The road safety performance of different countries within Europe varies substantially. The three countries with the lowest accident levels are Sweden, United Kingdom, and the Netherlands (described here as the SUN countries). The aim of the study is to determine the underlying elements in the current policies and programmes of the SUN countries, which make them particularly effective in coping with the traffic safety problem, and thereby identify policy improvements most likely to produce casualty reductions in both SUN countries and other (European) countries. Research method A methodology for the meaningful comparisons of countries has been developed and applied in analyses of - national road safety strategies, mainly over the last two decades; - fatality risks of comparable road types, road user modes and collisions between modes; - four case study subjects: drinking and driving, seat belt and child restraint use, local infrastructural improvements on urban and minor rural roads, and safety on main inter-urban roads; - changes in overall national risk and several more specific risk trends between 1980 and 2000. - Based on these analyses, the fatality reductions between 1980-2000 are attributed to road safety measures and discussed in the context of the targeted fatality reductions up to 2010. - Within the study it has not been possible to look at all policy areas in detail, so it is not possible to provide a full explanation of the effects of all policies on national risk levels. Nevertheless the case studies provide an indication of the way in which the more detailed information provides more scope to understand the effect of specific policy changes. General conclusions - all three countries have achieved similar levels of safety through continuing planned improvements in these levels over recent decades - policy areas targeted have been similar - but policies implemented have differed at a detailed level - differences in focus for safety programmes result from both different relative sizes of accident groups and differences in the structure of road safety capability which influences its ability to deliver different types of policy - progress has been achieved through directing improved policies to all three areas — vehicle, road and road users - there is room for further improvement in well-established safety fields in all three countries, and scope to learn from each other to ensure collective experience is used effectively - risk factors are provided throughout the report, for the SUN countries, which can be used by other countries as indicators of the levels of safety that are achievable in relation to different aspects of the road safety problem. Differences in these factors between the three SUN countries indicate how these indicators need to be tailored to national situations - the casualty reduction target set by the EU is ambitious and will require substantial additional actions if it is to be achieved. The current plans of the SUN countries fall below this target. Additional action is therefore required (by the EU) o either to encourage greater national activity, o or through pan-European activities — to make up this shortfall. Main conclusions with respect to differences between the SUN countries - The total risks (i.e. death rates) of the SUN countries are the lowest in the world and similar, although just significantly lower in Britain (7.28 fatalities per billion motor vehicle kilometres, versus 8.44 and 8.48 in Sweden and the Netherlands). - Traffic growth during 1980-2000 was largest in Britain and lowest in Sweden, and traffic densities on main roads in 2000 are also highest in Britain and lowest in Sweden. However, the motorway length per capita, area, and per number of motor vehicles is shortest in Britain and largest in Sweden. - British risks are highest for pedestrians and for motorcyclists, but lowest for car occupants, compared to the other countries. Factors, which may explain these risk differences include the higher traffic density on British roads, the greater use of roundabouts at junctions, and the lower average speed on main inter urban roads. - Car occupant risk is highest in Sweden. Factors that may explain this are the higher Swedish average speed on main roads, despite lower speed limits, and the lower traffic density and lower speed limit enforcement level. - Dutch mopedists have almost twice the risk of mopedists in the other countries, and drive many more kilometres. Dutch cyclist risk is lowest, but is still higher than car risk even when the risk that cars inflict on other road users is included, and Dutch citizens cycle by far the most. Factors that may explain the low cyclist risk include the presence of large numbers of cyclists and the extensive implementation of cycle facilities. - Sweden has 14% driver fatalities over 0.1% BAC in 2000 versus an estimated 17% in the Netherlands and a reported 20% in Britain. This may be explained by the differences in legal blood alcohol limit, enforcement policies, and penalties for offending in the three countries. - Levels of child restraint use and seat belt use in front and back seats are high, but lowest in the Netherlands. - The risk on motorways is almost five times lower than on other roads; this risk differs slightly in the three countries (2.0 per billion vehicle kilometres in Britain versus 2.3 in the Netherlands and 2.5 in Sweden). - The risk on Dutch roads other than motorways is about a third higher than the risk on these roads in the other countries. Factors, which might explain this, include higher exposure and risk to mopedists, higher cyclist exposure, lower belt use, and higher junction density. Main recommendations for future road safety improvements in the SUN countries - Car drivers have a higher risk in Sweden than in the other two countries; traffic safety effort in Sweden should concentrate on car drivers and their speed behaviour. - Britain would benefit from a lower blood alcohol limit for drinking and driving, more intensively enforced, but with some relaxation of penalties for the new lower limit offences. - Britain needs to find an infrastructure solution that will enable pedestrian and vehicular traffic to co-exist at lower fatality levels, for example by extending the length of urban roads with 20mph (30kph) speed limits. - Britain should also give greater emphasis to developing a more extensive high quality road network of similar density to that in the other countries; this could encourage greater acceptance of lower speeds on other roads. - The Netherlands needs to understand why its moped rider risk is so high, in order to identify an appropriate solution. - The Netherlands also needs to review its drink-driving problem to identify how best to make further reductions in alcohol related fatalities. - The Netherlands needs to identify an effective strategy to increase seat belt wearing rates to a similar level as the other two countries. Main conclusion for the Commission of the EU (and member states) - The total fatality saving of the SUN country targets for 2010 is expected to be about one third compared to 2000, while the total fatality reduction of other EU member states derived from trend extrapolations of risk reduction and traffic growth is less than 40% in that period. Therefore, the EU target of 50% fatality reduction between 2000 and 2010 seems very ambitious and its achievement requires additional actions. Main recommendations for the Commission of the EU (and member states) - Create an EU fund for subsidies assigned conditionally to enlarged national investments on large-scale implementations of infrastructural road safety measures and substantially intensified enforcement on speeding, drink driving, and seat belt or child restraint use. - Give high priority to new vehicle safety directives in order to give greater fatality reduction than the estimated average 10% reduction in 2010 compared to 2000 in the EU. - Find suitable EU actions to encourage greater application of effective road safety measures in all EU member states. This could realistically be achieved by large-scale national implementations of infrastructural road safety measures and intensified enforcement on speeding, drink driving, and use of a seat belt or child restraint in all EU member states. The latter measures are mainly the competence of EU member states, but their investments on these highly effective measures are too low for their required large-scale application. Main recommendations with respect to further (EU sponsored) studies - Other countries may wish to develop similar analyses in relation to their own national safety problems and policies. The risk indicators for the SUN countries can be used as comparators against which to benchmark their performance in different aspects of road safety, taking into account the characteristics of the different national problems. - Organising and supporting projects on road safety comparison between the SUN and other EU countries in order to understand the problems in each country and enable them to choose the best measures to improve road safety; - Supporting a second phase of the SUNflower project for an extended study: o on pedestrian and motorised two-wheeler safety o on managing speeds o on novice driver risk and training, o on safety comparisons of some similar cities and regions o on influences of cultural differences on road safety policies and road traffic behaviour o on institutional and organisational matters and funding mechanisms in and for road safety policies and programmes - To investigate and understand the differences in national accident reporting, methodology for collecting exposure data, and the development of performance indicators to compare between countries, in order to confirm the robustness of the methodology proposed.
SUNflower: A comparative study of the development of road safety in Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands