Iceland, Italy, Portugal, Germany and even Spain all record rises in road deaths this year.
It seems the French were right and there is a Continent-wide problem.
It’s true – France is not the only country struggling with road safety this year.
Earlier this month – when French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve revealed road deaths in July rose by 19.2% – about the only factor in his favour was the claim that fatalities across the Continent has also risen, by 7% he said.
Figures now emerging from around Europe show he is likely correct. Portugal, Italy and Iceland have all shown substantial rises in road deaths while they have also risen in Spain and Germany, and apparently ‘stagnated’ in Belgium.
Road safety is a big deal in Spain these days with high-profile MP grillings of road boss María Seguí Gómez followed by TV press conferences.
Spain is steadily closing on Europe’s leaders – the UK, Sweden, Netherlands and Denmark – so a rise in fatalities this summer, albeit by just 2.3%, is a big deal, especially since it is the first rise since 2006.
Gomez pointed to a 3.4% increase in the amount of traffic on the road, but also an increase in the average age of vehicles involved in fatal accidents – from 10.4 years to 11.7 years – plus an ‘unbelievable’ thirty deaths where seatbelts were not used.
More than a quarter of deaths were on sections of road already identified as dangerous says El Pais.
However, it is the Italian figures which bolster Cazeneuve’s case the best. Fatal accidents to and from the summer holidays this July and August were up 15.7% compared to last year reports ANSA.it.
Over in Portugal, road deaths have risen by 10% in the first eight months of the year says The Portugal News, in some places by just under 80% compared to last year.
The news is better in Germany where the number of people who died in traffic accidents in the first half of this year was up 1.4% on the same period in 2014 according to the federal statistics office.
Meanwhile, a rise of 0.7% in the number of deaths on Belgian roads is hailed as a good result.
Deaths in Flanders, in the north, fell by 3% but rose by 5.1% in Wallonia in the south and remained stable in Brussels.
After calling 2014’s results ‘disastrous’, Flemish Minister for Mobility Ben Weyts told Deredactie, ’The good results of 2015 should be the beginning of the turnaround. There will a Flemish traffic safety plan with far-reaching measures in the areas of prevention and enforcement.’
While each country has its own reasons for declining road safety, it is telling the problem seems to be Europe-wide, particularly in the context of a long term trend of sharply reducing fatal road accidents.
The typically thoroughly-analysed Spanish situation seems to provide the best clues: increasing traffic as the economy starts to grow again combined with a still-aged car fleet, and roads lacking investment in recent years.
Update 8 September: the promised ‘Inter-Ministerial Road Safety Council’ meeting in France – the first meeting in four years, this one chaired by Prime Minister Manuel Valls – will be held on Friday 2 October. According to Autoroutes the figures for August, to be released in the next few days, are also ‘not good’.
Our prediction for this important meeting is that otherwise-effective Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve – he also of the Calais Migrant Crisis – will lose responsibility for road safety. Meanwhile, he has promised to respond to the on-going situation on French roads ‘with firmness’.
Update 9 September: road deaths rose by 9.5% in August according to Securite Routiere. Full details to be published at a later date.