VILNIUS - Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are the most dangerous countries for road travel in the entire European Union, according to a survey released on April 27 to mark Europe's first Road Safety Day. In 2006, the Baltic countries had more than three times as many road deaths per capita than the safest countries 's Sweden, Holland and Malta.
Lithuania topped the "deadliest" list, racking up 223 fatalities in road accidents per million inhabitants last year. It was followed by Latvia with 177 fatalities and Estonia with 152 road deaths per million.
The safest country in the EU is Malta, where only 25 fatalities per million inhabitants were registered in 2006. The Netherlands, with 43 road deaths, is second while Sweden, with 49 fatalities, comes third. The EU-wide average in 2006 was 86 fatalities per million.
Lithuania and Estonia also have the dubious honor of being among the only four EU countries where the number of road fatalities grew between 2001 and 2006. The other two were Romania and Hungary, but Lithuania leads the list with an increase of 8 percent. Meanwhile in Latvia the number of road fatalities dropped by 27 percent over last five years, shrinking from 558 in 2001 to 407 in 2006.
The best result in saving lives during road accidents was shown by Luxembourg, where the number of road fatalities shrunk by 49 percent from 2001 - 2006. The result for France and Portugal was 42 percent, while the average indicator throughout the EU was 22 percent.
As surprising as it seems, it isn't the young people who deserve the blame for the high number of road fatalities in Lithuania. On the contrary 's among EU countries Lithuania has the lowest number of 18-25-year-olds amongst those killed in road accidents 's 10 percent. Ireland, France and Greece, where the numbers are 30, 29 and 26 percent respectively, lead the list, while the figure for Estonia is 19 percent and for Latvia, 16 percent.
Nor were drunk drivers the cause of the majority of fatal road incidents in Lithuania. Drunk drivers were responsible for 14.8 percent of all deaths in road accidents in Lithuania 's a considerably high figure compared to 4.8 percent in the Czech Republic or 5.9 percent in Austria, but well below the 29.5 percent indicator in Spain, 28.8 percent in France or 27.8 in Portugal.
Drunk drivers in Estonia were responsible for 23.5 percent of all road fatalities last year, in Latvia they caused 21.7 percent of accidents resulting in death.
The European Union in 2001 challenged itself with the ambitious goal to halve the number of road deaths from 50,000 to 25,000 by 2010.
The figure of 38,600 deaths last year clearly shows that the target will be very difficult to achieve, but the EU's Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot says it still may be done if governments draw lessons from the figures and create policies that work.