Mobility and transport

Age groups most involved in fatal crashes

The opinions expressed in the studies are those of the consultant and do not necessarily represent the position of the Commission.

Age groups most involved in fatal crashes

Age groups that have the highest percentage of pedestrian fatalities are children younger than 10 years of age and adults aged 65 and above. About 35 to 40% of the fatalities in these age groups were pedestrian fatalities; twice as much as the average percentage for all age groups (see Share of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities and casualties). The youngest age groups, those younger than 10 years of age, also have the highest percentage of pedestrian casualties: 30-40% of the casualties in these age groups were pedestrian casualties.

Cyclist fatalities have the highest share among children between 6 and 14 years of age. About 14% of the fatalities in this age group were cyclist fatalities; twice as much as the average percentage for all age groups. Children between 10 and 14 years of age also have the highest percentage of cyclist casualties: 30% of the casualties in this age group were cyclist casualties.

Young pedestrians and cyclists

Most crashes involving children occur in the late afternoon, when they are either walking back home or playing outside. Several British studies have shown that most of the pedestrian fatalities were running or not paying attention at the time of the crash [45][8][52] In the Netherlands, fatal crashes with children are nearly always with a motor vehicle as crash opponent. More than average crash opponents are: cars for young pedestrians, and heavy vehicles (vans and lorries) for young cyclists. Collisions between cyclists and heavy goods vehicles include the well-known crash scenario where the cyclist is in the blind spot of a lorry turning right (or turning left in left-hand side driving countries).

A study of children's exposure to risk as pedestrians and their rate of involvement in crashes in three European countries [6] found a higher fatality rate among children in Great Britain than among children in France and the Netherlands, although children in Great-Britain spent marginally less time in traffic situations as pedestrians and crossed the road less frequently than children in the other two countries. This study found that these exposure rates alone do not explain the increased fatality rate. It was determined that children in Great Britain spend more time on main roads and busy streets than children in the other two countries, that they cross roads between rather than at intersections, and that they are more likely to be accompanied by other children than by adults. These specific examples of exposure are, in turn, connected with the country's residential and traffic infrastructure and, not least, with typical national habits such as adults accompanying children to school [35].

While all children are vulnerable, some children are more at risk than others. There is some evidence of a gender correlation between road safety behaviour and crash involvement. In the United Kingdom, crash patterns for pedestrians reveal a consistently higher rate of incidence for boys than for girls under age 12. In the 5-11 age group, twice as many boys are likely to be killed or severely injured than girls. In the Netherlands, 64% of the traffic victims under 14 are boys. Teenage male bicyclist fatalities exhibit a similar pattern. Teenage female pedestrians may be at particularly high risk once their exposure is taken into account [56][35].

Elderly pedestrians and cyclists

An important cause of the high fatality rate of older cyclists and pedestrians is the physical vulnerability of elderly people. Since their bones are more brittle and their soft tissue less elastic, they are at higher risk of severe injury, even if the crash forces are the same. At the same time, the elderly have a higher chance of being involved in a crash because locomotive functions deteriorate with increasing years. This deterioration generally consists of slower movement; a decrease of muscular tone, a decrease in fine coordination, and a particularly strong decrease in the ability to adapt to sudden changes in posture (keeping balance). This latter aspect is particularly important for cyclists and pedestrians, but also for public transport users.

Older pedestrians are over-represented in crashes at intersections, particularly those without traffic signals, and being struck by a turning vehicle. Older pedestrians are also over-represented in crashes when they are crossing mid-block sections of roads, particularly on wide multi-lane roads, in busy bi-directional traffic [36]. Pedestrian accidents in which no moving vehicle is involved also occur more frequently among older pedestrians. However, these accidents are not included in the UNECE definition of road accident and are, therefore, heavily under-reported or not included in accident databases at all (see Definition of a traffic-related crash). These include falls when boarding or exiting public transport, falls on footpaths, when stepping off kerbs, and while crossing the road (without being struck by a vehicle). Although injuries resulting from pedestrian falls and other non-collision events are generally not as severe as those where a vehicle is involved, they nevertheless represent a significant cause of trauma for older pedestrians [36].

According to Dutch studies [24], older cyclists are more often involved in crashes with passenger cars than other cyclists. In many of these cases, the cyclist had to cross a multi-lane road. Such incidents (63% of all crashes) occurred particularly inside urban areas (50%), at intersections (19%), and at T-junctions (15%). The latter crashes most often occurred at intersections and T-junctions which were controlled by traffic signs (25%). The difficulties experienced by older cyclists related primarily to manoeuvres such as crossing or turning against the traffic at the intersection. In the majority of these cases, the passenger car was driving on a main road while the cyclist approached from a side road. This crash type resembles the crash type that is over-represented among older car drivers: while turning, the older driver collides with oncoming traffic with right of way on the main road (see Older drivers). Negotiating an intersection clearly represents a "testing of the limits" type of task; it requires a host of age-sensitive functions while simultaneously limiting the usefulness of normal safe driving strategies such as anticipating upcoming events.