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Page 7 Chapter 3. International parallels The U.S. decline in motor vehicles fatalities over the period from 2007 through 2011 was paralleled in many other countries with advanced economies that were affected by the global recession. There have been several European studies of the relationship between the state of the economy and traffic safety in general, and the particular effect of the 2007-2009 recession. A recent comprehensive report by IRTAD (International Traffic Safety Data and Analysis Group) of the International Transport Forum addressed the relationship between economic conditions and road safety. The report showed that traffic fatalities declined significantly over the period. One analysis considered 18 European countries, including Ireland and the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Austria, and Sweden, as well as several smaller countries. In this analysis, each of the countries experienced a substantial decline, ranging from 14% in France to 60% in Lithuania. Germany experienced a 19% decline, the United Kingdom 35%, and Spain 40% (Antoniou, Yannis et al. n.d.). In comparison, the reduction in the U.S. over the same period was about 21.3%, which fit within the range observed for the IRTAD countries, and only somewhat less than the overall reduction for the sum of the IRTAD countries. Table 3-1 Reduction in traffic fatalities, selected European countries and the U.S., 2007-2011 CountryÂ DeclineÂ 2007Â toÂ 2011Â CountryÂ DeclineÂ 2007Â toÂ 2011Â BelgiumÂ 21.3%Â HungaryÂ 48.1%Â CzechÂ republicÂ 37.0%Â NetherlandsÂ 22.4%Â GermanyÂ 19.1%Â AustriaÂ 24.6%Â EstoniaÂ 48.5%Â PolandÂ 25.4%Â IrelandÂ 44.4%Â PortugalÂ 19.7%Â GreeceÂ 31.8%Â FinlandÂ 23.7%Â SpainÂ 39.9%Â SwedenÂ 34.0%Â FranceÂ 14.1%Â UnitedÂ KingdomÂ 34.7%Â ItalyÂ 23.2%Â IRTADÂ countriesÂ 27.3%Â LithuaniaÂ 59.6%Â USÂ 21.3%Â AdaptedÂ fromÂ (Antoniou,Â YannisÂ etÂ al.Â n.d.)Â Elvik (2013) studied the remarkable drop in traffic fatalities in the countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) (which overlaps with IRTAD). Traffic fatalities in the countries studied dropped by a combined 12.6% from 2008 through 2010. He attributed 65% of the reduction to the recession. Decreases in VMT accounted for relatively little of the decline, implying that a decline in fatal crash risk as such was the primary factor. Although data were not available to test directly,
Page 8 he suggested factors could have included a disproportionate reduction in travel by high-risk groups (e.g., young people) or more cautious driving including reduced leisure travel (Elvik 2013). Lloyd, et al. (2015) studied the decline in traffic fatalities in Great Britain from 2007 through 2010. They also found that changes in VMT contributed relatively little to the reduction, other than for heavy trucks (similar to the U.S. experience). The researchers found that the largest drop in fatalities was for young males and females, and that more recent passenger vehicle model years were associated with a lower proportion of crash fatalities, suggesting that newer cars provided more protection in crashes. In addition, they observed a decline in crashes associated with alcohol impairment, which the authors attributed to people imbibing at home rather than going out, i.e., less leisure and discretionary driving. Finally, the researchers observed a reduction in the percentage of speeders on motorways (the highest road class), which was consistent with the hypothesis that people drove more cautiously in the economically-difficult times (Lloyd, Wallbank et al. 2015). In another study, Forsman, et al., examined the substantial drop in traffic fatalities in Sweden during the recession years of 2008/2009 there. Consistent with the other studies, they found that the drop in fatalities was greater than could be explained by the recession-related decline in VMT. While the reduction in fatalities was associated with the recession, the researchersâ goal was to identify mechanisms, beyond changes in VMT, that produced the decline. The study compared the recession period with prior periods of economic growth. The researchers found that growth periods had higher numbers of crashes with multiple vehicles and multiple fatalities. The authors speculated that in periods of growth, there would be more vehicles on the road, increasing exposure to multiple vehicle crashes. Most of the other factors examined, include time of day, age and sex, alcohol-impaired driving and seatbelt usage, were not statistically significant, though primarily because of relatively small sample sizes. For example, the proportion of younger drivers in fatal crashes was only 15.0%, compared with almost 27% during periods of economic growth. This difference was in the expected direction and was of substantial magnitude, but not statistically significant because of the small sample size (Forsman, Simonsson et al. n.d.). However, it is consistent with the hypothesis that the composition of VMT (e.g., less travel by young drivers) rather than the magnitude of VMT that was significant in the decline.