Following a nearly 20-year trend, the number of road deaths fell sharply by 17% from 2019 to 2020, according to data published by Eurostat on 11 May.
The total number of fatalities fell sharply from 22,755 in 2019 to just 18,786 in 2020. 18 European Union member states recorded their lowest ever road fatalities.
“With almost 4,000 fewer deaths on EU roads in 2020, compared to 2019, our roads remain the safest in the world,” said European Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean.
Safer European streets
The European Commission believes that much of this reduction can be attributed to the global reduction in road traffic caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Lower traffic volumes, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, had a clear, though unmeasurable, impact on the number of road fatalities,” a Commission press release said.
In the EU, an average of 42 people per million inhabitants lose their lives in road traffic accidents. In Belgium, this statistic is slightly higher at 43 deaths per million.
Europe has more than three times less road accidents than other countries, who have an average 180 deaths per million inhabitants.
The data revealed that the majority of road traffic fatalities were car occupants (44%). Pedestrians made up 19% of victims, 16% motorcyclists, 10% cyclists, and 11% other vehicles such as buses, mopeds, and goods vehicles.
Europeans are most likely to die in car crashes in Romania, where an average 85 people per one million inhabitants died each year.
In 2010, the levels of road traffic fatalities were much higher. 29,576 Europeans lost their lives on the roads of Europe. This latest statistic represents a 36% reduction in fatal accidents over the last 10 years.
Towards greater urban mobility
Despite the progress, all EU Member States except Greece (54%) are behind the 50% road fatalities reduction target set by the European Commission. “We are behind our target for the last decade and joint action is needed to prevent a return to pre-Covid levels,” Vălean said.
The Commission has, however, noticed a marked increase in alternative forms of transportation as a result of the pandemic. Cycling is on the up across Europe, especially in Brussels, where there was a 10.5% increase in bikes on the road, compared to last year.
In the EU, around 70% of road fatalities in urban areas involve what it describes as “vulnerable road users”, namely pedestrians, motorcyclists, and cyclists. Improving road safety, it says, is key to improving urban mobility.
In 2019, two European capitals, Helsinki and Oslo, recorded zero pedestrian and cycling deaths by implementing wide-reaching speed reductions on their streets.