The European Union has ambitious plans to take charge of road safety rules and make them uniform across the whole of Europe’s 28 countries. The rules cover speed limits, new technology and road safety measures, with the aim of protecting the most vulnerable road users (such as pedestrians and cyclists). They aim to halve road traffic fatalities by 2030 and halve the cost of accidents by €50 billion a year.
The plans were drawn up with the transport ministers of all 28 member states, including Chris Grayling, the Transport Minister for the UK Government, in Malta earlier this year, at the Valletta Declaration for Road Safety. (Download the plan here)
Last week, the EU endorsed the plans as its road safety strategy for the next 15 years. The move was hailed by road safety organisations as “an important step forward in protecting against needless lives lost on Europe’s roads,” according to a spokesperson for road safety charity Brake.
Key target to halve road-related deaths
The key target – to halve road-related fatalities by 2030 – is ambitious but achievable. There were 26,100 road-related deaths across the EU in 2015, costing €50 billion a year (increasing to €100 billion when serious accidents are included as well).
Pedestrians and cyclists are to be incorporated into the EU’s mobility plans, with promises to include more “dedicated infrastructure” for these groups, including segregated paths and lanes. Considering recent terrorist events, and how vulnerable cyclists and pedestrians are to the impact of vehicles being used as weapons, this is a logical step, which road safety campaigners will welcome.
The EU also plans to roll out a series of low speed limit zones across the EU, setting a new, standard 30 kph (20 mph) speed limit. Quite when and where the UK will roll out these designated zones is not known. As far as we know, it will be the first time the EU has dictated speed limit restrictions in the UK and is probably the beginning of EU speed limit harmonisation occurring in the future.
Safety technology as standard in all vehicles
One of the most interesting aspects of the declaration is that all 28 member countries have agreed on legislation where new safety technology must be fitted in all new vehicles across the EU. The move is similar to the Euro NCAP standards already in place for seat belts and crash testing.
It is not clear what the timetable is for this new technology, but the underlying objective is clearly focused on saving lives and reducing the chance of high-speed accidents.
The eCall system, for example, allows a car to transmit an “SOS” signal autonomously to the emergency services, cutting response times and saving lives more quickly. Intelligent Speed Assistance is a technology installed in cars that tells the driver when they have reached the speed limit of the road they are on. It also changes dynamically based on when the car moves into a different speed limit, automatically slowing the vehicle down.
Automated Emergency Braking Systems is the most topical system. Some vehicles (such as trucks) already have this technology and it saved lives in the recent terrorist attack in France. The truck used in the Nice terror attack applied a handbrake automatically that could not be overridden after the first major impact.
Interestingly, although the declaration mentioned mobile phone use as a leading cause of road accidents, it did not mention mobile blocking technology. This is perhaps because the major mobile handset and operating system providers are keen to self-regulate rather than allow the EU to impose rules on them.
Do you welcome the EU’s road safety strategy? Are you happy that the EU will determine speed limits, the use of safety technology in cars and road infrastructure decisions in the UK? Let us know in the comments below.
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