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Accident statistics on the Autobahn: What numbers tell us about people

Statistics Austria publishes the Austrian accident statistics from the previous year every summer. This is where I see myself, as a traffic safety expert at ASFINAG, particularly challenged. It is not always easy to draw the right conclusions from statistics. Sometimes there is no answer to even the most simple-sounding questions. Some findings seem logical, others worth discussing. I would like to give you a little insight into our findings from past accident statistics. Let yourself be surprised and throw your prejudices overboard.

Numbers, data, facts - but where is the person?

Around 2,200 accidents occur on Austria's motorways and expressways every year. Around 3,500 people were injured, almost 400 of them seriously and almost 40 killed. Exactly 40 too many! The trend is currently the same. If you read these statistics, you first ask yourself the following question: "Are all the traffic safety measures and improvements to the vehicles and on the road not working? " Yes - but you also have to take into account that traffic on the motorways has increased significantly in recent years, by as much as 15 percent since 2013. Furthermore, the motorways and expressways here in Austria have a very high level of safety. So the answer is: "With more traffic, the number of accidents remains relatively stable " - actually a pleasant state.

The circumstances of the accident also show us a change in the causes of the accident. It is no longer the over-motivated types of racing drivers who fly out of the curve who lead the statistics. Then who are the people who are at greatest risk on the autobahn?

Who causes accidents more often?

Men or women? Young or old? From the city or from the country?

A quick look at the statistics gives us the first idea of ​​who is the person with the highest accident risk:

  • Male
  • Car driver
  • Around 45 years old
  • From the area around large cities in Austria
  • Drives a mid-range car that is over ten years old and has around 100 hp
  • Has about 150,000 km on the speedometer
  • The vehicle is valued at around 5,000 euros

If you look even deeper into the statistics, further distinctions can be made:

One of the first questions about accident statistics is usually about gender. It is asked at the very beginning and at first glance the answer seems to be relatively clear: Only every third person killed is female.

But it is not that easy, because if we take a closer look at the data and separately according to gender, it turns out fewer and fewer differences! In the case of women, too, it is mostly the 40 to 60-year-olds who drive a mid-range vehicle that is no longer entirely new and who are more likely to be killed or injured in accidents. The number of injured women and men on the motorways and expressways is almost identical, however in terms of accident severity - and the presumed main cause of the accident - the men are noticeably ahead. In the case of causes of accidents such as carelessness and a lack of safety distance, however, the sexes already converge strongly.

So it can be said: Yes, there are differences in the level of traffic involved, in total the risk of causing an accident is even (!) Lower for women.

Unfortunately, still the issue - buckle up

There was no major difference between the sexes in 2019 when it came to the use of the seat belt. In the previous years, the proportion of men who were not wearing a seat belt was significantly higher than that of women, but the statistics for the seriously injured have adjusted. About every or every twelfth seriously injured person was not wearing a seat belt. The proportions of those killed are even worse. Last year, the proportion of those killed was even 20 percent!

The market for “anti seat belt warnings” on online platforms seems almost bizarre. (The small plugs in the seat belt device silence the alarm sound in the car without the driver having to buckle up.)

Unfortunately, there are always major discussions about the benefits of belt systems based on individual cases from the 1970s. One thing is clear, however: everyone is responsible for themselves. With today's vehicles and seat belt systems, the objective chances of surviving an accident are definitely many times higher if you buckle up.

That is why we say what the statistics clearly show: Yes to the belt!

Cause of the accident: distraction and inattention

The causes of the accident Distraction and inattention have long since replaced excessive speed as the biggest problem. In 769 accidents, and thus 34 percent of all accidents on motorways and expressways, carelessness and distraction are given as the suspected main cause. Almost exactly half of these accidents resulted in a rear-end collision with moving or stationary vehicles.

If trucks are involved, regardless of whether they are at fault or not, such accidents are often fatal.

This is where a negative dynamic often begins: a brief misconduct that road users perceive as minor - such as distraction from a mobile phone - is increasingly becoming a problem with high traffic density. Campaigns like “Hallo Leben” increase the awareness of road users to recognize wrongdoing at the wheel. At the same time, the sources of distraction are increasing daily. It is becoming increasingly difficult for drivers to concentrate only on driving.

That's why we say what the statistics say: No to the cell phone!

Distance cause of the accident

The constantly increasing volume of traffic is not only felt by all commuters. You can also see it in the accident statistics. The number of accidents with only one vehicle involved decrease, while the number of Rear-end and lane-change accidents slowly rising. A lack of safety distance and inattention are the main factors here. Very interesting: in half of all rear-end collisions, moving vehicles are hit by a straight line. This clearly speaks against the ability to multi-task, as some road users in stop & go traffic claim of themselves. A slight tendency between the sexes can be seen here: If the safety distance is too low, the proportion of female drivers is even higher. Who would have thought that?!

What do the statistics say now?

The statistics often confirm our existing opinion and experience. Ultimately, however, everyone determines the risk themselves with their own personal actions. Age, gender, occupation, place of residence and much more influence the willingness to take risks in a positive or negative way.

The most important goal of our work with statistics is prevention. Only if we understand the essential interrelationships can we further increase the high level of safety on our motorways. It all goes step by step and each of them is worth it, because it's about human life.