European Commission publishes its preliminary figures on road fatalities for 2022. Around 20,600 people were killed in road crashes last year, a 3% increase in 2021 as traffic levels recovered after the pandemic. This represents, however 2,000 fewer fatalities (-10%) compared with the pre-pandemic year 2019. The EU and UN’s target is to halve the number of road deaths by 2030.  

Contrasting trends across Member States

EU-wide, road deaths in 2022 rose by 3% on the previous year, not least as traffic levels recovered levels following the pandemic. Importantly, many of the gains achieved during the COVID-19 period (including a fall of 17% between 2019 and 2020) have not been lost. Compared with 2019, the number of deaths in 2022 fell by 10%.

However, progress has been very uneven between Member States. The largest decreases, of more than 30%, were reported in Lithuania and Poland, with Denmark also recording a 23% 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. (It is important to note that this is based on preliminary and often partial data.)

The overall rankingof 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.

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.

Source: European Commission