THEORETICAL INVESTIGATION OF CHANGES IN ROAD TRANSPORT ACCIDENT STATISTICS DUE TO LEGAL AND REGULATORY ASPECTS OF ROAD TRAFFIC SAFETY

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1 THEORETICAL INVESTIGATION OF CHANGES IN ROAD TRANSPORT ACCIDENT STATISTICS DUE TO LEGAL AND REGULATORY ASPECTS OF ROAD TRAFFIC SAFETY BOKOR, Zoltan, associate professor, head of department, MESZAROS, Ferenc, senior lecturer, TOROK, Adam, research fellow, ABSTRACT Road traffic accidents claimed the lives of more than 1000 people in 2007 in Hungary and were responsible for at least injuries at the same time. In addition to human fatalities and casualties, there were overwhelming costs which amounted to approx 2 billion EUR in Hungary in Road traffic safety has become a major global social, economic and health concern, and it needs to be treated as a development issue. Consequently, it is not anymore a challenge for the transport sector only but it has become a social, economic and health hazard as well. This paper focuses on the changes in the macro economic tendencies of road accident statistics in NMS (EU New Member States) caused by legal and regulatory changes. Numerous research works have already proved that in general human factor plays the most determinant role in traffic accidents. However, aiming to improve safety, not only this element of the road transport system must be treated. Changing the behaviour of drivers is a slow and gradual process. Decisions of the drivers are influenced by impacts coming from the surroundings. Some of these impacts are a planned, deliberate stimulus, being part of the regulating telematic systems of traffic. These devices are designed so as to get the human attitude closer to the ideal considered in the model. Beside these, there are also unplanned, spontaneous effects, which may be advantageous, disadvantageous or neutral from the point of view of traffic safety. In the second part of the paper the authors statistically analyse the speed of road vehicles on different road sections to evaluate the effects of legal and regulatory changes in road traffic safety. Keywords: road accidents, trend, measurement 1

2 INTRODUCTION Road safety is a complex management process which must be planned, implemented and evaluated according to market-oriented principles. Successful programmes distinguish themselves through long-term and clearly worked-out methods as well as through a detailed catalogue of measures and evaluation plans. Road traffic accidents claimed the lives of more than 1000 people in 2007 in Hungary and were responsible for at least injuries at the same time. In addition to human fatalities and casualties, there were overwhelming costs which amounted to approx 2 billion EUR in Hungary in 2007 (Torok, 2005). Road traffic safety has become a major global social, economic and health concern, and it needs to be treated as a development issue. Consequently, it is not anymore a challenge for the transport sector only, but it has become a, social, economic and health hazard as well. In spite of evident progress in reducing the number of victims and injuries in some countries, the persistently high number of victims and injuries compel researchers to question themselves whether they have done enough research in this area. In this paper focuses on the changes in the macro economic tendencies of road accident statistics in NMS (New EU Member States) caused by legal and regulatory changes. Numerous research works have already proved that in general human factor plays the most determinant role in traffic accidents. However, aiming to improve safety, not only this element of the road transport system must be treated. Changing the behaviour of drivers is a slow and gradual process. The Venn diagram on Figure 1 demonstrates that important road safety benefit is achievable by the management of the interfaces (linking area) of the MAN-VEHICLE-ROAD system. The aim of the authors is to investigate road accident statistics and draw conclusions for legal and. Figure 1 Role of the human factor in road accidents 2

3 ECONOMIC AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORKS IN NMS (NEW EU MEMBER STATES) Macro economic tendencies There is a difference in the economic activity in the European Union (see Figure 2). Between Core Members and New Member States the difference is even higher. Figure 2 Different economic activity in the European Union (Source: KTI - Road safety and traffic engineering Division, EU Energy and Transport in Figures) There is a significant difference between the New Member States and Core Member States in the EU. As it is shown in Table I. approx. 20% of total EU population live in the New Member States. In spite of this only 5.5% of the European Union s total GDP is produced there. The average population is 1.73 times higher in the Core Member States, which can be explained by the different geographical situations. The average of economic activity (GDP/head) is approx 4 times higher in the Core Member States of EU. The difference in economic status can be the cause of the difference in road safety measurements. But not only the economic activity differs but other road safety measurements do as well. 3

4 Table I Different economic activity in the European Union Population GDP { GDP { } per head in Code Country {thousand} billion} PPP in 2007 AT Austria BE Belgium BG Bulgaria CH Switzerland CY Cyprus CZ Czech Republic DE Germany DK Denmark EE Estonia EL Greece ES Spain FI Finland FR France HR Croatia HU Hungary IE Ireland IS Iceland IT Italy LT Lithuania LU Luxembourg LV Latvia MK Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) MT Malta NL Netherlands NO Norway PL Poland PT Portugal RO Romania SE Sweden SI Slovenia SK Slovak Republic TR Turkey UK UK (Source: Transport and Energy in Figures 2009) Allowed blood alcohol content in the EU Not only the economic background but other road accident related circumstances are also different in the states of Europe. To understand the difference in road accidents statistics in Europe the authors have investigated some mayor sources of road accidents. The allowed alcohol content of blood for example varies significantly. Some countries allow 0.5 g of alcohol per litre of blood while some countries allow even higher values. Nevertheless, New Member States do not allow any alcohol content in blood (see Figure 3). Figure 3 Allowed blood alcohol content (Source: KTI - Road safety and traffic engineering Division, EU Energy and Transport in Figures) 4

5 Speed limits in the EU Drivers, although guided by learned and enforced rules of the Highway Code, make independent decisions when participating in road traffic. The idea behind measurements or legal instruments aiming to achieve traffic safety is the formation of an ideal driver with predictable behaviour respecting the Highway Code. Most accidents are caused just because road users do not meet these criteria (Berta, 2007). We have studied the difference in speed limits in the EU (Figure 4). Figure 4 Difference in speed limits (Source: KTI - Road safety and traffic engineering Division, EU Energy and Transport in Figures) Road safety actions Beside the economic indicators the completed/running/planned policy measures for improving road safety are also efficient tools in the hands of decision makers. The list of most important measures is the following: 1. Human factor, moral, vulnerable road users a. Education in kindergartens, in elementary and secondary schools and in higher education b. Checking the existing pedestrian crossings c. Promoting the use of different shields in cycling d. Enhanced training of learner drivers and violators e. Promotion, communication of safety campaigns f. Pay as you drive insurance products 5

6 2. Active and passive safety improvements a. Infrastructure maintenance, improved level of traffic services b. Road safety inspections and audits c. Technical inspections and development of vehicles d. Promoting the use of seat belts 3. Speed management a. On-site police controls b. Overall liability of vehicle owners 4. Regulation, strategic coordination a. Improving the visibility of vulnerable users, lorries and the infrastructure b. Communication on impacts of alcohol and narcotic consumption c. Improvement of data recording and storage The international analysis of road safety programmes indicates that the following points make up a successful road safety programme: 1. Developing a long-term strategy in road safety policy based on a clear philosophy 2. Establishing quantified and manageable targets 3. Having the programme accepted at the parliamentary/governmental level 4. Achieving close co-operation between authorities of all levels 5. Having a federal programme budget funded by regional and local sources EVALUATING THE EFFECTIVENESS OF APPLIED SAFETY MEASURES IN HUNGARY Tendencies Road safety had had a long evolution from the second half of the last century in Hungary. The growing number of vehicles had also meant an increase in fatalities until 1990 but from that year the tendency changed (also in case of fatalities). There are five coherent chapters in the tendency of Hungarian road safety between 1970 and 2009 (IRTAD, 2009) (Figure 5): 6

7 : By growing motorisation in the country there are no remarkable trends in the accidents : The tendencies changed. Due to the political and economic transition the moral of society fell back dramatically and more people were injured and killed year by year on the roads : Conscious measures for safety improvement were implemented, like speed limit reduction, compulsory day and night use of dimmed headlights outside built-up areas, strengthened road side control activities by police, road safety campaigns. In 1993 the first Hungarian National Road Safety Programme (NRSP) was adopted by the Government : The lack of consistent follow-up of previous safety programs, the intensive rise in vehicle fleet and traffic performances led to remarkable deterioration in road safety : Due to strict regulatory changes (e.g. zero tolerance towards drivers in roads) and intensive road safety campaigns the overall safety indexes showed unambiguous improvements of traffic conditions in the roads Vehicles Injuries Fatalities Vehicles [1000]; Fatalities Injuries Figure 5 Evolution of vehicle fleet, injuries and fatalities in Hungary (Source: Hungarian Central Statistical Office) As it is shown in Table II the results of 2009 are effective not only in the light of former periods parameters but also compared to the data of

8 Table II Main changes in safety indicators Changes in % 2009/ / / / /2007 Vehicles 263% 58% 52% 23% 1% Fatalities -35% -44% -66% -34% -34% Injuries -23% -10% -36% -4% -14% Investigating the location of accidents (Figure 6) has yielded a clear picture of the safety evolution of different road types. The largest cluster of roads, the country roads which bear the brunt of traffic performances have became two times safer than before. Since 1980, the greatest reduction in fatalities has occurred in urban areas. In 2001 the number of fatalities in rural roads increased significantly following the increase in speed limits from 80 km/h to 90 km/h, but later other measures could change the trend. Figure 6 Fatalities by type of roads (Source: IRTAD, 2009) Figure 7 Use of seat belts (Source: KTI - Road safety and traffic engineering Division) 8

9 A very serious problem is when the driver ignores the use of seat belts during travel. Figure 7 concludes that 2000 was the worst year regarding this phenomenon. After this an intensive improvement has taken place. Figure 8 summarizes the most important safety measures implemented in Hungary, based on the fatality function. The overall improvement is the clear result of conscious safety programmes. Figure 8 Schedule of former safety measures (Source: KTI - Road safety and traffic engineering Division) Evaluation of latest safety measures From 2006 the decision makers started a more powerful and intensive road safety campaign. The previous small steps have been followed by substantial changes and strict measures. The police increased the number of speed cameras and enhanced the on-site inspection of vehicles and their drivers. The objective liability campaign implemented the overall responsibility of vehicle owners except when the person of the driver is known. The zero tolerance programme against drunk driving raised risk of withdrawing the driving licence, if the driver is under influence of alcohol. Prices for almost all penalties have been increased dramatically (compared to former prices). The risk of getting more points for an offence in the demerit point system also rose. Besides the radical fall back of fatalities (-34%) the number of accidents when the driver was drunk also fell back almost by 25%. It is notable that the number of road fatalities was as low as currently in 1967 at the same time the number of vehicles have multiplied significantly. As it was shown in Table II, all the safety indicators have been improving in the last 3 years so the effectiveness and efficiency of the applied measures can be acknowledged. 9

10 Current plans of improving road safety As presented at the recent national transport safety conference the number of fatal road accidents had fallen by 50% in the period of 1991 and Nevertheless, this favourable tendency can hardly be repeated in the next decade: the values have rather stagnated between 2001 and The policy measures contributing to the improvement of road safety have already been identified. However, the implementation of additional tools is also envisaged in the short run, like the installation of automatic speed control devices. The effects of the global financial crisis may also contribute to lower the risks (by approximately 4-5%) of road accidents as the number of new vehicles, the mobility demand and the transport performance have fallen considerably. Due to the crisis a certain ratio of mobility demand have been shifted over from the motorised transport to the pedestrian and bicycle transport. That is why the number of accidents is expected to fall in motorised transport while the accident risk may be higher in cycling and walking. Thus higher attention shall be paid to the vulnerable transport users when forming transport safety goals and programmes. A recent survey (Ipsos, 2009) has underlined the safety problem of the recent years namely that every three from four drivers violate the traffic rules and regulations in Hungary. Every second driver is speeding, every tenth driver crosses by red lights. Every third driver also uses his/her mobile phones during driving; 40% of the drivers cross the solid lines. 40% regularly ignores the use of seat belts; every sixth driver makes conscious parking offence. Good news is that only 3% of the drivers violate the zero tolerance regulation about alcohol consumption. Therefore the mid-term transport strategy concept for the period concentrates mainly on influencing the drivers and generally the citizens behaviour in the transport sector, on considerable infrastructure improvement, on technology development in the vehicle production sector and on review of the current legal and organisational regulatory framework. International commitments In 2001 the Common Transport Policy of the European Union set the objective of a 50% reduction in fatalities by In 2003 the Hungarian Transport Policy envisaged and tackled a 30% fall back of injuries and fatalities by 2010, and 50% reduction by As stated in Table III Hungary has seen a 34% descent in fatalities so far, which is in line with the strategic objectives, but the number of injuries has decreased by 4% only. As the European policy does not cover the number of injuries, we can conclude that Hungary has fulfilled its international commitments. Table III Main changes in safety indicators between 2001 and /2001 Fatalities -34% 10

11 Injuries -4% CONCLUSION It has been proven that a structured and targeted approach is the right way to tackle the problems of road transport safety. Road accidents result in a large social and economic loss for society. In the last 25 years programmes have been developed in many countries in order to raise road safety standards. As a result some Member States of the European Union have managed to reduce by half the number of road related deaths. Successful road safety programmes distinguish themselves through long-term and clearly worked-out methods and a detailed catalogue of measures and evaluation plans. Such programmes should be further supported by passing the relevant road safety legislation, setting clear defined reduction goals and ensuring the necessary financing sources. Just as important are ongoing measures of effectiveness and transparency. The success of these programmes requires a platform where experiences can be exchanged and the support of the measures at the national, regional and local levels can be gained. Historically there has always been the tendency to establish road safety measures focusing on driver or technology failures as the causes of accidents. Currently there is an international trend to implement rather a failure tolerant road safety system consisting of combined technology, regulation and education related measures. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the Hungarian Scientific Research Fund (OTKA CNK 78168). REFERENCES Berta, T. (2007). The man, a part of the transport system (in Hungarian). Közúti és Mélyépítési Szemle, Vol. 57, No. 12, 2007, Ipsos (2009). Three fourth of drivers violate the regulations (in Hungarian). IRTAD (2009). Annual Report International Transport Forum, Torok, A. (2005). Road safety techniques in Hungary according to EU directives. MOSATT Proceedings on the Modern Safety Technologies in Transportation, 25 September 2005, Kosice, Slovakia, Treat et al. (1979). Tri-Level Study of the Causes of Traffic Accidents: Final Report Volume I: Causal Factor Tabulations and Assessments, Institute for Research in Public Safety, Indiana University, DOT Publication No. DOT HS ,

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