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Finland for Thought » Nordic road fatalities | Politics, current events, culture - In Finland & the United States | Blog of an American living in Finland

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Nordic road fatalities

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 4:31 pm

Why does Finland lead the Scandinavian nations in road fatalities? Don’t say “alcohol tax drop” because Finland has always lead in traffic deaths, and it seems almost every country has seen a dramatic decrease since 1990.

A total of 41 people were killed in road accidents during the month of July in Finland. This is eight more than in the same month last year.

According to a recent study at Berkley, mobile phone while driving does not cause more accidents…

It’s conventional wisdom that talking on cell phones while driving is risky business, but two University of California, Berkeley, graduate student economists report that a spike in cell phone use in recent years and on weekday evenings is not matched by an increase in fatal or non-fatal car crashes from 2002-2005.


  • Kristian

    Don’t say “alcohol tax drop”

    Fair enough. I’ll say it’s the alcohol binge culture that’s created by punitively high-priced alcohol, in general.

  • Anonymous

    Old and unsafe car base, thanks to the car tax.

  • PePe

    >Old and unsafe car base, thanks to the car tax.

    BINGO! we have a winner!

  • Herkku

    Alex, I will go with “What is just one statistic after another?” Final answer.

  • Herkku

    Sorry for the winter-y post, I just could not resist.

  • T

    Using road fatalities per population seems kind of a weird indicator. Usually traffic safety is measured by accidents per distance traveled by one person. Taking Finland’s long distances into account, that might show more favorable numbers.

    It might still be higher for various reasons: ill-conditioned and old road network, long winters with slippery roads (this and poor roads are a deadly combination), moose accidents (biggest single road killer after drunk driving, if I recall correctly) etc.

  • tim73

    Finland is more sparsely populated and we have a lot of quite narrow roads at the countryside than other Scandinavian countries. In Sweden and Denmark more people relatively lives in cities or suburbans than here. That means much safer and wider roads when driving at high speeds and also much lower speeds in two-way suburban roads. Norway is a very rich oil country that can invest a lot of money to roads.

    The real killer is the common countryside two-way road with speed limit 100 km/h. Nothing kills more than car collision accidents on those roads. So that is why the number of road fatalities are relatively close to Canada with similar infrastructure.

  • Kez0nat0r

    Bah, Finns just have Le need for speed ;-)

  • maaksalaatikko

    Insanely dangerous roads in between cities. Two lanes, no separation between lanes, twisting, turning, rising, falling roads due to topography.

    Everytime I go to Finland I spend the first week of driving in a cold sweat.

  • winter, “Yea, Proton Power, now in remission”

    Look I don’t care that you tax cars to death. I just care that the tax takes from the economic base and spends it on items the economic base has already rejected, we call that “feel good items”.

    It also kills any hope of the slave class getting a real job, so they sit around waiting for their next hand out.

  • Mara

    And the big government! ;-) It collects roughly ten times more money from the road users than puts money back to the roads. I do not have good or even very recent statistics, but Helsingin Sanomat had done some investigative journalism and published a full page article about the trend of total sums when Juhani Korpela, the head of transporttaion ministry, retired somewhere round year 2003. The newspaper reported that Korpela seemed surprised about the low share returned…

    You just cannot beat the big government as the source of evil. In this case sucking the money out of road transportation serves is a double bad: the politicians can always refer to the low level of safety and high level of pollution as a good reason to increase taxes on the bad, bad cars. When in fact the right thing to do would be to use the bulk of monies collected to ameliorate the problems. The only problem from that would be that the tax payers could not be cowed to pay for non-existing problems and the big government would have to reform into a lean government. And that will not do, says our neo-con Katainen.

  • JG

    I think Tim73 is right in nr 7.
    I can also say that the Swedish government has also put a very high priority on road safety with very strict measures as part of its “projekt Nollvision”. The speed limits are lower here, there are many more speed cameras and police controls etc. The motorway network is also more extensive (motorways are significantly safer than ordinary two land roads without a barrier in between the traffic) and even many of the old type of highways have been made into so called 2+1 roads, with a barrier separating the different directions.
    It’s worth noting this is more achievable in Sweden because the population is double ours and thus there are more road users making it more economical to make the upgrades to motorway etc.
    The population is also more centralised in urban areas, as Tim73 says.

  • maaksalaatikko

    By the way, cars in Finland are much safer than in most other countries.

    Ever tried to pass an older vehicle through the evil nazi katsastus inspection or whatever it’s called?

  • Antti rn

    There is nothing wrong with the roads or cars. It’s the idiot drivers, who don’t observe the conditions they are driving in.

  • Nipsu

    No one has mentioned moose or elk on country roads. That scares me everytime I’m driving outside of Helsinki. Is that a problem?

  • Punter

    Simple actually. Old and dangerous cars combined with extremelt poor quality roads. As for winter conditions, statistically summer is the most dangerous time on Finnish roads even with non stop daylight.
    As for the moose, I think you have a better chance of winning the lottery than being killed in a moose accident in Finland. Although plenty of collisions occur with large hoofed mammals, the majority are simply collisions with deer resulting in a broken headlamp, paint damage and a dead deer.
    Mara hit the nail on the head (as he so often does) in point 11. Investment in infrastructure is below par in Finland considering the awful amount of tax collected from motorists. Even when they attempt to improve things they occaisionally screw it up. As a motorcyclist I couldn’t believe the condition of the Helsinki-Lahti and Helsinki-Tampere motorways in June. To melt a 40cm wide plastic patch down the centre of the road just goes to show the disregard for safety shown by the authorities in Finland.

  • winter, “Yea, Proton Power, now in remission”

    dead deer? Do you get to keep any road-kills?

    My neighbor has a radio scanner, and if one is reported, he is off to collect it. This is good news, as his shooting skills are bad (Only one rifle kill in last 3 years of shooting, so I think the deer are safe here. But my house has several “holes”!!!!).

    This is the same neighbor who wanted me to wear a red hat each day, as I do my afternoon run. Don’t worry, his skill’s are so bad he would miss me, and hit the dog.

  • Anonymous


    Yes, cars in Finland are safe in a way that brakes and such have to be working etc. BUT older cars are not nearly as safe in accidents as newer cars. When there is an accident for some reason or other, the chances of death or serious injury is very much higher in older cars.

  • Ano Nymous

    There aren’t that many road deaths in Finland (per population, per km travelled or whatever) when you compare the figures with those of countries other than Scandinavia, UK or Germany.

    I don’t know if other countries do the same, but in Finland people dropping dead behind the wheel (because of an illness) are counted in the road deaths, and so are those who kill themselves using a car. Remove these two groups, and the numbers drop significantly… then you’re left with the drunks and the semi-blind old people.

    …and please don’t start telling me speed cameras save lives. They don’t (none of those studies hold water). They make driving extremely stressing – because other drivers keep hitting their brakes whenver they see one even when they’re not speeding!

  • http://www.finlandforthought.net Phil

    Two lanes, no separation between lanes, twisting, turning, rising, falling roads due to topography.

    That’s what I’m thinking, Finland needs more highways, I couldn’t imagine how many lives would be saved if there was a median between the two lanes. The tax money is tied up in too much bullshit, they don’t have money to expand the roads.

  • JG

    It’s interesting to note that Wikipedia shows Finland as having the joint safest roads (with the UK), if you use the statistic of people killed per 1 billion vehicle kilometres.
    According to this, 7,6 people die per billion vehicle km in Finland (and the UK) compared to e.g. 8,3 in Norway and Sweden, 9,7 in Denmark and 16 in Iceland.
    (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Road_safety#Fatality)

    That’s what I’m thinking, Finland needs more highways, I couldn’t imagine how many lives would be saved if there was a median between the two lanes. The tax money is tied up in too much bullshit, they don’t have money to expand the roads.
    It’s certainly true that motorways are safer. But our population distribution is such that outside of Uusimaa, the links between Helsinki to Tampere (3) and Turku (1), and perhaps the immediate surroundings of Tampere, Turku, Oulu, it’s very inefficient to build motorways. The amount of space, cost and environmental destruction is not justified by the amount of traffic in most of the country.

  • Punter

    #21 “it’s very inefficient to build motorways.”

    Is it more efficient to have people dying for lack of motorways?

    “The amount of space, cost and environmental destruction is not justified by the amount of traffic in most of the country.”

    I’m glad and no doubt so are the victims families that people are at least dying for something important. Environmental destruction? Save a tree, risk a life. Sounds about right to me. NOT

  • issi

    Old car or new car, good or bad road, they don’t kill people. People behind the wheel does. Who is patronizing now?
    In my opinion cars are too good in finland, too fast and too easy to drive. Just like when the first everyman’s 4wd:s came to market. It’s much easier and you can drive much faster on gravel and snow, but when it gets out of your hands it will also crash harder.
    This is so like the new safety regulations at my work after US interference (joint venture). If there is a risk to cut myself with a knife, it will be taken off and I’ll try to cope with some blunt safety cutter not appropriate for the job. Soon it’s impossible to work efficiently ’cause of the safety flowerhats.
    Once again I must agree with Antti at #14.
    Just keep on dreaming of your padded straight motorways to every hayville in Finland, but meanwhile, learn to foresee and pay regard to current road conditions and traffic.

  • issi

    In addition to #23
    Why Finland is in that chart so high, I don’t really know. I just guess we are not as good drivers as we think. My shield is not stainless either, but I’m still alive and learned my lesson.

    And road fatalities per million population in Iceland? Are the tourists fallig off glacier and mountain cliffs with rental jeeps counted in?

  • any numus

    It’s interesting to note that Wikipedia shows Finland as having the joint safest roads (with the UK),

    Oh please, don’t bring once again those stupid facts to table! Why not just agree that Finland’s traffic is about the most dangerous in the world because of the big government and stupid inhabitants.

    The safest in the world! I laugh on your face!

  • http://koti.phnet.fi/bevertje/index majava

    Finland produces many car and motor sports drivers of name. Why? Traffic behaviour in their home country is not much different; no use of indicator lights; no need for mirrors and to know who is behind you; you focus on who is in front of you and overtake!

    But on a more serious note, I do think there is something wrong with the attitude. The attitude that roads are empty. So why care for other road users, when there are hardly any? Sometimes the roads do seem really empty, but that is just an illusion. After 70 kms driving and seeing only 3 other cars, you think you do not need to pay attention to all those dirt roads that connect to your 100km/h road. But all of a sudden you will face another car that just pulls up in front of you, or tries to cross. I don’t know who I can call “the idiot” in such a situation…. Only around Helsinki drivers are more used and have more respect for other motorists, thanks to the ever higher getting traffic volume.

    Ask Finns about what they were taught in traffic school about using indicators, stopping at the road side, overtaking, merging on the high way, etc. You will be amazed!

    Older cars have nothing to do with traffic safety. Only when one of those is involved in an accident, it is likely that the one that drove the older car is worse off.

  • any animus

    Ask Finns about what they were taught in traffic school about using indicators, stopping at the road side, overtaking, merging on the high way, etc. You will be amazed!

    My kid just got the license. We’ve been driving around a bit since and talked about what’s going on here and there and all of a sudden over there too. And true enough, the incompetent guys at the driving school have taught him to drive according to the law. I’m amazed. And it’s irritating too that I apparently have to taught him how to drive in the real life (don’t stop in front of a zebra crossing unless the pedestrians is clearly communicating that she is going to cross, drive as fast as everybody else and so on).

    And by the way, I don’t understand why anybody would take Punter seriously, but if somebody still does: don’t underestimate the danger of crashing with a moose. In about any given year something like ten people get killed in moose accidents, and another 100 get injured.

  • JG

    Any Animus is right. My cousin wrote off his car and spent a couple of days in hospital after bumping into an elk somewhere in Pernå. It might seem that the warning signs are placed specifically for the purposes of German tourists to steal as souvenirs, but they are not.

  • prince of dorkness

    Simple answer (given by Antti but worth repeating): idiot drivers. Improve the roads and they’ll just take more risks. For details on how to take even greater risks, go see how the Balts drive.
    How can you substract suicides and illness-related accidents from the rest? Can you be sure something was a suicide or that someone would have died even if they hadn’t crashed after getting a stroke?


    “(don’t stop in front of a zebra crossing unless the pedestrians is clearly communicating that she is going to cross, drive as fast as everybody else and so on).” animus

    I hope you’re just taking the piss on the crosswalk thing. As a pedestrian (no car in Finland for 15 years, i.e. “ever”) you assholes who don’t stop at crosswalks are the main thing that makes us pedestrians HATE you motherfucker drivers out there.

    Only very seldomly does a driver slow down to see if the person waiting at the crosswalk “intends” to cross.

    Jesus, do you think we’re standing at the crosswalk to get a better glimpse of your shiny car? WE WANT TO CROSS THE FUCKING STREET!

    And you’re teaching your kid these habits??


  • prince of dorkness

    ‘don’t stop in front of a zebra crossing unless the pedestrians is clearly communicating that she is going to cross’ (any animus)
    This is clearly a problem, particularly in Helsinki. I think what we need is for the government to provide every pedestrian with a light piikkimatto with which to signal: ‘I do indeed want to cross and if you don’t stop your tires will be slashed, you moron’.

  • any animus

    Although I happen to have this shiny new car (how did you know, Dave?) I jog and walk a lot. You know, I’m that over-weighted middle-aged guy with earphones on.

    Anyway, what I teach to my kid goes this way: if you can drive smoothly (without stopping too much) that’s good – for the environment’s sake in particular. Often people – pedestrians too – understand this. They communicate their willingness to let you go by, for example, by looking the other way or down to their toes or whatever.

    But some people don’t understand this code, and in that case, I tell my son to stop. Of course.



    Oh so I get it, you’re taht fat dude saving the environment by not stopping his new car.


  • Anonymous

    Nine words to highlight the nature of Finnish road deaths:

    “…oli ennen törmäystä ajautunut toistaiseksi tuntemattomasta syystä vastaantulijoiden kaistalle.”

    And kudos to the person who pointed out that elks ARE a killer. Last year was a complete fluke, in that only 3 died but 215 were injured. Score one for the paramedics. Figures since 1990 have been consistently between 8 and 12 a year, and there are nearly 5,000 car-elk/deer accidents a year, with elks accounting for 2,000 of them.

    I can’t fathom the logic of the original figures: almost all sensible studies are based on the risk of being involved associated with liikennesuorite (vehicular mileage).

    Might be worth asking (since this a blog that deals with “issues in Finland and the United States”) why the US figures, both up there and in the more reliable IRTAD material, have NOT gone down at the same rate as in Europe (even in Eastern Europe, where the figures are really scary). Check out the Excel files behind that study: while Finland’s numbers tumbled from 130 to 72 between 1990 and 2005, I guess largely in response to improved in-car safety, in the States the decline was much less pronounced, from 188 to 145. Why? If cars are getting safer, are American drivers perversely getting more dangerous?

    I wonder if right now there’s a similar thread going on on “Greece for Thought”. Those guys are something else again, as this IRTAD table should indicate:


  • lahdc

    The roads are indeed in bad condition and narrow. Especially the Utsjoki-Nuorgam road. But you know, when they designed these roads in 1960s they didn’t know how wide the cars would be in the future and how much heavy traffic there would be. A really big truck coming towards you on a narrow road, it’s dangerous.

    There are plans to improve the roads but there’s never enough money… where does all that tax money go.

    And railroads are old too. Ratahallintokeskus just can’t keep up. VR has done its part, they bought the expensive 220 km/h capable Pendolinos 15 years ago and now the whole trip from Oulu to Seinäjoki on a Pendolino is still 100-140 km/h… because the railroad has a limit of 140 km/h because of safety. Pendolino – enjoy the speed!

  • Anonymous

    In amongst the (I HOPE the irony light was on) irony of animus’s remarks about pedestrian crossings, there is a serious problem. Stopping on a road with several carriageways can be a nail-biting experience: the manifest sense of guilt of an innocent party who stops and lets someone cross only to look in the mirror and see some idiot in the other lane coming up to turn them one-dimensional. I’ve been in this situation myself, and only escaped by banging the horn frantically and getting the pedestrian to stop dead in her tracks rather than just dead. Having been there, you do tend to think twice before being gallant…

    The four Norwegian women got hit in just this way a few weeks back. As did the kid in Munkkivuori a few years ago. They made it, she didn’t. :(

  • Anonymous

    #30 I agree, there’s nothing as irritating as to wait for the 20th car in line to stop and let me cross the god damn road after walking home 3 miles from work, sweaty and willing to hit everyone. And that car will be a taxi or a bus. Then there are these moaners who wonder why they don’t get a thank you gesture when they let you go..

  • http://www.axis-of-aevil.net/ hfb

    Roads in bad condition? WTF are you people talking about? Come drive in MA sometime. Roads don’t kill people…but bad drivers who tailgate do. I used to clutch the oh-jesus bar in the car everytime my husband’s father would drive us over to their house as he, like everyone else on the road, would drive fast and about 1 metre from the car in front. It’s not the roads causing the majority of the fatalities. I used to joke that behind the wheel of every Finnish car is a frustrated rally racer….

    And god help you if you’re a ped in Helsinki wanting to cross the street….I wished many times either for a baseball bat or a long, heavy pipe to run along the sides. I mean, what asshole drives along Boulevardi as though they were going to be able to go 60kmph straight through? Not to mention that they’re in a nice, dry, and warm environment while we’re standing out in the cold….saving the envrionment by letting the cars pass smoothely – my ass. A cop could sit there in Hietalahti and watch the crosswalk there into the park and write a ticket all fucking day long with the way the drivers are.

  • Ano Nymous

    @29: Easily, up to a point. The vast majority of drivers who die of illness do not end up having a serious crash – typically the car just veers off the road and ends up in a ditch, with little damage. And people who intend to kill themselves usually make it known to someone. I’d say 95% of such cases could be easily identified.

  • Anonymous

    Ahhh.. those wacky rally drivers. Sometimes I wonder how the guys made it out of their teens. Practicing on the dirt roads after school is a pretty Darwinian exercise: the trees are a lot closer than they are here…


    Listen to the crowd cheering (or is it jeering) towards the end.

  • Punter

    #27- Take me seriously. What did I say? More people win the lottery than DIE in moose crashes in Finland. Now the figure proposed by you was something like 10 per year and the figure given for last year was 3. Now, was I right or not? Did more people DIE in moose accidents or win the lottery last year? (BTW, more people drive than play lotto too)
    I also said that the MAJORITY of accident involving large animals were in fact deer and not moose accidents. See point #34 “there are nearly 5,000 car-elk/deer accidents a year, with elks accounting for 2,000 of them.” Now again does that mean my conclusion that the majority of moose/deer crashes involve deer is wrong?
    Typical of you to jump without checking what you’re jumping into.
    As for the point that old cars are not dangerous, it is in fact the car that plays a significant part in the survivabilty of an accident. Modern cars with ESP. ABS, airbags and crumple zones are far safer and increase your chance of firstly avoiding an accident and secondly surviving one. If we had more of these on the road and fewer old death traps we would see an improvement on these figure over night.

  • any animus

    Yeah … hah, hah … yeah, I suppose I am the fucking fat guy who changed his Octavia to a smaller diesel-driven, biodisel-enabled fucking car just to be one of the good guys … and now they are going to increase the fucking tax i pay. Hooray! And I’m not all that fat either. I mean, not really, not in black clothes without vertical stripes anyway.

  • any animus

    WhatthefauckwasIthinking, I meant horizontal stripes.

  • any animus

    No, it was vertical anyways (“not not vertical = horizontal or not).

  • Anonymous

    #41: If we had more of these on the roads…

    How does that explain the U.S. figures, then? I’m assuming that in the land of the grey and pink and low taxation, they’ll all have bright shiny new vehicles with bells and whistles on. But it hasn’t helped their fatalities much, has it?

  • philtard

    So research says we could actually drive with just one hand all the time? Interesting I always thought it kinda helped to have 2 available.

    Other than that it should really be compared against the actual distance travelled.
    Also I do think road safety and upkeep is taken very seriously in Finland and that the real safety hazard is just the very inept/reckless driving.

  • Punter

    #46 “Also I do think road safety and upkeep is taken very seriously in Finland and that the real safety hazard is just the very inept/reckless driving.”


  • Punter

    #45 So are you saying that safer cars wouldn’t help reduce road accidents/deaths? I’m baffeled by your BS. But then again not really, afterall thinking outside the norm is hardly a national sport here ;)

  • LaaLaa

    I believe no one mentioned this yet: Finns are bad drivers which is one of the biggest reasons behind the high number of accidents. Blame the roads, cars, elks, mooses what ever… driving skills couldn’t have anything to do this, right?

  • aadam7


    Rally world championships are about even when counting Finland against the rest of the world! We have to practise!

  • Peter

    Probably, most of the accidents are due to the wintry conditions and the narrow, winding two lane highways where passing is difficult. Likewise, in the summer months, alot of city folks venture out on the country roads in a rush to get to their summer places. Possibly, many of these city drivers cause accidents on the country roads due to their haste or their lack of experience with country roads. And, of course, driving while intoxicated causes a large number of accidents.

    However, I also believe that some psychological factors are perhaps responsible for a portion of the high death rate:

    1. suicides. I witnessed one several years ago. In the papers, the following day, the incident was cited as a potential suicide. I would imagine that some traffic deaths are hidden suicides.

    2. stubbornness. Some Finns, if they think that they have the right of way, will not yield, no matter what the consequences, in many cases. A few times when I was driving, I saw quite dangerous examples of this. Fortunately, accidents were narrowly averted.

    3. aggressiveness. Finns generally are not aggressive, especially when face to face with someone, and if they are sober. However, sitting behind a wheel in a car allows them to be aggressive (without face to face) contact. As a pedestrian in Finland, if you are walking across the light, often drivers will speed up, even excessively exceeding the speed limit, to put a scare in the pedestrian. One middle-aged pudgy male driver did this to me, and had to stop at a nearby traffic light. I ran over to him, and tapped on his window, and the once Rambo-like aggressive driver looked scared as hell when confronted face to face, and was happy to flee from me when the light changed.


    “And I’m not all that fat either. I mean, not really, not in black clothes without vertical stripes anyway.” animus

    Well, look at it this way, you can just save all the vegetable oil you use for your fry-ups, fill your car up with the stuff and save some money at the pump.

    And still stay plump without all that unnecessary guilt.


    ” As a pedestrian in Finland, if you are walking across the light, often drivers will speed up, even excessively exceeding the speed limit, to put a scare in the pedestrian. One middle-aged pudgy male driver did this to me….” Peter

    This happens on a daily basis to me. I don’t get it. It’s like Finnish drivers who otherwise usually heed laws and regulations have some kind of problem with pedestrians.

    Once a guy tried to run me down AND honked his horn at me simultaneously. I was not jaywalking and it was a legal crossing place.

    Why is it there is a term for “road rage” but not for “pedestrian rage?”

    I might take it up with the EU High Court to see if this is some sort of systemic discrimination against the vehicularly-challenged.

  • Anonymous

    #48. Of course I’m not saying that. It is demonstrably TRUE (as has been stated time and again in this thread), that the fatality figures have declined across the board over the last decade, MAINLY as a result of improved in-car safety, and possibly also lower speed limits. The accident figures, however, have not declined – it is merely the attrition rate that has improved in favour of injuries over deaths.

    I simply questioned whether those who are so hot to trot on the “Finland has high taxes, Finland has old cars, Finland has high roadkill” liturgy might not ask themselves WHY the kill-numbers in the United States have NOT declined in the same way as they have across Europe. However, since it seems to be politically sensitive to point out that lower taxation of motor vehicles need not improve road safety after all, but thta it might have more to do with cloth between the ears of the person behind the wheel, there has been a deafening silence.

    All too often on sites like this people only see the so-called truths that fit their political agenda and ride these warhorses until they are flogged half to death. This has occurred in this case, too. The cold hard fact of the matter is that DESPITE improved vehicles, Finns continue to die in road accidents – this year in alarming numbers. The assertion that all would be well if the rotten welfare statist government was a bit less tax-hungry is not only specious, but stunningly naive (see #2, #16, #18, #41.. ad nauseam). Or would you argue that the Americans have a lousy, unsafe and outdated vehicle stock, too?

  • Punter

    As I have stated before on numerous occaisions, I am not the “all heil great America” type. I have not seen the figures of The US road accident situation. A guess would be if anything the increase in large and midsize SUV’s in America adding to road deaths as they are far from safe in terms of pedestrians, side on impacts and in roll over cases. Generally however, counties allowing for newer cars to be bought (made hard by high taxed welfare statist Finland) have experienced a greater reduction in road trauma than here.
    Also as I stated, newer cars with their inbuilt safety systems also actively prevent accidents and not ony save lives in them. The reason for more accidents occuring today is simply the increase use of automobiles in Finland. Heck, almost every home nowadays has a car. Really steaming along.

  • Anonymous

    #55: Fair enough, Punter. But take a look at the figures in the link to #34, and in the Excel files that lie behind that rather brief piece of information given in the opening post. As always, things are not quite as black and white as they seem. Not only that, the data give different results when viewed from different perspectives: Finland’s figures for deaths per billion vehicular km tend to be rather closer to the European norm, or even below it. I’d acknowledge your claim that traffic has increased, but so it has in Sweden – with a similar policy on vehicle taxation. And yet they have succeeded in reducing the kill-rate rather better. What is THEIR secret, if it is not better road discipline (the cloth-eared driver argument)?

    One interesting detail in the IRTAD figures (see #34) is that the risk of death on US motorways is at least twice as high as in Europe on motorways. This rather flies in the face of the other argument voiced here that paving the country with freeways with crash barriers, etc. would somehow ameliorate the situation.

    Your SUV argument might make sense. I have not (yet) explored those figures to see if they have a breakdown of vehicle type and/or pedestrian deaths. I rather doubt it, unless it is to distinguish between cars, good vehicles, coaches, motorcycles, etc. However, in most cases pedestrians actually do not account for SUCH a high figure (Finland 2004 50 out of 375; USA 2004 no figures given – Excel Table 2). So the jury is out on “killer-SUVs” until someone produces figures that back this up.

    Finally (little sting in the tail). Accident numbers in absolute terms (all accidents, involving personal injury or not) have actually *DECLINED* in Finland between 1990 and 2006, by around 9,000 (43,569 -> 34,548), against a trend of increasing congestion on the roads. So your last statement doesn’t hold much water. See here:


    If you think today’s figures are bad, by the way, you really ought to go back to the 1960s, before the introduction of speed-limits. THEN Finland’s roads were a charnel-house. As recently as 1973, the year the speedlimits came in (October, I think), 980 people died. The stat.fi numbers make grisly reading.

  • mh

    I just got back from a trip to Åland. Traffic culture there was very different; pedestrians were always given way on a crosswalk. Only once was I not given way during my week-long stay there. The car had finnish plates. ;) (They have their own plates on Åland.) Many people here seem to generalize based on their experiences in Helsinki. That is unfair to Ålanders at least if to no one else. (Well, it can be argued that Åland is more like a country inside a country. Culturally they are closer to Sweden than to Finland…)

    About giving way to pedestrians in Helsinki: I agree with a previous poster that it’s not always the best thing to do – not in hindsight at least. Too many times the poor pedestrian gets run over by a car travelling the other lane. The latest case occurred a couple of weeks ago when an 18-year-old girl ran over three norwegian tourists.

  • winter “Yea, Proton Power, now in remission”

    “18-year-old girl ran over three norwegian tourists.”

    well at least they get free health care when run over. Or does your system charge out of country folks?

  • Mara


    The condition of US road infrastructure is not that great, either. As far as I have read the news correctly, there are many other major bridges that are in danger of breaking (one just did). And, to my understanding, the US Interstates are estimated to run into an acute cash crisis in about 10-15 years. The reasons leading to this are many, but at least the following are listed: 1) On average cars give longer mileage and thus wear the roads more per one gallon of gasoline. Because the Federal Interstate Highway Fund collects a fixed amount of tax (some cents) per gallon of gasoline, this trend is not sustainable. 2) The legislative process of appropriating the federal monies to the interstate projects has been corrupted by earmarks. Earmarks are the specific projects the senators have started to ask as a condition for signing each 5 year appropriation bill. Thus there are projects like the “freeway to nowhere” in Alaska and road monies are not spent where they would most benefit the network. 3) Politicians have also succeeded to introduce a wider set of acceptable “transportation related” projects as potential targets to be funded by the Highway Fund. (And when a politician is set to think about it, almost any project will be determined as transportation related). With the more restricted focus on the initially intended network only the Fund might have been able to maintain the network quality. Now new types of funding are actively sought after. 4) The highway administration has been critisized as being bureucratic and wasteful.

    My personal, non-documented & non-verified experience is that the driving culture varies a lot inside the country. My impression is that in the east people tailgate & flash high beams etc. much more than in the west. When I was in Austin, Texas they really kept their slow speed and distance. The local differences in “signaling activity” and courtesy might have something to do with the relative amount of guns per driver.

  • philtard

    And what’s the thing with US then. Low taxes, plenty of new cars, half the country not affected by winter so much.
    So why do they die in such high numbers?

  • Anonymous

    #60. It’s Winter, with his 12-litre V-16 Hemi-Hummer Proton. He takes out two or three pedestrians every time he goes for cigarettes.

    But fair dos, it’s always a good clean confirmed kill. Nothing worse than winging ‘em and leaving them to get squished by someone else. That way you don’t get to mark ‘em up on your door-panel.

  • Freeridin’ Franklin

    Padestrian = turorist

  • Punter

    Philtard (re)- “Half the country not affected by winter so much” means the other half is. And when winter storms hit there, they really do. Last year this country stopped, in places for days, due to a freak storm bringing upto 40 cm of snow. It never ceases to amaze me how blind we are here thinking Finland is the only country in the world with snow and winter. Like so many people asking me what I thought when I saw snow for the first time. “Ahhh.. It was so long ago I can’t remember, just amazed there isn’t more of it here” was my reply. When it snows in The States, they get a metre overnight so stop this winter weather BS already. Anyway, summer and not winter is the peak season for accidents in Finland.

    #56- Thanks. I am surprised to see actual accident numbers have decreased during that period. Point taken and something new learnt. I agree however on your point re accidents pre 70′s. In Victoria australia, we suffered over 1000 deaths a year in the late 60′s early 70′s. Glad to say now it is more like 340 a year and declining. Long may it continue.

  • winter “Yea, Proton Power, now in remission”

    give me a break guys, and get your facts right. If a fuel tax is used to build roads, as you use more fuel, they get more money. Not cars lasting longer, geeeee.

    Now whats the real problem here. Its the political bridges to no where, not the taxes comming in.

    Again, I will say, taxes are evil, they go to items the competative market would not ever fund, like bridges to nowhere.

  • Mara



    Assume the fund gets 20 cents per gallon. Assume a car runs 20 mpg, and wears the road at the rate of 1 cent/mile. 20 c tax for 20 miles of car travel keeps the fund even.

    Assume everything else constant, but the car is a hybrid and runs 40 mpg. The 20 cents for 40 miles of car travel depletes the fund.

  • philtard


    That didn’t really answer my question. 100% of Finland is still affected by winter (and potentially storms) where as in US there are densely populated regions where slippery weather can’t account into the accidents. Yet US has far more comparative fatalities even topping Canada significantly.

    My question still stands why of the rich countries with reasonably modern cars and roads US scores the highest number of traffic deaths.

  • JG

    The USA’s relatively high rate of accidents could be due to the fact that they allow people to drive at a much younger age. Statistically, there is a massive imbalance towards young male drivers being involved in fatal accidents; Finland included. By starting younger in the USA, I suppose they have more of them on the roads.
    Also, it has been shown that the driving exams in many of the US states are not as stringent as they are in countries like Finland, Sweden and the UK. So, perhaps new drivers are less well prepared. (I think this is one of the reasons a US driving licence can not be exchanged for a Finnish one – although frankly now that any EU licence is interchangeable with any other, the system is a bit of a joke- I hardly think that the Greek driving test for instance would be of the same standard as e.g. the Finnish).

  • winter “Yea, Proton Power, now in remission”


    Gas taxes rise all the time. Your Gov at work. True the federal tax is fixed, but some states have fixed theirs to the price, like Calif at 6%.

  • Punter

    (Re)Philtard are you blind or just incapabale of understanding? Once again in large letters for you SUMMER AND NOT WINTER IS THE MOST DANGEROUS TIME, IN TERMS OF FATALITIES, TO BE DRIVING IN FINLAND. Get it, Summer? Now I know most of Finland has snow at some time during winter but don’t start telling me it’s “slippery” in summer. Also, if you happen to “think” about the points mentioned here you would perhaps have fromed an opinion on why the US has a high fatality rate. I suggested the vehicle type, another was driving at a younger age and a third was testing standards.
    Read and think about what is being said. Again, too often a foreign idea for many in Finland but try it, you might like it.

  • Punter

    As a side note, although there really are some fine cars in The US of A, has anyone else watched that show Pimp My Ride? I’m more impressed with the fact the car gets to the workshop in the first place than what it looks like at the end. I mean ok it’s TV but really, do those people actually drive cars like that?

  • any animus

    I’m so glad that you folks manged to ignore the fact that driving here is safer than about anywhere else. This way the “discussion” could be steered back to essentials, like how stupid this country is, not to mention its genetically-challenged inhabitants. (And I would like to say that Punter is **** if I didn’t know that he’s teamed up with Phil who has THE RECORD about what has been said from what IP-number. Don’t think for a moment that these “libibirals” wouldn’t use the info against you. And I’m not fat, really, weight challenged, perhaps.)

  • Punter

    A positive view on this. I was just breath tested at 9.30am this morning on the road out of town. Now that to me is wonderful news to see the Police being proactive like that, especially early in the morning. Many people forget what a hard night does to them and drive too early in the morning. Driving while “hungover” is no different to doing it drunk. I for one would like to see more drink driving checks being done than at the moment and particularly at unexpected times and places.
    I guess the Police thought I was a little strange when I flicked of my helmet, smiled and told him how happy I was to see them out at that time. Probably thought to himself “right, this one must be drunk”

    As for the post above, make yourself clear if you are trying to suggest something. As for Phil, seems like a decent guy running a decent blog, apart from that I wouldn’t know him from a bar of soap.

  • Mara


    Yea, I was talking about the federal financing.

  • Mad Max in the Maroon Maserati

    #72: Little Fact of the Day #231 – You are SIXTEEN times more likely to be pulled over for a breath-test in Finland than in Italy. Pour me another Prosecco, Paolo, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

    “One of the most striking differences was in the likelihood of one’s being breath-tested when at the wheel.
    The police net is by far the tightest in Finland, Estonia, Slovakia, and Sweden.
    In Finland, nearly two in three said that at some time in the previous three years they had been asked to blow into a police alcometer, while in 4th-placed Sweden it was over 40%.
    This compares starkly with the more than 90% of British, Irish, or Italian drivers who said they had not been stopped and checked in the past three years.
    In Italy, the figure was just 4% who said they had been breathalysed by police – one-sixteenth of the Finnish enforcement level.”

    More grist here for Brother Phil’s mill that Finns lie like troopers when doing international surveys, and everyone else tells the truth, the whole truth, and errrrr… nothing…


    SARTRE 3

  • Punter

    Having a name like Mad Max suggests you might be aware of the situation in Australia then? Let me tell you that 2 in 3 and once in three years is pretty dismal. I have been tested “only” 6 times in my 14 years in this country which in my opinion and considering how often I’m on the road is way too few.
    No wonder drinking and driving is the problem it is in Finland then when/if so many of you suppose breath testing here is common.

  • Kristian

    I always thought Finland’s drunk driving problem results from the dismal public transit situation.

  • Mad Max in the Maroon Maserati

    #75 Everything is relative, I guess. The fundamental difference would seem to be that police in Finland (unlike the UK and Italy, to the best of my understanding) CAN and DO carry out random testing, morning, noon and night. The morning mass tests on roads into town are particularly useful, as you pointed out earlier, on weekend and Monday mornings. No end of men get busted (not usually for aggravated DUI, but for the lower kind) while taking wifey-dear to the K-market of a Saturday morning after a Friday night skinful.

    As for Kristian’s comments… par for the course. YAILSATLOOC (Yet Another Internal Link, Shame About The Lack Of OECD Content) Yawn…

  • Punter

    I would still like to see the situation improved to one where by every time you are stopped ny a police officer while driving you are tested regardless of age, gender or reason for neing stopped. More mass tests too at noon on a wednesday as much as weekend or Monday mornings would also help put the seed of doubt into people.
    The road accident figures where death has resulted and alcohol was involved is simply unacceptable in Finland and something we must improve on.

  • any animus

    Yes, the drunk-driving problem is huge in Finland simply because if there is any imaginable problem it must be the hugest in Finland. And of course I trust Punter to have an objective view on every thing Finnish or Australian. So what to make out of this list comparing the number of drunken drivers:

    Greece 6,0 %
    England 2,7 %
    Netherlands 1,8 %
    Ireland 0,7 %
    Germany 0,3 %
    Finland 0,2 %

    Well, as we all know the task of of the Finnish police is not to enforce law and order but to make Finland look good in international comparisons. So the list is a typical Finnish lie that only another Finn can take seriously. The wiser part of the humankind just laughs at these silly attempts to make black look white.

    Here’s another good one: In World Values Survey Europeans were asked if they think that it’s justifiable to drive under alcohol influence. This time the Finns lied themselves close to the bottom: only in Denmark and Hungary fewer people didn’t accept drinking and driving.

    In Australia the drink-driving problem is apparently so huge that the authorities are too ashamed to publish any data. But of course that’s more honorable than the Finnish way of constantly lying.

  • any animus

    And the award for the most unintentionally ironic statement goes to Punter with his “Read and think about what is being said. Again, too often a foreign idea for many in Finland but try it, you might like it.”

    “I mean, heh …”, as the jury put it.

  • Punter

    animus, the reason you can’t find any stats on drinking and driving in Australia is probably because you’re looking under Australian Police or something similar for the info. Idiot. The States control most law enforcement in Australia. If you knew where to search for these figures, and looked at deaths involving alcohol in Finland you might just get a surprise.

    In fact to save myself the bother of further posts on this, although I would love to see you bury yourself in further sh*t, here is the link to a site you might find interesting.

  • any animus

    It’s so funny when you get insulted by even the slightest suggestion that there could be something wrong with Australia. And then you ridicule Finns who try to correct the most blatant lies. I wonder if you are for real but then again you’re not even funny, not really. Just boring.

  • Punter

    Insulted by you? You’re not capable of it. Where was Australia insulted in this blog? Nowhere. Correct blatant lies? Where is the lie I’ve writen in this post? Go away and read the link. You might learn something about road safety.

  • any animus

    Getting insulted and abusive, huh? So boringly predictable. But that’s you alright.

  • knight

    c’mon…fistfight…fistfight! Seems like no there’s not much difference between four and forty year olds!

  • armour

    c’mon…fistfight…fistfight! Seems like no there’s not much difference between four and forty year olds!

  • animus

    c’mon…fistfight…fistfight! Seems like no there’s not much difference between four and forty year olds!

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