Some (tragic?) statistics released by the Swedish Transport Agency

So, stepping away from the happy posts – a more severe and possibly important topic: Road traffic safety. I guess this post might send some mixed signals.

Every year, the Swedish Transport Agency releases statistics with respect to traffic in Sweden (and much much more of course). Since 1997 Sweden has had the Vision Zero aiming to “achieve a highway system with no fatalities or serious injuries in road traffic”. The target date for that to happen is “0 deaths by 2050”. Now, considering the rather nasty accident we had in South Africa a while ago, but with lucky outcome, I was kind of interested in what the statistics would look like this year (well, last year).

Also, there has been a couple of virals out there with respect to safety in traffic.

And the equally brute-force Swedish version, orginally written by Stig Dagerman. Originally written to support safety in traffic.

The statistics can be downloaded from the Swedish Transport Agency with some minor modifications to find the more recent news elsewhere. Last year, 264 people died in traffic. We had the lowest number of deaths in urban areas since 1944. Obviously, the amount of traffic and licensed drivers have increased dramatically since then. A pretty good trend.

Let us look at the graphs. First, the amount of fatalities are shown below. It shows a “steady” decline from some 750 dead per year in the end of the 80s, sniffing some “average” 275 at 2013. In 30 years the number has thus been cut to a 1/3. Assuming a straight line we would expect another 15 to 20 years to get down to the magic zero.


As Mark Twain did put it: “Lies, damned lies, and statistics”. Let’s just play with the numbers a bit. Let us look at the number of issued licenses in Sweden. It has increased in the same time from 4.750.000 to 6.250.000 in the same time. Increasing by a factor 40% or so.


Putting the numbers together and looking at the number of deaths per licensed driver. The number now decreases even more rapidly. In the graph below I have plotted the number of deaths per driver’s license in parts per million (ppm). Now, assuming more and more traffic (more drivers) we see that the number increases even more rapidly. From some 150 down to some 45, < 1/3 of the "risk" of getting killed in traffic. (Yes, of course it depends on how often you drive, where you drive, etc., etc. – I refer to Mr. Twain again).


So, is the statistics tragic or not? The situation improves significantly: better cars, better communication, better roads (well, some might argue about that). More skilled drivers? Pure luck?

Drive safely out there and enjoy the Winter!


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