EC: Bulgaria had second-highest road death rate in EU in 2022 – preliminary data

Romania had the highest road death rate in the European Union in 2022, at 86 deaths per one million inhabitants, followed by Bulgaria at 78 per million, according to preliminary figures for road fatalities published by the European Commission (EC) on February 21.

Bulgaria’s road death rate in 2022 did, however, represent a reduction compared with previous years.

Bulgaria’s road death rate per million inhabitants was 90 in 2019, dropping to 67 in 2020 (a year in which, for a few weeks, there were intercity travel restrictions because of Covid-19), rising again to 81 in 2021.

Compared with Bulgaria’s 2021 road death rate, the decrease was five per cent.

Compared with the figure for 2019, the reduction was 15 per cent, and compared with the average for 2017-2019, the reduction was 17 per cent.

In the EU, about 20 600 people died in road crashes in 2022, a three per cent increase on 2021 as traffic levels recovered after the pandemic.

This represents, however, 2000 fewer fatalities (-10 per cent) compared with the pre-pandemic year 2019. The EU and UN target is to halve the number of road deaths by 2030.

EU-wide, road deaths in 2022 rose by three per cent on the previous year, not least as traffic levels recovered levels following the pandemic, the EC said.

Importantly, many of the gains achieved during the Covid-19 period (including a fall of 17 per cent between 2019 and 2020) have not been lost. Compared with 2019, the number of deaths in 2022 fell by 10 per cent.

However, progress has been very uneven between EU countries, the EC said.

The largest decreases, of more than 30 per cent, were reported in Lithuania and Poland, with Denmark also recording a 23 per cent fall.

By contrast, over the last three years, the number of road deaths in countries such as Ireland, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Sweden has remained rather stable or has risen.

The overall ranking of countries’ fatality rates has not changed significantly since prior to the pandemic with the safest roads in Sweden (21 deaths per one million inhabitants) and Denmark (26/million) while Romania (86/million) and Bulgaria (78/million) reported the highest rates in 2022.

The EU average was 46 road deaths per million inhabitants. 

Based on available data for 2021 (detailed 2022 data is not yet available) across the EU, 52 per cent of road traffic fatalities occurred on rural roads, versus 39 per cent in urban areas and nine per cent on motorways.

Men accounted for three out of four road deaths (78 per cent).

Car occupants (drivers and passengers) accounted for 45 per cent of all road deaths while pedestrians represented 18 per cent, users of powered two-wheelers (motorbikes and mopeds) 19 per cent and cyclists nine per cent 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 per cent of total fatalities, the EC said.

Urban road user fatalities occur overwhelmingly in crashes involving cars and lorries 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 EU countries is extremely welcome, a serious cause for concern is the trend in the number of cyclists killed on EU roads, the EC said.

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 per cent increase in cycling fatalities compared with 2019.

(Photo: Erich Kasten/

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