Fact sheet

Road deaths in the Netherlands

Summary

This fact sheet outlines the development of the number of road deaths in the Netherlands since 1950. After a rise in the 1950s and 1960s, the number of road deaths in the Netherlands has shown a gradual decline since 1973. In 2016, there were 629 road deaths in the Netherlands. After the years of decline, resulting in 570 road deaths in 2013 and 2014, and the rise to 621 road deaths in 2015, we face yet another increase in 2016. More than a third of the road deaths are car occupants (231), almost a third are cyclists (189). Measured by the population size, relatively many fatalities occur among youths and young adults (15-29 years) and among the elderly (over-65s). Relatively few children (0-14 years) are killed in Dutch traffic; in 2016, there were 12 road deaths among children. 

When comparing numbers of road deaths according to different subgroups (e.g. age, mode of transport, road type) it should be borne in mind that the number of road crash casualties depends on the distance travelled: the more one travels, the greater the probability of a crash. The number of casualties also depends on the safety features of this mobility: roads are safe or not so safe and the same is the case for vehicles. In addition the traffic behaviour also affects the probability of being involved in a crash. Of course it also makes a difference whether other road users display safe or hazardous behaviour, do or do not pay attention, et cetera. Therefore the number of fatalities in a particular subgroup is not only determined by how dangerous that group is (the risk of a specific age group, gender, mode of transport or road type) but also by the distance travelled of that group (by that mode of transport, on that road type, etc.). Differences in numbers of fatalities may be attributed to differences in mobility as well as to differences in risk (see for the latter subject the archived SWOV Fact sheet Risk in traffic).

Facts

How many road deaths were there in the Netherlands in 2016?

In 2016, the Netherlands counted 629 road deaths. This number is slightly higher than the 621 road deaths in 2015.

What is the official definition of a road death?

The international definition of a road death is as follows: a casualty who, as a result of a crash on a public road in which at least one moving vehicle is involved, dies within thirty days from the consequences of that crash.

How is the number of road fatalities in the Netherlands determined?

Before 1996, all road death statistics in the Netherlands were based on police reports. Since 1996, the number of deaths is determined by Statistics Netherlands, in close consultation with the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment (IenM). Statistics Netherlands uses three different data sources to determine the number of road deaths in the Netherlands:

  1. Data from the cause of death forms filled out by a coroner;
  2. The district courts dossiers on deaths of unnatural causes;
  3. The police crash reports (Database of Registered Crashes in the Netherlands called BRON). This database is published by the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment.

By linking and comparing these data sources Statistics Netherlands composes the overview of the number of road deaths. This can be seen in Figure 1.

Figure 1. The number of road deaths is determined using three sources. A road death can be included in one or more of these sources.

 

Statistics Netherlands uses the starting point that all road deaths are registered in at least one of the three sources and that there are therefore no traffic deaths that are not registered in any of these sources. This means that the white area in the circle around the three coloured circles in Figure 1 contains no road deaths. Based on analysis of the data Statistics Netherlands determines the number of road deaths. Double countings are removed, and casualties that should not be included in the road deaths in the Netherlands (crashes abroad, not on the public road, suicide, natural causes) are removed.

The police makes its data available to Statistics Netherlands and the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment (IenM) for the BRON database.Together with the Dutch Association of Insurers and consultancy firm VIA Traffic Solutions Software, the police also uses this data to build the STAR database[i] of road traffic crashes. In this manner the police contributes to the further improvement of the registration of road crash data.


[i] STAR = Smart Traffic Accident Reporting

What is the difference between the registered number and the real number of road deaths?

Between 2010 and 2015, the registered number of road deaths in BRON was approximately 15% lower than the 'real' number determined by Statistics Netherlands. To this date BRON2016 has not yet been published. Instead SWOV uses data from the STAR database[i] made available by VIA Traffic Solutions Software. This data is based on the police registration as well. If we assume that this database contains the same number of road deaths as BRON, the registration rate has declined to less than 80%: 131 out of 629 road deaths are still missing from the STAR database. The explanation of this phenomenon is subject of study by police and VIA, in collaboration with SWOV and IenM. It should be noted that Statistics Netherlands is not allowed to report to IenM which deaths are not counted as road deaths. As a result, the number of road deaths for some groups may be lower than the number recorded in BRON by IenM.

It should be noted that Statistics Netherlands is not allowed to report to the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment which deaths are not counted as road deaths. As a result, the number of road deaths for some groups may be lower than the number recorded in BRON.


[i] STAR = Smart Traffic Accident Reporting, initiated by the Dutch Association of Insurers, the police and VIA Traffic Solutions Software. Data included in STAR are based on police data. The Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment (IenM) will publish the BRON database with official registered road traffic crashes in November 2017.

How has the number of road deaths in the Netherlands developed over the past ten years?

Figure 2 shows the development of the real number of road deaths (determined by Statistics Netherlands) according to mode of transport during the last ten years. Until some years ago, the number of road deaths among car occupants showed a considerable decline, but in 2015 and 2016 their number increased. Also among pedestrians a gradual reduction could be observed. The decline was less obvious for other modes of transport. The number of road deaths among cyclists does not seem to have changed for years.

Figure 2. Road deaths (factual number) in the Netherlands in the past ten years, according to mode of transport. The category (light-)mopeds also includes microcars. Source: CBS Statline.
How has the number of road deaths in the Netherlands developed according to different modes of transport, age groups and gender?

Figure 3 compares the current numbers of road deaths with the numbers in 2007, stratified by mode of transport, age and gender. The figure shows that there have been shifts in recent years: for instance from young male drivers to older male cyclists. Since 2007, the number of road deaths among young drivers in particular has declined. In recent years, however, their number has risen again to the values for 2016 shown in the figure. A similar development can be observed among (also male) drivers of trucks and delivery vehicles: after a decline up to 2014 their number of road deaths also increased in 2015 and 2016.

Until 2015, all motorized vehicles for the disabled were included in the category (light-)mopeds. Since 2015, Statistics Netherlands differentiates this data for the available time interval (1996-2016). Road deaths among drivers of microcars, however, are still considered part of the category (light-)mopeds. We see that the casualties in both these categories are often men. The number of road deaths among (light-)moped riders has decreased in the past ten years, whereas the number of deaths among drivers of mobility scooters and vehicles for the disabled has increased. Presently the numbers of road deaths in both groups are about equal.

In 2016, approximately a quarter of the road deaths are female. More than one third of these (64 out of 171) are cyclists.

Figure 3. The numbers of road deaths according to age and gender, 2016 compared with 2007. All circles use the same scale, the surface being proportional to the number. The category (light-) mopeds also includes microcars. Source: Statistics Netherlands, adapted by SWOV.
How did the number of road deaths develop for different road types?

If we want to know how many road deaths occurred on different types of roads, we have to rely on the police reports. That means that of 20% of the crashes in 2016 – the proportion that is registered by Statistics Netherlands only – we do not know where the crash occurred. In 2007 this was unknown for 10% of the number of road deaths. In Figure 4, the numbers of police reported road deaths[i] are stratified by speed limit (as far as this is registered) and road authority, at intersections and road sections, for the most recent year as compared with ten years earlier, the year 2007.

Road deaths occur more often on road sections than at intersections, except on 50 km/h municipal roads. In 2016, the speed limit of a specific road could not be retrieved for 43 road deaths in the STAR database. In 2015, the speed limit was unknown for 34 road deaths. In 2016, relatively more road deaths are missing from the STAR file than was the case in BRON in 2007. Since 2007, an increasing proportion of the road deaths has occurred in crashes at road sections. Compared to the year 2015 (not in the figure) there has been a decrease from 31 to 20 registered road deaths at 130 km/h road sections.

Figure 4. Police registered road deaths stratified by speed limit and road authority, for 2007 (BRON) and 2016 (STAR, made available by VIA)[i] at intersections and road sections. All circles use the same scale, with the surface proportional to the number of road deaths. Sources: IenM, VIA, adapted by SWOV.

 


[i] The registered numbers of road deaths 2016 are preliminary. They are based on police data that have been registered in STAR zijn opgenomen. STAR = Smart Traffic Accident Reporting, , initiated by the Dutch Association of Insurers, the police and VIA Traffic Solutions Software. The ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment will publish the BRON datafile with the official registered road traffic crashes in November 2017.

How has the number of road deaths in the Netherlands been developing since 1950?

In 1950 there were approximately 1,000 road deaths. Their number increased to over 3,000 in 1972. From 1973 onward the annual number of road deaths has decreased gradually. Figures 5 and 6 show the numbers of road deaths recorded by the police between 1950 and 1995 and the numbers of road deaths determined by Statistics Netherlands from 1996. In Figure 5 the road deaths are classified by mode of transport of the road death, and Figure 6 shows the number of road deaths per age group.

Figure 5. Road deaths in the Netherlands since 1950 (registered by the police until 1995; determined by Statistics Netherlands from 1996), according to mode of transport. In this figure the category (light-) moped also includes microcars, mobility scooters and other vehicles for the disabled. Sources: Statistics Netherlands, IenM.

 

Figure 6. Road deaths in the Netherlands since 1950 (registered by the police until 1995; Statistics Netherlands from 1996), according to age. Sources: Statistics Netherlands, IenM.

 

In 1950, particularly many road deaths occurred among cyclists and pedestrians. Then a sharp increase commenced in the number of road deaths among moped riders and above all car occupants, which made these modes of transport increasingly important for the total pattern. Since 1973 the number of road deaths has been declining for virtually all modes of transport; only the development for motorcycles and freight and delivery vehicles doesn’t entirely follow this pattern. In recent years, the number of road deaths among cyclists has been practically constant.

Nowadays hardly any road deaths among children (0-14) remain, in 2016 there were 12 road deaths in this age group. Only in 2013 the number of deaths was slightly lower (9). Between 1950 and 1980, youths – mainly children – formed a large proportion of the road deaths. Presently road deaths mainly occur among elderly people.

How does the number of road deaths in the Netherlands relate to the number in other countries?

Compared with the official numbers of road deaths reported by other European countries, the Netherlands occupied ninth place in Europe with the real number of road deaths in 2015.[i] Correction was made for the size of the country by is adjusted for the size of each country by not comparing the number of casualties, but the traffic mortality (deaths per inhabitant).

In its database CARE the EU collects the registered numbers of road deaths in the 28 Member States (this means that for example Norway and Switzerland are excluded), and without the correction that the Netherlands applies. On the basis of the traffic mortality based on CARE, the Netherlands takes fourth place within the EU.[ii] This comparison provides a distorted picture, because the approximately 90 deaths in 2015 that were not included in BRON, but determined by Statistics Netherlands were not taken into account.


[i] Adminaite, D., Jost, G., Stipdonk, H. & Ward, H. (2016). Ranking EU progress on road safety; 10th Road Safety Performance Index Report. European Transport Safety Council ETSC, Brussels.

[i] CARE (2016). Road Safety evolution in the EU by population. European Commission, Brussels.

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Updated

03 May 2017