Ranking EU Progress on Improving Motorway Safety (PIN Flash 28)

  • March 4, 2015

Motorways are the safest roads by design and regulation. Nevertheless in 2013, around 1,900 people were killed on the motorway network in the EU, representing 7% of all road deaths. Nearly 27,500 people have died on motorways in the EU in the last ten years 2004 to 2013.

Nevertheless progress has been made. Across the EU the number of people killed on motorways was cut by 49% between 2004 and 2013 (compared to 44% on the rest of the road network). Over the same period, the length of the motorway network increased by about a quarter.

Lithuania, Slovakia and Spain top the ranking for annual reduction of deaths on motorways between 2004 and 2013. Motorway users in Denmark, Great Britain, Sweden and The Netherlands experience a lower level of risk than users in the rest of Europe.

Progress in better than average countries is a result of a comprehensive mix of measures, including improved infrastructure safety and road user behaviour (such as better compliance with speed limits or increased seat belt use). Other factors, such as improved vehicle safety and changes in mobility patterns, play a role too but these are hard to quantify.

The European Commission is currently reviewing Directive 2008/96 on Road Infrastructure Safety Management (see Section 2.2) which sets road safety requirements for the EU’s Trans-European Road Network (TERN). An upcoming evaluation carried out on behalf of the European Commission concludes that, although the direct benefits and costs are difficult to assess, the possible collision reduction effect of the implementation of the Directive is in the range of 10% to 20%. The main success has been the introduction of cost-effective Road Safety Audits. This has also been seen as an important step in the direction of a more systematic discipline as well as establishing a “common language” concerning infrastructure safety.

ETSC supports the European Commission’s recognition that much more benefit could be achieved by extending the principles of Directive 2008/96 to other parts of the road network, in particular rural roads, where many more road users are killed. Almost half of EU countries already apply the rules on some other parts of their national road networks.

Some countries are upgrading some of their rural roads in various ways to high speed rural roads as cost-effective alternatives to motorways. Noteworthy experience mainly in Sweden shows that one form of high speed rural road can be as safe as motorways in appropriate circumstances (see Part 3).

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