Serious injuries should not be overlooked
The number of fatalities is typically the main indicator for road safety. Researchers in the Transport Research Centre Verne have investigated how the number of serious road traffic injuries reshapes our notion of road safety.
Two-wheel riders, such as cyclists, moped riders and motorcyclists, have a higher risk of serious injuries.
The most important road safety performance indicator is the number of fatalities. As statistical methods improve and the number of fatalities decreases, more emphasis is now also placed on serious road traffic injuries. Recent research conducted in the Transport Research Centre Verne at Tampere University of Technology (TUT) and published in the journal titled Transport Policy compares the number of road traffic deaths and serious injuries in Sweden, the Netherlands and Finland. The investigation includes all serious injuries recorded in the statistics, including those that only appear in hospital records.
Based on the number of fatalities, road traffic is safer in Sweden (3.2 fatalities/100,000 inhabitants) and the Netherlands (3.7) than in Finland (4.9). When looking at the number of serious injuries, the Netherlands (39.8 seriously injured/100,000 inhabitants) lags behind Sweden (11.4) and Finland (16.7).
“Cycling is so popular in the Netherlands that serious cycling injuries are quite common, which partly explains why the injury rate is much higher than the fatality rate,” says researcher Roni Utriainen from Verne.
Two-wheel riders, such as cyclists, moped riders and motorcyclists, have a higher risk of serious injuries. In Finland and Sweden, cyclists account for 31-32 per cent of all serious injuries but only 8-12 per cent of fatalities. While the majority of road traffic deaths are occupants of passenger vehicles in Finland and Sweden, both car drivers and cyclists suffer an equal number of serious injuries each year.
KSI indicator paints a broader picture
The research results demonstrate that the overall view of road safety could be broadened by looking at the total number of people who are killed or seriously injured (KSI). In Finland, an average of 1,164 people were either killed or seriously injured in road traffic each year between 2014 and 2015. An average of 250 people died in traffic accidents on an annual basis.
“There may be a fine line between a fatal injury and a serious one and the number of deaths may vary substantially from year to year. As KSI includes more incidents, it is a more accurate and reliable indicator for road safety.”
“The number of serious injuries and KSI should be adopted as the key indicators for measuring road safety. If we only focus on fatal accidents in our efforts to improve road safety, we may overlook essential measures that should be taken to prevent serious injuries,” emphasizes Utriainen.