Sweden, UK come out tops among 32 countries in road safety

A traffic marshal guiding pupils from Hong Wen School across a zebra crossing. Sweden and the UK topped a survey of 32 countries in terms of road safety, and while Singapore was not included in the survey, data shows that it would have ranked close t
A traffic marshal guiding pupils from Hong Wen School across a zebra crossing. Sweden and the UK topped a survey of 32 countries in terms of road safety, and while Singapore was not included in the survey, data shows that it would have ranked close to the top two countries. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

GERMANY - Sweden and the United Kingdom are the best among 32 countries in terms of road safety, while Argentina and Chile fared the worst, an international survey has revealed.

The number of road fatalities in Sweden was 2.7 per 100,000 people in 2013, while in the UK, it was 2.8, according to the International Road Traffic and Accident Database (IRTAD) annual report released on Wednesday.

Sweden, in particular, has managed to improve its 2012 fatality rate of 3.0, while the UK road fatality rate has stayed constant for both years.

Analyst Véronique Feypell said during the International Transport Forum (ITF) summit in Leipzig, Germany, where the report was released, that Sweden's success lies in its Vision Zero initiative.

The concept, launched in 1997 to eradicate road deaths, is based on the premise that humans make errors, and that road design and infrastructure account for this.

Among its initiatives, Vision Zero has led to the building of two-plus-one roads, which minimises head-on collisions by providing motorists travelling in opposite directions with a middle lane, so they can take turns to overtake, Ms Feypell explained.

While developed countries such as Sweden have made strides in road safety, more needs to be done in public education, enforcement and road infrastructure in developing nations, said ITF secretary-general José Viegas.

In Argentina, the road fatality rate is 12.3 and in Chile, 12.0 - both are about four times higher than that of the best performing countries. In 2012, the number was 12.4 and 11.4 respectively.

Meanwhile, the United States had a road fatality rate of 10.3.

Ms Feypell said it was difficult to assess the US as a single country, as each state could have their own set of laws, leading to varying degrees of sanctions on safety issues such as helmet and seat-belt use.

While Singapore is not among the member countries of the IRTAD, which also include France, Germany, Japan and Korea, the country's road fatality rate of 2.82 per 100,000 in 2014 puts close to the range of Sweden and UK.

"In countries like Singapore with very densely populated cities, it's important to improve the safety of vulnerable road users - pedestrians, motorcyclists, cyclists," said Ms Feypell.

Besides reducing the speeds on roads where there is high amounts of mixed traffic, more can be done infrastructure-wise such as building cycling lanes, she said. "(From) 50 years ago, cities have been developed to facilitate the movement of cars and today, we realise this is not the wisest strategy," Ms Feypell said.

adrianl@sph.com.sg