Are speed cameras saving lives, and are old cars dangerous?

The number of fatal accidents in the European Union is steadily decreasing, with the exception of one member state, Malta. However, the data shows a high degree of variation: while in Romania, 98 victims die on roads for every million inhabitants, in Sweden, that rate is only 25. There are countries where good speed control systems contribute to the good results, but in other places this is not enough. As you will find out from our article, you can also drive safely with old cars.

In 2017, 25,300 people lost their lives in traffic accidents across the European Union. This figure was 54,000 in 2002, a drop of 50 percent since then, and the trend continues to improve. While the number of deaths on roads decreased by 22,500 until 2010, in the next eight years the number of victims between 2010 and 2017 dropped by only 20 percent, 6,200 deaths. Our analysis will show how are the statistics on road accident in each country, and whether there is a correlation between the number of fatal accidents, the number of speedcams placed on the raods, and the age of avarege cars.

According to data gathered by Eurostat, the EU’s data service, Romania and Sweden are the two extremes in the category of fatal accidents. In Romania, 98 people lost their lives per million habitants, while 25 died in Sweden in 2017. The Bulgarians (96) are just behind behind the Romanians, followed by the Croatians (80), the Poles (75) and the Latvian (70). Hungary is ranked 8th in this category, with 64 deaths per million inhabitants, which means that 624 people died on the road in 2017. Fourteen more than in the previous year.

On average in the EU, there are 50 deaths per million inhabitants, with 16 member states suprassing the union average. The Swedes are the best performers, an exiting United Kingdom comes in second (27), followed by Denmark (32) and the Netherlands (31).

The number of speedcams was collected by a world-wide speed camera database, SCDB. We could think perhaps that logic dictates that more speed cameras are on the road lead to less accidents. There are some data to underpin this assumption, but there are significant exceptions as well.

The number of speedcams can be determined by how many of them are placed in a country in a thousand square kilometers radius. The two extremes are: Slovakia and Ireland (with 0.2-0.2 such unites per thousand square kilometer) with Belgium (67.6) and Malta (66.5) installing the most speedcams. Hungary, with its rate of 2.8 speed cameras belongs to the less equipped countries, even if drivers do not feel that way. In any case, the EU has an average of 11.7 speedocams per thousand square kilometers.

It is telling that in Romania, the country with the highest number of fatal accidents, there are quite a few speedcams (0.9/thousand km²). Moreover, 10 out of 11 countries with the highest rate of fatalities have 0.2-4.5 devices per thousand square kilometers. There is a big leap in the 12th place with Italy: 56 deaths per million inhabitants, despite having 33.8 speedcam units per thousand square kilometers. They are followed by Belgium, which has the highest rate of speedcams, yet still account for 55 victims per million people. While browsing to the end of the list, we will not be able to draw final conclusions: while Britons have many speedcams (31.3) and few victims (27), Swedes with the lowest rate of fatalities (25) have few speedcams installed (3.8).

Let’s take a detour to Malta. There is something going wrong on the island. Between 2001 and 2017, the number of accidents in all EU countries decreased, except for Malta. In fact, in the Baltic States, fatal accidents in Estonia and Latvia there were 75 percent less fatalities in these 16 years and 72 percent less in Lithuania. In Malta, however, there is an increase of 18 percent. Even Romania, second to Malta in the number of fatalities, the siutation improved by 20 percent in that period. Hungary’s 49 percent decline placed the country at the 21st place in the EU, but it is falling behind the EU average (54.1). In the light of this, it is understandable why Malta is trying, for example, to install more speedcams. The island has the second highest rate of speedcams, but that has yet to lead to better results.

Let’s take a look at the average age of cars, where data is only available from 2014. It seems logical that where the cars are older, worse equipped or less maintained, there is more danger to human life, that is, there are more victims. But the numbers say something different. Slovakia has the oldest fleet of cars (11.3 years), there are hardly any speedcams (0.2/thousand km²), yet the country is in the median of EU member states, even though falling behind EU avarage in terms of casualties (57 victims/million inhabitants). The avarage age of Estonian cars is 11 years, and with a small number of speedcams, 36 people die in traffic accidents per million inhabitants. Finns, Spaniards, and the Dutch drive cars over nine years on average, and they have good statisctics in terms of accidents. Among them, only the Dutch have a larger number of cameras on the road (23.7/km²).

What’s interesting about the issue is that Romanians, Bulgarians and Poles have bad accident statistics even though they are driving relatively new cars (7.72, 5.54, 5.75 years). The youngest cars are to be found in Luxembourg (on average 5.55 years old), which has the highest minimum wage in the EU (€ 1738).

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