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 2017, there were 613 road deaths in the Netherlands. After the years of decline, resulting in 570 road deaths in 2013 and 2014, and the rise to 629 road deaths in 2015, we see a small decline in 2017. Approximately one third of the road deaths are car occupants (201), and about one third are cyclists (206). 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; there were 16 road deaths among children in 2017.

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 characteristics of this mobility: roads are safe or less 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 dangerous behaviour, do or do not pay attention, et cetera. Therefore the number of fatalities in a particular subgroup is not just 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 by that group (by that mode of transport, on that road type, etc.). Differences in numbers of fatalities may therefore be attributed to differences in mobility as well as to differences in risk (for the latter subject see the archived SWOV Fact sheet Risk in traffic). Finally, chance also plays a role. (Small) differences between numbers of road deaths in consecutive years may also be coincidental.

Facts

How many road deaths were there in the Netherlands in 2017?

In 2017, the Netherlands counted 613 road deaths. This is 16 fewer than the 629 road deaths in 2016.

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 deaths in the Netherlands determined?

Before 1996, all road death statistics in the Netherlands were based on police reports. Since 1996, the number of deaths has been determined by Statistics Netherlands, in close consultation with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (IenW). Statistics Netherlands analyses the data in three different data sources to determine the number of road deaths in the Netherlands:

By linking and comparing these data sources Statistics Netherlands compiles the survey 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 data sources and, consequently, that there are no traffic deaths that are not registered in any of the data sources. This means 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 (crashes abroad, not on the public road, suicide, natural causes) are removed from the file.

 

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

Between 2010 and 2016, the registered number of road deaths in BRON was approximately 15% lower than the real number determined by Statistics Netherlands. BRON data of 2017 has not yet been published. In 2016 the BRON registration rate was 85%: 96 of the 629 road deaths (counted by Statistics Netherlands) were missing from the BRON database. The explanation of this phenomenon is subject of further investigation by SWOV.

Since 2012, Statistics Netherlands has not been allowed to report to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (IenW) which deaths in BRON it does not count as road deaths; before 2012 this was allowed. 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 real 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 both in 2015 and in 2016 the number increased. In 2017 there was yet another decline, from 231 in 2016 to 201 in 2017. Until 2013, a gradual reduction could also be observed among pedestrians, but in the subsequent years the number of road deaths among pedestrians has been fluctuating between 50 and 60; 57 in 2017. 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 is now (206). For the first time there are more road deaths among cyclists than among car occupants. Statistics Netherlands indicates that pedelecs were involved in 58 of the cases.

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Figure 2. Road deaths (actual 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 developed for different modes of transport, age groups and gender?

Figure 3 compares the current numbers of road deaths with the numbers in 2008, 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 2008, 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 2017 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. In 2017, there were 23 male and 2 female road deaths, mainly in the age group 20 to 39 year-olds.

The number of road deaths among (light-)moped riders has decreased in the past ten years, whereas the number of road deaths among drivers of mobility scooters and vehicles for the disabled has increased. Presently the numbers of road deaths in both groups are similar.

In 2017, approximately a quarter of the road deaths were female. More than one third of these (58 out of 160) were cyclists.

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Figure 3. The numbers of road deaths according to age and gender, 2017 compared with 2008. 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 registration (BRON). BRON data of 2017 has not yet been released; we therefore use the data up to and including 2016. BRON is incomplete. This means that for 15% 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 data was missing for 10% of the number of road deaths (677 road deaths registered in BRON, 750 road deaths according to Statistics Netherlands). In Figure 4, 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 with ten years earlier, the year 2007.

Road deaths occur much more frequently at 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 42 road deaths in the BRON database. In 2015, the speed limit was unknown for 34 road deaths. In 2016, relatively more road deaths were missing from the BRON file than was the case in 2007. Since 2007, an increasing proportion of the road deaths has occurred in crashes at road sections (72% as opposed to 28% at intersections). 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.

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Figure 4. Police-registered road deaths (BRON) stratified by speed limit and road authority, for 2007 and 2016 at intersections and road sections. BRON data of 2017 has not been released. All circles use the same scale, with the surface proportional to the number of road deaths. Sources: IenW, VIA, adapted by SWOV.
What is the risk of a fatal crash in Dutch traffic for different modes of transport?

The fatality risk (number of road deaths per km travelled) in the Netherlands is highest for powered two wheelers (Figure 5). The figure shows five-year averages as the calculated risks are to some extent coincidental due to statistical uncertainties in mobility data and numbers of crashes.

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Figure 5. The fatality risk and (serious) injury risk (casualties per distance travelled) in the Netherlands for various modes of transport, averaged over 5 year periods. Sources: Statistics Netherlands. IenW, DHD and 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 onward the annual number of road deaths has decreased gradually. Figures 6 and 7 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 6 the road deaths are stratified by mode of transport of the road death, and Figure 7 shows the number of road deaths per age group.

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Figure 6. 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, IenW.

 

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Figure 7. Road deaths in the Netherlands since 1950 (registered by the police until 1995; Statistics Netherlands from 1996), according to age of the casualty. Sources: Statistics Netherlands, IenW.

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 among car occupants, which made these modes of transport increasingly important for the total pattern. Since 1973 the number of road deaths has declined 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 remained practically constant.

Nowadays, hardly any road deaths among children (0-14) remain: in 2017 there were 16 road deaths in this age group. Only in 2013 and 2016 the number of deaths was slightly lower (9 and 12). Between 1950 and 1980, youths – mainly children – formed a large proportion of the road deaths. Presently road deaths mainly occur among the elderly.

What are the costs of road crashes for society?

About 13% of the total costs of road crashes is attributable to road deaths (see Figure 8). Almost half of the total costs of road crashes (about 45%) is attributable to serious road injuries, while slightly injured casualties (treated in the A&E department of a hospital) and other injured each have a share of about 7% of the total costs. Furthermore, 28% of the costs is attributable to crashes with property damage only.

The total social costs of road crashes in 2015 were estimated to be 14 billion euro (€13.0 to €15.4 billion) [1]. This is about 2% of the gross domestic product. The costs per road death are about €2.9 million and about €310,000 per serious road injury. For more information see SWOV Fact Sheet Costs of road crashes.

Figure 8. 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 with the official numbers of road deaths reported by other European countries, the Netherlands occupied sixth place in Europe with the real number of road deaths in 2016 [2]. Correction was made for the size of each country, not by comparing the number of casualties, but by comparing the traffic mortality (road deaths per inhabitant).

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 BRON’s underregistration of road deaths. On the basis of the traffic mortality based on CARE, the Netherlands takes fourth place within the EU [3]. This comparison yields a distorted picture, because the approximate 15% of road deaths that were not included in BRON, but determined by Statistics Netherlands were not taken into account.

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

[2]. Adminaite, D., Jost, G., Stipdonk, H. & Ward, H. (2017). Ranking EU progress on road safety; 10th Road Safety Performance Index Report. European Transport Safety Council ETSC, Brussels.

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

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Updated

25 Apr 2018