National Audit Office: the road safety programme is hollow and Estonia is far from reaching its target

2/20/2024 | 11:00 AM

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TALLINN, 20 February 2024 – Although the road safety programme aims to reduce the number of fatalities and serious injuries on the roads, the number of fatalities has not decreased in recent years and the road safety programme activities are largely unfunded, the National Audit Office finds in its audit report. In addition to that, failure to comply with safety requirements at railway level crossings and pedestrian crossings means that significantly faster passenger train traffic will be postponed to a more distant future.

“The road safety programme is currently hollow and Estonia has fallen far short of its national road safety target,” said Auditor General Janar Holm. “For many years, the road accident fatalities in Estonia have decreased but in recent years these improvements have stagnated and Estonia is moving away from the goal. Although praiseworthy goals have been set on paper, the money or activities intended for achieving these goals are far from sufficient.”

“There are two options for solving this contradiction,” continued Janar Holm. “Either we fund the activities needed to meet the target, or we make the targets comply with our actual possibilities. A target for which resources are not guaranteed may be right and noble in its essence, but instead of creating illusions, it would be more honest to tell the public what can be actually achieved with the resources available.”

The goal of the road safety programme by the end of 2025 is that no more than 40 people would be killed in traffic as the average for three years, but the National Audit Office considers this unlikely to be achieved by the end of next year. As the three-year average, the number of fatalities has remained at around 55 for the past three years, and the target level is slipping out of reach.

The audit of the National Audit Office showed that the activities expected to have the greatest impact on improving road safety are either not implemented or are implemented to a lesser extent than planned. The Road Safety Programme 2024-2025, which has not yet been adopted, includes 15 actions with a total cost of ca €26 million, for which there is currently no finances. For example, the Road Maintenance Plan 2024–2027 foresees spending €1.5 million on the reconstruction of dangerous road areas between 2024 and 2025, but the Road Safety Programme states that €12.3 million will be needed over two years.

The Transport Administration has estimated, based on various studies, that doubling the speed limit enforcement would reduce the number and severity of road accidents, saving 3.6 lives a year and preventing 21 people from being seriously injured. One measure that has been offered is the procurement for the development of police cars equipped with self-measuring cameras. However, the funds needed for the development of a police vehicle equipped with cameras are not planned in the state budget strategy.

The National Audit Office points out that to increase the speed of passenger trains on the railways to 160 km/h by 2028, safety requirements need to be met, but the budget for achieving this is €126 million short. The action plan for the development of railway infrastructure for 2021–2028, approved by the Government of the Republic, provides that passenger trains should reach this speed by 2028 but the action plan prescribes no money for improving the safety of level crossings. The safety requirements as a precondition for increasing speeds have also become stricter. Previously, it was planned to equip six level crossings with traffic lights and audible signalling or other active information systems in the wake of the 2018 safety assessment, but according to state-owned railway infrastructure manager company Eesti Raudtee Ltd, the new requirements require these crossings to be built on a grade-separated level to increase passenger train speeds.

The new passenger trains of state-owned company Elron Ltd will arrive by 2025, but company Eesti Raudtee (infrastructure manager) estimates that it will be possible to meet the requirements for level crossings by 2028, and for pedestrian crossings not before 2033. This means that Elron’s new trains would only be able to travel at 141–160 km/h on sections where there are no level crossings, and the journey from Tallinn to Tartu would take longer than the target of 1 hour and 40 minutes. According to Eesti Raudtee, the sections of the railway infrastructure that will be renovated by 2028 and where driving at 141–160 km/h would be possible, will be short and few in number.

In the opinion of the National Audit Office, the dependence of road safety on cybersecurity has so far been underestimated. There should be more awareness of the potential cyber risks in traffic management, both on roads and railways. There is an increasing need to mitigate cyber risks so that road signs with variable information convey the right information to road users and that railway traffic control systems, including traffic lights and barriers, function correctly. Traffic control systems play an increasingly important role on railways and national roads. Manipulation of the input data used to ensure the safety of infrastructure and breaches of its integrity can lead, for example, to traffic stoppages or serious traffic accidents.

The National Audit Office recommends the Minister of Climate to either plan the funding necessary for the implementation of the actions or bring the objective of the road safety programme to match actual capacity. In addition, the National Audit Office recommends adding only actions with a previously assessed impact to the programme, and preparing a plan for funding the activities that would include the cost of each action.

The National Audit Office recommends the Minister of Climate Change to analyse whether it would be possible to make the investments in railway level crossings to increase speeds on the railways to 160 km/h by the time set in the action plan, i.e. by 2028. The necessary funding should also be planned in cooperation with railway infrastructure companies. If necessary, the objectives of the action plan for the development of public railway infrastructure should be adapted to real possibilities.

The National Audit Office recommends the Director General of the Transport Administration to assess the possible impact of reducing the volume of actions and abandoning actions on road safety. These assessments should be presented to the Traffic Committee of the Government of the Republic and, if necessary, changes to the target levels should be initiated there.


The National Audit Office analysed whether the adopted decisions and actions ensure road safety on Estonian roads and railways and contribute to the reduction of the number of traffic fatalities and serious injuries.

In order to consistently improve road safety and reduce the number of people killed and injured on roads and in traffic accidents, the Road Safety Programme 2016–2025 was prepared and its goal is that the three-year average of fatalities in 2025 does not exceed 40 and that no more than 302 people per year are injured. According to the Transport Administration, 54 people on average were killed on Estonian roads each year from 2021–2023. Also, in 2023 there were seven vehicle and train collisions and 13 pedestrians were hit by a car, which resulted in nine fatalities and eight injuries.

Ensuring the safety of road users and road safety, including the implementation of the Road Safety Programme, was organised by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications until 1st of July 2023, after which the Ministry of Climate took over the tasks. In the implementation of the Road Safety Programme, overall monitoring, harmonisation of actions and disagreements between programme implementers, reporting on and updating of the programme is the responsibility of the Transport Administration.

The railway infrastructure company is responsible for the safe operation of the railway infrastructure. The Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority has been appointed as the safety authority at national level and its responsibilities include national supervision of the maintenance of railway installations and rolling stock and compliance with the requirements for the management of railway traffic and issuing safety authorisations and safety certificates. Cybersecurity on both railways and roads is based on the Cybersecurity Act and compliance with the act is verified by the Estonian Information System Authority.

Priit Simson

Communication Manager of the National Audit Office
+372 5615 0280
+372 640 0777
[email protected]
[email protected]


  • Posted: 2/20/2024 11:00 AM
  • Last Update: 2/20/2024 8:41 AM
  • Last Review: 2/20/2024 8:41 AM

The new passenger trains of will arrive by 2025, but the infrastructure managing company Eesti Raudtee estimates that it will be possible to meet the requirements for level crossings by 2028, and for pedestrian crossings not before 2033.

Elmo Riig/Sakala/Scanpix

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