March 2018. Updates to EU infrastructure safety rules have also not materialised.
EU transport ministers recently urged the European Commission to come forward with a serious injury reduction target to cover the period 2020-2030. It is now critical that the European Commission bring forward the above initiatives and a long term road safety strategy for 2030 within the coming months.Download Download background tables (.xls)