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 2018, there were 678 road deaths in the Netherlands; the highest number since 2010. Approximately one third of the road deaths are car occupants (233), and about one third are cyclists (228). Measured by population size, road mortality is relatively high among the elderly (70+). By contrast, relatively few children (0-14 years) are killed in Dutch traffic; in 2018, 19 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 one travels, the greater the probability of a crash. 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.). Differences in numbers of fatalities may, therefore, be attributed to both the difference in exposure and the difference in risk (for the latter difference, see the archived SWOV Fact sheet Risk in traffic). And differences in the development of the number of road deaths may arise on account of the development of risk and exposure. A difference in the development of exposure may have different causes; e.g. demographic trends such as ageing. 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 2018?

In 2018, the number of road deaths amounted to 678. That is 65 more than the 613 road deaths in 2017.

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 [1] .

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) file of registered crashes in the Netherlands (in Dutch: BRON), based on police crash reports. This file 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 file.

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

Between 2010 and 2017, the registered number of road deaths in BRON was approximately 15% lower than the actual number determined by Statistics Netherlands. BRON data for 2018 have not been published yet. In 2017, the BRON registration rate was 87%: 78 of the 613 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 233 in 2018. The number of pedestrian road deaths also steadily declined until 2013, but since then the number has fluctuated between 50 and 60; 54 in 2018. 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 2006, the number of deaths among cyclists has not been as high as  it was in 2018 (228). In 2017, for the first time more road deaths among cyclists than among car occupants were counted. In 2018 however, the number of road deaths among car occupants was, once more, somewhat higher than among cyclists. Statistics Netherlands indicates that at least 57 of the cyclists killed rode pedelecs. 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.Source: CBS Statline.
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 2018. Most fatalities occurred among car occupants (34%) and cyclists (34%). Powered two-wheelers (a total of 12%) are the third largest group, half of them being motorcyclists, the other half being (light) moped riders (including microcars, speed pedelecs or stints/electric child carts). In 2018, 8% of the road deaths were pedestrians, 7% riders of mobility scooters and 4% a truck or delivery van occupant. The mode of transport of 1% of the road deaths is unknown.

Figure 3. Road deaths in the Netherlands in 2018, by mode of transport. *The category (light) mopeds also includes microcars, speed pedelecs and stints (electric child carts). Source: Statistics Netherlands.

 

Figure 4 shows the age distribution of the road deaths in 2018. Most road deaths (21%) involved people who were 80 years old or older, followed by the group aged between 70 and 80 years (19%). Proportionately, measured by population size, the number of road deaths among the elderly is also high (70+; not in figure). The number of road deaths among children and youngsters under 20 years was lowest (8%). In 2018, almost three quarters of the road deaths were males, one quarter females (Figure 5).

Figure 4. Road deaths in the Netherlands in 2018, by age group. Source: Statistics Netherlands.
 
Figure 5. Road deaths in the Netherlands in 2018, by gender. Source: Statistics Netherlands.
How has the number of road deaths developed for different modes of transport, age groups and gender?

Figure 6 compares the number of road deaths in 2018 to the number in 2009, by mode of transport, age and gender. The figure shows that there have been shifts in recent years: for instance from young male car occupants to older male cyclists. In the period 2009-2018, the number of road deaths among male cyclists aged 80 years or over fluctuates between 26 and 47 a year, but has, for the last few years, been consistently higher than 40 a year. Since 2009, the number of road deaths among young male car occupants has decreased, but has risen again in the last few years. In 2009, relatively many young female car occupants were killed; since then, the emphasis has shifted to older age groups.

In the last ten years, the number of road deaths among (light) moped riders has decreased, whereas the number of road deaths among mobility scooter riders has increased. Currently, the numbers of road deaths for both modes of transport are similar: over 40 a year.

In 2018, more than a quarter of road deaths were females. More than one third of them (71 out of 193) were cyclists. Since 2009, the overall number of pedestrians killed after a crash involving a vehicle has decreased, but in the last few years, this decrease has no longer been apparent: the number of pedestrian road deaths currently fluctuates between 50 and 60 a year.

Figure 6. Number of road deaths by mode of transport, age and gender, 2018 compared to 2009. All circles use the same scale, the surface being proportional to the number. The category of (light) mopeds also includes microcars, speed pedelecs and stints (electric child carts). 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 file ‘Registered Crashes in the Netherlands’ (BRON in Dutch) on behalf of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. BRON is incomplete. Of the 613 deaths in 2017 (the most recent year registered in BRON at this time) 535 were registered in BRON and 78 were only registered by Statistics Netherlands. This implies that for 13% of the crashes in 2017  – the proportion that was registered by Statistics Netherlands only – we do not know where the crash occurred. In addition, for 2% 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 7) and for 1% of the road deaths we do not know which speed limit was valid on the road where the accident occurred (see Figure 8).

Of the road deaths in the police register (BRON) 58% occurred outside the urban area (50% of the overall number of deaths). The remaining 41% (35% of all deaths) occurred in the urban area. The percentages are shown in Figure 7.  

Figure 8 shows the number of road deaths, according to speed limits. It shows that the largest number of road deaths (27% of the overall number of deaths; this is 31% of the deaths registered in BRON) occurs on 50 km/h roads, while the second largest number (22% of the total number of deaths and 25% of the deaths registered in BRON) occurs on 80km/h roads. On 60km/h roads, the number of deaths is also substantial, viz. 14% of the road deaths (16% of the deaths in BRON). On roads with a speed limit of 120 or 130 km/h, the percentage amounts to 7%. On 30km/h roads the percentage is similar (8%).

In 2017, 61% of the actual number of fatal crashes occurred on road sections and 26% at intersections (see Figure 9; 70% and 30% respectively of the police registered numbers in BRON)

Figure 7. Road deaths 2017, in and outside the urban area. Sources: IenW, (BRON) , Statistics Netherlands, adapted by SWOV.

 

Figure 8. Road deaths 2017 by speed limit. Sources: IenW (BRON), Statistics Netherlands, adapted by SWOV.

 

Figure 9. Road deaths 2017 by road section and intersection. Sources: IenW (BRON), Statistics Netherlands, adapted by SWOV.

 

Figure 10 shows the 2017 road deaths according to road authority. The largest number of road deaths occurs on local roads (51%  of the overall number, 59% of the numbers registered in BRON), followed by regional roads (19% of the overall number and 22% registered in BRON) and national roads (13% of the overall number and 14% registered in BRON). The smallest number of road deaths occur on roads managed by the remaining road authorities, such as water authorities (4% of the overall number, 5% registered in BRON). These numbers 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 10. Road deaths 2017 by road authority. Sources: IenW (BRON) 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 occur on different types of roads, we have to rely on police registration which the Directorate of Public Works and Water Management processes in its file ‘Registered Crashes in the Netherlands’ (BRON in Dutch) on behalf of Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. BRON is incomplete. Of the 613 deaths in 2017 (the most recent year registered in BRON at this time), 535 were registered in BRON and 78 were only registered in the road death statistics of Statistics Netherlands. This means that for 13% of the crashes in 2017 – the proportion that is registered by Statistics Netherlands only – we do not know where the crash occurred. In 2008 this data was missing for 10% of the number of road deaths. In Figure 11, the numbers of police-reported road deaths have been 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 to ten years earlier, the year 2008.

Road deaths occur much more frequently at road sections than at intersections, except on 50 km/h municipal roads. In 2017, more road deaths are missing from the BRON file than was the case in 2008, which implies that the numbers for both years are not directly comparable. Relatively speaking, since 2008, a larger proportion of the road deaths has occurred in crashes at road sections (70% as opposed to 30% at intersections). Compared to the year 2016 (not in the figure) there has been an increase of 20 to 27 registered road deaths at 130 km/h road sections.

 

Figure 11. Police-registered road deaths (BRON) stratified by speed limit and road authority, for 2008 and 2017 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 12). The figure shows four- and five-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, since the start of this century, the fatality rate for all modes of transport has decreased, with the exception of the fatality rate for cyclists which has not decreased over the last ten years.

Figure 12. The fatality risk (number of road deaths per kilometer travelled) in the Netherlands, for various modes of transport, averaged over four- or five-year periods. Sources: Statistics Netherlands, IenW, adapted by SWOV.
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 steadily increased to over 3,000 in 1972. From 1973 onwards, the annual number of road deaths has decreased gradually. Figures 13 and 14 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 13 the road deaths are stratified by the mode of transport, and Figure 14 shows the number of road deaths per age group.

Figure 13. 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 14. 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 2018 there were 19 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, it are the elderly who are increasingly killed in traffic.

What are the costs of road crashes for society?

Approximately 13% of the overall costs of road crashes is attributable to road deaths (see Figure 15). Almost half of the overall costs of road crashes (about 45%) is attributable to serious road injuries, while slightly injured casualties (treated in the emergency department of a hospital) and other injured each have a share of about 7% in the overall costs. Furthermore, 28% of the costs is attributable to crashes with property damage only (PDO).

The overall social costs of road crashes in 2015 were estimated to be 14 billion euro (€13.0 to €15.4 billion [2]). This is about 2% of the gross domestic product. The costs per road death are about €2.9 million, and per serious road injury about €310,000. For more information see SWOV Fact Sheet Road crash costs.

Figure 15. Proportions of deaths, serious/slight/other injuries and property damage only crashes of the total road crash costs (2015; PDO = property damage only). Source: KiM.
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 2017 ranked seventh in Europe [3]. 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 2017 as contrasted to 2010, the Netherlands rank 31st (out of 32) with a decrease of 4.2%.

In its database CARE, the EU collects the registered numbers of road deaths in the 28 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, the Netherlands ranks fourth within the EU [4] in 2017.  This comparison yields a distorted picture, because no account was taken of the approximate 15% 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 [5]. 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.

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]. Eurostat, ITF & UNECE (2009). Illustrated glossary for transport statistics. International Transport Forum ITF Eurostat & United Nations Economic Commission for Europe UNECE.

[2]. KiM (2016). Mobiliteitsbeeld 2016. Kennisinstituut voor Mobiliteitsbeleid, Den Haag.

[3]. Adminaite, D., Calinescu, T., Jost, G., Stipdonk, H. & Ward, H. (2018). Ranking EU progress on road safety; 12th Road Safety Performance Index Report. European Transport Safety Council ETSC, Brussels.

[4]. European Commission (2018). Road safety 2017. How is your country doing. European Commission, Mobility and transport.

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

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Updated

18 Apr 2019