June 24, 2009
The number of people killed in Latvian road traffic accidents dramatically decreased last year, but the country still has one of the highest death rates in Europe, according to a report from the Brussels-based European Transport Safety Council (ETSC).
Traffic deaths in Latvia dropped 25 percent from 2007 to 2008, according to the ETSC. Data from the Latvian government’s Road Traffic Safety Directorate (Ceļu satiksmes drošības direkcija, or CSDD) show that 316 persons were killed last year, compared to 419 in 2007.
“The reduction in road deaths in 2008 can be partly attributed to reduced traffic volume following the recent economic recession and relatively high petrol prices earlier in the year,” the ETSC said in its report.
The highest number of traffic deaths in Latvia in one year, 923, was recorded in 1991.
Since 2001, traffic deaths in Latvia have dropped 43 percent. As a result, the nation earned a 2009 Road Safety PIN (Performance Index) Award during the ETSC’s recent conference in Brussels, the council announced in a June 22 press release.
Across the 27 member states of the European Union, about 39,000 people were killed in traffic accidents last year. The number is far from the goal of just 27,000 fatalities the European Union set in its road safety target, which calls for cutting the number of traffic deaths by half from 2001 to 2010. About 55,000 people died in European traffic accidents in 2001.
Sweden, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom are the safest countries in the EU, based on the number of fatal accidents per 1 million inhabitants, according to the ETSC. Sweden recorded a rate of 43 per 1 million in 2008. (Malta had a lower rate, 37 deaths per million, but the ETSC noted that special conditions exist in the country that affect the number.)
Latvia, which in 2001 had the worst record (234 deaths per 1 million inhabitants), recorded 139 fatalities per million inhabitants in 2008. That rate remains high, according to the ETSC, considering the average across countries tracked in the index last year was at 78 deaths per million.
One of the most important measures in reducing fatalities in Latvia was the introduction in 2004 of a penalty point system for drivers, Aldis Lama of the CSDD said in the ETSC’s report.
Lithuania now has the worst traffic death rate, recording 148 deaths per 1 million inhabitants. Estonia had 98 deaths per million, according to the ETSC.
Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000-2012 he was editor of the website.