The EU road safety policy aims to cut European road deaths by 50% by 2020 compared to 2010 and reduce non-fatal injuries accordingly. To do so, it also seeks to make vulnerable road users (VRU) safer by improving communication; and improving tools for collecting and analysing accidents. However, official data for assessing road safety seems to be considerably biased against VRU.
According to police records about 1.4 million road traffic users were injured in the EU in 2014, 135 000 of which were seriously injured. In contrast, according to recent estimates of the hospital-based EU Injury Database (IDB), 3.4 million road traffic injuries occur annually, 625 000 of which must be admitted to hospital. This indicates a considerable under-reporting of road traffic injuries in police records.
Under-reporting in police records is particularly high for cyclists (by a factor of 4.5), pedestrians (1.8), and powered two-wheelers (1.9). As a result, VRU account for almost 70% of road accident casualties attending hospital, as opposed to ‘ only’ about 50% in police records. IDB data for twelve EU countries further reveal that under-reporting is especially high for senior pedestrians (65+ years).
A safe and healthy environment is a crucial factor for people to choose cycling and walking as their preferred choice of individual travel. To adequately address the safety needs of these modes of transport, the real scope and pattern of VRU accidents need to be known. In this respect, the use of hospital data in road safety management, complementary to police data, is strongly recommended.