Road deaths fell by 31% in the first half of the year due to the unprecedented restriction of free movement to contain the coronavirus. Until June 25 there were 331 deaths compared to 479 in the same period of 2019. The fatalities were reduced by almost half in the state of alarm, which was approved on March 14 and was in force until June 20 . The biggest drop occurred on secondary roads, which concentrate the most serious accidents. The transport sector was the only one in which the death toll rose in the exceptional period.
The sudden stop of mobility during the 98 days of the state of alarm was of such caliber that it had an immediate effect in reducing the number of deaths on Spanish roads. The impact caused that the negative trend in January and February, in which deaths slightly exceeded in the same period of 2019 – 164, nine more – was reversed.
Since then at least 148 lives have been saved. And experts see it feasible, although due to exceptional circumstances, that deaths on interurban roads do not exceed a thousand. Spain set a new record last year with the lowest number of deaths on conventional roads: 1,098, 7.6% less than in 2018. A sample for optimism: in 2019 there were 37 days without any deaths on the road. In the state of alarm there were 32. “A few years ago in the General Directorate of Traffic we had a party on the day that there were zero deaths, it was a very rare and exceptional thing,” Pere Navarro, general director of the DGT, usually gives as an example.
Of the 201 deaths prior to the state of alarm, it rose to 119 between March 15 and June 20. What does not change is the pattern: 88 were produced on conventional roads and 31 on highways and highways. “We are going to have to focus all efforts on conventional roads because there are 75% of the deceased,” Navarro pointed out on June 2 in the congressional road safety commission.
The general director of the DGT then warned that, despite the best records, they had detected an increase in speed. The result was that while frontal crashes, which normally account for 20% of accidents that occur, fell 2% due to the lack of traffic, road exits soared from 39% to 65%. “Mobility fell by 90%, especially on weekends, but the accident rate did so by 70%. It was not proportional because there was a factor that influenced: the driver’s behavior when faced with loneliness on the road. With fewer vehicles and controls you behave differently. Average traffic speeds have risen somewhat ”, explains Ramón Ledesma, PONS Road Safety advisor.
Even so, the global calculation is positive. The deaths in passenger cars —there was a moment during the worst of the pandemic in which the Minister of Transport, José Luis Ábalos, set the goal of reducing the traffic of these vehicles by 85 %— went from the 101 previous to the state of alarm to 53.
The number of pedestrians killed also experienced a substantial improvement: eight compared to 29 in the previous period. With cyclists, who are also grouped within the group of vulnerable users, the same thing happened: of the ten victims as of June 20, only two were registered as of March 14.
Freight transport, which accounted for most of the traffic in the harshest weeks of the health emergency, was the only sector with more deaths than before the state of alarm. If up to March 14 there were six deaths, from that day until the end of the exceptional period, another 16. That is, from representing 3% of the fatalities, it went to 13%. Between March 15 and May 3, it was equivalent to 25%. “Before it was a very small percentage, in the end what we basically had were trucks and vans on the road,” Navarro explained in Parliament.
With the economy limping, the Interior Ministry predicts that the normal flow of traffic will recover in September, coinciding with the start of the school year and the reincorporation of hundreds of thousands of employees to their companies after months of teleworking.
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