Transport and Covid-19: responses and resources

Road Deaths Down Sharply During Lockdown

Crash fatalities dropped but not as much as traffic, finds new ITF report

The number of road deaths fell by a third during lockdowns this spring but traffic was down by a half, according to indicative figures published by the International Transport Forum in its Road Safety Annual Report 2020.

Reductions in traffic fatalities of 80% were recorded in three countries, and five countries saw crash fatalities fall by more than 50% in a comparison of April 2020 data with April 2019 for 20 countries.

The strongest drops occurred in New Zealand (-80%), Italy (-79%) and South Africa (-78%). These were also among the counties with the severest lockdowns in place. Eleven of the 20 countries included in the overview saw a reduction of 24% or more.

Only four countries registered no or only negligible reductions: Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark. The latter three saw a small increase in the number of road deaths despite significant falls in traffic. That said, these countries have among the lowest number of road deaths in the world so that small changes in absolute numbers lead to significant percentage changes. As the range of figures underlines, outcomes depend very much on local circumstances.

The drop in crash fatalities was steep, but not proportional to the fall in traffic. The number of road deaths fell by just under one third (32%) on average across all countries, while total kilometres driven decreased by more than half (-53%) in April 2020 compared to April 2019.

 Experts consider a number of factors that could help explain this: 

  • Empty streets have led to more speeding an irresponsible behaviour. Several countries reported excessive speed as an issue during lockdown.

  • While passenger cars were mostly off the street during lockdown, many trucks continued to operate. Crashes with heavy goods vehicle tend to be more serious than those involving cars.

  • Enforcement of traffic rules may have been less strict, as the police focused on other pandemic-related priorities.

The data for the Road Safety Annual Report was compiled by the IRTAD Group, the International Transport Forum’s permanent working group on road safety.

Download the report at

Media contact:
Michael KLOTH
Head of Communications

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