No breakthrough on EU road deaths for fourth consecutive year

08.25 | 20 June 2018 | | 24 comments

The UK is failing to make sufficient progress in its bid to reach the EU target of halving the number of road deaths in the decade to 2020, according to the latest edition of an annual report.

The 12th Road Safety Performance Index Report, produced by the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC), compares statistics from 32 European countries – including the 28 EU member states.

The UK’s 2017 estimate of 1,783 deaths is based on the Great Britain provisional total for the year ending September 2017, published in February, and the final 2017 data for Northern Ireland.

The 2017 estimate represents a year-on-year reduction of 4.1%, but is only 6.4% fewer than the 2010 figure of 1,905.

The UK’s 6.4% reduction since 2010 is far below the EU average of 20.1% – and ranks the UK fourth bottom, ahead of Sweden, the Netherlands and Malta.

Despite this, the UK remained the EU’s third safest country in 2017 – behind Norway and Sweden – with 27 deaths per million inhabitants.

On the whole, the report shows that progress has ‘stagnated’ across the EU over the last four years – with the number of road deaths falling by just 3% since 2013.

As a result, for the first time since the ETSC launched its Road Safety Performance Index programme, the organisation will not make its annual award for progress and leadership on road safety to any country.

The ETSC is now calling for strong political will, urgent measures and substantial investment in safe infrastructure to reduce the 500 deaths that occur on EU roads every single week.

Antonio Avenoso, executive director of the ETSC, said: “If two passenger planes fell out of the sky every week in Europe, the public and political response would be transformational.  

“And improvements in aviation safety in Europe over the last 50 years have been just that.  We now need a matching system-wide approach to road safety.

“Last month, the European Commission announced bold measures to save lives on European roads with safer vehicles and safer infrastructure.  But these measures need political support from Member States to avoid being watered down and they will take time.

“Governments across the EU must also up their game in months, not years, with better enforcement and urgent measures to reduce the main causes of death and serious injury, namely speeding, drink driving, distraction and failure to wear a seatbelt.”



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    Let’s not forget that ‘safe distance’ does not just refer to how far you are behind the vehicle in front of you, it also relates to the distance you are from the, as yet possibly unseen, but nevertheless predictable and anticipated hazard that will cause you to brake undramatically in the next few seconds. In these scenarios, approach speeds and distance are equally important and – it goes without saying – one’s brakes!

    Hugh Jones
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    I agree Nigel…. Talking about head banging……. I have a headache. I have been on this site for many years and for the last 5 or so my main concern is that people who should know better but dont apparently or are unconcerned, or complacent or apathetic or just ignorant. Nigel mentioned 30% but I believe that this figure is just the tip of the iceberg as many such collisions are not reported as being minor in nature.

    For some time I wondered why this was the case the but now would suggest to many of you that if you get hold of any training manual that contains the words Separation distance, then please read it carefully and come back on site a tell us just what you feel that it means. I cannot name the publication I am afraid.

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    Point taken, Rod Clearly we are on the same page. You make a good point that just because someone has not had a crash they are (presumed to be) a safe driver. That dovetails very nicely with my view that they might still be vulnerable to a crash. It’s the word, ‘vulnerable’ which is the key. And, in my view, driver assessment sheets should, for example, have a vulnerability heading which is an overall rating of a driver’s potential for a crash. That’s the key bit.

    It’s also good to know, at last, that we have a traunch of people believe and understand the value of space and time in relation to safe driving. Maybe there will soon be more. It’s taken quite a lot of head banging to get here.

    Keep on keeping on.

    Nigel ALBRIGHT
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    Maybe I had better come clean on my post before people get the wrong impression.

    Sorry, I was being mischievous. Those of you who do read any of the discussions on 20mph will know of the claim made by some that most drivers are safe drivers and that where a majority drive above the speed limit then this indicates that the speed limit is too low. In such circumstances using police resources to target non-complies is seen as a waste of resources.

    Of course that isn’t my view. But I thought I would try making the same case about driving too close to the car in front. Its something that many drivers do and most will get away with it most of the time. They will tail-gate the car in front and there will be no consequence because no incident happened which affected the steady driving of the car in front.

    So you and I would hope most readers would reject the mischievous comment I made about tail-gating and changing the distance so that most drivers would be compliant.

    To my mind, speed and driving too close are the hand-maidens of crashes. Individually they can prevent crashes from being avoided and collectively they can massively increase the consequences as well. Unfortunately the disk drive in our brains tends to recall all the times we sped or drove too close and there was no incident.

    We need to banish the idea that if you drive a journey and didn’t have a crash then that was a safe driving. And we also need to drive in a way that allows other to make mistakes because to do so is human and predictable.

    I hope my comment wasn’t too disturbing, and please, do keep banging on!

    Best wishes


    Rod King, Lymm, Cheshire
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    I had to read Rod’s comment a few times to guess he was being tongue-in-cheek, albeit a bit too subtly perhaps. Anyway, I hope he wasn’t serious.

    Hugh Jones
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    I am sorry to say, Rod, that in my opinion, you are digging yourself a hole on this one. I hope he doesn’t mind my mentioning it but, as far as i am aware Bob Craven is a former police officer, and I have been extremely fortune some years ago to have studied with Hendon Advanced Wing instructors. That apart I have spent well over thirty years teaching people safe driving techniques to nationally accepted and also nationally accredited standards.

    As in previous submissions, may I refer you to 126 of the Highway Code, which says you must be able to pull up in the distance you can see to be clear. That also means to me that if, by chance, I have to do an emergency stop and someone goes into the back of me they have contravened 126 and could be liable for prosecution. Now anyone who is two seconds away is going to have a hard job stopping in time, even if they are totally alert (which most are not in my view) which means they are potentially crash vulnerable. And anyone at one second or less is, in my books, in suicide mode.
    I remember talking with one former police driving instructor who used to say to his pupils, ‘What ever the circumstances could you pull up undramatically?. The key word is undramatically. For that reason police driving schools certainly used to teach a following position of three to four seconds.
    This means that if, also by chance, you are one of the masses who believe they can get away with less than two seconds, then I am afraid you fall into the category becoming of most drivers that they are like the next crash waiting to happen. Also remember that around 30%^ of crashes are front to rear end shunts, for the very reasons stated above. So keep banging on? Absolutely, until the message gets through to many more people – and that will help them be much safer on the roads and, therefore, much less vulnerable to crashes. I rest my case m’lud.

    Nigel ALBRIGHT
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    Again a good, well-observed comment from David and no doubt many are of the same mind. (Read my comment in the white van man story David which I’d sent in before I saw your nominations!)

    I think people with certain personality traits do go for certain makes of car, almost as if it is expected of them and believe it will reflect their status, importance, employment standing, aspirations etc.etc…. nothing wrong in that perhaps, but it is if the car then takes control and the person then is induced almost to drive it in a way that he/she believes is expected of them in the manner David has described…again something for psychologists to ponder.

    As an aside, I have noticed that some of the drivers of these cars definitely do not take kindly to being behind an everyday, unremarkable non-prestige badged car (but not necessarily any different under the skin) and it’s almost as if they see it as a sign of failure, only correctable by overtaking at the next available opportunity …safely or not.

    Hugh Jones
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    Thank you Nigel, Hugh and R. Craven for your kind comments, we appear to be of similar mindset.

    Rod you picked up on distances, they are indeed a main factor, the next being speed, it is the aggressive arrogance and belligerent attitudes of a high proportion of drivers that just ignore legislation – and always will. Legislation in its present form is not working.

    If you are a safe driver and value survival, you will want to come home and see your family and friends that day, you will be leaving a calculated and comfortable thinking and braking distance between you and the vehicle in front, both travelling at the same speed. No stress. Now, count how many vehicles are in the fast lane to your right – within the same distance between you and the vehicle in front, you may see five or six vehicles to your right. Darwin dominoes, all pushing the vehicle in front, because ‘I want to be leader’.

    If I travel at the maximum speed of say 70mph on a dual carriageway or motorway (and anywhere else at maximum legal speed limit), generally speaking I am usually the slowest vehicle on the road.

    Sad fact, a high proportion of drivers just lack civility, respect and common sense of danger, or just plain ignore it because ‘it won’t happen to me’, ‘I’m not going to get caught’, ‘I don’t care’, ‘I can’.

    The fact that I am sticking to the speed limit absolutely infuriates some drivers and I often think I would have been subjected to road rage had I not been displaying camera warning signs on both the front and rear of my vehicle (so does my wife). Briefly, it’s part of my job of work being involved with cameras so I speak with 14 years of vehicle CCTV experience.

    I am sticking my neck out with regards to vehicle makes. The two worse drivers in order of the worse first, Audi then BMW. ‘I hasten to add they are not all bad’ so it’s not directed at them all, in each case they all know who they are. This information you will find is also common knowledge to traffic Police, I doubt they will openly commit to such a statement though. My source is reliable.

    A simple exercise to take away in your thoughts: Which makes of vehicle consistently exceeds speed limits, race through built-up areas, cut in front, overtakes on risky bends, drives as though they desperately want to climb inside your boot, who races off at traffic lights, road junctions, roundabouts, lane changes i.e. two to one, one to two lanes. Now you are aware you will probably be looking and analysing.

    Do these vehicle types psychologically change personalities, do the risk taker drivers feel they have something to prove, or is it just a plain arrogance, or, a lack of confidence so they have to display superiority by arrogant and dangerous driving attitudes?

    A catalyst, however painful, is required to cultivate (force?) respect and tolerance for others. As quoted previously, legislation in its current form is not working.

    A few years ago I carried out some research on cars and the effects they have on drivers and unbelievably discovered a phycological disorder relating to ‘hero worship’ for a particular make of car? It did quote the make of vehicle within the disorder. Answers on a post card. Safe driving.

    David Matthews, Northampton
    Agree (3) | Disagree (1)

    Nigel and Bob

    You keep banging on about the minimum distance between following vehicles. Yet research shows that the majority of drivers follow at far less distance than the law allows. This is based on their many years of personal experience that as long as they are above average drivers that are able to look ahead down the road and anticipate any hazards then it is perfectly safe.

    Shouldn’t the legal minimum following distance be adjusted so that these drivers become compliant with the law?

    After all with police resources as they are then shouldn’t those resources be focused on the really dangerous drivers such as those using mobile phones or under the influence of drugs/alcohol?

    Rod King, Lymm, Cheshire
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    Looking at Bob Craven’s comments I have to agree that ADI’s are potentially an issue; that’s most of them, not all of them. Problem is that too many are there for the job and, whilst many glibly talk about safety, relatively few really understand what that is. In my view too many are just out to get test results and getting test results and being safe are not necessarily the same thing. Apparently, an academic who did a presentation not long ago stated that of the 48 odd thousand ADIs the driving standard of most of them was (to paraphrase) c**p. Certainly from what I see of most driving their vehicles (i.e. no pupil on board) I am really not impressed with what I see. There are some good ones but unfortunately comparatively few, and I was not impressed when the DVSA introduced some elements in the driving test last November which were either decidedly, unsound, unsafe or against the Highway Code that the ADI organisations did not put their heads and shoulders above the parapet to stand up to the DVSA and say, ‘these are not acceptable’ if we are going to teach safe driving’. That was also an indication to me that they are not really concerned, or possibly don’t really understand, that ADI’s should first and foremost be teaching pupils to be safe. I saw one very clear example of the lack of safety a few days ago with a pupil on board (and will elucidate if anyone asks me to), and yet the banner headline on that ADI’s website is ‘ Teaching you to be a Safe and Confident Driver’. Sorry, no.

    Interesting, Bob, which two road safety authorities advise an unsafe following position? And I absolutely go with your comments about close following an tailgating. As you know there is a 3 point penalty and £100 fine for doing that but, is it ever enforced? It would make a lot of difference if it were, I feel.

    I also feel that David Mathew’s submission was an excellent one.

    Nigel ALBRIGHT
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    Liked your comment Mr Matthews. I wonder if your ‘two particular makes of car’ correlate with mine, or other readers’? Again, one for the psychologists to explain i.e. why do certain makes and styles of vehicle bring out the worst in their drivers? It can’t be coincidence that certain makes and models crop up more than others in such ‘polls’. Some might say it’s not a road safety issue, but the poor, aggressive driving which results, certainly is.

    Hugh Jones
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    David, quite right, too many cars too close together is an accident just waiting to happen and that to me there is a problem with drivers unknowingly committing to it as of a norm. Not knowing the dangers of tailgating. Perhaps they have been instructed wrongly as one training body does advise that in urban traffic and maybe some queues of traffic then one can disregard or forfeit the safer stopping distance and just be about but no less that the thinking distance behind other traffic.

    If drivers are taught that by their ADIs then its no wonder we have an epidemic on our hands and a serious road safety issue. Hugh, if you are reading this then yes there is a or rather two road safety authorities that advises a closer than safe position.

    Agree (2) | Disagree (0)

    Awareness of dangers, plus the benefits of education for safer driving for road users, is not working in its current format. We all of course commute in various ways, motorways, dual and single carriageways, built up areas, narrow country lanes, but many motorists still take serious risks.

    The risks we all know: too fast, too close to the vehicle in front (brake lights continually flashing), aggressive and discourteous driving, weaving in and out of lanes, got to be in front of the next car, oblivion to anything that is going on outside of their bubble including speed restrictions, reading notes, using Facebook, sending a text. Drivers of two particular makes of car stand out above the rest for having the worse reputation for bad driving. Dare I say some turn into animals behind the wheel. A whole list of Darwin Award qualifications.

    I travel the busy A14 every day, when I am following a line of Heavy goods vehicles on the inside, I am amazed that the vast majority of vehicles on the outside lane, travelling at speed, only allowing just over a cars length between each of them, no chance of stopping in time, risking theirs and other people’s lives. No wonder there are so many crashes and will continue this way until something changes attitude.

    Safety cameras, speed limits, have limited effect, as do speed awareness signs. Is it time for a massive television campaign to educate, expose and even ridicule these selfish Darwin candidates, or would that contravene their human rights despite the fact they will carry on and injure others?

    Think for now I will stay a safe distance behind those lorries, provide an escape route and save 20% fuel at the same time.

    David Matthews, Northampton
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    > Plus in general if traffic is using that road at the speed limit or even over it then usually other drivers will follow that speed and adopt it as being the norm.

    …to the point where even the local authorities can even agree that it is too low and up it if it is asked nicely enough (and they agree, of course)

    David Weston, Corby
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    I know where Tim is coming from. The space and infrastructure afforded to a road can have a psychological effect on the driver and his appreciation of speeds on certain roads. The narrower or more confined or obstructed the road then in general the slower he will drive etc. Open roads in open countryside or in towns can have the opposite effect.

    We have some recently built roads that are aimed at taking a lot more traffic that has in fact materialised and some of these roads have been made as dual carriageways that for all intents and purposes look like mini motorways and have been given a 40 mph speed limit. I drive them regularly and can say that the average speed of many cars is 50 mph, and some exceed that. On that road there has been a building development recently and the installation of a new set of traffic lights and the speed limit on that particular part of the road has been reduced to 30 mph, but you would not believe that by the continuance of drivers to maintain those higher speed of 50 mph plus.

    Nigel, one can be dangerous in any road scene at 15 mph or even 10 mph no matter how high the speed limit is for that road. It’s just that some roads lead one to drive faster than they should whilst still being under the limits. Whilst the speed limit is not a target it is generally considered by the vast majority of drivers as being just that as to drive under it can end up slowing traffic and becoming a nuisance or obstruction to others and that it encourages tailgating and most drivers don’t want to be considered to be inconsiderate in that way. Plus in general if traffic is using that road at the speed limit or even over it then usually other drivers will follow that speed and adopt it as being the norm.

    Agree (4) | Disagree (0)

    Sorry, Tim, I really wonder where you are coming from. It seems this is another of the thought patterns that so long as you deal with the speed you have solved the problem. Conversely, remember that a speed limit is not an aiming point. As much as it is possible to be dangerous at 30mph in a 30 limit, it is also possible to be dangerous at 60mph in a 60 limit. In any case, can you really imagine a policy across the country so that any road does not seemingly invite a speed greater than that which is posted?

    Nigel ALBRIGHT
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    It’s not just the physical characteristics of the road though Tim, it depends on who else and what else is on the road at the time which too many motorists don’t or can’t seem to take account of and are therefore not able to stop quickly enough. A road which, as you say, looks as if it is made for 40-60 is only valid when it is literally empty of anything which might present itself as a hazard to a driver doing those speeds. As has been said before on this forum, ‘it’s easy to speed, but much harder to stop’ which is where so many motorists go wrong.

    Hugh Jones
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    Narrowing of roads? That should absolutely happen. Trying to enforce speed limits – however much we throw at it – isn’t going to work very well if we persist in building roads whose design says ‘speed down me, please’. Police forces will always prioritise scarce resources, and it’s pretty hard to ask them to police a 30 mph limit on a road where the design clearly *looks* like it is made for 40-60mph.

    Tim (prepared to post with my full name) Lennon.

    Tim Lennon, London
    Agree (10) | Disagree (2)

    When will people realise that speed is only part of the story. It’s important, but it’s important in context, not just on it’s own. The really important bit is space, and space COMBINED WITH the right speed for the circumstances is where safety is increased and therefore crashes reduced. In my view until RS people and policy creators start to get the handle on this then probably safety on our roads is not going to diminish significantly enough. What is the use of bandying around technical arguments and points about statistics until the basics of what it is about are properly understood and applied? Once that happens then we will be getting somewhere.

    Nigel ALBRIGHT
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    Stricter enforcement needs to apply everywhere if we are to have speed limits that are respected. Pedestrian facilities should take priority over reserving space for motors which often only have a single occupant. Stronger and better enforcement does not need to be based on increased police resources. Speed detection and recording technology can be cheap once rolled out on an increased scale and automation of processes can render it self-funding. Rates of return are calculated on the basis of return on investment. Speed management and better cycling/walking provision provides the opportunity to continue reductions in casualties with huge net benefits to society.

    Rod King, Lymm, Cheshire
    Agree (4) | Disagree (10)

    Rod, I entirely agree with the need for stricter enforcement of speed especially where there are lots of people, of the desperate need to sort out irresponsible pavement parking that forces people walk in the road etc. I agree with space separate from vehicles for pedestrians and cyclists but preferably off-road and not narrowing roads to achieve it. No need to dwell on the lower speed limits issue as our respective positions are well known.

    But will the government(s) adequately fund roads policing to achieve that? I’d like to think so but I’m not holding my breath on that. So if that political will for change you mentioned doesn’t happen, the flattening out of the curve will continue.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (8) | Disagree (3)


    People at ETSC understand that UK has one of the most lax enforcement regimes for speed management and control. With speed being such an important factor in vulnerable road user danger and UK spending most of its highway expenditure on people in cars rather than people out of cars then it is no surprise that our casualty reductions are flattening out. Lets also remember that the %age of casualties that are pedestrian is one of highest in Europe.

    Its why we need a change in political will to end the prejudice against people not in cars. Lower limits, stricter enforcement and segregated provision are key to reducing our traffic casualties further.

    The idea that the current stats are as good as it gets or worth getting is complacent and irresponsible.

    Rod King, Lymm, Cheshire
    Agree (3) | Disagree (13)

    This story relates to deaths only and not the number of collisions. Airbags, seatbelts, emergency services response times and the latest life-saving treatments amongst other things will play a part in reducing deaths from road crashes. If the authorities are only interested in deaths and not life-changing injuries as ‘good’ statistics, then I suppose it’s a sort of goal, but the innocent road users and the general public may not see it that way.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (1) | Disagree (0)

    Whilst certainly not being complacent with the rate of progress in road casualty reduction the UK, is there anyone in the ETSC that understands the phrase ‘diminishing rate of return’ that happens when the trend graph begins to flatten out in the best performing countries?

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (13) | Disagree (1)

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