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Road deaths in Germany fall to all time low but accidents on the rise

The number of deaths on German roads last year fell to 3,214, but there were 2.6 million accidents. It was the highest number of traffic accidents since reunification.

The number of people killed on German roads has fallen to its lowest level since the founding of the federal republic more than 60 years ago.

According to data released on Friday by Germany's Federal Statistics Office (Destatis), 3,214 people were killed in car accidents in 2016. That's 245 fewer recorded deaths than the year before, a fall of 7.1 percent.

However, the figures do not suggest that Germany's roads are safer as 2016 saw the most accidents nationwide with some 2.6 million incidents recorded, almost 3 percent higher than the year before and the highest since German reunification.

Some 308,200 of those accidents resulted in deaths or injuries, while the overall number of traffic injuries in 2016 jumped by 0.8 percent to 396,700.

There was also cause for alarm in the number of accidents involving two-wheel vehicles, namely bicycles and scooters, the number of deaths rising by 8.5 percent and 4.3 percent respectively.

However, motorcycle-related deaths sank by 15.7 percent.

Driving dangerously in the east

Destatis' figures broke down the number of traffic-related deaths by federal state, with Bavaria, Berlin, Hamburg, Saarland and Schleswig-Holstein all seeing a rise in the number of deaths, while Brandenburg and Baden-Württemberg saw a major drop. 

The statistics also reveal which states saw the highest number of deaths proportional to the total population. Based on those measures, the eastern German states of Saxony-Anhalt and Mecklenburg-Western Pommerania saw the highest proportion of road deaths, with 59 and 55 deaths per million citizens respectively. The safest state, by contrast, was North Rhine-Westphalia, which saw 29 deaths per million citizens, well below the national average of 39 deaths per million citizens.

Long-term drop in road deaths

Destatis has been recording road accidents since as long ago as 1952 for both the western federal republic and the former eastern German Democratic Republic.

By the mid-50s, the number of annual road deaths stood at around 14,000, before spiking in 1970 at 21,000. Since then, the number of road deaths has sunken dramatically, thanks in no small part to changes in the law that have since made it compulsory for drivers to wear seatbelts and motorcyclists to wear helmets, while also lowering the legal per mille limit limit for blood-alcohol content when driving.

Carmakers, meanwhile, will correctly point out that the technical safety specifications in vehicles have also dramatically improved since.

dm/jm (dpa, Destatis)

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