Lithuania halved its road deaths between 2011 and 2021. To honor the accomplishment, the country was awarded the annual year Road Safety Performance Index (PIN) Award, in recognition of major improvements in road safety.
The announcement was made earlier this month by the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC), a Brussels-based independent non-profit organization, which administered the award.
“Despite a big drop in road deaths over the last two years, the Covid-19 pandemic has not immunized Europe against road death and injury,” Antonio Avenoso, executive director of the ETSC, said in a statement. “20,000 people die each year on our roads, and getting these numbers down will take hard work, political will and investment. Lithuania is a great example of a country that is tackling the problem on multiple fronts: strategic planning, drink-driving, speed, infrastructure and enforcement – this award is well deserved.”
Eight key elements were cited in the decision to award this year’s prize to Lithuania:
- A long-term national road safety program with a target of further reducing deaths;
- In-depth collision investigation of all fatal vehicle crashes;
- The development of a new traffic collision information system designed to better capture accurate road death and injury statistics, including incorporating data from hospitals;
- A nationwide program to audit pedestrian crossings and improve the level of safety;
- A substantial increase in cycling infrastructure in Vilnius, the capital city;
- Robust speed camera coverage;
- Zero-tolerance blood alcohol concentration limits for professional and novice drivers, and 0.4 g/l for all others; and
- An alcohol-interlock program for drink-driving offenders, as an alternative to a driving ban.
Overall in the 27 European Union countries in 2021, road deaths were reduced collectively by an unprecedented 13% compared to 2019, according to the safety group. This reduction, it said, can in large part be attributed to mobility changes caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, but “there is no guarantee that this progress can be maintained if traffic volumes revert to the way they were before the pandemic.”
The EU collectively reduced the number of road deaths by 31% over the period 2011-2021. Only Norway did better than Lithuania during that period, with a decrease of 52%.
Much of the EU’s success is due to its many strong regulations, which are frequently upgraded.
For example, the European Commission is currently in the process of revising rules on driving licenses for EU member countries. The minimum age for obtaining a driving license should not be lowered, according to the ETSC, and graduated driving licenses should be recommended to avoid high risk situations for young drivers, like driving after consuming alcohol or late at night. The safety group is also calling for the higher training standards in place for truck and bus drivers to be extended to van drivers.
“We need to recognize that young and inexperienced drivers have a much higher risk of injuring themselves and others,” Ellen Townsend, director of policy at ETSC, said in a statement. “Smarter rules, such as lower alcohol limits and bans on night driving, can help young people gain experience in a safer environment and protect them from causing a tragedy.”
To learn more and to access the full Road Safety Performance Index (PIN) Report, click here.