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 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.

This fact sheet discusses the development of the number of serious road injuries in the Netherlands. Internationally, serious road injuries are defined as persons having sustained injuries in a road crash, whose injuries have a maximum severity of 3 on the medical injury scale AIS (MAIS3+). In the Netherlands, the definition is slightly different: serious road injuries are persons admitted to hospital for injuries with a maximum severity of 2 or more (MAIS2+) and that have not died within 30 days after the crash.

A progressive penalty system encompasses heavier or more far-reaching sanctions being imposed as one commits more offences. A progressive penalty system is often called a progressive fines system if it involves increasingly higher financial penalties (fines), but (other) recidivism schemes such as demerit points systems can also be seen as a progressive penalty systems.

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.