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:


Key Performance Indicators for Road SafetyWhile on motorways and outside built-up areas, around 90% of drivers comply with speed limits, unfortunately, less than half of them (45%) do so in built-up areas! Of course, this leads to much more severe consequences in the event of an accident.

Key Performance Indicators for Road SafetyOn the different road types, between 5% and 7% of observed drivers use handheld mobile devices. At 10 motorway locations, on weekdays and on weekends, 699 drivers with a mobile phone in their hands were observed. In cities, things are even more worrying. There were counting locations where more than one fifth of drivers held a mobile phone while driving. Unfortunately, similar behavior was observed for professional bus drivers carrying passengers on intercity routes. Of these, 5% held mobile phones during on-site observations. This is indicative of a high probability that practically a very large proportion of them, in a given trip, will use mobile devices at one moment or another while behind the steering wheel and driving the bus. According to data from the Commission, the use of mobile devices while driving has become an “epidemic in Europe” and the distraction is the reason for a quarter of all accidents occurring.

Key Performance Indicators for Road SafetyThere are around 2.5 million active passenger car drivers in Bulgaria, of whom, according to our studies, around 15,600 people, at any time of the day, on weekdays and on weekends, are ready to sit behind the wheel and drive with a blood alcohol concentration above the statutory maximum. Moreover, they do it! We should bear in mind that in Bulgaria, the statutory permissible blood alcohol concentration is one of the highest in the EU. According to the World Health Organization, Bulgaria is one of the EU countries with regular excessive alcohol consumption.

Key Performance Indicators for Road SafetyThe study witnessed 5,807 motorcyclists, 6,441 cyclists, and 618 passengers. The common indicator for all roads is indicative that in Bulgaria, the proportion of motorcycle riders and passengers using protective helmets is high. However, 4% of them indulge in not wearing protective helmets while using one of the most dangerous transport modules, the motorcycle. In cities, 6% of motorcycle riders and passengers decide to express their “courage” and “skills” while on the motorcycle, without thinking about their safety, and fail to use protective helmets.

The use of helmets by cyclists in Bulgaria is optional. However, one fifth of them choose protection and use protective helmets while riding a bicycle.

Key Performance Indicators for Road SafetyThe key vehicle safety indicator envisaged by the EC is defined as percentage of new passenger cars that have a Euro NCAP safety score equal to or above four stars (European New Car Assessment Program). Of these newly registered vehicles, about two thirds have been assigned four or five stars under the European New Car Assessment Program (Euro NCAP). At the same time, it should be noted that in 2019 and 2020, the share of new cars out of all newly registered cars in the respective year was 10% and 7%. Unfortunately, however, the car fleet in Bulgaria remains too old and the share of new cars in the entire fleet in both analyzed years equals 1%. This implies a theoretical car fleet renewal rate of 100 years!

For further information about the project, please visit: https://www.baseline.vias.be/

Key Performance Indicators for Road Safety