You may think Bulgaria is stuck with cars, but the truth is quite different. According to the Eurostat regional yearbook for 2021, Bulgaria's regions are far behind in terms of the number of cars per capita. The EU motorisation rate is 540 passenger cars per 1000 inhabitants. In other words, there is just over one car for every two persons in the EU.
For example, the Italian region of Valle d'Aosta (above Turin, on the border with France and Switzerland) holds the record with 1711 cars per 1000 inhabitants. On the other hand, the lowest motorisation rate is in Greece's Peloponnese - 182 cars per 1000 inhabitants.
Against this background, Bulgaria looks insignificant - in the country's Northwestern Region, the rate is 444 cars per 1000 inhabitants, as it is in all other Bulgarian regions. And here comes a surprising fact from Eurostat statistics regarding the number of fatal car accidents in the Northwest.
According to Eurostat, Bulgaria's Northwest is in the top 15 ranking of European regions with fatal car crashes. While the average number for the European Union is 53 victims per million people, in this Bulgarian region they are 112 per million (in fact, the number is 83, as the region has a population of 740 000).
So here comes the conjecture that the drivers are drunk or drive carelessly in the scattered villages with poor road networks? It sounds like a good reason for a yellow newspaper, but in fact, it is not true.
The Northwest, like other regions in this part of Europe, is a transit region. Significant freight traffic passes through it, especially after the construction of Danube Bridge 2 connecting Vidin to Romania's Calafat. The traffic is heavy not only on the main road between Sofia and Vidin but also on side roads, some of which are not included in the toll system. For example, the second-class road Sofia - Lom has traffic exceeding 9000 cars per day, which is much for such a road. For comparison - under 13 000 cars per day pass on the first-class road to Vidin. Also, the daily motor traffic in the Northwest is the longest as many people residing there work in other regions.
With such intensive traffic combined with a declining population in the Northwest, the number of fatal accidents inevitably stands out. The State Agency for Road Safety says that the problem is not unique to Bulgaria. "In many developed EU countries, there is an increase in the population while traffic intensity remains the same.
Conversely, in less developed member states, there is a decreasing population, with increased traffic. The problem is valid for Bulgaria, through which a serious transit traffic passes, but it is not taken into account in the calculation of road accidents," comments the agency.
It also says Bulgaria is one of the countries that will develop new indicators for road safety, which will be applied in the European Union in the next decade.
Thus, at least statistically, Bulgarian roads will look a little safer. But still, don't trust the statistics too much and drive carefully, especially in the Northwest.