EC: Bulgaria had highest road fatality rate in EU in 2023 – preliminary data

Bulgaria had the highest road fatality rate in the European Union in 2023, at 82 per million inhabitants, followed by Romania, at 81 per million inhabitants, the European Commission (EC) said on March 8, citing preliminary data.

In recent years, Bulgaria had been in second place, with Romania in first place, according to final data. Final data for 2023 are expected in autumn 2024.

Bulgaria’s road fatality rate in 2023 was one per cent lower than in 2022, and 16 per cent lower than in 2019.

The EC said that in Bulgaria, the absolute number of fatalities fell between 2022 and 2023 but the population fell at a faster rate leading to an increase in the fatality rate. The percentage changes are based on the absolute number of fatalities, not the rate per million population.

The EC said that 20 400 people died in road crashes in the EU last year, a small one per cent decrease on 2022.

In spite of some progress since the baseline year of 2019, few EU member states are on track to meet the EU and UN target of halving the number of road deaths by 2030.

EU-wide, road deaths in 2023 fell by one per cent on the previous year. While this represents about 2360 fewer fatalities ( a decrease of 10 per cent) compared with 2019, the downward trend has flatlined in several EU member states.

Since 2019, the number of road deaths has scarcely fallen in Spain, France and Italy, while it has risen in Ireland, Latvia, the Netherlands, Slovakia and Sweden.

In contrast, over the past four years, Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, Hungary and Poland are on track to meet the 50 per cent reduction target in road deaths and serious injuries by 2030.

The overall ranking of countries’ fatality rates has not changed significantly, with the safest roads still found in Sweden (22 deaths per one million inhabitants) and Denmark (27/million). Bulgaria (82/million) and Romania (81/million) reported the highest fatality rates in 2023. The EU average was 46 road deaths per million inhabitants.

There were no road deaths in Liechtenstein in 2023. 

The available EU-wide data for 2022, with data for 2023 not yet available, shows that 52 per cent of road traffic fatalities occurred on rural roads, versus 38 per cent in urban areas and nine per cent on motorways.

The trend in the number of cyclists killed on EU roads is a serious concern, the EC said.

More than 2000 cyclists were killed in 2022. This is the only main road user group not to see a significant drop in fatalities over the past decade, notably because of a persistent lack of appropriate infrastructure and unsafe behaviour of all road users such as speeding, distraction and driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

Men accounted for three out of four road deaths (77 per cent). People aged 65+ are at greater risk, as they represented 29 per cent of all road deaths while they account for 21 per cent of the population. Similarly, young people aged 18-24 accounted for 12 per cent of road deaths but seven per cent of the population.

Car occupants (drivers and passengers) represented 45 per cent of all fatalities, while pedestrians accounted for 18 per cent, users of powered two-wheelers (motorbikes and mopeds) 19 per cent, and cyclists 10 per cent. The patterns change significantly depending on age. Among those aged 65+, pedestrians represent 29 per cent of fatalities and cyclists 17 per cent.

Within urban areas, vulnerable road users (pedestrians, cyclists and users of powered two-wheelers) represent almost 70 per cent of total fatalities. Urban road user fatalities occur overwhelmingly when a crash involves cars and lorries, underlining the need to improve protection of these vulnerable road users, the EC said.

(Photo: Pixabay)

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