Q: What do Parla, Getxo, Velbert and Redditch have in common, besides the fact you probably haven’t heard of them?
A: Fewer traffic fatalities than pretty much anywhere else in Europe.
The figures which demonstrate this come from DEKRA, a German vehicle inspection company, which compiled research on traffic fatalities across cities in 18 European countries between 2009 and 2012. This map shows the results for cities with populations over 80,000 with zero traffic fatalities for at least one year out of the four. (You can click here or on the map itself to see the interactive version.)
Orange denotes a city with one fatality-free years; yellow, two, pale green, three. The Dark green cities are those which did not record a single fatality in that four year period - which is where Redditch, Parla, and so on come in.
As this list shows, smaller, more obscure cities with populations of 100,000 or less are in with a better chance. The largest city to make the list at all is Nottingham, population 289,301, which had no fatalities in one out of the four years.
Large cities, however, tend to have a far higher fatality rate. In 2010, Paris had 43, London 126, and Rome 182 – though this may also be the tricky matter of municipal definitions at work, as Paris’s official boundaries are much narrower than London’s.
This isn't just because more people means more traffic. Clemens Klinke, a member of DEKRA’s board, points to the wider range of vehicle types on busy city roads, too:
“In urban traffic, the strongest, that is trucks, buses and cars, come up against the weakest, namely pedestrians and cyclists. Tram and light rail systems are also part of the mix. All this leads to a wide range of traffic situations and very specific risks.”
Two notable exceptions to the small-city rule are Fuenlabrada and Alcalá de Henares; both are in central Spain, both have populations of over 200,000, and both recorded no fatalities between 2009 and 2012.
Of the nine cities with populations over 80,000 and four years of no fatalities, in fact, six are in Spain, and five are in the Madrid province. It is, of course, possible that the reporting procedure in this area isn’t effective, there’s been a hiccup in the data, or the official city boundaries are affecting the result – but there’s also the possibility that the residents of Madrid are just very, very safe drivers. In Spain as a whole, traffic fatalities fell by 50 per cent between 2001 and 2011, which is partly down to new toll motorways introduced to decongest the country’s major roads.
The map was compiled as part of the “Vision Zero” campaign, which aims for zero traffic fatalities across all European cities. Looks like London and Rome have some work to do.