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EU's new member states have highest numbers of road deaths

Road travel in Europe is most dangerous in the Baltic countries and Greece, while Northern Europe has the lowest death rates in road accidents, new statistics said Friday.

The Baltic states had more than three times as many road deaths per head of population than Europe's safest countries Sweden, Holland and Malta, according to data published by the European Commission. With rapidly rising numbers of cars on the road, Estonia, Latvia and Hungary saw up to 8% more road deaths in 2006 than 2001. The figures also show that the 27-member EU is unlikely to meet its target to halve road deaths from nearly 50,000 five years ago to 25,000 by 2010. Ireland has the highest percentage of young people killed on the roads with 30% of fatalities in the 18 to 25 age group. France, Luxembourg and Portugal reduced fatalities by more than 40% since 2001, saving several thousands of lives. Across the EU, road deaths were down 8% last year compared with 2005.

In some countries, 30% of people were killed in road accidents where at least one driver had drunk more than the legal limit. About half of all drivers involved in fatal road accidents did not respect speed limits. Although Britain has a low death rate of 5.6%, little progress has been made over the last six years. Germany, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands are all reducing fatalities faster than Britain. Within Western Europe, northern countries tend to be safer than southern states. An exception is tiny Malta which has the lowest number of road deaths per million inhabitants and per million cars.  (