Europe is in need of strong leadership and action on road safety.
25,300 people lost their lives on EU roads in 2017, a figure that has hardly changed in four years. The EU28 reduced the number of road deaths by 20% between 2010 and 2017 but is way behind in progress needed to meet the 2020 target (Fig.1) of cutting deaths by half over this decade.
The weekly number of road deaths in the EU (around 500 on average) is equivalent to two typical passenger airliners crashing and killing everyone on board.
In addition, around 130,000 people were seriously injured on European roads in 2014 according to European Commission estimates based on the international MAIS3+ standard definition of a serious injury.
In May 2018, the Commission published a Strategic Action Plan on Road Safety that includes a new long-term target to halve road deaths by 2030 as well as, for the first time, a target to reduce serious injuries by the same amount.
The EU must implement this new policy framework so that it ensures both the highest practicable level of safety and a fair distribution of safety across the European Union. Building political commitment and leadership at the highest level are prerequisites for preventing road traffic deaths and injuries.
The decisions of the European Parliament matter. New legislative proposals on improving both infrastructure and vehicle safety are currently under discussion in the European Parliament. Their further implementation and the development of new legislation in other areas will be in the hands of newly elected MEPs over the period 2019-2024.
Improving the safety of cyclists, pedestrians and powered two wheelers (PTWs)
The share of unprotected road users in road deaths is increasing as car occupants have been the main beneficiaries of improved vehicle safety in recent years.
Cyclists and pedestrians are generally unprotected and are vulnerable in traffic. As active travel is being encouraged for health, environmental, congestion and other reasons, the safety of walking and cycling in particular must be addressed urgently.
Pedestrians killed represented 21% of all road deaths in 2014, the figure for cyclists stood at 8%. Powered two wheelers (PTWs) represent 17% of the total number of road deaths while accounting for only 2% of the total kilometres driven. There are big disparities between EU Member States.
Alongside bicycles and PTWs there are new modes of transports emerging. In the last few years the use of pedelecs in Europe has been increasing and is expected to continue growing especially for use on longer journeys and by older riders. The road safety consequences of the potentially higher average speed that pedelecs can achieve are not clear. There are more powerful Speed Pedelecs (S-Pedelecs) and power-on-demand eBikes (those whose motors can provide assistance regardless of whether the rider is pedalling or not) as well as quadricycles, unicycles, cargo bikes used for carrying children and scooters using public roads.
Future MEPs should support:
Automated driving has the potential to significantly improve road safety. However, recent collisions involving vehicles with automated technology on board demonstrate that automated driving may also pose new risks to road safety, and that the technology is not yet mature. The European Union must aim for the highest standard of safety for automated vehicles, that they drive at least as well as the safest drivers on today’s roads. There is no independent scientific evidence that shows automated cars are at that level today.
At present there is an urgent need for a new, harmonised regulatory framework for automated driving at EU level. Setting this up would be an essential precursor to the deployment of automated driving. The EU type approval regime should be revised to ensure that automated vehicles comply with all the specific obligations and safety considerations of traffic law in different member states. The Commission indicates that it will start work on a new approach for certifying the safety of automated vehicles in its new Strategy on Automation. The General Safety Regulation for motor vehicles proposal already includes a provision which would allow the Commission to set out the specific test procedures and technical requirements for the type approval of automated vehicles.
These detailed rules should ensure that all new safety functions of automated vehicles are covered, to the extent that an automated vehicle will pass a comprehensive test equivalent to a ‘driving test’ and be shown to be equivalent to a level at least as high as the best human drivers on the road.
Future MEPs should support:
The EU has adopted a new target to halve serious injuries by 2030. This focus is welcome, as since 2010 the number of people seriously injured, based on national definitions of serious injury, was reduced by just 0.5%, compared to a 19% decrease in the number of deaths in the same group of countries. In 2014, around 135,000 people were seriously injured in the EU based on the common EU definition MAIS3+ according to estimates by the European Commission.
Priority measures for reducing serious injuries include action in urban areas as here they occur frequently. This could include adopting EU guidelines for promoting best practice in traffic calming measures.
One other priority area for action is post-collision care. All European Member States should offer equally high standards of rescue, hospital care and long-term rehabilitation following a road collision. Measures include involving health professionals in developing good practices and guidelines on essential trauma care and emergency services.
Future MEPs should support:
Increased and well-publicised enforcement targeting the main risks of speeding, drinking and drug driving, distraction and non-use of seat belts on the road forms a fundamental part of achieving the new EU 2030 targets.
At EU level the Cross-Border Enforcement Directive 2015/413 is up for revision in 2019/2020. It covers the main offences causing death and serious injury in the EU: speeding, drink/drug driving, non-use of seat belts and mobile phone use at the wheel.
ETSC has identified a number of barriers which need to be addressed in the upcoming revision. These include; the need to update camera specifications, overcoming the lack of human resources in case of manual follow up. Finally there is a need to push following up these offences higher up the political agenda.
As well as addressing the cross-border aspects of enforcement the revision should also prioritise action to improve and align the enforcement of the main offences at a national level. A common approach is needed to allow for equal treatment of connected and automated vehicles across Europe. Joint enforcement actions on the key priorities, such as the Europe-wide day without a road death (Project EDWARD) and “Speed Marathon,” should also be encouraged as this helps foster political will and helps exchange best practice.
Specific recommendations for the priority areas have also been developed by ETSC.
Future MEPs should support:
The range of psychoactive substances available for illicit use is widening in the EU and this is further proven by the increased prevalence of illicit drugs in drivers killed in traffic collisions. The DRUID study estimated that illicit and medicinal psychoactive drugs were found in 15.2% and 15.6% respectively of road deaths.
Future MEPs should consider:
Part of the solution for reducing deaths and serious injury of novice drivers and young road users is training and education. The European Driving Licence Directive 2006/126 is due for revision in the near future. The EU should aim to improve the quality of licensing and training systems, with a focus on young novice drivers.
Within the European Driving Licence Directive, ETSC would prioritise hazard perception, demonstration of defensive or social driving (via self-assessment questionnaires or using situational awareness questioning during the test) and updating for new in-vehicle technologies and automated vehicles. Post-licence training for professional drivers can also be an important tool in improving work related road safety.
Future MEPs should support
Within the context of a revision of EU Directive 2006/126 on driving licences: