The safest and most dangerous roads in Europe

Major improvement in road safety in Europe from 2010-2020. Source: Eurostat.
Major improvement in road safety in Europe from 2010-2020. Source: Eurostat.

If you have driven across Europe, crossing a number of country borders on the way, you probably have noticed how the behavior on the road gradually changes. There are countries where everyone, including wild animals seem to obey the rules, and there are countries where no one respects even the key rules, like red traffic lights or speed limits. Traffic accident statistics collected from European countries indicate vast differences in road safety between north and south, and west and east.

Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, has collected traffic accident numbers from 2010 to 2020 from all EU countries, and also from Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland. Statistics are statistics, but it seems that European countries with the safest and unsafest traffic cultures are reflected in these numbers.

The top 10 safest roads in Europe by country according to Eurostat (the number indicates fatalities per million habitants in each country):

  1. Liechtenstein 0
  2. Norway 17.3
  3. Sweden 21.6
  4. Iceland 22.0
  5. Switzerland 26.4
  6. Denmark 26.6
  7. Spain 28.8
  8. Netherlands 29.6
  9. Malta 32.4
  10. Germany 32.7

In the statistics we are examining here, road safety is measured by number of fatal accidents per million habitants in each country. If you think about traffic flows in Europe, countries like Germany and France have far busier roads than the number of actual residents justify. Both are large countries that get plenty of extra traffic from neighbor countries. Traffic flows across these countries from north to south, from east to west, and vice versa. Germany’s 10th and France’s 11th positions in road safety should be considered with that in mind.

The most dangerous roads in Europe (fatal accidents per million habitants)

  • Romania 85.1
  • Latvia 72.9
  • Bulgaria 66.6
  • Poland 65.5
  • Lithuania 61.9

The difference between the safest and unsafest traffic is dramatic between east Europe and the rest of the Europe.

Here are the full details with all countries listed, and with statistics for all types of vehicles.

Road accidents in Europe in 2020. Source: eurostat.
Road accidents in Europe in 2020. Source: eurostat.

The safest European countries for cyclists (fatalities per million habitants):

  1. Iceland 0
  2. Liechtenstein 0
  3. Malta 0
  4. Norway 0.6
  5. Estonia 0.8

The most dangerous countries for cyclists (fatalities per million habitants):

  • Romania 9.9
  • Netherlands 9.1
  • Latvia 8.9
  • Belgium 7.4
  • Poland 6.6

The more cyclists there are on the roads, the more accidents they have – even in countries that have built networks of safe cycling lanes. Netherlands and Belgium (Denmark belongs to the same club of active cycling countries as well) have done that, but they still have high rate of cycling accidents compared to Denmark (3.3).

If you are on vacation in Greece or Cyprus, think twice before renting a scooter or motorcycle. Accidents are common – almost ten times more common than in Denmark. Pedestrians have to keep their eyes open especially in Romania, Latvia and Lithuania.

In any case, as the header graph indicates, overall traffic safety in Europe has dramatically improved from 2010 to 2020.

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