Sweden has the lowest level of traffic mortality in the European Union, according to new figures from the European Commission, which say Bulgaria and Romania are the worst with around four times as many traffic-related deaths per citizen as the Nordic nation.
Around 23,500 people were killed in traffic in the EU last year – 49 people per million inhabitants. That proportion is far below the global figures, where 1.3 million people died in traffic in 2017, at a rate of 174 deaths per million inhabitants.
Despite Sweden being one of the best performers for many years the number of traffic-related deaths in the country fell further in 2017 compared to the year before.
"It's due to a combination of the vehicles, road users and the traffic situation," Lars Ekman from Sweden’s Transport Administration told news agency TT.
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Cars have become safer and people are now more likely to use seat belts as well as car seats for children, while a 20-year-old Swedish plan to create more roundabouts and 2+1 roads has also helped.
Construction has also been changed: some posts for example are structured so that they break apart upon collision rather than causing bigger problems for the car.
"It's not the case that we're looking for an accident-free environment as that's an impossibility. On the other hand, a crash can cave reasonable consequences. It's reasonable for someone who falls behind the wheel and drives into a ditch to have to pay for a new car, but it's not reasonable for them to be given a death penalty for that mistake," Ekman noted.
In the EU, traffic-related deaths have more than halved since 2001. At the same time 135,000 people were injured in vehicles during 2017, costing an estimated 1.234 billion kronor.