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.