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Traffic accidents – driving licence theory

Traffic accident

Humans are designed to walk and run. Driving a car is unnatural for us, as the speed is very high (compared to walking) and our bodies are not made to withstand the impact of a collision.

Causes of accidents

There are three main causes of traffic accidents:

  • Human error – it is part of human nature to make mistakes.
  • Unsafe roads – a narrow and winding country road is much more dangerous than a motorway with cable barriers.
  • Unsafe vehicles – insufficient tread depth can lead to a dangerous and possibly fatal aquaplaning.

Prone to accidents

The same group, around 15% of the population, are involved in 50% of all accidents. The characteristics of this group increase the risk of accidents, for example, they:

  • Make excuses for their mistakes, which means they do not learn from them.
  • Deny the dangers. For example by ignoring the fact that there is a preschool nearby.
  • Act impulsively, which can cause dangerous situations, such as making a sharp turn without indicating.
  • Are prideful, which can lead to a negative reaction if they get overtaken. (They “lose out” to another car.)
  • Have a need for self-assertion, meaning that they need to show how big and strong they are. Anyone cutting in must be “punished”.
  • Are prone to reaction formation, a form of contradictory behaviour. Those who are careful in other contexts use traffic to vent their frustration and other feelings.
  • Party a lot, which leads to late-night driving (tiredness) and drunk driving.
  • Are adventurous drivers who view traffic as a challenging race.

What to do in the event of a major accident

When you arrive at the scene at an accident at an early stage

  1. Survey the scene
    Number of casualties? Other risks?
  2. Prioritise
    What needs to be done first?
  3. Warn
    If visibility is limited, there is a risk of more cars colliding, thus making the situation worse.
  4. Call 112
    At this point, you have gathered important information (such as the number of casualties).
  5. First aid:
    1. Life-threatening situation
      Move any person lying in the middle of the road or sitting in a burning car.
    2. Breathing
      Find out if immobile persons are breathing. If the person is breathing, put them in the recovery position. If the person is not breathing:
      • No pulse
        Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is required.
      • Has a pulse
        Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
    3. Bleeding
      Stop the bleeding by fastening a piece of fabric to the wound.
    4. Shock
      Does not refer to people who have been scared, but to circulatory shock, which involves life-threatening internal damage (bleeding). The person is often pale and clammy. Make sure the person is breathing properly and do not give them anything to drink.

Remember

  • Stay at the scene of the accident until the emergency responders have taken over and you have given them all the information they ask for. If you leave too soon, it may be considered absconding (maximum penalty of imprisonment in case of casualties and of day fines if there are no casualties).
    • Exception: If you did not witness the accident and you see that a lot of people have already stopped, you should not stop yourself, as this can lead to more accidents and also hinder the emergency response vehicles.
  • You must give your name and other information requested of you (even if it is a private individual involved in the accident who is asking).
  • You may not move anything at the scene of the accident.
    • Exception: If the vehicle/object poses a danger to other road users, you shall move it.
  • The police must always be contacted if someone has been injured in the accident.

Dangerous goods

Do not approach lorries marked with signs indicating dangerous goods. Such cargo can be lethal if there is a leak. There may also be a high risk of explosion.

What to do in the event of a minor accident

You should keep an insurance claim form (provided by your insurance company) in your car. If you do not have one, write down:

  • The time, date and location of the accident.
  • Name and address of any witnesses and what they have seen.
  • The counterparty’s name, address, telephone number, vehicle, registration number and insurance company.
  • Any damage caused.

Parking accident or similar

  • In case of a parking accident or other property damage, you shall contact the owner of the car or the object that you have run into. The Swedish Transport Agency can help you find information about the owner based on the vehicle registration number.
  • Also put a note with your contact information on the windscreen/location.
  • If you are unable to reach the owner, you shall contact the police. They will make note of the accident, which means that you will not be accused of absconding.

If the object you have damaged is a road sign, you must immediately try to restore it.

Wildlife accidents

Greatest risk of wildlife on the road

  • Dusk and dawn.
  • May–June and September–October.
  • Salted roads.
  • Open fields.
  • Close to a water course.
  • Start and end of a wildlife fence.

Accidents involving moose

Accidents involving moose are the most dangerous type of wildlife accident. The reason is that the body of the moose, which weighs around 700 kg, is at the height of the windscreen of the car. In case of a head-on collision, there is a great risk of the moose ending up inside the car, injuring the passengers.

Once a moose has started crossing the road, it will in all likelihood continue straight ahead. It is therefore best to go behind the moose, if you have to choose which way to swerve.

What to do if you hit a large animal

  1. Warn other road users with your hazard warning lights and warning triangle.
  2. If the animal is killed, try to move it away from the road. If the animal is wounded and runs away, you shall mark the location of the accident. This makes it easier for a hunter to track the wounded animal.
  3. If the animal is wounded, you are obligated to inform the police. You are also obligated to contact the police if the animal you hit (regardless of whether it is wounded) is one of the following:
    • Moose
    • Bear
    • Wolf
    • Boar
    • Lynx
    • Deer
    • Roe deer
    • Otter
    • Mouflon
    • Eagle

Warning triangle

All cars must be equipped with a warning triangle. If your car stalls on a road where the speed limit is over 50 km/h, you must put out a warning triangle. Place the warning triangle 50–100 metres behind the car.

Important clarification of “over 50 km/h”

You have to put out a warning triangle if the speed limit is over 50 km/h. In practice, this means that you only have to put it out once the speed limit is 60 km/h (which is the next step on the speed scale). Think of it this way: 50 km/h is not “over” 50 km/h (it is exactly 50).

Traffic accident statistics

  • Number of deaths: 250–300 per year.
  • Severe injuries: 3,000 per year.
  • Mild injuries: 20,000 per year.
  • 70 people are killed in alcohol-related traffic accidents. That is 20% of the total number of those killed in traffic.
  • 15% of the population is involved in 50% of all traffic accidents.
  • 40% of all those killed in traffic were not wearing a seatbelt.
  • 80% of all those killed in traffic are men.
  • 45,000 wildlife accidents involving large animals (such as moose) occur each year.
  • Traffic accidents entail an annual cost to society of 25–50 billion kr.
  • Unprotected road users:
    • 120 deaths per year.
    • 1,000 severe injuries per year.
  • Risk of a pedestrian being killed:
    • 10% risk of fatality at 30 km/h.
    • 80% risk of fatality at 50 km/h.
    • Death is almost guaranteed at 90 km/h.

Different age groups

  • 18–19-year-olds: Run a 5–6 times greater risk of being involved in a traffic accident.
  • 45–54-year-olds: Have the best reaction times and are involved in the fewest accidents.
  • 65–74-year-olds: Have experience and adapt their driving to their limitations (for example by avoiding driving at night or in heavy traffic).
  • 75 years old and older: Run a 5–6 times greater risk of being involved in a traffic accident.

Highest accident risk

Accident locations

  • Most accidents take place in built-up areas. Primarily due to the greater concentration of cars and other road users.
  • The most serious accidents take place outside of built-up areas. Primarily due to the greater speeds.

Number of deaths according to accident type

Source: Swedish Transport Agency

Accident type Number of deaths (2016)
Head-on 47
Overtaking 2
Catching up (from behind) 6
Turning off 6
Junction 29
Single vehicle – highest death rate 84
Bicycle & moped 18
Pedestrians 41
Roe deer & deer 1
Moose 7
Reindeer 0
Other issues 29
TOTAL 270

Traffic accidents: Annual data

Source: Swedish Transport Agency

Year Deaths Injured Of which are severe injuries
1950 595 10,583 No available data
1960 1,036 21,536 2,983
1970 1,307 22,230 6,614
1980 848 19,246 6,064
1990 772 22,497 5,501
2000 591 22,034 4,104
2012 285 22,825 2,976
2013 260 20,262 2,721
2014 270 17,525 2,395
2015 259 19,639 2,445
2016 270 18,663 2,347
  • Even though traffic is increasing, the number of fatal accidents is decreasing.
    • In 1950, approximately 9 out of 100,000 inhabitants were killed in a traffic accident. The corresponding figure today is approximately 3 out of 100,000.
  • Sweden is a world leader when it comes to traffic safety.
    • In the USA, there are over 30,000 traffic-related deaths each year. If this number is adjusted to the number of inhabitants, that is 3 times more deaths than in Swedish traffic.

Vision Zero

  • In 1997, the Riksdag made a decision with the aim that no-one is to die or get seriously injured in traffic.
  • The focus is to build away the risks (for example through safer cars and cable barriers). Driver education is important too, but people will always make mistakes.

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Last updated 2017-09-07.