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2016/17 Accident Prevention Report

Number of road fatalities has never been so low

© Alexander Hunger

Key statements of the accident prevention report

New development: 3,180 people died in traffic accidents in Germany in 2017. This was 26 fatalities or 0.8 percent less than in 2016 and is the lowest level since the beginning of the systematic traffic census in 1950 - with traffic growing steadily. In the first half of 2018, the number of road deaths fell by a further 3.3 percent.

Long-term development: Overall, the number of road deaths fell by 20 percent between 2011 and 2017. Compared to 2001, there was a decrease of more than 50 percent, compared to 1991 a decrease of more than 70 percent. For various groups of road users, the number of fatalities between 2000 and 2017 fell as follows:

  • Drivers by -67 percent
  • Cyclists by -42 percent
  • Pedestrians by -51 percent
  • Motorcyclists by -38 percent (motorcycles with official registration plates)
  • Drivers by -40 percent
  • For children by -75 percent
  • Seniors by -24 percent
  • Young drivers by -77 percent

Excerpt "3.3 Cyclists" (p. 19ff) from the accident report:

In 2017, 79,826 accidents involving cyclists occurred. 382 cyclists died and 79,346 were injured. This corresponds to 12% of all fatalities and 20% of all injuries. The number of cyclists killed fell by almost 3% compared with 2016 (2016: 393 cyclists killed). 14,124 cyclists were seriously injured and 65,222 were slightly injured. Here, too, there were hardly any changes compared to 2016.

The long-term development of the number of accidents involving cyclists and the number of cyclists who were seriously or slightly injured has remained more or less constant since 2000. The number of accidents involving cyclists and lightly injured cyclists has even increased by 8% and 14% respectively since 2000. Only the number of fatally injured cyclists has fallen significantly by around 42% since 2000. Similar to pedestrians, this overall positive development has stagnated since 2010.

The age distribution of cyclists involved in accidents in 2017 shows a high proportion of cyclists over 50 years of age, especially those who are seriously injured and those who have died. The proportion of senior citizens among all cyclists killed is particularly striking. In 2017, 65% of all cyclists killed were over 60 years old. Almost half of the fatally injured cyclists (49%) were 70 years or older. Compared to 2015, these percentages have increased by five percentage points (60% and 44% respectively). If only the slightly injured cyclists are considered, the shares are lower with increasing age. In other words, the younger age groups also have a comparable frequency of accidents involving bicycles, but with increasing age the risk of fatal injuries increases.

Looking at the causative status of cyclists involved in accidents, 3 groups can be distinguished:

  • Those who have been injured in a single accident without the involvement of another vehicle or pedestrian.
  • Casualties who, in an accident involving another vehicle or pedestrians, are involved in an accident and who are listed by the police as the main cause of the accident.
  • Persons who have been injured in an accident with another vehicle or pedestrians, but who have not been accepted by the police as the main cause of the accident.

Almost one in four cyclists killed in 2017 was involved in a traffic accident without the involvement of another vehicle or pedestrian. By definition, the cyclist then is always the main cause of the accident. Approximately one third of the killed cyclists were registered by the police as the main cause of an accident with involvement of two or more other persons. Thus, about 60% of the killed cyclists are classified by the police as the main cause of the accident. For about 40 % of the killed cyclists, the opponents of the accident were considered to be the main cause of the accident.

In the distribution of the accident opponents of cyclists there are clear differences between accidents of cyclists in urban areas and on country roads. The most frequent opponents of accidents involving cyclists were passenger cars (2017: urban: 61%; country road: 41%). While every third bicycle accident on rural roads was a single accident, only 18% of accidents involving cyclists in urban areas did not involve any other vehicles or pedestrians

Similar to those walking, goods road transport vehicles play only a subordinate role as opponents of accidents in the proportion of accidents involving cyclists. However, here too the accidents between goods road transport vehicles and cyclists are on average much more serious. In recent months, accidents between cyclists and trucks turning right have increasingly come into the focus of public attention. These so-called "blind spot" accidents are very often associated with serious and fatal injuries for cyclists. Recent media coverage has increasingly given the impression that the number of such accidents has risen sharply in the recent past. Initial rough projections, however, show that the number of "blind spot" accidents has remained relatively constant over the past few years. Nevertheless, measures to prevent these accidents offer a high potential for avoiding the most serious consequences.

Since 2014, official accident statistics have allowed to make a distinction between conventional bicycles and pedelecs (e-bikes with a maximum speed of up to 25 km/h and a rated continuous engine output of up to 250 watts max.). The number of pedelec accidents and the number of pedelec users who have been involved in accidents has risen steadily since then. A large part of the rising figures is due to the strong increase in sales of pedelecs and their increasing use. If one distinguishes the fatally injured cyclists according to their vehicle, it can be seen that in 2015 about 9% of the fatally injured cyclists had an accident with a pedelec. Last year, this proportion was already 18%. Here, too, senior citizens are disproportionately affected, especially those between 70 and 79 years of age. The age distribution of pedelec users - including those with serious and light injuries - makes it clear that pedelecs plays a role mainly from the age groups over 50, although the proportion of pedelec users has also increased in the younger age groups over the past two years. This corresponds roughly to the studies on the use of pedelecs in road traffic.

In addition to pedestrians and cyclists on motorised two-wheelers, cyclists belong to the group of unprotected road users for whom the consequences of an accident in the event of a collision are not mitigated by passive protective devices on the vehicle side. An important way to avoid serious head injuries is to wear a bicycle helmet. In 2017, 19% of all cyclists across all age groups wore a bicycle helmet in urban areas (2014: 17%). The proportion of people wearing helmets varies greatly depending on the age group. While 72% of children from 6 to 10 years of age wore a bicycle helmet, only 31% of 11-16 year olds and only under 10% of 17-30 year olds wore a bicycle helmet. Older cyclists over 30 years of age wore between 18% and 27% of a bicycle helmet in 2017, depending on the age group.