Risks on Country Roads

The improvement of road traffic safety remains a challenge. Around the world, 1.25 million people lose their lives on the road each year, and according to the World Health Organization, the downward trend of this number is stagnating. In Europe too, it is becoming increasingly difficult to realize further safety gains, despite impressive initial progress.

Die Landstraße birgt das größte Risiko zu verunglücken. Foto: Fotolia

In 2016 in Germany, an average of nine lives were lost to road traffic accidents every day. Despite this, the figure is the lowest since records began in 1953. In total, the German Federal Statistical Office counted 3,206 traffic fatalities last year, which equates to 7.3 percent less than 2015 and an impressive 85 percent less than 1970 – the worst year on record with 21,332 casualties. However, the number of road traffic accidents hit a record high in 2016. The German Police logged around 2.6 million incidents, 2.7 percent more than in 2015.

58 percent of traffic deaths occurred on country roads

As a rule, the safest of all roads is the autobahn – twelve percent or 393 individuals lost their lives here. 960 Fatalities were recorded in inner-urban areas. A staggering 58 percent of all traffic casualties – 1,853 people – lost their lives on Germany’s country roads, which present the greatest accident risk. More than 60 percent lost their lives in their cars, while one in four were killed on motorcycles.

In contrast, inner-urban areas are most hazardous for non-motorized road users. 70 Percent of pedestrians and 60 percent of cyclists killed lost their lives in such areas, with over 50 percent of these aged 65 or older. One reason for which the elderly are overrepresented in these statistics is that their physical resilience is often lower following an accident.

EU target in jeopardy

The EU has set itself the target of reducing the traffic deaths recorded in 2010 by half before 2020. But time is running out. In 2010, 31,500 lost their lives on Europe’s roads, in 2016 the number was still 25,500. The number of those seriously injured is five times this figure, the majority of which are pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. Europe-wide regulations should ensure improved road safety.

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs are just as much to blame for accidents as balding tires and faulty brakes. Education and deterrence could contribute to safety improvements, while uniform regulations regarding roadworthiness testing should reduce the number of accidents resulting from mechanical faults. As speeding is one of the main causes of serious accidents, it is now possible to prosecute speedsters and other traffic offenders throughout Europe. The number of traffic violations for which penalties were issued across national borders more than quadrupled between 2013 and 2015.

eCall set to bring improvements

Another positive development will arise from March 2018, when all new vehicles will be fitted with the eCall system as standard. In the event of a serious accident, the car automatically calls the emergency services and provides rescuers with the precise location of the vehicle in distress. Through this system, the time it takes for the emergency services to arrive will be reduced by up to 50 percent, and the EU Commission expects the number of casualties to go down by at least four percent as a result.

Infrastructure can also be a contributor to increased numbers of accidents. Where dangerous sections of road are identified, appropriate countermeasures can be taken. Take a look at Baden-Württemberg for example. Between the towns of Balingen and Tübingen on the well-developed National Route 27, an especially high number of accidents, many of them serious, were identified as resulting from excessive speeds. After introducing a speed limit of 120 km/h, the number of accidents from 1. April 2015 to the end of the year dropped by 48 percent. The number of casualties fell by a massive 60 percent.

Smartphone usage not so smart

DEKRA Accident Research teams have identified a worrying new trend: Seven percent of all drivers at any given moment are distracted by their phones.  Studies and estimates show that one in every ten road deaths can be ascribed to driver distraction. If while driving at 50 km/h you were to glance at your phone for three seconds, rather than looking at the road, you will travel almost 42 meters effectively blind, warns DEKRA Board Member Clemens Klinke.

“In recent decades, many measures have brought about huge progress for road traffic safety – from the safety belt and its compulsory usage, through airbags and systems such as ABS and ESP, to improved street planning and better emergency services capabilities,” says Klinke. The growing problem of driver distraction threatens to buck this downwards trend of traffic fatalities, and possibly even reverse it. “We cannot allow this to happen.” More frequent checks and larger penalties could help.

DEKRA Road Safety Report 2017

One opportunity to continously reduce the number of people killed in accidents is provided by the Best-Practice-Approach. This is referred to measures regarding traffic safety which have contributed to reduce the numbers of killed and injured people in other countries in the world. Possibly, these measures could be applied to other places in order to improve the traffic safety there as well. The Best-Practice-Approach is the topic of the current DEKRA Road Safety Report 2017. By means of examples of the whole world, the report shows in which different ways it is possible to achieve the goal Vision Zero, meaning as less killed or injured people in traffic.

Examples for Best-Practice as well as data and facts regarding traffic safety can be found in the DEKRA Road Safety Report 2017.

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