Walking is environmentally friendly, good for fitness and generally considered to be the preferred mode of transport where possible. But in some countries there's a higher risk of being killed as a pedestrian. To get an idea of the relative safety across different European countries, we studied data on pedestrian fatalities and walking habits.
The data showed that the Netherlands was the safest amongst the 17 European countries in our study for pedestrians. Pedestrians in the Netherlands were killed at a rate of 1.39 per 1 trillion steps taken. To put this in perspective, the average in our study was 5.92 fatalities per trillion steps. Romania had the worst pedestrian mortality, with 20.91 deaths per trillion steps—15X worse than the rate in the Netherlands.
Other countries with relatively low rates for pedestrian fatalities were Sweden (1.99 pedestrian fatalities per trillion steps), Finland (3.07), Germany (3.20), Denmark (3.28) and the United Kingdom (3.56).
We obtained data on pedestrian deaths per 1 million inhabitants from Europa and data on the number of steps taken per person per day from a Stanford University study. The Stanford study on physical activity tracked movement via smartphones with built-in accelerometry, and was useful as a metric to indicate how much a population in a country walks. Incorporating the Stanford walking data for each country allowed us to standardize the results according to risk by steps taken.
|Rank||Country||Annual Pedestrian Fatalities per 1,000,000 Inhabitants||Average Daily Steps per Person||Pedestrian Fatalities per Trillion Steps|
In order to determine the relative safety for pedestrians in each country in our study, we first gathered data on the number of pedestrian deaths per 1,000,000 inhabitants from Europe.eu. Whilst this metric is somewhat useful on its own to compare pedestrian safety across countries, it doesn't reflect the walking habits of those inhabitants. For example, if two countries have the same number of pedestrian fatalities per inhabitant but the inhabitants walk twice as much in one country, then pedestrians are arguably twice as safe for every step they take in the country where people take more steps than in the country where inhabitants walk less yet have the same fatality rate per inhabitant.
As a metric for how many steps are taken by pedestrians in each country, we used the data from the Stanford University physical activity study that tracked movement via smartphones. Steps were tracked when an individual had their phone on them and was moving. One limitation is that Stanford's data measured steps taken, without specifying if those steps were inside or outside (i.e., as a pedestrian). However, we assumed that the Stanford step data reflected outdoor steps as opposed to indoor steps, because people who are indoors often leave their phone sitting somewhere whilst they go about their household activities. We limited the countries in our study to those for which data was available in the Stanford study.
Dividing the number of annual fatalities per 1,000,000 inhabitants by the average number of steps taken by 1,000,000 people per year (the daily number per person from the Stanford study multiplied by 365 days * 1,000,000 people) gave a measure of the number of fatalities per pedestrian step in each country. We multiplied this result by 1 trillion to get the fatalities per trillion steps taken. Countries with a lower result are technically safer for pedestrians.