After two years of decline, more people were killed in accidents on german roads again. The federal statistical office spoke on wednesday of 3265 traffic fatalities in 2018, an increase of 2.7 percent compared to the previous year.
At the same time, this is the third-lowest level since 1950, the office reported, citing previous figures.
According to results from january to november, the increase in accident fatalities is due to an increase in fatalities among bicyclists and motorcyclists – and for bicyclists, with a total of 432 fatalities, this was 13.6 percent or 50 fatalities higher than a year earlier. Pedelecs, which are counted with bicycles in the statistics, saw a particularly high increase in the number of riders killed, with a 28.4 percent rise, said a spokesman for the federal statistical office.
In addition, there were 699 motorcyclists killed, which means an increase of 9 percent or 57 deaths, as the federal office in wiesbaden further announced. On the other hand, the number of motorcyclists fell by around six percent to 456 and the number of car drivers by around two percent.
Stephanie krone, spokeswoman for the german general bicycle club (ADFC), speaks of an "imprinting" situation. "In germany, at least one cyclist dies every day of the year, most often as a result of cars and trucks turning at high speed. In three quarters of these cases, motorists are the cause of the accident by taking the right of way from cyclists."
The total number of accidents recorded by the police fell slightly by 0.4 percent to 2.6 million. Property damage occurred in 2.3 million cases. There were 307 fatalities or injuries.900 fall, which is 1.7 percent more. The number of injuries increased by 1.1 percent to around 394.000.
"After the long hot summer, it was clear that there would be an increase," siegfried brockmann, the head of accident research for insurers, told deutsche presse-agentur. In view of the weather conditions, many motorcyclists were on the road – and with the higher number of rides, a higher number of accidents is also plausible. The double-digit increase in the number of cyclists killed, on the other hand, cannot be explained by the weather alone.
There was a double-digit increase in the use of pedelecs, which is mainly due to senior citizens, the accident researcher said. "Many old people enjoy a new mobility after they no longer have the puff to ride a bike or have problems on their usual bike because of arthritic joints," brockmann describes. Unfortunately, this also has a flip side. "The control of the vehicle, especially with the higher speed, is not given in many cases." moreover, many senior citizens believed that they did not drive so briskly and did without a helmet.
Since a quarter of pedelec accidents are so-called solo accidents without the involvement of other road users, brockmann believes it would make sense to link the speed of pedelecs to the power output of the rider. "The technology could already do it – and many seniors don’t even want to drive that fast," says brockmann. "If you can’t reach 25 kilometers per hour on a bicycle, you should also cap the top speed on a pedelec."
"Especially in the case of fatalities among pedestrians and cyclists, you can see that they are often of senior age," says katrin van randenborgh of the ADAC, too. "We attributed this less to slowing reflexes or declining concentration than to declining strength and agility to be able to brace oneself well in a fall and, in particular, to prevent serious head injuries."
Another issue is the infrastructure, especially in the inner-city area. "Something has to improve here, of course," emphasizes brockmann. "Especially in conurbations, there is considerable competition for public road space," van randenborgh emphasizes. "The design of the strabenraum and the division of the flats has always been the subject of political discussion and must be rebalanced again and again."
"As long as there were only a few bicycles, it wasn’t a problem," says accident researcher brockmann about the risks in inner-city traffic. However, given the increase in bicyclists, wider bike lanes on the road and especially in intersections are necessary to reduce accident risks, he said. Given the limited flat areas, definitely a conflict issue: "where you give something to someone, you have to take something away from someone else," is how the accident researcher described the potential for conflict. "A voluntary process on the part of the motorists will not exist in the case of doubt."
At dangerous locations, there must always be a physical barrier between the bike lane and the car lane, demands the ADFC. "The traffic lights also need to be switched differently – with separate green phases for straight ahead drivers and turners," says ADFC spokeswoman krone. "Last but not least, electronic vehicle technology must help to eliminate the danger where it arises, namely usually at the motor vehicle."Truck turn assistants could prevent 60 percent of fatal turning accidents involving cyclists, but according to estimates by the ADFC, less than five percent of vehicles are equipped with the technology, which costs around 1,500 euros.
As a consequence of the accident figures, the professional association for road traffic demands that speed 30 should be the rule in built-up areas and not the exception. According to spokesman roland stimpel, what is also needed are "safe traffic lights at intersections" where pedestrians have a green light in front of turners and slower passers-by can also use the traffic light phase without sprinting. "Today, in berlin, for example, twice as many pedestrians who walk green are injured as reckless pedestrians who walk red."
The fact that especially within built-up areas weaker road users are particularly at risk is also shown by older figures from the federal statistical office. According to the analysis of accident figures for 2017, 95.8 percent of all pedestrians injured in road traffic accidents and 90.6 percent of all cyclists were involved in accidents in urban areas. Among fatalities, 71.6 percent of all pedestrians killed in traffic and 66.5 percent of all bicyclists.