Road Traffic Accidents in Austria, 2001-03

The number of accidents and persons injured has increased slightly again, but fatalities are at a low

With a total of 43 426 road accidents causing personal injury, in 2003 there was an increase of 251 accidents or +0.6% compared to the previous year. The number of persons injured rose by 197 to 56 881 (+0.3%), while the number of persons killed, 931, fell by 25 (-2.6%).

An overview of road accidents in Austria for 2001, 2002, and 2003:

Austria

200120022003

Change 2002/2003

absolutein %
Crashes43,07343,17543,426+251+0.6%
Injuries56,26556,68456,881+197+0.3%
Killed    958    956    931–  25-2.6%

In 2003, the average number of road accidents with casualties was 119 per day, 156 persons were injured and almost three were killed daily.

An analysis of the number of accidents on Austria’s roads from 1994 to 2003 shows a 3% increase and a 6% increase in the number of persons injured. Within this 10-year period, the number of deaths fell by almost one third (-30%).

More accidents and persons injured, but fewer deaths caused by drink-driving

2 841 accidents involving persons under the influence of alcohol (+3.8%) in which 4 020 road users were injured (+3.1%) and 84 were killed (-8.7%). These are the official statistics concerning road accidents caused by alcohol in the year 2003.

In 1998, the introduction of a new blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit of 0.5% led to the lowest numbers of drink-driving accidents and casualties. Since then, these statistics have risen steadily.

In view of the increasing number of drink-driving accidents, in the middle of July 2002, the Federal Ministry of the Interior ordered by decree that all drivers involved in accidents with persons injured must undergo a breath test. These tightened police checks also lowered the estimated number of unreported cases. Furthermore, since 1998, more accidents have been classified as drink-driving accidents than previously as a result of the lower BAC limit.

Drink-driving remains an issue concerning men. However, the proportion of women concerned is increasing. 90% of drivers involved in accidents under the influence of alcohol are men. 10 years ago, the proportion of women was around 5%. It is now as high as 10%.

42% of drink-driving accidents are recorded on Saturdays and Sundays: at weekends, every 9th accident is demonstrably alcohol-related. At nighttimes especially, a high proportion of the total number of accidents are drink-driving accidents. In the early hours of the morning after midnight, every third accident is alcohol-related.

During the night, it is predominantly young people who drive under the influence of alcohol. On weekend nights (from Friday to Saturday and from Saturday to Sunday), around 50% of drunk drivers are between 17 and 24 years of age.

A child is injured on Austria’s roads every two hours

The number of children killed in road accidents rose particularly sharply during the first six months of 2003. 37 children were killed, in contrast to 25 the previous year; a rise of 48%. The number of children injured increased by 51 or 1.3% to 4 074, although the number of accidents involving children remained unchanged.

Almost half of the children injured were passengers in cars (44%); significantly fewer children sustaining injuries were pedestrians (26%) or cyclists (21%).

The situation concerning children killed is even more dramatic: more than half of these children were car passengers (20 out of 37, or 54%), 19% were pedestrians and 14% were cyclists.

In 1994, the 15th Austrian Motor Vehicles Act Amendment introduced important safety provisions, namely the requirement to use child restraint systems when conveying children up to 12 years of age. Since January 1, 2002, drivers are now responsible for ensuring that children up to 14 years of age wear a restraint system.

Despite this, almost half of the children killed in car accidents were not using a child restraint system at the time of the accident. In 2003, the figure in respect of children injured was 16%. These figures signify that every sixth child injured was not using a child restraint system while being driven in a car.

Almost 18 000 young people are injured on Austria’s roads every year

Being on the roads is particularly hazardous for young people. As in previous years, the highest values are reported in respect of young people aged 18 and 19, with 2 213 and 2 237 casualties for these ages respectively. 31% of all persons injured and 23% of persons killed were young people in the 15 to 24-year-old age group.

Hitherto, the number of persons injured underwent a dramatic rise after 16 years of age. This age has, in part, been reduced by one year. Overall, the number of 15 year olds injured on the roads has increased by 50%, as a result of significantly higher numbers of injured moped drivers. However, the number of 15-year-olds killed remained the same.

The end of 2002 saw the abolition of the driving behaviour and attitude test which was required in order to obtain a moped licence as from the age of 15. Testing was undertaken at significant cost. The abolition of the test is reflected in the accident statistics: the number of 15-year-old moped drivers injured almost trebled (from 218 to 625) in the year under review compared to 2002.

Fewer deaths of unprotected road users

Compared to the previous year, in 2003, the numbers of pedestrians and cyclists injured and killed fell significantly. 2002 had seen a sharp rise in these statistics. One fifth of all persons killed in road accidents were so-called “unprotected road users”.

As in previous years, around 60% of pedestrians killed were aged over 60 and a third were over 75 years of age. In built-up areas, around 50% of the road users killed were pedestrians and cyclists.

More persons injured in accidents involving two-wheeled motor vehicles

The number of drivers and passengers of two-wheeled motor vehicles who were injured or killed increased by around 750. The number of deaths in motorcycle accidents increased particularly sharply. One of the reasons for this rise was the long periods of good weather in the year 2003. These had a strong influence on the number of two-wheeled vehicles on the roads and hence on the number of accidents too.

524 people killed in road accidents (56%) were car passengers, and half of them were not wearing a seatbelt

371 car drivers and 153 passengers were killed during the year under review. Compared with 2002 the number of car passengers killed remained constant. It is particularly alarming that almost half (46%) of car occupants killed were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident.

An analysis of the number of car drivers injured according to the extent of their injuries shows that the risk of being killed in an accident was, in 2003, seven times greater for those not wearing their seatbelt than for those who wore when the accident occurred. Furthermore, the proportion of persons seriously injured was significantly higher in respect of those who refused to wear their seatbelt than for those who did wear it.

Buses are the safest mode of transport

In 2003, there were no road accident deaths among users of public service buses and coaches. Since 1961, the only other year in which this was the case was 1987. The number of bus passengers injured fell by 6%. Overall, there were 737 accidents involving coaches, with 1 125 persons injured and a further 20 killed.

Source: Statistics Austria.