'Our roads are the fifth safest in EU, but young people are vulnerable' - RSA expert
As many as 70 people are dying each day on EU roads, our Road Safety Authority expert outlines
Our roads are the fifth safest in the European Union (EU), according to the recently published EU Commission report, The Preliminary 2017 Road Safety Statistics of EU Countries.
About 1.3 million people die each year on the world's roads - 25,300 lost their lives in the EU last year.
In 2017, the EU counted 49 road fatalities for every one million inhabitants. This compares with 174 deaths per million globally.
The EU report tells us that 300 fewer lives were lost in 2017 (-2pc on 2016) and 6,200 fewer than in 2010 (-20pc), so progress is being made, but in more recent years it has stagnated, raising concerns about the EU objective of halving road fatalities between 2010 and 2020.
In addition to the fatalities, it is estimated another 135 000 people were seriously injured last year, including a large proportion of vulnerable users such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
And while it may seem heartless to speak of the economic cost of road casualties, it is estimated the socio-economic cost of deaths and injuries to EU countries last year was €120bn.
The EU countries with the best road safety track records were Sweden with 25 deaths per million of population and the UK (27), followed by the Netherlands (31), Denmark (32), Ireland (33) and Estonia (36). The member states with the highest fatality rates were Romania (98) and Bulgaria (96).
While the EU average decrease in the number of road deaths from 2016 to 2017 was only 2pc, some countries made much more progress, such as Estonia with -32pc Slovenia with -20pc and, of course, Ireland with a 15pc reduction.
The commission report says: "Ireland's road safety performance is better than the EU average and improved further from 2016 to 2017 (-15pc), reaching 33 fatalities per million inhabitants."
The report says 8pc of road fatalities in 2017 occurred on European motorways, versus 55pc on rural roads and 37pc in urban areas.
Vulnerable road users accounted for almost half of the road victims.
Some 10pc of all people killed on the roads were pedestrians and 25pc were on two wheels (14pc motorcyclists, 8pc cyclists and 3pc moped riders).
More than 3,000 young people die yearly in road crashes in the EU. Almost 14pc of people killed are aged between 18 and 24, while only 8pc of the population falls within this age group.
So young people are far more likely to be victims of road crashes than any other age group.
Due to demographic changes in the European societies, mirrored here in Ireland, the proportion of older-person fatalities has also risen over the last years (22pc in 2010 to 27pc in 2017).
The EU Commissioner for Transport, Violeta Bulc, reacted to the 2017 collision statistics by admitting that the EU can do more to better protect Europeans. We agree with her.
One thing that needs to be done, and soon, is to make a decision on the introduction of new European rules on vehicle safety features for new vehicles.
This includes making technology such as intelligent speed assistance and automated emergency braking standard on new cars.
This technology has the potential to save many, many lives annually on European roads, so it's frustrating that it's taking so long to mandate their use in all new vehicles being sold in Europe.
An announcement is expected in the coming weeks, so we will be watching this space closely.
The commission says it's also planning to make an announcement about a new initiative for the safe transition to cooperative, connected and autonomous mobility. But more about that in the coming weeks.