Action on Accidents and Injuries, Volume 1: Issue 3: September 2005
By Frazer Goodwin, Policy Officer,
European Transport Safety Council (ETSC)
Venturing onto the road continues to be one of the most risky
activities we all engage in during our daily lives. In the EU 25,
nearly 50,000 lives are lost annually due to road accidents,
while approximately 2.5 million injuries occur.
To put this into another context, it is the same number of lives
lost in just over a year as the USA lost during the entire Viet-
nam War. According to the WHO (World Health Organisation), road accidents
and injuries are the ninth highest global cause of DALYs (disability adjusted
life years) and are set to be the third highest by 2020 - above HIV/AIDS,
tuberculosis, diarrhoeal diseases and war1.
Moreover, it does not matter which type of road transport you use, car, bus,
bicycle or walking, all are risky as the appropriate evidence based measures
to reduce traffic injuries have not been fully implemented. However, the most
vulnerable on the road are those unprotected by an outside shield, namely
pedestrians and two-wheelers2. Vulnerable road users have a fatal accident
risk 7 to 9 times higher than those travelling by car over the same distance3.
This situation has been compounded by the fact that the greatest efforts in
improving road safety have focused on car occupants. Continuing and
strengthening these efforts remains important, but it is also vital that trans-
port safety begins to give much more attention to protecting the most vul-
nerable of our road users.
Furthermore, the situation across Europe for vulnerable road users is as
mixed as the general road safety picture. Unsurprisingly, Member States that
have a poor record overall on road safety also have a poor record for vulner-
able road users. In Poland for example, 45.8% of road deaths are pedestri-
ans or cyclists, whereas the EU average is 24%4 and this is in a member
state where the factors that make roads dangerous such as olde