Despite the European Union (EU) having some of the safest roads in the world, more than 25,000 people still lose their lives on EU roads every year, and many more are seriously injured.

In 2018, approximately 25,100 road fatalities were reported by the 28 EU Member States. This was a decrease of 21% compared to 2010. Last year, the average fatality rate in the 28 EU Member States was 49 road deaths per one million inhabitants. At just a 1% decrease compared to the previous year, this means that it is unlikely that the target of halving the number of road deaths by 2020 will be reached.

How did individual Member States perform in 2018?

The performance gap between EU Member States has been narrowing year by year. Last year, only two EU Member States recorded a fatality rate higher than 80 deaths per million inhabitants, against seven in 2010. In 2018, the majority of Member States had a road fatality rate of below 60 deaths per million inhabitants. For eight countries, the figure was below 40 per million inhabitants.

According to the preliminary figures for 2018, the Member States with the best road safety scores were the United Kingdom (28), Denmark (30) and Ireland (31). Member States with the highest fatality rates were Romania (96), Bulgaria (88), Latvia (78) and Croatia (77). While the average decrease in the number of road deaths was only 1% for 2017-2018 for the EU as a whole, some countries made more progress, such as Slovenia with a 13% drop, Lithuania with 11%, Bulgaria with 9% and Slovakia and Cyprus with 8%.

Over the period 2010-2018, the biggest drop in the number of road deaths was reported by Greece (45%) and Lithuania (43%), followed by Portugal (35%) and Slovenia (34%). The EU-wide average decrease for the same period was 21%.

Road users and road types

While fatality rates have decreased overall, figures for car drivers and passengers have improved the most. The smallest improvement is for vulnerable road users: unprotected cyclists and pedestrians, riders of powered two-wheelers and the elderly, especially in urban areas. Vulnerable road users account for almost half of road incident victims.

For every person killed in traffic collisions, about five more suffer serious injuries with life-changing consequences. Serious injuries are often more costly to society because of long-term rehabilitation and healthcare needs. The majority of those injured are vulnerable road users, i.e. pedestrians, cyclists and drivers of powered two-wheelers. Vulnerable road users account for an even higher proportion of those injured in towns and cities.

Measures taken at EU level for safer roads

In its new policy framework for road safety 2021-2030, released in May 2018, the European Commission confirmed the EU’s long-term goal of moving close to zero fatalities and serious injuries in road transport by 2050. Its new interim targets, responding to the call of the 2017 Valletta Declaration, are to reduce the number of road deaths by 50% between 2020 and 2030 as well as to halve the number of serious injuries in the same period.

The policy framework was accompanied by a Strategic Action Plan on Road Safety, which set out ambitious plans for road safety governance, funding support, infrastructure, vehicles, safe road use, emergency response, emerging challenges and the global dimension.

More information: European Commission Traffic Fatalities Fact Sheet