The Dutch road toll

I thought it might be worth talking a bit more about shared space. In the Netherlands [pdf link] there were 804 road toll fatalities in 2004 and 34,181 injuries.

In New Zealand last year there were 423 deaths and 15,730 injuries.

The Netherlands has a population of 16 million people and New Zealand has a population of 4 million. So the Netherlands had a rate of about 50 people per million die on the roads, while New Zealand had a rate of 106 people per million die in our road toll. Likewise the Netherlands injury rate was about 2100 per million, while ours was about 3,900 per million.

Now we can’t attribute that all to shared space transport planning. The Netherlands has significantly higher rates of public transport and active transport use. It also has a different attitude to drugs and alcohol, different road rules and a different culture.

But shared space (the concept that people behave better and safer in traffic when their traffic environment is a shared public space than they do in conventional traffic where travellers are isolated from each other by fences, regulations, signals, signs, road markings, etc) might have something to do with it. Check out this video about a large intersection in the Dutch city of Drachten:

The producer of that video, Shared Space, has others on youtube.

9 Comments Posted

  1. Oops, clicked the wrong button. When comparing countries it’s always a good idea to look at as many potentially relevant factors as possible. Here are some for the whole of the Netherlands, the agricultural Drenth region and New Zealand. Since the Netherlands stats are from the EU reional stats book 1994 I have used the NZ stats for 1994 as well. The correlation between regional agriculture activity and road deaths is strong in all EU countries.

    Nederland (NZ) [Drenth (Noord-Nederland)]
    Land Area 41,029 (266,922) [2,680]
    Population 15,237,000 (3,355,000) [448]
    Agricultural Employment % 3.8 (10) [7.5]
    Industrial Employment % 23.4 (25) [27.4]
    Service Employment % 72.8 (65) [65]
    Agricultural Land Area 1,988 (21331) [165]
    Motorway kms 2,118 (350) [82]
    Public Road kms 102,721 (91,000) [6,001]
    Registered Private Cars 5,755,000 (2,050,000) [181,000]
    Accidental Deaths 3390 (1750) [140]
    Road Toll 1200 (580) [69]
    Suicide 1555 (512) [42]
    Road Toll per 100,000 population 7.9 (16.2) [15.4]

  2. Nederland (NZ) [Drenth (Noord-Nederland)]
    Land Area 41,029 (266,922) [2,680]
    Population 15,237,000 (3,355,000) [448]
    Agricultural Employment % 3.8 (10) [7.5]
    Industrial Employment % 23.4 (25) [27.4]
    Service Employment % 72.8 (65) [65]
    Agricultural Land Area 1,988 (21331) [165]
    Motorway kms 2,118 (350) [82]
    Public Road kms 102,721 (91,000) [6,001]
    Registered Private Cars 5,755,000 (2,050,000) [181]
    Accidental Deaths 3390 (1750) [
    Road Toll 1200 (580) [
    Suicide 1555 (512) [

  3. The Netherlands are more compact than New Zealand, so I expect driving distances are shorter, leading to fewer chances to have accidents. New Zealand has many miles of unlit winding country roads so plenty of opportunities for accidents there too. If you do have an accident, help will usually get to you faster in the Netherlands than in New Zealand and if you need hospitalisation, that will also be faster in the Netherlands in most cases.

    The New Zealand vehicle fleet is older than most developed countries, so our cars are probably not as safe as those in the Netherlands either.


  4. gee Frog. arent you being a bit risque with that subtle reference to Dutch attitudes to alcohol and DRUGS? that might remind forum members of that policy you dont like talking about (remeber which one?), invite stigma and ridicule, and cost you votes in the lead up to the election.

    suggest you take Russel’s line and just keep totally quiet about cannabis, after all nandors going now and after 5 or 6 years of zero advocacy you can get over the embarrassment and really de-emphasise the pot reform policy some more, defer any mention of Met’s med pot bill until buried some more, post-election, and the voting public will start to see you as a more common-sense based party.

    Suggesting that they do so many things better in Holland is dangerous.

    After all prohibition and criminalisation is so good for us all isnt it and we Kiwis would be far too stupid to handle legal pot responsibly….

    p.s. do the dutch have a corrupt and pernicious Police undercover programme like NZ (as seen on tv)?

  5. According to a recent EC study there is a much more basic reason for the differences between Nederland and New Zealand: “In the Netherlands, a high level of pedal cycle activity is accommodated at relatively low risk. This appears to have been achieved partly by providing extensive facilities to separate cyclists from motorised traffic and partly by managing the motorised traffic on these roads so that they limit the conflicts that might lead to serious cyclist injuries. The same situation has not been achieved in the Netherlands for mopedists or in Britain for pedestrians. In a parallel context, Sweden, with long sparsely trafficked rural routes, has been unable to discourage speeding among car drivers to the extent achieved in the other two countries.”

    The trends since 1970 don’t really support frog’s theory either

  6. I thought everyone had gone quiet today but have just found everybody’s comments hidden in the automatic moderation filter! Apologies. Hopefully they are all restored now and debate can resume. if I’ve missed any let me know.

    [frogmaster adds: I’m sorry, I’m trying different settings on the bloody moderation filter so it isn’t so anti-links. What I tried must have made it worse!]

  7. Yes partly, certainly there is a far better attitude to pedestrians and cyclists, but the two other reasons are:
    – Virtually the entire intercity highway network comprises motorways. Head on collisions are relatively low per vehicle kilometre, so are loss of control accidents. In NZ, head ons and vehicles driving off corners and the like are high because most of the open road network involves 2 lanes highways, with plenty of corners that cant be taken safely at open road speeds.
    – Congestion. The Netherlands has some of the worst congestion in Europe. Injuries and fatalities don’t happen much at low speeds.

  8. Hey- thanks for the informative post. This is another wonderful forward-thinking planning technique, and it’s great as always to see plenty of non-political stuff about wider Green issues here. 🙂 I’m quite glad to see you expanding on that link you posted earlier.

  9. Shared space is a great idea. It works well in Holland, especially in the old towns, which weren’t built around cars in the first place.

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