09 Aug 2017
Europe should do more on road safety says ETSC

By Alex Ward

The European Union has some of the safest roads in the world but more needs to be done to make them safer. This was the clear message at the European Transport Safety Council’s (ETSC) Annual PIN Report and Awards conference in Brussels in June. The event featured presentations of road safety data from EU Member states and showed their progress in road fatality and serious injury reduction.

Antonio Avenoso, Executive Director of ETSC, presented the PIN report and warned that progress has ground to a halt. In 2010, the European Union renewed its commitment to improving road safety by setting a target of reducing road deaths by 50% by 2020. However, the rate of reduction has been stagnating. Over the last seven years, there has only been a 19% reduction in road fatalities. Last year, 25,671 people died in road crashes in European countries, the third consecutive year of poor road safety results. To meet the current goal of a 50% reduction, the 28 European countries need to have reductions of 36%. Realistically, Ministers must call on the European Commission to recommit to a new road fatalities and serious injury target in order to hit a 50% reduction. For a graphic the compares EU road safety performance by country see here.

As part of the PIN report each year the best-performing country receives an award. This is given to the country producing continual declines in road fatalities. In the last five years, winners have included Slovenia, Slovakia, Denmark, and Hungary. For 2017 the winner was Switzerland (not an EU Member State). Between 2010 and 2016, the country recorded a 34% decrease in the number of road deaths. Switzerland also registered a 15% drop in 2016 compared to 2015 levels. If more European nations follow the Swiss example, an extra 14,000 deaths could be prevented, and up to € 30 billion euros could be saved.

To explain the European Commission‘s current position, Violeta Bulc Commissioner for Transport gave a presentation. She explained that even though the EU has the safest roads in the world, 70 people are still dying every day and 26,000 are dying every year. That’s the equivalent to one large coach crashing every day and one town and its occupants being killed every year. Mrs Bluc reiterated that the EU was committed to halving road deaths by 2020, but a new strategic framework was needed. And at the end of July, it was announced that a new framework would include a new EU wide target for 2030, better performance indicators and the adoption of the safe systems approach to promote better performance.

In July also the European Commission launched a public consultation to revision the Vehicle General Safety Regulation and Pedestrian Safety Regulation. These measures are to introduce new standard equipment and improved safety performance of vehicles. This includes Autonomous Emergency Braking, Intelligent Speed Assistance, Lane-keeping Assistance and Driver Drowsiness or Distraction Monitoring. Such technologies by becoming mandatory features on cars, light commercial vehicles, buses, trucks and trailers have the potential to save lives on EU roads. The consultation will be running from July 31st till October 22nd and is available to read here.

The commitment to a new framework as well as the current consultation vehicles safety are positive steps forward. Hopefully they will be fully supported by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament and once implemented properly will help bring EU road safety back on track to reduce fatalities and serious injuries by at least 50%.

Alex Ward represented the Towards Zero Foundation at the 2017 ETSC PIN Report and Awards Conference.