Reducing road deaths on rural roads

In 2022, some 10,000 people died on the rural roads of Europe – more than half of all road deaths. Rural roads can be dangerous, compared to other road types. They often lack central and side barriers and allow for large speed and weight differentials between the vehicles that use them, from lorries to vulnerable cyclists and pedestrians. Single-vehicle crashes, where a fatigued driver misjudges a turn and runs off the road, are common. Head-on collisions frequently occur and are often lethal.

Rural roads can and are being made safer with interventions that do not need to be costly. Road safety audits and analysis of high-risk sites, setting appropriate speed limits and enforcing those limits, creating separated paths for cyclists and walkers, removing obstacles at the roadside. These are a few examples of what can and should be done. By following the principles of the Safe System, countries and regions across Europe are making substantial changes.

The latest PIN report from the European Transport Safety Council takes a look at progress in reducing deaths on rural roads across Europe over the last decade. And, with help from their panel of experts from across Europe, look at some remarkable interventions that are saving lives. France, Spain and the Belgian region of Flanders have reduced the speed limit across their entire rural road networks. Sweden has invested heavily in ‘2+1’ roads, which introduce a central barrier and a safety-first design. In Scotland, experiments with special road markings for motorcyclists to guide them through sharp turns, have achieved remarkable results. In the West Pomerania region of Poland, 800 km of high-quality cycle routes have been built in five years.

So, with political leadership and the appropriate investment of time and resources, even small changes can make a big difference.

To access the report click here