Highlighting official figures showing that a third of road deaths in the European Union (EU) happen in collisions that involve a single motorized vehicle where the driver/rider and/or passengers are killed, but no other road users are involved, a new report published by the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) studies these single vehicle collisions (SVCs) and how to prevent them occurring.
The ETSC report reveals that nearly 7,300 road users died in 2015 in SVCs in the EU, with around 100,000 fatalities occurring over the last 10 years. Over 60% of deaths in SVCs occur on rural roads. Ensuring that the road design and speed limits are appropriate to the road’s function are two measures that are helping to reduce deaths in several European countries. The Netherlands, which has below average rates of death in SVCs, has committed to upgrading safety across the national road network with a focus on removing roadside obstacles and upgrading two star roads to three stars, based on the international EuroRAP safety standard system. Denmark also has high safety standards for rural roads with a lower general speed limit on them: 50mph (80km/h), compared with 56mph or 62mph (90km/h or 100km/h) in many other European countries.
Young drivers and riders are at a greater risk of becoming involved in fatal SVCs than any other road user age group. This risk is twice as high for the 18-24 age group as for the 25-49 age group. An in-depth study conducted in 2011 in the Netherlands found that distraction was the contributory factor related most frequently to human behavior involved in the SVCs studied at 31%. This was followed by speeding (27%), alcohol use (19%), and fatigue (17%). Young drivers appear to be involved in SVCs when distracted, choosing inadequate swerving maneuvers to avoid another road user or object, or when they incorrectly assess the traffic situation.
The report makes recommendations both to member states and to the European Commission (EC). The ETSC is calling on the EU to revise minimum safety standards for new vehicles to make overridable Intelligent Speed Assistance, autonomous emergency braking (AEB), and advanced seat belt reminders on all passenger seats mandatory in all new cars. The ETSC urges national governments to:
Eliminate all removable obstacles from the roadside, or install safety barriers where the obstacles cannot be removed, on rural main roads and motorways;
Conduct in-depth accident investigations in appropriate representative samples of collisions resulting in serious injuries and deaths, to identify possible roadside improvement measures;
Introduce Graduated Driving License systems to address the high risks associated with new drivers;
Improve traffic law enforcement of speed limits on rural roads and motorways, use of seat belts or helmets, and laws concerning drink driving and driver distraction;
Install barriers friendly to powered two-wheelers in areas susceptible to motorcycle collisions.
The report is part of ETSC’s Road Safety Performance Index (PIN) program, which receives funding from Volvo, the Swedish Transport Administration, the German Road Safety Council, the Norwegian Public Roads Administration, and Toyota Motor Europe.