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Fourth country in the EU with fewer deaths

by Mark Nolan
7 minutes read

Pere Navarro and Jesus Monclús, General Director of Traffic and Director of Prevention and Road Safety at Fundación MAPFRE, respectively, are the editors of the book “From Infinity to Zero: This is how we did it”. This publication collects the living testimony of more than 50 protagonists of road safety from the last 30 years. Because Spain is the fourth European country with the lowest mortality on the road and is an international benchmark in road safety.

The data

Spain has become an international benchmark when it comes to reducing traffic accidents. Between 1989 and 2019, the number of traffic victims went from 9,344 deaths to 1,755, which represents a reduction of 80%, a figure that in 2019 placed Spain as the sixth country with the lowest rate of traffic deaths, behind Sweden, Ireland, Malta, Denmark, and Luxembourg. In 2020, Spain rose to fourth position in this ranking.

The autonomous communities that have most reduced road accidents in the last three decades are Asturias (88%), Castilla La Mancha and Castilla y León (87%), Cantabria (84%), the Basque Country (83%) and Galicia (82 %).

The testimonials

The keys to success have been many. We are talking about a model, which, in the opinion of the Minister of the Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, has been based on a “greater general awareness”, civil society as the true engine of change, which has relied on “the work of many”, from different sectors and actors that have collaborated together in an integrated manner, and that has made it possible for road accidents to be perceived as “intolerable”. For the minister “The strength of our road safety policy is based on four fundamental pillars: education in values ​​and continuous training of drivers; a precise and necessary regulation, which is complied with; the Safe System, based on accepting human error, that prevents deaths and injuries; and the associations of victims of road violence, our best guide and to whom we have given a voice”.

Most experts believe that the reduction of road accidents and serious injuries is the result of great efforts in different areas, such as education, awareness, regulation monitoring and key legislative changes, such as the points system or the reform of the Penal Code, which have been produced in an environment of significant improvement of roads and vehicles, promoted by the European Union, the United Nations and the WHO, which have made it possible to improve mobility and signalling, vehicle safety and transport of dangerous goods, harmonise the different types of driving licences and driver training, among others, and where victims’ associations have played a crucial role in making the problem visible and mobilising individual, collective and political consciences, essential for action.

But there are many other factors, such as the existence of a State policy over and above the political debate and an institutional organisation such as the DGT that has led it, as well as plans for the improvement and unfolding of the highways; the AVE, which has prevented many long-distance journeys and many victims; the improvement of health emergency services; have a well-trained, committed and stable body of public professionals at the state, regional and municipal levels; the importance of research, fundamental to discover, learn and improve the effectiveness of road safety work; the radar plan and the creation of the road safety prosecutor’s office, as highlighted by Pere Navarro and Jesus Monclús, General Director of Traffic and Director of Prevention and Road Safety of Fundación MAPFRE, respectively,

The largest retrospective in the history of road safety

The book collects the living testimonies of more than 50 protagonists of road safety in Spain in the last three decades. It also analyses the factors that have made it possible for Spain to go from being at the bottom of Europe, at the end of the 1980s, to occupying one of the positions highlighted by its relatively low accident rates. The Spanish population rate in 2019 stood at 37 deaths per million inhabitants, extremely far, for example, from that of most Latin American countries, whose index is between 142 and 209 deaths per million inhabitants.

It also allows us to recognise the work carried out by public and private entities, to appreciate their effort, to reflect on the experiences that have allowed us to get to where we are, to learn, to teach and to gain momentum to advance and achieve Goal Zero. Among them, several general traffic directors stand out, such as Miguel María Muñoz, Gregorio Serrano and María Seguí; Juan José Matarí, president of the Road Safety Commission of the Congress of Deputies; Bartolomé Vargas, coordinating prosecutor for Road Safety; Mar Cogollos, director of AESLEME; Álvaro Gómez, director of the National Road Safety Observatory; Mario Arnaldo, president of Automovilistas Europeos Asociados; the researchers, Francisco Aparicio and Blanca Arenas; businessmen such as Jorge Cosmen, president of ALSA; Jordi Jane and Teófilo de Luis, former presidents of the Congressional Road Safety and Sustainable Mobility Commission; María Teresa Sanz, former administrator of Road Safety at the European Commission; Doctors Isabel Casado and Salvador Espinosa, and international experts, such as Matthew Baldwin, European Coordinator of Road Safety and Sustainable Mobility of the European Commission, among others.

Challenges for the future

The book shows that Spain needs to “revitalize” its road safety policy in the coming years, to fight against what has been called “exhaustion” of certain road safety measures. It also highlights that to fight against the accident figures and the human pain they represent, it is necessary to focus on vulnerable users, such as pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, and users of scooters, who in 2001 represented 32% of the deceased and, in 2019, 53% of the total.

It also proposes promoting active and sustainable travel, such as cycling; pay special attention to new mobility, such as shared vehicles; and promote greater coordination in national, European and global mobility in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which, according to most authors, will contribute to halving, by 2030, the number of deaths and injuries serious, and achieve Goal Zero in the shortest time possible.

“The challenges for the future – says Pere Navarro – are, first, the safety of motorcyclists: every year we have more accidents and more deaths on motorcycles: second, pedestrians and cyclists, because there are more vulnerable deaths than occupants of cars, vans ; and third, a decided commitment to the connected vehicle, which will allow communication with other vehicles and with the infrastructure and which represents the great leap in road safety”.

For Matthew Baldwin, European Coordinator for Road Safety and Sustainable Mobility at the European Commission: “Road safety continues to be one of the great unsolved global challenges: 1,350,000 people die on the roads around the world every year. One of the basic conditions to achieve continued success is to continue improving and Spain is demonstrating this with the application of measures such as limiting city traffic to 30 kilometres per hour. Advances do not happen by chance. They are the result of visionary leadership”.

More research, technology, and education

The book emphasises that to achieve this objective we have the necessary knowledge and measures, and that it only takes more leadership, more resources and greater coordination in all areas. In this sense, it highlights the role of the investigation, essential for the statistics to be completed with detailed reports, which are analysed in real time by technical committees and allow immediate measures to be proposed to prevent the same incidents from occurring again. It also emphasises the need to make better use of traffic management technology, smart roads, advanced vehicle safety systems and connectivity, and the importance of emphasising road safety education in schools, improving awareness of drivers, with talks given by road victims.

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