According to the World Health Organization, some 1.35 million people died in traffic-related accidents in 2018. Money-wise, the costs of road accidents to society have been calculated at a staggering €130 billion a year, in Europe alone. But don’t just blame the cars for the accidents.
The number one cause of traffic accidents is excessive speed. The other main, often related aspect of “the human factor” is DUI, driving whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Statistically, these fundamental causes far outweigh the often-discussed distraction of mobile devices, car radios, and GPS systems.
Further down the list come other causes, such as bad roads and cars. Worn-out tires, bad breaks, and bad steering racks are almost always a matter of neglected maintenance. So, again: The human factor.
The reason why we almost always focus on Euro NCAP results and technical safety features is that it’s so much easier to deal with technical systems than with the human psyche. Or, indeed, our own shortcomings behind the steering wheel.
The good news is that traffic safety has come a long way in recent years. In the UK, for example, fatalities were reduced by fully 46 percent between 1979 and 2002. Similar figures were reported from many other countries. The European Union reports around 25,100 fatalities in 2018, which effectively makes it the world’s safest traffic environment. The EU has also laid out a plan, Vision Zero, to entirely eliminate traffic-related deaths by 2050.