This fact sheet considers road safety in the Netherlands from an international perspective. The number of serious road injuries is hard to compare to numbers in other countries, so we almost exclusively focus on the number of road deaths. For the Netherlands, we use the actual number of road deaths provided by Statistics Netherlands; i.e. the numbers adjusted for underregistration. We made this choice because the number of casualties among cyclists in the Netherlands is relatively high and it is these crashes that are by no means always registered.

The social costs of road crashes in the Netherlands in 2018 are estimated at 17 billion euro (between € 15.8 and € 18.6 billion euro), equivalent to more than 2% of the gross domestic product (GDP). This is significantly higher than other traffic-related social costs such as traffic congestion (€ 3.3 to € 4.3 billion) and environmental damage (€ 7 billion). The costs amount to about € 2.8 million per road death and more than € 300,000 per serious road injury.

Moped and light-moped riders are at relatively high risk of being a crash casualty. Although there is a trend towards fewer deaths, in the Netherlands, the risk of being killed or seriously injured remains very large compared with other modes of transport. In the Netherlands, helmet use is mandatory for moped riders, but not for light-moped riders. In recent years we have seen a strong increase in the number of light mopeds (especially the scooter model is widely sold), whereas the number of mopeds has been decreasing slightly.

The mobile phone is symbolic of ‘distraction in traffic’. But apart from mobile phone calls, texting, or listening to music, many drivers, cyclists and pedestrians are occupied with all sorts of other activities that may distract them. Examples are: operating the navigation system, eating, drinking, talking to passengers or daydreaming.

A bicycle helmet is intended to protect cyclists against head and brain injuries when they are involved in crashes. The helmet does not prevent bicycle crashes (see the SWOV fact sheet Cyclists for general bicycle safety measures). International research shows that in case of a crash helmeted cyclists are 60% less likely to sustain serious head/brain injuries and 70% less likely to sustain fatal head/brain injuries than cyclists not wearing a helmet.

Driving under the influence of drugs or impairing medicines reduces fitness to drive[i] and increases crash risk. Drugs have a numbing, stimulating or mind-altering effect on the brain, or a combination of these effects, which impair traffic task performance. For drug use in traffic, we (unfortunately) have to rely on research dating back to 2011.

A pedestrian fall or collision is only a road crash (pedestrian crash) when a moving vehicle is involved. Between 2010 and 2019, an annual average of 59 pedestrians were killed in road crashes. Between 1999 and 2019, the number of pedestrian road deaths dropped by 62%. Crash risk for pedestrians equals that for cyclists, while for (light) moped riders crash risk is 3 to 4 times higher, and for occupants of cars/delivery vans 7 to 8 times lower.

The weather has an influence on road safety. Weather conditions partly determine the road conditions and the driver's behaviour. Most studies into the relation between weather and road safety are about the situation during rainfall. However, many other weather conditions are serious influences: fog, snow and black ice, low sun, hard wind, and high temperatures.

In the past ten years (2006-2015) an average of 11 road deaths per year in the Netherlands was registered in crashes involving agricultural vehicles. Compared to the early 1990s, the average number of road deaths due to crashes involving an agricultural vehicle increased from 1% to 2% of the total number of road deaths in the Netherlands. Agricultural vehicles are defined as agricultural and forestry tractors as well as self-propelled machinery used in farming, construction industry, civil engineering and the maintenance of public green spaces.

Driver fatigue is estimated to be a (contributing) factor in 15 to 20% of crashes, but estimates in individual studies vary widely. Drivers who are tired are less attentive and react less quickly and less adequately than drivers who are not tired. They also get irritated and frustrated more easily.