European Transport Safety Council > Road Safety Priorities for the EU 2020-2030
25 Mar 2019

Road Safety Priorities for the EU 2020-2030

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.[1] 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:

  • Earmarking dedicated funds for cycling, walking and powered two wheeler infrastructure under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) to support increasing the safety of VRUs.
  • Creating an EU fund to support priority measures such as for cities to introduce 30 km/h zones (particularly in residential areas and where there are a high number of VRUs) and to invest in high risk roads that carry a large volume of traffic.
  • Encouraging EU Member States to adopt maximum 30km/h speed limits in residential areas and  areas  where  there  are  large numbers of cyclists and pedestrians, or where there could be potential to increase cycling and walking by investing in infrastructure.
  • Maintaining the current  definition  of  pedelecs  –  with  a  designed  speed  of  25km/h  and  a  pedal-assisted maximum  continuous  output  of  250W  which  is  cut when the vehicle reaches its designed speed.
  • Considering the benefit of specific training and testing for S-Pedelec use.
  • Introducing a regular mandatory roadworthiness test for PTWs.
  • Making theoretical and practical training as well as a practical test mandatory to obtain an AM driving licence and establish minimum standards for theoretical and practical training for the AM license.
  • Automated and connected mobility

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:

  • Development of a coherent and comprehensive EU regulatory framework for the safe deployment of automated vehicles.
  • Revision of the EU type approval regime to ensure that automated vehicles comply with all specific obligations and safety considerations of the traffic law in different EU Member States.
  • Revision of type approval standards to cover all the new functions of automated vehicles, to the extent that an automated vehicle will pass a comprehensive 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.

Reducing serious injuries on our roads

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:

  • Creating an EU fund to enable enforcement of speeding and drink driving using recognised best practices.
  • Revising the Directive 2015/413 to strengthen the enforcement chain, including mandatory notification by the State of Offence in accordance with their national legislation.
  • Adapting existing EU mutual assistance procedures to deal with cross border road traffic offences.
  • Recasting the Framework Decision 2005/214 to include civil/administrative offences as this would provide an important final part in the enforcement chain.
  • Investigating avenues for EU revision of existing legislation to cover the mutual recognition of non-financial penalties such as driving disqualifications and demerit point systems.
  • Encouraging Member States to set up and implement a demerit point system which includes a set of fixed penalties for at least the eight major road safety related offences included in the CBE Directive 2015/413.

Drug driving

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:

  • Introducing an EU zero tolerance system for illicit psychoactive drugs using the lowest limit of quantification that takes account of passive or accidental exposure.
  • Adopting common standards for roadside drug driving enforcement and ensure that police forces are properly trained in when and how to perform drug screening, field impairment tests and use of roadside screening devices.
  • Moving to adopting a common standard for roadside drug driving enforcement, this could be in the form of a new EC recommendation. 

Education and training: revision of the European Driving License Directive

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:

  • A graduated licensing system that encourages young people to gain more experience while limiting certain high-risk activities such as driving at night and with passengers.[2]
  • Introduce hazard perception training, expand formal training to cover driving and riding style as well as skills and encourage more accompanied driving to help gain experience.


  • Develop minimum standards for driver training and traffic safety education with gradual alignment in the form, content and outcomes of driving courses across the EU.


  • Lower the BAC limit for all young drivers including novice drivers.



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