The Commission has published preliminary data on the number of road deaths in 2022. Some 20,600 people died in road accidents last year, increasing by 3% from 2021 due to the lowest traffic levels since the pandemic. However, this is 2 000 fewer fatalities (-10%) than in 2019, the year before the pandemic. The EU and the UN aim to halve the number of deaths by 2030.
Different divergences across Member States
At EU level, the number of road deaths in 2022 was 3% higher than in the previous year, mainly due to the recovery of traffic levels after the pandemic. In particular, many of the gains made during Covid-19, including a 17% drop between 2019 and 2020, have not been lost. The number of deaths in 2022 is 10% less than in 2019.
However, progress has been very uneven across Member States. The biggest drop was in Lithuania and Poland by more than 30%, in Denmark by 23%. In contrast, in countries such as Ireland, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden, the number of road fatalities has remained fairly stable or even increased over the last three years.
The overall ranking of countries’ fatality rates has not changed significantly since before the pandemic: the safest roads are those of Sweden (21 fatalities per 1 million inhabitants) and Denmark (26 fatalities per 1 million inhabitants), while Romania (86 fatalities per 1 million inhabitants) and Bulgaria (78 fatalities per 1 million inhabitants) reported the highest rates in 2022. The EU average was 46 road fatalities per million inhabitants.
Most affected groups
Based on available data for 2021 (detailed 2022 data is not yet available) across the EU, 52% of road traffic fatalities occurred on rural roads, versus 39% in urban areas and 9% on motorways. Men accounted for three out of four road deaths (78%). Car occupants (drivers and passengers) accounted for 45% of all road deaths while pedestrians represented 18%, users of powered two-wheelers (motorbikes and mopeds) 19% and cyclists 9% of total fatalities.
Within urban areas, the pattern is however very different with vulnerable road users (pedestrians, cyclists and users of powered two-wheelers) representing just under 70% of total fatalities. Urban road user fatalities occur overwhelmingly in crashes involving cars and trucks and thus highlight the need to improve the protection of vulnerable road users.
While the increased share of cycling in the mobility mix in many Member States is extremely welcome, a serious cause for concern is the trend in the number of cyclists killed on EU roads. This is the only road user group not to see a significant drop in fatalities over the last decade, which is notably due to a persistent lack of well-equipped infrastructure. In 2022, for example, preliminary figures from France show a 30% increase in cycling fatalities compared with 2019.
In 2018, the EU has set itself a 50% reduction target for road deaths – and, for the first time, also serious injuries – by 2030. This was set out in the Commission’s Strategic Action Plan on Road Safety and EU road safety policy framework 2021-2030 which also lay out road safety plans aiming to reach zero road deaths by 2050 (‘Vision Zero’).
Road safety has also been a core element of recent EU mobility policy initiatives including the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy, the Commission proposal for a revision of the TEN-T regulation and the Urban Mobility Framework.
The EU is at the forefront of the Second Decade of Action for Road Safety, proclaimed by the UN for 2021–2030 in August 2020.
In the coming weeks, the Commission will present a package of proposals tackling road safety from a range of angles to make European roads safer still.