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Rethinking road safety to reduce fatalities

17 May 2023

Over 20,000 lives were lost on EU roads in 2022. Almost half of those were pedestrians, cyclists and people travelling by scooter or motorbike. In order to achieve Vision Zero - the European Commission’s goal to reduce road fatalities to zero by 2050 - we need to rethink road safety and mobility.

According to the Commission’s most recent data, 52% of road traffic fatalities occur on rural roads, 39% in urban areas and 9% on motorways. Within urban areas, vulnerable road users, such as cyclists and pedestrians, represent 70% of total fatalities. In fact, cyclists are the only road user group that has not experienced a drop in the number of fatalities over the last decade.

To significantly reduce these figures in the coming years and pave the way for a Europe with no road fatalities, we need to tackle all elements of the EU’s Safe System approach - safe infrastructure, safe vehicles, safe road use, safe speeds and better post-crash care. Sustainable and active mobility solutions are a key part of the equation: when prioritising active transport, including walking and cycling, and investing in clean public transport, it becomes clear that road safety is an intrinsic component of any mobility solution. For example, as part of EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK, 3,700 towns and cities have implemented new traffic regulations that support safe traffic circulation and create safer and more effective travel spaces for vulnerable users. Meanwhile, over 7,600 towns and cities have improved local infrastructure by building new footbridges, road crossings, wheelchair ramps and more, which, when correctly implemented, all improve road safety.

Because road safety and sustainable mobility are not mutually exclusive, the success of one often strengthens the effectiveness of the other. In addition to supporting local solutions, the European Commission also recently proposed updated requirements for driving licences and better cross-border enforcement of traffic rules. While bustling city centres are of major concern, the statistics reveal that rural roads are also deadly.

The proposed new driving licence rules are inspired by best practices in Member States and focus heavily on road safety. Measures include a zero tolerance rule on drinking and driving and adapting training to better prepare drivers for the presence of vulnerable users on the road. The EU is also proposing the first-ever digital driving licence that works across borders, which will allow for easier replacement, renewal and exchange.

With this Europe-wide update, we are one step closer to achieving Vision Zero. Nevertheless, long-term solutions in infrastructure are needed across Member States to protect vulnerable road users, especially in urban areas. And, there is really no excuse. Many measures require little investment and planning to implement. For example, 30 km h zones for pedestrians, new traffic signs and safety barriers. Measures that require more planning, such as better-integrated public transport, roundabouts and separate bicycle facilities, can be carried out in the near future. Regardless of the solution, there are many options for towns and cities to begin creating safer streets for all today.

For more information about permanent measures implemented as part of the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK campaign, visit our Impact page.