Road Safety Results in Germany
Are they doing it right or are we doing it wrong?


2004 figures for road deaths in Germany reveal an 11.6% improvement in a single year. The UK has not had such an improvement in a whole decade. What do these figures mean?

Road deaths from 1993 to date:
1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
Germany 9,949 9,814 9,454 8,758 8,549 7,792 7,772 7,503 6,977 6,842 6,613 5,844
GB 3,814 3,650 3,621 3,598 3,599 3,421 3,423 3,409 3,450 3,431 3,508 n/a
Road deaths graph:

We calculated a couple of 'adjustments' to the UK data. The green trace is based on the UK fatal accident rate trend over the period 1978 to 1993. The yellow trace shows what would have happened to British road deaths if we had followed the German trend since 1993. The gap between the red actual data trace and the green and yellow traces are expressions of the so-called fatality gap. See (buckingham). The gap in 2003/2004 is over 1,000 lives per annum and represents around one third of current road deaths.

Trends Graph:

We've adjusted the British and German figures so that 1993=100%. It's very clear that Germany has enjoyed a vastly better road safety performance in terms of annual improvement over the last decade. The UK improvement established for over 25 years has stalled and appears to be reversing.

Key facts:
  • Since 1993 German road deaths have reduced by 41.3%. British road deaths have reduced by 8.2%
  • Since 1995 German road deaths have reduced by 38.2%. British road deaths have reduced by 3.3%
  • Since 1998 German road deaths have reduced by 25.0%. British road deaths have increased by 2.3%
  • If Britain had followed the German trend since 1993, road deaths would be down to 2,240 by now.
  • The German reduction between 2003 and 2004 was 11.6%. British road deaths have reduced by 8.2% since 1993.
  • If British trends had matched the German trends since 1993, over 5,500 people who have died on our roads would still be alive.
Safe Speed concludes...

UK road safety policy failure is killing us. We believe that the German improvements come mainly from improvements in vehicle safety, improvements in post crash medical care and improvements in road engineering. These same improvements apply roughly equally to UK roads, yet we're not seeing the benefits. Clearly something else is going wrong.

We are certain that UK policy is making drivers less effective on average at avoiding high severity crashes - this effect is greater than the safety benefits arriving from the items listed above and road deaths are rising. Many people suggest that an increase in traffic may be responsible for the rise in deaths but this does not fit the facts. See (smeed).

Of course, the alternate question is: "What are they doing right in Germany?" They are quite big on driver training and intelligent safety messages. Derestricted Autobahns obviously don't give out misleading messages about the dangers of numerical speed. But our bet would be that it's not really a question of what Germany are doing right - we don't think Germany are doing much to improve the performance of the average driver for example. They are getting the engineering and medical care improvements, and they are not giving out false or misleading safety messages.

We believe that the foundation of the UK policy failure is speed cameras and 'speed kills'. The loss of trend amounts to one third of road deaths and we feel confident saying that speed cameras are (indirectly) responsible for one third of current road deaths.

Data Sources

ACEA (1980 to 2000 figures)
Federal Statistical Office Germany (2004 figures PR) (earlier figures)


Safe Speed encourages comments, further information and participation from our visitors. See our (forums).

Read about our comments policy (here).

Many pages (including this one) have a specific associated forum topic. You can (view) or (add comment) to the forum topic for this page. Posting in the forum requires simple registration.

Let's make speed cameras as unacceptable as drink driving

We have a strict editorial policy regarding factual content. If any fact anywhere on this web site can be shown to be incorrect we promise to remove it or correct it as soon as possible.
Copyright © SafeSpeed 2005
Created 26/02/2005. Last update 26/02/2005