In 2020, over a quarter of the total number of bicycle kilometres were cycled on pedelecs; particularly the over-65s opt for pedelecs. This is also borne out by the crash figures: in 2019 and 2020, almost one in three of the cyclist fatalities was a pedelec rider.
In 2016, there were 189 road deaths among cyclists in the Netherlands. This is approximately 30% of the total number of road deaths. The number of seriously injured cyclists is not exactly known. Their number in 2015 was estimated to be more than 60% of the total number of serious road injuries, which would be over 13 thousand. A large proportion of the seriously injured cyclists is the result of a single bicycle crash, a crash in which no other road user is directly involved.
A safe infrastructure is of vital importance to pedestrians and cyclists. In 2010-2019, 40% of the number of road deaths were pedestrians or cyclists. In 2018, they even made up 69% of the number of seriously injured road users. If pedestrians or cyclists are involved in crashes with motorised vehicles driving faster than 30km/h, they run a significant risk of severe or fatal injuries. The design of residential areas and homezones should therefore ensure that driving speed does not exceed 30km/h.
Sustainable Road Safety implies that the traffic environment is designed to rule out serious crashes and to mitigate the severity of the crashes that do happen. The human dimension is the primary focus: man who is vulnerable, makes mistakes and does not abide by the rules. The road environment, vehicles and technology are to offer support and protection in order to make the safety of the traffic system as little dependent on individual actions as possible. Traffic professionals and central government ensure that these conditions are always met and that imperfections are corrected.
The construction of the road network and the road design have a large effect on road safety: firstly, because these make certain conflicts impossible or unlikely (e.g. physical separation of driving direction, separate cycle lanes, obstacle-free verges); secondly, because these direct the desired traffic behaviour (recognizability, predictability). The Netherlands uses three road categories: access roads, distributor roads and through roads. Each road type has its own design principles, for both road sections and intersections.
In the Netherlands, on average, more than 50 people die every year in a submerged vehicle crash. More than two thirds die from drowning. The casualties are mainly car occupants, while cyclist and mobility scooter fatalities are also numerous. Casualties are mostly male and aged 18-24. Despite the large number of casualties, not much is known about possible causes of crashes in which vehicles end up in the water. Foreign studies show that alcohol and drug use, and/or speeding are often involved.
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.
In 2021, there were 582 road deaths in the Netherlands. Although this number is again lower than in previous years, it is not the lowest number up till now, in spite of it being a ‘COVID-19 year' once more.
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.