Two publications of the World Health Organisation highlight that road traffic accidents are the first cause of injury-related deaths in the world, ahead of suicides, violence, drownings, wars and burns.
1,26 million people died in road crashes worldwide in 2000, and among them 40,800 in the EU alone. Although the trend is towards fast improvements in most European countries – the number of fatalities was reduced by 28% between 1990 and 2000 – there remain strong discrepancies between the EU Member States.
If the EU average death toll is 11 people killed in car accidents per 10,000 inhabitants every year, it reaches nearly twice this number in Greece (21) and Portugal (18), but is much lower in countries such as the United Kingdom (6) and Sweden (7.
It is estimated that one third of the fatal road accidents occur in urban environment, and mostly affect pedestrians.
The EU White Paper on the future European policy released in 2001 sets an ambitious objective of reduction by 50% of the number of fatalities by 2010.