Report confirms economic decline is good for road safety

12.00 | 3 August 2016 | | 4 comments

A report has found ‘clear evidence’ that road safety improves in times of economic hardship, and especially when unemployment increases.

The International Transport Forum report, published in October 2015, examines the relationship between economic performance and road safety, in particular relation to the economic downturn in 2007/08.

The six papers that compose the report explain the mechanisms by which indicators of economic development influence road safety, and quantify their impact.

The report focusses on countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and concludes that the financial and economic crises of 2007 were accompanied by marked falls in annual road deaths in most OECD countries.

The research cites three main reasons for this:

  • Economic downturns are associated with less growth in traffic or a decline in traffic volumes.
  • Economic downturns are associated with a disproportionate reduction in the exposure of high risk road user groups; in particular, unemployment tends to be higher among young people than people in other age groups.
  • Reductions in disposable income may be associated with more cautious road user behaviour including less drinking and driving, lower speeds to save fuel and fewer holiday trips.

The report indicates that ‘favourable influences’, such as those outlined above, outweigh others that might have a negative impact on road safety, including: older vehicles remaining in use for longer; vehicle owners spending less on maintenance or safety features; and reduced investment by governments in road safety engineering.


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    Don’t expect any upturn in the numbers of motorcyclists as this and previous governments have been for some time making it substantially harder and more difficult to get one on the road. Prior to the cycling revolution motorcyclists were put forward as an efficient and sustainable form of transport as mentioned in the report and paper given to the government by the joint Police and Motorcycle Manufacturers Association. Since then they have been placed much lower on the list for anything as cyclists have reaped the greatest benefits.

    Bob Craven Lancs.
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    That’s because unemployed people can’t afford to drive = less cars on the road. Top research!

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    Interesting, although long term I would expect the opposite. In addition to the increase in older/less safe/poorly maintained vehicles I would expect an increase in some classes of vulnerable road users as motor/cycles usage increase due to lower costs.

    Steve, Watford
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    Yes I know I come across as cynical sometimes and it probably gets a bit tiresome, but reports claiming ‘clear evidence’ or ‘strong evidence’ which are based on ‘could’, ‘may’, ‘perhaps’, ‘possibly’ or ‘suggests that’ do not match my understanding of ‘clear’ or ‘strong’ evidence. Fewer road deaths in a year could equally be down to just good fortune – who’s to say?

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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