EU road deaths stagnate, Dublin conference hears

Road deaths across the EU like ‘losing a town the size of Sligo’.

EU road death figures are stagnating, and the Bloc must re-double its efforts to improve on-road safety. That’s the call coming from the Transport Research Arena 2024 conference, which is being held in the RDS in Dublin this week.

Irish figures on the rise

The conference aims to bring together the best minds in road safety and transport innovation from across Europe, Asia, and America but the worrying fact facing all of the delegates is that, following years of steady improvement, European road deaths have levelled out. Indeed, in Ireland, they’re rising with more than 60 people losing their lives on Irish roads so far this year, a considerable jump on 2023’s figures. The numbers are so bad that they’ve triggered a change in Garda operations and caused a review of the work of the Road Safety Authority.

European numbers fall only slightly

Across Europe, the figures from the European Commission show that around 20,400 people were killed in road crashes last year, a decrease of just 1 per cent on 2022’s total. Despite some progress since the baseline year of 2019, few EU countries are on track to meet the target of halving the number of road deaths by 2030. That 20,400 figure has been compared to the population of a town the size of Sligo.

Magda Kopczyńska is the Director General for DG MOVE in the European Commission and one of the main speakers at TRA 2024. She says now is an appropriate time to review progress on the plan: “As we reach the midpoint of our ten-year EU Road Safety Policy Framework, aiming to halve road deaths and serious injuries by 2030 and move toward 'Vision Zero' by 2050, progress has unfortunately stagnated. With around 20,400 lives lost on EU roads in 2023, barely an improvement from 2022, we're almost back to pre-COVID levels. This is akin to a town the size of Sligo vanishing yearly. It's clear we're off track. Road safety demands constant attention and shared responsibility to pave the way for safer roads and a future without fatalities or serious injuries in Europe."

Wide ranging approach

Minister of State for Transport Jack Chambers, TD is also attending and echoed Kopczyńska’s call: “Today’s talks are a timely opportunity for us all to listen and learn from our international colleagues on how we can address the tragedies we’re seeing too often on the roads in Ireland, and across Europe. Road safety is a universal concern which requires a wide ranging approach from policymakers, authorities and road users and I’m very happy to see each of these groups represented at today’s conference. It’s clear education, awareness, engineering and innovation are all essential to reducing road fatalities and in particular enforcement of the rules of the road and I’m looking forward to engaging with European colleagues on these areas going forward.”

The 2030 goal of halving deaths on Europe’s roads is only the beginning. By 2050, the EU’s stated goal is to reduce those numbers to close to zero. On the evidence being presented at TRA 2024, we still have a dreadfully long way to go.

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Published on April 16, 2024