News article, 12 December 2016

The Nordic people – world´s safest and most secure

If News 7/2016 Motor. The Nordic people: well organized, socially just and trendy, are also the safest and most secure in the world. This was the headline of our 2013 annual review
(If P&C insurance, 2013).
At the same time, our Group CEO, Torbjörn Magnusson, stressed that security and being secured comes in many shapes and sizes. A cuddly toy at bedtime for a child, access to good healthcare and education, or food for a day in poorer parts of the world, capable staff and market-leading products for a company etc.

The meaning of safety for any individual depends on external factors and that individual’s temperament. For one, the Nordic people are the world´s safest people on the road. Car related road accidents in the Nordic are the lowest in the world. Considering the distances in the Nordic countries and the number of times that we are on the road, feeling safe while driving is an important form of security.

The European Union forecasts road fatalities within the Euro zone (EZ) to fall by -50% by the year 2020 (see chart below).

The EU forecasts about 15 750 fatalities per year by 2020[1]. This is an incredible achievement by the EZ countries. However, already, the Nordic countries are doing better in reducing road fatalities than the EU has targeted for 2020. As shown in figure 2 below, as of 2016, the Nordic countries averaged less than 50 fatalities per country.

Road fatalities have fallen in the Nordic region since the early 1990s. This trend is expected to continue in to the near future. For instance, in Sweden, in 2014 the number of people killed in car related road accidents was 27, a record low. Although the number of cars on the roads and the number of miles driven have both doubled since 1970, the number of road deaths in Sweden has fallen by four-fifths over the same period. As the Economist observes, Sweden’s roads have become the world’s safest, with only three of every 100 000 Swedes dying on the roads each year, compared with 5.5 per 100 000 across the European Union, 11.4 in America—and 40 in the Dominican Republic, which has the world's deadliest traffic (Economist, 2014).​

Possible explanation?


This remarkable feat was not achieved overnight. It was the result of smarter regulations by Nordic governments, adoption of technology, (re)designing the road to make it safer and cleaner and more fuel-efficient cars that have made the Nordic people careful drivers.

In Sweden for instance, on October 9, 1997, the government introduced ‘‘The Road Traffic Safety Bill’’ founded on ‘’vision zero’’. The ideology behind Vision Zero was that in every situation a person might fail, but the road system should not. Roads in Sweden were redesigned to prioritise safety over speed or convenience. The Swedes introduced low urban speed limits, pedestrian zones and barriers that separate cars from bicycles and oncoming traffic. Quartz and the Economist did the numbers; over the first decade Vision Zero saved around 145 lives (Quartz 2016).

A crackdown on drunk driving has also helped (Quartz, 2016). Within the Nordic region, the average allowed blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0,2 compared with 0,8 in the United Kingdom and the USA among others.

Studying the Swedish model, other Nordic countries have adopted different variants of Vision Zero in addition their own road safety measures. Norway’s Parliament has set a goal to reach 50 000 zero emission vehicles by 2018. Among other things, all-electric cars are exempt from all non-recurring vehicle fees, including purchase taxes, which are extremely high for ordinary cars, and 25 % VAT on purchase. Pure electric vehicles are also exempt from the annual road tax, all public parking fees, and toll payments (including domestic ferries), as well as being able to use bus lanes. This has made electric cars competitive with conventional cars. The effect is a high growth of electric cars. In 2015 for example, 22,39 % of all cars sold were electric cars compare to 1.07 % in United Kingdom, 0.90 % in Austria. And even though no wide studies have been made, at least our internal statistics at If show that electric cars have a lower accidents ratio.

Insurance companies’ contribution to this?


Insurance forms part of the important societal fabric that provides security for individuals and companies. Therefore, it is not surprising for car insurers to support initiatives to reduce accidents on the road. In If P&C insurance for instance, we have taken it upon ourselves to support programs that reduce road fatalities within the Nordic region. In this regard, we have designed Slow down GPS​ – a campaign to inform drivers to slow down when driving in zones with lots of children. This is one way to contribute to a more safe and secure society – and the basic idea behind If’s business in general.​


[1] It is important to mention that; this is the average for the EZ. There are countries like Malta, which is a par with the Nordic countries.


References
If P&C insurance. (2013). Retrieved from https://www.if-insurance.com/web/industrial/sitecollectiondocuments/annual%20reports/if_13_eng.pdf

Mobility and transport - European Commission. (2016). Mobility and transport. Retrieved 16 November 2016, from http://ec.europa.eu/transport/road_safety/

Mudallal, Z. (2016). Why Sweden has the world’s safest roads. Quartz. Retrieved 16 November 2016, from http://qz.com/319940/why-sweden-has-the-worlds-safest-roads/

Why Sweden has so few road deaths. (2014). The Economist. Retrieved 16 November 2016, from http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2014/02/economist-explains-16