Fact sheet

Road deaths in the Netherlands

Summary

This fact sheet covers road deaths: the annual number in the Netherlands, how this has developed since 1950 and common characteristics such as modes of transport, age groups and crash locations. After a rise in the 1950s and 1960s, the number of road deaths in the Netherlands has shown a gradual decline since 1973. In the last few years, this decline has stagnated. In 2020, there were 610 road deaths in the Netherlands. Although this number is lower than in previous years, it is not the lowest number up till now, in spite of the remarkable ‘corona year’. As far as we can assess now, this number continues the trend of stagnation in recent years.

In 2020, slightly more than one third of the road deaths are cyclists (229; 38%), and slightly less than one third are car occupants (195). Most road deaths occur among older road users: in 2020, 225 (37%) were aged 70 or over. By contrast, relatively few children (0-14 years) are killed in Dutch traffic; in 2020, 17 (3%) were killed.

When comparing the number of road deaths for different subgroups (e.g. age, mode of transport, road type), it should be borne in mind that, in any case, the number of crash casualties depends on the distance travelled: the more people travel, the more frequently they may be involved in crashes. The number of casualties also depends on the safety characteristics of this exposure: roads are either safe or less safe and the same goes for vehicles. In addition, traffic behaviour also affects the probability of being involved in a crash. The number of road deaths in a particular subgroup is, therefore, not just determined by how ‘dangerous’ that subgroup is (the risk of that specific age group, gender, mode of transport or road type), but also by the distance travelled by that subgroup (by that mode of transport, on that road type, etc.). Finally, chance will always be a factor as well. (Small) differences between numbers of road deaths in consecutive years may be coincidental.

Facts

How many road deaths were there in the Netherlands in 2020?

In 2020, the number of road deaths amounted to 610. That is 51 fewer than the 661 road deaths in 2019.

What is the official definition of a road death?

The international definition of a road death is as follows: a casualty who, in or after 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, with the exception of suicides [1]. In the Netherlands, this international definition is also adopted [2].

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

Before 1996, all road death statistics in the Netherlands were based on police reports. Since 1996, the number of road deaths has been determined by Statistics Netherlands, in close consultation with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (IenW). Statistics Netherlands analyses the data from 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 court files on deaths by unnatural causes;
3. The (provisional) Database of Registered Crashes in the Netherlands (in Dutch: BRON), based on police crash reports. This final version of this database is published by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (IenW).

By linking and comparing these data sources Statistics Netherlands compiles the total 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 departs from the premise that all road deaths are registered in at least one of the three data sources and, consequently, that there are no traffic deaths that are not registered in any of the data sources. This implies that the white areas in the circle around the three coloured circles in Figure 1 contain no road deaths. Based on analysis of the data, Statistics Netherlands determines the number of road deaths. Double counts are removed, and casualties that should not be included in the road deaths in the Netherlands (such as crashes abroad, crashes off public roads, suicides, natural causes of death) are removed from the database.

 

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

Between 2011 and 2020, the registered number of road deaths in BRON was approximately 16% lower than the actual number determined by Statistics Netherlands. In 2020, the BRON registration rate was 84%: 95 of the 610 road deaths (according to Statistics Netherlands) were missing from the BRON database. The reasons for these missing data are subject to further investigation by SWOV. BRON is known to miss crashes not involving any other parties, or exclusively involving non-motorized traffic, or when a casualty dies at a later date, or when there is confusion about the type of crash (vehicle entering the water, crashes at railways, indisposition, suicide, intent).

Since 2012, Statistics Netherlands has not been allowed to report to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (IenW) which fatalities in BRON it does not count as road deaths. Before 2012 this difference was reported. This means that since 2012 an undetermined number of road deaths in BRON are not in fact road deaths according to Statistics Netherlands. The result is that for some groups the number of road deaths according to Statistics Netherlands may be lower than the number reported by The Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (IenW) in BRON.

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

Figure 2 shows the development of the actual number of road deaths (determined by Statistics Netherlands) according to mode of transport over the last ten years. Until some years ago, the number of road deaths among car occupants showed a considerable decline to 187 in 2014, but from 2015 onwards the number increased to 237 in 2019; In 2020 the number decreased to 195. The number of pedestrian road deaths also steadily declined until 2013, but since then the number has fluctuated around 50 to 60. In 2020, however, fewer pedestrians were killed: 41. The general decline in the number of road deaths until 2013 is less obvious for other modes of transport.

The number of road deaths among cyclists does not seem to have decreased for years. Since 2000, the number of deaths among cyclists has not been as high as it was in 2020 (229). In 2017, for the first time more road deaths among cyclists than among car occupants were counted. In 2018 and 2019 it was just the other way around once more, but in 2020 again more cyclists than car occupants were killed in traffic. Statistics Netherlands indicates that at least 74 (32%) of the cyclists killed rode on a pedelec. The road deaths in the category ‘mobility scooters/disability vehicles’ were all, as reported by Statistics Netherlands, mobility scooter riders.

 

Figure 2. Actual number of road deaths in the Netherlands in the last ten years, according to mode of transport. The category (light-)mopeds also includes microcars and speed pedelecs. Source: Statistics Netherlands.

 

How is the number of road deaths distributed across different modes of transport, age groups and gender?

Figure 3 shows the different modes of transport at the time of the crash of the persons that were killed in 2020. Most fatalities occurred among cyclists (38%) and car occupants (32%). Powered two-wheelers (a total of 13%) are the third largest group, slightly more than half of them being motorcyclists, the rest being (light) moped riders (including microcars or speed pedelecs). In 2020, 7% of the road deaths were pedestrians, 6% riders of mobility scooters and 4% a truck or delivery van occupant. The mode of transport of 1% of the road deaths is either ‘other mode of transport’ or ‘unknown’.

Figure 3. Road deaths in the Netherlands in 2020, by mode of transport. *The category (light) mopeds also includes microcars and speed pedelecs). Source: Statistics Netherlands.

 

Figure 4 shows the age distribution of the road deaths in 2020. Most road deaths (117; 19%) involved people in their 70s, followed by the group aged 80 or over (108; 18%). Another large group are the road deaths among the 20- to 30-year-olds: 93 (15%). The number of road deaths among children and youngsters under 15 years old was lowest (17; 3%).

In 2020, 74% of the road deaths were males, 26% females.

Figure 4. Road deaths in the Netherlands in 2020, by age group. Source: Statistics Netherlands.
 
How has the number of road deaths developed for different modes of transport, age groups and gender?

Figure 5 compares the number of road deaths in 2020 to the number in 2011, by mode of transport, age and gender. The figure shows that there have been shifts in recent years: for instance from middle-aged male car occupants to older male cyclists. In the period 2011-2020, the number of road deaths among male cyclists aged 80 or over fluctuates between 30 and 50 a year. In the age group 70 to 80 years old, 47 male cyclists died in 2020. This number is higher than the 30-40 road deaths of previous years.

Between 2011 and 2020, the number of road deaths among male car occupants aged 15-30 does not show a clear trend in any direction. The same goes for female car occupants.

Trends are mainly visible in the number of road deaths among older cyclists. Particularly among road users in their 70s, the number of road deaths distinctively increased between 2011 and 2020, both among men and women.

Although the 2020 number of road deaths among mobility scooter riders was somewhat lower than previously, their number did increase in recent years; in particular among the 80+ age group (also see SWOV fact sheet Mobility scooters, enclosed disability vehicles and microcars). Currently, the annual number of road deaths in this road user group is over 30 to 40, equivalent to the number of road deaths among (light) moped riders.

In 2020, 26% of the road deaths were women. Of these female road deaths 45% (71 out of 157) were cyclists.

Since 2011, the overall number of pedestrians killed after a crash involving a vehicle has decreased. From 2014 to 2019, the number of pedestrian road deaths fluctuated between 50 and 60 a year. But in 2020, the number of road deaths decreased to 41.

Figure 5. Number of road deaths by mode of transport, age and gender, 2020 compared to 2011. All circles use the same scale, the surface being proportional to the number. The category of (light) mopeds also includes microcars and speed pedelecs . Source: Statistics Netherlands, adapted by SWOV.
How is the number of road deaths distributed across different road types?

For the number of road deaths on different types of roads, we have to rely on police registration which the Directorate of Public Works and Water Management processes in its database ‘Registered Crashes in the Netherlands’ (BRON in Dutch) on behalf of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. Of the 610 road deaths in 2020, 515 were registered in BRON and 95 were only registered by Statistics Netherlands. This implies that for 16% of the crashes in 2020 – the proportion that was registered by Statistics Netherlands only – we do not know where the crash occurred. In addition, for 3% of the road deaths registered in BRON we do not know either whether the related crash occurred in or outside the urban area (see Figure 6) and for 2% of the road deaths we do not know which speed limit was valid on the road where the crash occurred (see Figure 7).

Of the road deaths in the police register (BRON) 59% occurred outside the urban area (50% of the overall number of deaths). The remaining 37% (31% of all deaths) occurred in the urban area. The percentages are shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6. Road deaths 2020, in and outside the urban area. Sources: IenW , (BRON) , Statistics Netherlands, adapted by SWOV.

 

Figure 7 shows the number of road deaths according to speed limits. The largest number of road deaths occurs on 50km/h and 80km/h roads (on both road types, 23% of the overall number of deaths; this is 28% of the deaths registered in BRON). On 60km/h roads, the number of deaths is also substantial, viz. 17% of the road deaths (20% of the deaths in BRON). On roads with a speed limit of 100, 120 or 130 km/h, the percentage amounts to 9% (11% in BRON). On 30km/h roads the percentage is similar (overall 8%, 9% in BRON).

In 2020, 55% of the actual number of fatal crashes occurred on road sections and 30% at intersections (see Figure 8; 65% and 35% of the police registered numbers in BRON).

Figure 7. Road deaths in 2020, by speed limit. Sources: IenW , (BRON) , Statistics Netherlands, adapted by SWOV.

 Figure 8. Road deaths 2020, by road section and intersection. Sources: IenW , (BRON) , Statistics Netherlands, adapted by SWOV.

 

Figure 9 shows the 2020 road deaths according to road authority. The largest number of road deaths occurs on municipal roads (52% of the overall number, 61% of the numbers registered in BRON), followed by regional roads (21% of the overall number and 25% registered in BRON) and national roads (10% of the overall number and 11% registered in BRON). The smallest number of road deaths occur on roads managed by the remaining road authorities, such as water authorities (2% of the overall number, 3% registered in BRON). These shares not only reflect the degree of hazard on these roads, but also and particularly the number of roads and the amount of traffic on these roads.

Figure 9. Road deaths 2020, by road authority. Sources: IenW , (BRON) , Statistics Netherlands, adapted by SWOV.
How did the number of road deaths develop for different road types?

Road deaths occur much more frequently at road sections than at intersections, except on 50 km/h municipal roads. Compared to the year 2011, notable differences in 2020 are: 23 fewer registered road deaths on road sections of 120 km/h roads; 19 more on 100 km/h roads; 14 more on 130 km/h roads in 2020 (see Figure 10). In addition, fewer deaths were registered on municipal 50 km/h roads: overall 49 fewer than in 2011, both on road sections and at intersections. On 80 km/h roads, the lower (minus 20) number of road deaths for municipal road sections is remarkable. In contrast, municipal 30 km/h and 60 km/h roads show relatively large increases in registered road deaths between 2011 and 2020: 23 more on 30 km/h roads and 35 more on 60 km/h roads.

Figure 10. Police-registered road deaths (BRON) stratified by speed limit and road authority, for 2011 and 2020 at intersections and on road sections. All circles use the same scale, with the surface proportional to the number of road deaths. Sources: IenW, adapted by SWOV.
What is the risk of a fatal crash in Dutch traffic for different modes of transport?

In the Netherlands, the fatality risk (number of road deaths per km travelled) is highest for powered two-wheelers: (light) moped riders and motorcyclists (Figure 11). The figure shows two-year averages, since the annually calculated risks are to some extent coincidental due to uncertainties in exposure data and numbers of crashes. The figure also shows that, in 2010-2019, the fatality rate for all modes of transport decreased.

Figure 11. The fatality risk (number of road deaths per kilometer travelled) in the Netherlands, for various modes of transport, averaged over two-year periods. Sources: Statistics Netherlands, IenW, adapted by SWOV.
How has the number of road deaths in the Netherlands developed since 1950?

In 1950, there were approximately 1,000 road deaths. Their number steadily increased to over 3,000 in 1972. From 1973 onwards, the annual number of road deaths has decreased gradually. Figures 12 and 13 show the numbers of road deaths registered by the police between 1950 and 1995, and the numbers of road deaths determined by Statistics Netherlands from 1996 onwards. In Figure 12 the road deaths are stratified by the mode of transport, and Figure 13 shows the number of road deaths per age group.

Figure 12. Road deaths (registered by the police until 1995; determined by Statistics Netherlands from 1996 onwards) in the Netherlands since 1950, by mode of transport. The (light) moped category also includes microcars, mobility scooters and disability vehicles. Sources: Statistics Netherlands, IenW.

 

Figure 13. Road deaths (registered by the police until 1995; determined by Statistics Netherlands from 1996 onwards) in the Netherlands since 1950, by age groups. Sources: Statistics Netherlands, IenW.

 

In 1950, particularly cyclists and pedestrians were killed in traffic. Then, the number of road deaths among moped riders and, above all, car occupants started to rise sharply, which made these modes of transports more and more significant for the overall picture. Since 1973, the number of road deaths has decreased for virtually all modes of transport; an exception is the slightly deviating development for motorcycles and freight and delivery vehicles; in recent years, the number of road deaths among cyclists has also virtually stopped decreasing.

Nowadays, road deaths among children (0-14) are scarce: in 2020 there were 17 road deaths in this age group. Between 1950 and 1980, youngsters and, above all, children accounted for a large proportion of the number of road deaths. Presently, older road users are the ones who are increasingly killed in traffic.

What are the costs of road crashes for society?

Approximately 11% of the overall costs of road crashes is attributable to road deaths (see Figure 14). More than one third of the total societal costs of road crashes (about 37%) can be attributed to serious road injuries. Casualties with slight injuries (treated in a hospital emergency room) have a share of about 22% and other casualties a share of about 6% in societal costs. About a quarter (24%) of the costs is attributable to crashes with property damage only (PDO).

The overall social costs of road crashes in 2018 were estimated to be 17 billion euro (€16 to €19 billion) [3]. This is more than 2% of the gross domestic product. The costs per road death are about €2.8 million, and per serious road injury about €300,000. For more information see SWOV fact sheet Road crash costs

.

Figure 14. Proportions of deaths, serious/slight/other injuries and property damage only crashes of the total road crash costs (2018; PDO = property damage only) [3]
What is the target for the number of road deaths?

For 2020, a maximum of 500 road deaths was aimed for [4]. For the new period up to 2030, no Dutch target has been determined (yet). The minister strives for 0 road casualties in 2050. With an annual reduction of almost 11%, we will arrive at approximately 20 road deaths in 2050 [5]. In the years 2000-2010, the average annual reduction was 4%.

The European Union had also set targets for a maximum number of road deaths in 2020[i] en 2030 [6]: a 50% reduction of the number of road deaths compared to the number in 2010 and 2020 respectively. Applying these targets to the Netherlands alone, this would mean a maximum number of around 300 – 350 road deaths in 2030.[ii] Because of the lockdown measures to stop the COVID-19-virus from spreading, 2020 was an exceptional year in most countries. Whether 2020 is an appropriate reference year for the European 2030 targets is therefore still under discussion.[iii]


[ii] NB: The European Union uses the figures reported by police that are supplied by the EU countries themselves. The Dutch government proceeds from the actual numbers determined by Statistics Netherlands.

[iii] CARE Expert Meeting, February 2021, Brussels

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

Compared to the official numbers of road deaths reported by other European countries, the actual number of road deaths in the Netherlands in 2019 ranked thirteenth in Europe [7]. Correction was made for the size of each country, not by comparing the number of casualties, but by comparing traffic mortality (road deaths per inhabitant). In relation to road safety improvement measured in terms of the decrease in the number of road deaths per country in 2019 as contrasted to 2010, the Netherlands rank 31st (out of 32) with an increase of over 3%.

In its database CARE, the EU collects the registered numbers of road deaths in the 27 Member States and those in some other countries such as Norway and Switzerland. CARE does not apply a correction for underregistration of road deaths in BRON. On the basis of the traffic mortality based on CARE, using available data from 2019 [8] the Netherlands ranks fourth within the EU in 2020, and eighth when other European countries are included in the comparison [9]. These comparisons yield a distorted picture, because no account was taken of the 16% of road deaths that were not included in BRON, but were determined by Statistics Netherlands. In 2018, ETSC has examined whether other countries also use more than one source for determining the number of road deaths [10]. About half the countries surveyed (17 out of 32) incorporate hospital data, causes of deaths forms or data about deaths by unnatural causes. At this time, the exhaustiveness of police registration in the different countries is unknown.

SWOV fact sheet Dutch road safety in an international perspective compares Dutch road safety performance to that of other countries in a broader sense.

Publications and sources

Below you will find the list of references that are used in this fact sheet. In our library portal you can find more literature on this topic.

[1]. European Commission (2016). CARE database CaDaS. Directorate General for Mobility and Transport. European Commission, Brussels.

[2]. CBS (2019). Begrippen. Lijst met begrippen die CBS hanteert in zijn statistieken. CBS. Retrieved on 25-10-2019 at www.cbs.nl/nl-nl/onze-diensten/methoden/begrippen?tab=v#id=verkeersdode

[3]. KiM (2019). Mobiliteitsbeeld 2019. Kennisinstituut voor Mobiliteitsbeleid (KiM), Den Haag.

[4]. Ministerie van Verkeer en Waterstaat (2008). Strategisch Plan Verkeersveiligheid 2008-2020; Van, voor en door iedereen. Ministerie van Verkeer en Waterstaat, ’s-Gravenhage.

[5]. Weijermars, W., Schagen, I. van & Aarts, L. (2019). Verkeersveiligheidsverkenning 2030. Slachtofferprognoses en beschouwing SPV. R-2018-17. SWOV, Den Haag.

[6]. Council of the European Union (2017). Council conclusions on road safety: endorsing the Valletta Declaration of March 2017. Outcome of Proceedings from the General Secretariat of the Council. 9994/17 / TRANS 252 / 8666/1/17 REV 1 TRANS 158. Council of the European Union, Brussels.

[7]. Carson, J., Adminaité-Fodor, D.& Jost, G. (2020). Ranking EU progress on road safety; 14th Road Safety Performance Index Report. European Transport Safety Council ETSC, Brussels.

[8]. Decae, R. & Hermens, F. (2020). Road safety targets. Monitoring report. Reporting period 2010-2019. European Commission, Mobility and transport, Brussels.

[9]. EC (2020). Road Safety: Key figures 2020. European Commission, Mobility and transport. European Commission, Mobility and transport, Brussels.

[10]. Adminaite, D., Jost, G., Stipdonk, H.L. & Ward, H. (2018). An overview of road death data collection in the EU. PIN Flash Report 35. European Transport Safety Council ETSC, Brussels.

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Updated

14 Apr 2021