In the Netherlands, a sustainable road safety approach, in which measures in the fields of Engineering, Education and Enforcement (3Es) are complementary, has been used for decades. Enforcement reduces high-risk road user behaviour and is therefore an important component of this safe system approach.

Risky road user behaviour is behaviour that adversely affects road safety, such as driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs or medicines, speeding, inappropriate speed, distracted or fatigued driving, red light negation, and failure to use or misuse means of protection (motorcycle or moped helmet, seatbelt). Younger road users more often display risky behaviour than older road users, and men more often than women.

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.

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.

More detailed information about the individual data sources can be found in the report Data Sources; A comprehensive overview.