Tuesday 19 April 2011

Netherlands' traffic deaths down again

Today “Statistics Netherlands” and the Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment announced the latest figures for traffic deaths in the Netherlands.

The press release reads:

“According to figures released today by Statistics Netherlands and the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, 640 people were killed in traffic accidents in the Netherlands in 2010. This is 11 percent fewer than the 720 deaths in 2009, and continues the downward trend observed in the last few years. The number of fatalities among people aged under 40 in particular decreased, as well as the number among cyclists and people in cars. (…)

Most of the decrease in the number of traffic deaths is accounted for by cyclists and car drivers and passengers. There were 50 fewer car deaths in 2010; at 246 this was 17 percent lower than in 2009. This group does account for most of traffic deaths however. The number of cyclists killed on Dutch roads fell from 185 in 2009 to 162 in 2010.”

Cyclists in Houten.
The safety for cyclists increases every year in the Netherlands.

The minister writes in her letter to the Tweede Kamer (the Lower House of Parliament):

"With these figures the Netherlands holds its position in the leading group of the safest countries in Europe. Regarding the percentage of decline: this is in line with other countries for which figures for 2010 are known at the moment (on average 10% lower than 2009). It should be noted that the number of deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in the Netherlands is considerably lower than in most other countries. This adds additional weight to the decrease in 2010."

There is however, also a down side to the positive figures:

''There was a notable slight rise in the number of pedestrians killed in 2010: 72 pedestrians died, of whom over 60 percent were aged 50 years or older. Pedestrians were the only group of road users for whom the number of deaths did not decrease."  

In a reaction the ANWB (motorists organisation) called for a separate investigation into the reasons of the increase of the number of deaths for this vulnerable group of traffic users for which there is no apparent cause. And the spokesperson feels the country should do even better: “The goal is to decrease the number of deaths to 500 in 2020. But we feel it is possible to go further than that, a decrease of 50% in 10 years. So from 640 deaths in 2010 to 320 in 2020”.

In her letter the minister also notes that she “brings this message with mixed feelings, as 640 deaths still mean a great deal of sorrow”.

But still it is good news that the number of especially younger and older cyclists decreased significantly.

Number of deaths 2009
Number of deaths 2010
All types of traffic
0 to 15 year olds

The footnotes to this table reveal more interesting facts:

For the over 65 year old cyclists: “This decrease seems in line with the average decrease figure, but this age group grew 3% compared to 0.5% for the whole population so the figure is actually better than it seems.”

And for cyclists in general: “In 2010, 4 cyclists were killed in right hook incidents with a truck. In 2009 this figure was 10.”

To be perfectly clear: that is the number for the whole country in the entire year.

60 years of road deaths figures for the Netherlands. Today there are less deaths than in 1950 even though the population grew from 10 million in 1950 to 16.5 million in 2010 and mobility grew exponentially.

Statistics Netherlands has one final remark: “The number of fatal casualties on Dutch roads has been decreasing since the mid-1970s, when more than 3 thousand people a year were killed in traffic accidents. (..). Since the year with the highest number of traffic deaths, 1972, the number of people killed yearly has fallen by 80 percent.”

In 1972 the Dutch population was 13 million compared to 16.5 million in 2010.

Looking at all the information it cannot be a coincidence that from the mid 1970s the people of the Netherlands stood up for the most vulnerable road users and separate bicycle infrastructure slowly became the norm.

Update: 19 April 22:00 hrs CET.

In the Dutch press today some criticisms appeared that the Dutch police allegedly does not report all deaths and injuries and that the figures would therefore be unreliable. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) issued an extra explanation today (in Dutch only) as to how they determine the figure:

"To determine the number of traffic deaths in the Netherlands CBS analysed data from three sources: data from the death certificates physicians complete with the cause of death and records of the district public prosecutors on non-natural causes of death, complemented with accident reports by the police. By linking and comparing these sources CBS determines the figure of traffic deaths.

The vast majority of deaths is based on forms prepared by doctors and the files of district public prosecutors. The additional police figures supplied Statistics Netherlands in 2010 with six additional road deaths, which is 0.9% of the total. This number varied during the period 2003-2009 between 17 deaths (2003) and 3 deaths (2008). These deaths involve in particular persons who had a traffic incident in the Netherlands but who deceased abroad.

The number of traffic deaths does not disclose the amount of accidents nor the number of victims injured in an accident. "

While it's true that deaths are on a downward trend in the Netherlands, it's rare that you can completely trust press releases. Please also read about how this downward trend reversed in 2011, and the surprising reasons why.


OldGreyBeard said...

The UK would also claim a much reduced casualty rate compared to the 1970s. The difference being that pedestrians and cyclists have reduced in number having been intimidated off the road.

Severin said...

Excellent news! I hope road deaths will be taken more seriously everywhere else (read: America) soon.

Further evidence that separate facilities are the way to go!

Theo Z said...

In todays papers, a day later, it is about: lies, gross lies and statistics.
It seems that the police, due to little time, doesn't accurately write down all the casualties.
But that doesn't mean that the figures didn't drop, they are only a little less optimistic. According to SWOV (Stichting Onderzoek Verkeersveiligheid): "The number of people injured in road accidents is increased and there is no reason to believe that there are fewer injured are dying than before."

Mark W. said...

@Theo Z. I don’t know what paper you read, but I could not find any that printed anything about ‘lies’. The figures are not about injuries either so it is confusing to bring those into the discussion.

To find out more I went to the source and found that SWOV indeed “have their doubts” about the accuracy of the figures because the police do not register all deaths. It would be bad if these figures would be based on the police as a source only, but they are not.

Apparently more people were confused by the press, so Statistics Netherlands issued an explanation today (in Dutch only) in which they repeat that they use more sources. I will add the information in the blog post itself.

townmouse said...

And yet today, the head of the UK's main cyclists' organisation was able to say on national radio (without any contradiction) that separated cycle tracks were 'dangerous' and 'worse than useless'. Dutch cars must be made of foam rubber, if that's the case

Theo Z said...

@Mark, the sentence (The number... than before.) came from the Volkskrant.
About the information about the police, well, it could be Dagblad v/h Noorden or the radio (1)...
I am suspicious about statistics when the are much better than a year before. Always something changed with the gathering of such material, not always deliberately, but...

Neil said...

Well shared use pavements as implemented in UK are generally the worst form of cycle provision - however they should call that a 'separated cycle track'. I didn't hear the radio program though.

John the Monkey said...


Most of the ones I presently ride, I would agree with him. They're appallingly maintainted, badly designed and end in places seemingly designed to place you in the largest possible amount of danger. I only had one ear on the discussion, but assume the comment was in response to the various callers demanding that we stop using "their" (motorists) roads?

Personally, I've yet to ride a UK facility that I felt had been built to facilitate cycling.

Kim said...

The United Kingdom claims to have lowest road death rate in the European Union (at 3.8 per 100,000 inhabitants, NL has 3.9 per 100,000 inhabitants), however, the UK has one of the worst records for child pedestrian and cycle deaths in the EU.

Another thing which should be noted (certainly here in the UK and probably elsewhere) is the fall in death rates is far faster than serious injuries. This reflects improvements in causality handling and hospital treatment, meaning that road causalities who would have died in past years are now surviving and being recorded as seriously injured instead. A decline in death rate by its self does not mean an increase in safety.

Given the UK's poor record on child road safety what does the UK Government do about it? Well they blame the victim of course, it is easier that dealing with the problem.

inconvenient_truth said...

@townmouse. I heard some of that broadcast as well. Frankly, the head of the UK's main cyclists' organisation is 'dangerous' and 'worse than useless'. When asked what we could learn from successful policies abroad, he could only suggest 20mph speed limits. This was a programme about cyclist safety, for heaven's sake, and he refused to countenance the idea that, just maybe, urban roads with high levels of motorised traffic were too dangerous for cyclists to mix. The policy is in fact dead simple -the busier the road, the greater the need for high quality infrastructure. But the guy lives in his own little UK cycling world, and just cannot see what a failure it is. Why can't the BBC ring you if they want "expert opinion", David?

tOM Trottier said...

Does that include all cycling deaths, or only collisions with motor vehicles?

Mark W. said...

@tOM Trottier these are all deaths. No causes specified.

Peter said...

I would suggest to look closely at the figures for oil prices. There is an uncannily close correlation with the Netherlands traffic deaths graph. This also helps remind us that it is motor vehicles that do the killing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Oil_Prices_1861_2007.svg

Russell H said...

Very interesting to read your analysis ... and frustrating that it's hard to compare stats between countries. I live in Brighton and Hove, and I have a child, and I cycle, and the State is encouraging me to use the bicycle to get to work and school.

So I want to ask is it more dangerous to cycle - or to use the car? The 2010 stats say there were 17,000 cyclists injured on British Roads, and 111 killed. Not so very different to NL stats? But only 2% of journeys in UK are made by cycle vs 27% in NL. if we correct for low cycle use in UK, we might be heading for a figure in excess of ten times more dangerous to cycle in UK than NL. PER MILE traveled.

But I want to know: is it safer to cycle to work and school - or safer to drive, catch bus etc? My analysis shows on average it is 10 to 17 times more dangerous to cycle a mile on British roads than to ride in a car.

What to do about it? I believe main roads need segregated cycle lanes to cater for all abilities. In my blog, I often talk of the Dutch system, since I lived in Den Hague and experienced mass cycling.

So far as I can see, if it is one mile to cycle to school/work, I want to compare casualties per mile traveled/cycled/driven. That is the best way to compare safety - to look at the typical journey.

So, I'm wondering if you can extend this NL casualty data to compare with my UK stats analysis which shows cyclists on urban A roads are 17 times more likely to be injured than their counterparts in cars: (links from my blog here http://russellhoneyman.blogspot.com/2011/08/urban-roads-17-times-more-dangerous-for.html)

All you really need to add to the data is how many billion miles were cycled in NL, and how many driven by cars, in the relevant period? Then we can directly compare with stats of reported road casualites per (billion) miles traveled.