What is the percentage of vehicle occupants in Bulgaria who use safety belts? How many drivers exceed speed limits? Do motorcycle riders and cyclists use protective helmets? How often do we drink and drive? The results of the BASELINE Project, which aims to develop Europe-wide indicators to measure more accurately the road safety levels of EU Member States, will provide answers to these questions.
Nineteen European countries participate in the project, with the leading organization being the Belgian Roads Institute (VIAS Institute). At the end of 2020, the Institute invited State Agency Road Safety to participate in the project as a beneficiary from Bulgaria and take part in the estimation of the indicators to be implemented throughout the European Union in the next decade.
Road safety policy in EU Member States is currently assessed at national and central European levels, using key trauma indicators calculated in terms of number of fatalities, number of injuries, and number of road accidents per million inhabitants. These indicators apply to the reporting and assessment of all types of morbidity and trauma by the World Health Organization.
According to Commission Staff Working Document SWD(2019) 283 of 19 June 2019, these indicators do not provide sufficient information on the effectiveness of the policy implemented by national governments, as they are strongly influenced by demographic developments on the continent. Many of the more developed countries in the EU have seen an increase in the size of the population, while levels of traffic intensity have remained relatively stable. On the contrary, less developed Member States have seen a population outflow, accompanied by an increase in the number of travels and their duration on the territory of the country concerned. All this distorts the data obtained and the assessment of road safety levels in individual Member States. The problem is also valid for Bulgaria, which is subject to serious transit traffic, which has not been taken into account when reporting road trauma levels.
Therefore, in the old EU Member States, key performance indicators for road safety policy, which reveal important details of high-risk road user behavior, are measured annually. Some countries, such as France, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands, have been doing this for decades. Bulgaria has done this for the first time.
These key indicators are standardized by the European Commission and concern alcohol use, speeding, use of seat belts and children’s seats, distraction while driving due to the use of a mobile device, use of protective helmets when riding a motorcycle and bicycle, and car fleet safety.
Under the project, the SARS team measured the different indicators in more than 282 locations across the country, i.e. motorways, rural roads, and urban streets. The primary data of thousands of hours of field observations (5,322) carried out on both weekdays and weekends was processed, analyzed, and sent to the international project coordinator for verification at the end of July. Based on the validated data, the key indicators and their relevance for determining the level of safe behavior of road users in Bulgaria were calculated. Unfortunately, the estimated indicator values for Bulgaria are very worrying: