Transport and Covid-19: responses and resources

Why Does Road Safety Improve When Economic Times Are Hard?

Research Report

This report examines the relationship between economic performance and road safety. It demonstrates that the economic downturn that started hitting many OECD countries in 2007/8 has had a significant impact on the reduction in the number of road fatalities. The six papers that compose this report, written by renowned experts, explain the mechanisms by which indicators of economic development influence road safety and quantify their impact.

For updated findings go to new Discussion Paper

Policy Insights

  • There is clear evidence that when economic growth declines, and particularly when unemployment increases, road safety improves.
  • The financial and economic crises which started in 2007 were accompanied by marked falls in annual numbers of road deaths in most OECD countries.
  • It is important to understand how much of the accelerated reduction in numbers of deaths during the downturn that began in 2008 was attributable to the changed economic conditions.
  • The economic downturn in 2009-10 may well have contributed to about two-thirds of the decrease in fatalities from 2008.
  • The recent downturn has had repercussions on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and unemployment rate and has influenced the number of road deaths through a reduction in vehicle kilometres driven, especially by young men and by heavy goods vehicles, a reduction in speeding and in drink-driving, and a reduction in learning to drive by young men.
  • Policy makers need to take careful account of these results when setting road safety targets and when designing road safety strategies for the future.

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