Summary of the year in traffic: The people of Estonia underestimate the risks arising from exceeding the speed limit and secondary activities

8. February 2019 - 9:16

In 2018, there were 1,464 traffic accidents resulting in human fatalities in Estonia, in which 67 people were killed and 1,824 injured. Especially tragic months of the last year were January, June, and July because, during these months, ten or more people were killed in traffic.

In 2018, considerably more people were killed in traffic compared to 2017, and the number of fatalities stayed at a similar level to 2015 and 2016. For example, 2017 saw a decrease in the number of single-vehicle accidents resulting in fatalities and accidents resulting in fatalities that took place in Harju County, however, in 2018, there were almost as many of them as in 2015 and 2016. Furthermore, in 2017, no motorcyclists were killed in our traffic, however, in 2018, altogether six of them were killed. In 2018, the number of injured people also increased, staying at the same level as in 2016.

“By considering the past events more closely, we can say that all that which did not happen in 2017 came back in 2018. Unfortunately, the notion was confirmed that the year of 2017 was more likely unusual and the abrupt decrease of fatalities did not indicate that traffic safety improved as abruptly,” explained Erik Ernits, Head of Traffic Safety Department of the Road Administration.

The Investigation Board of Serious Traffic Accidents said that the primary risk factors of traffic accidents ending in fatalities are failing to use security equipment, alcohol or narcotic intoxication, secondary activities, and exceeding the speed limit.

“The summer months of last year were the most difficult in regard to traffic. In August, we increased traffic supervision at the expense of other jobs and the police officers focused on speed measuring. It is specifically speed that kills and injures people,” said Kristian Jaani, Prefect of the North Prefecture. He added that the increased visibility of police officers was impactful but it is still short-lived. Police officers contributed altogether 451,000 work hours to traffic supervision and they apprehended 37,000 people who exceeded the speed limit as well as 6,800 intoxicated drivers. Speed cameras detected 113,000 cases when the speed limit was exceeded.

“Speed always affects the consequences of a traffic accident. According to the summary of the Investigation Board of Serious Traffic Accidents, the choice of a suitable driving speed affected altogether 26 traffic accidents out of 64 (almost 41% of traffic accident resulting in fatalities). Among them, the speed limit was exceeded in 18 cases. The speed limit has been established with a purpose, and ignoring it leads quite often to serious consequences. In last years, secondary activities during driving have also posed a large threat. We may think that using a phone or other similar activities take only a moment and nothing will happen. Yet, 10 people were killed last year hugely in regard to secondary activities,” said Ernits.

Jaani also mentioned that every day there are thousands of drivers in Estonia who have not foregone using their phone while turning the wheel. “Last year, police officers apprehended 3,800 people who used a phone while driving. We can predict that this number will increase this year because driving has become a secondary action, while plucking at a phone has become a natural part of life,” said Jaani.

“Using the safety equipment and being sober while driving seems elementary to most of the road users. According to surveys, only up to 3% of the road users sit behind the wheel in a state of intoxication or do not use a safety belt. However, during last year, 13 people were killed in traffic accidents caused by intoxicated drivers of power-driven vehicles, and 16 people were killed while not using the safety belt. The fact that such a small amount as 3% of the drivers are represented in traffic accidents resulting in fatalities to such a large extent shows that the risk is great when people drive while intoxicated or do not fasten the safety belt,” describes Ernits.

“It is concerning that almost one third of the road users who perished last year did not use the safety equipment correctly. In addition, almost half of the cyclists who were injured did not use safety equipment. This indicates that the fundamental facts of traffic safety have to be recalled all the time. Fastening the safety belt is not self-evident to all passengers, and when you add to it excessive speed, then serious injuries or death are inevitable,” said Jaani.

The abridged proceeding, valid since this year, decreases the time spent on certain traffic offences and increases the number of interventions. “This means that police officers have more time to actually make traffic safer. This year we will start using mobile speed cameras which are installed in places where most of the accidents take place. This adds flexibility and mobility, and new technologies that improve traffic safety are welcome,” Jaani said.

In 2018, traffic safety measures were applied on 54 objects for a total cost of 7.8 million euros. Pedestrian safety was the most important focus point. Measures that increased their safety were applied, for example, reconstruction of intersections, construction of solutions that slowed down the traffic (for example ramps), construction of cycle and pedestrian tracks, reconstruction of bus stops etc.

In 2018, the Road Administration also organised 1,157 events of traffic education and prevention, which was participated by 68,269 people. The prevention events were mostly targeted towards risk groups, like the elderly and youngsters. In last year, the Police and Border Guard Board organised 1,080 traffic prevention activities for children and youngster, which were participated by 44,325 children and youngsters.

Year in traffic 2018 summary can be found here: https://www.mnt.ee/et/ametist/liiklusaasta-2018.

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