EU is on course to miss road safety objectives if current trends not reversed, report says

Report notes Ireland had the third-lowest fatality rate in bloc in 2022 before increasing in 2023 by 20%

The European Union is on course to miss road safety objectives if current trends are not reversed, according to a new report published by bloc auditors.

In its road safety policy framework for 2021-2030, the European Commission committed to reducing to “close to zero” road deaths and serious injuries sustained on EU roads by 2050. The Commission also committed to reducing deaths and serious injury by 50 per cent on 2019′s figures by 2030.

The European Court of Auditors report, published on Tuesday, noted that efforts to reduce road deaths in the EU have stagnated in recent years. At the current rate, road deaths will fall by 25 per cent by 2030, short of the planned 50 per cent.

The report noted that Ireland had the third-lowest fatality rate in the EU in 2022, behind Sweden and Denmark. However, last year, fatalities on Irish road jumped to 184 deaths, a 20 per cent rise on 2022.


Romania had the highest level of road deaths in the EU in 2022, with 86 deaths per one million people.

At a virtual press conference, Eva Lindström, the author of the ECA report, said that the ECA was sounding a “loud and clear warning” that objectives will not be met if current trends across the bloc continue.

Asked about the Government’s plan to radically overhaul speed limits on Irish roads, Ms Lindström said that reducing speed was a cheap and effective way to counter road fatalities, but noted tackling the issue required a multifaceted approach.

This multifaceted approach is reflected in the EU’s Safe System, a framework setting out how to reach set objectives for lowering road deaths. The Safe System is comprised of eight “pillars” including safer driver behaviour, safer infrastructure, safer vehicles and effective emergency response.

“There’s not one thing that can fix everything,” Ms Lindström said. She said that changing driver behaviour was also a requirement when seeking to reverse the trend of road deaths.

She also said that she was aware that governmental efforts to reduce speed limits can come at a “political cost”.

“We know in many countries it is difficult to lower speed because of the reaction from the general public,” she said.

Ms Lindström said that it was up to member States to set the rules when it comes to driver behaviours – like drink-driving, driver distractions, and seat belt use – and also in the enforcement of those rules.

Ms Lindström also noted the importance of protecting vulnerable road users, including cyclists, motorcyclists, pedestrians and those using e-scooters. Vulnerable road users account for almost 50 per cent of EU road deaths, with 45 per cent accounted for by car occupants.

In compiling the report, the auditors looked at four EU countries – Spain, Romania, Lithuania, Slovakia – and found that levels of enforcement of road safety policy varied widely. The report also found that road safety was not always prioritised, competing for investment with “greener or sustainable transport” initiatives.

Ms Lindström noted some shortcomings of the European Commission’s approach to reaching its road safety objectives, stating that the Commission’s monitoring of road safety performance in member states is “not effective”.

The report also noted that EU action does not cover all risk areas when it comes to road safety, including driver behaviours.

Ms Lindstrom recommended that the Commission improve reporting on serious injuries and set performance targets, and to “set the ground” for prioritisation for road safety projects co-funded by the EU in member states.

“They should increase the focus on the causes of accidents, and introduced further guidance for risk areas,” she added.

Fiachra Gallagher

Fiachra Gallagher

Fiachra Gallagher is an Irish Times journalist