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Most of the main political groups fielding candidates in the upcoming European Parliamentary elections support an expanded role for the EU in road safety issues over the next five years, according to a survey by ETSC. 

However, there are differences between the groups as to what extent European as opposed to national action is the preferred approach. MEPs were surveyed on priorities for the new mandate published in ETSC’s own election briefing.

All of the groups that replied were supportive of the introduction of structured licensing schemes for young drivers that feature longer periods of training and accompanied driving. This bodes well for the upcoming revision of the Driving Licence Directive announced by the European Commission as part of its new road safety strategy.

Similarly, all of the groups that replied were willing to support EU harmonisation and collection of key road safety indicators such as seatbelt wearing rates and vehicles observed going above the speed limit, in order to better guide road safety policy development.  The European Commission has already launched a process to define indicators to track progress in EU Member States as part of plans to cut road deaths in half by 2030.

Four of the main groups were willing to support harmonisation of laws on drug driving in Europe – the EPP and ECR group were not.

Referring to concerns about privacy, both the ECR group and Greens-EFA MEPs were not supportive of using vehicle and driving data to help identify and develop key road safety interventions.

Regarding a total ban on the use of the mobile phone while driving, four out of six groups that replied were willing to support such a move, with the liberal ALDE and conservative EPP groups unwilling to back such a measure. However, both groups supported limiting use of phones to navigation and blocking other applications linked to communication: including phone calls, messaging and internet browsing due to the role of distraction in road deaths.

Ellen Townsend, Policy Director at ETSC commented:

“The EU has played an important role in improving road safety for more than two decades; the European Parliament itself has strengthened legislation in many areas.  There can be no doubt that minimum vehicle safety standards, targets and EU rules on infrastructure safety, professional driver licensing and driving hours, have all helped cut deaths dramatically. But there is still a huge amount of work to do, and significant new challenges such as regulating automation.

“Road safety should not be a party-political issue; ETSC has always worked with MEPs from across the political spectrum to inform and promote effective policy at the European level.  We will continue to do so.  We look forward to working with both experienced and newly-elected MEPs in the European Parliament later this year, and we will continue to make the case for European action where necessary, as well as encouraging Member States to share best practice with other countries.

“While some groups have indicated that they do not currently support some of our priority areas for EU action, our job is to present the scientific evidence and make a compelling case for action.  We will continue our work of informing, debating and pushing for life-saving measures on EU roads throughout the mandate of the next European Parliament to contribute to reaching the EU’s new 2030 targets of reducing road deaths and serious injuries.”

The two smallest groups in the current Parliament, the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) and Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) did not reply to the survey.

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A short animated film by ETSC explaining the “emergency corridor” system used by several European countries has been shared by thousands of people and seen by around half a million users on the Facebook social media platform.

The emergency corridor system, which enables emergency vehicles to reach collision sites faster, requires vehicles to separate in a systematic, organised way during periods of traffic congestion, in order to make a clear path wide enough for a fire engine to pass.  The measure is in place in only a handful of countries, including Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Slovenia and Switzerland.  But it is little known outside of the countries where it is used.

Research shows the system can boost the chance of surviving a serious collision by 40% by enabling emergency care to arrive faster.  The system has been highlighted in workshops organised by ETSC as part of its REVIVE project on emergency response, which has been supported by a grant from Toyota Motor Europe.

Watch the video here, and read the case study here.

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The European Commission has agreed on the first wave of requirements for electronic communications both between road infrastructure and vehicles, as well as between vehicles.  ETSC has warmly welcomed the inclusion of safety-enhancing features in the list of priority services for so-called Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS) set out in the legal text, notably the ‘dynamic speed limit information’ service.

This technology will enable, for example, variable speed limit information signs to communicate directly to compatible vehicles.  This could further enhance the accuracy of Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA), a key life-saving technology that the EU has agreed to make mandatory from 2022.

However, compatibility with the technology is not yet a mandatory requirement for new vehicles or new road infrastructure.  ETSC says that road safety-enhancing C-ITS services should be available to everyone across Europe and therefore calls on the Commission to follow-up on this delegated act with legislative proposals mandating the deployment of these safety-enhancing C-ITS services as well as requiring their availability in all new vehicles.

ETSC is also concerned that vulnerable roads users were not mentioned in the list of priority services. The C-ITS platform, a consultative group which includes ETSC, has said that services designed to protect vulnerable road users would allow this group to also benefit from the potential of C-ITS.  Such measures could include crossings that detect the presence of pedestrians to warn approaching vehicles to stop.

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The European Commission and the European Investment Bank have launched a new initiative to help public authorities and the private sector access funding and loans for road safety.

The “Safer Transport Platform – Road Safety Advisory” provides a single access point to the full range of existing EIB and EC advisory services and financial products. It guides potential applicants to the appropriate funding and financing instruments. The service is supported by the European Investment Advisory Hub (EIAH) and includes a web site with a contact form, a needs assessment exercise and awareness raising activities.

Examples of eligible projects include: road rehabilitation programmes; traffic calming measures; facilities for cyclists and pedestrians; IT solutions for safer traffic management and, on an exploratory basis, measures to improve the safety of vehicle fleets.

See the platform website here: https://eiah.eib.org/about/initiative-safer-transport-platform.htm

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Modal shift away from private motor vehicles could significantly improve road safety in dense urban areas, according to a new report on urban road safety by the International Transport Forum of the OECD.  Such a shift would also bring public health benefits associated with increased physical activity and improved air quality, according to the authors.

The report benchmarked road safety performance in 72 urban areas, mostly in Europe, and illustrates governance solutions to improve urban road safety with case studies conducted in Lisbon (Portugal) and Riga (Latvia). The report also proposes new road safety indicators to assess the level of risk for each mode of transport.

Unsurprisingly, the research confirms that pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists are the most vulnerable road users, making up about 80% of road deaths in dense European urban areas. Non-motorised road users face a death risk almost ten times greater than the risk for car passengers for a given distance travelled in cities. Yet car traffic creates a far greater risk for third parties involved in crashes. The data show that areas where people cycle the most also have the lowest total road mortality.

The report says that major road safety problems result from policies that have led to car-dependent communities.  Car-dependent communities generate large traffic volumes and therefore large risks. They also tend to resist policies addressing traffic volume and car speeds, since they have very little alternative mobility options.

Download the report at: https://www.itf-oecd.org/road-safety-european-cities

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The EU has formally agreed updated UNECE regulations on seatbelts that will require seatbelt reminder systems in all front and rear seats on new cars from September 2019.

Existing EU vehicle safety rules agreed in 2009 only require seatbelt reminder systems on the driver’s seat.  The updated requirements also include the front and rear passenger seats.

In the front seats, the systems will need to be able to detect a passenger sitting and make an audible warning at the start of the journey if the belt is not attached.  The requirements for rear seats are weaker in that the audible warning will only sound if a belt is unbuckled during the journey.

ETSC has long argued for advanced (occupant detecting) seatbelt reminder systems in front and rear passenger seats. But, nevertheless, mandatory front passenger advanced systems and buckle detection in the rear seats represent a step forward for vehicle safety in Europe.

The seatbelt remains the single most effective passive safety feature in vehicles. Despite the legal obligation to wear a seatbelt across the EU28, seatbelt use in cars in the EU is estimated to be only 88% for front seats and as low as 74% for rear seats in the countries that are monitoring wearing.

The rate of seatbelt use is significantly lower amongst passengers of vans and trucks when compared to cars and on different road types, according to several studies. These figures are of particular concern because research has shown that non-wearers are, on average, more likely than wearers to be involved in potentially fatal collisions in which wearing the seatbelt would have saved their life.

ETSC has estimated that 900 deaths could have been prevented in 2012 in the EU if 99% of all occupants had been wearing a seatbelt, a rate that could be reached with seatbelt reminders.

Euro NCAP started giving improved scores for vehicles with advanced seatbelt reminders (with occupancy detection) on rear seats from 2018.

The updated requirements were adopted by the EU, as an amendment to the existing 2009 EU General Safety Regulation for new vehicles.  This is welcome as additional safety requirements for new vehicles agreed earlier this month will not start to come into force until 2022.

Fitting #SafetyAsStandard : Seatbelt reminders - YouTube

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Police officers across Europe ran a week of coordinated actions to reduce speeding earlier this month including a 24-hour ‘Speed Marathon’.

Figures from last year’s action showed that of 3,244,397 vehicles checked during the 24-hour operation, 92 per cent were driving within the legal speed limit. However, 257,639 speeding offences were detected, either by police officers or by technical means.

The ‘Speed Marathon’ concept was devised six years ago in Germany. The concept, which involves inviting members of the public to identify locations where they believe speeding is a problem, has been adapted and this year was used in 26 participating countries.

TISPOL President Paolo Cestra said officers gave plenty of advanced warning in order to increase levels of understanding and compliance. “Our activity is all about prevention,” he said. “We want drivers to think about the speeds they choose; speeds which are both legal and appropriate for the conditions. By doing so, they will be reducing the risks they face and the risks they pose to other road users.

“That’s why we encourage participating countries and police forces to publish information about the precise locations of speed checkpoints in advance. We want to get into the minds of drivers, not their purses.

“Illegal and/or inappropriate speed is the single biggest factor in fatal road collisions. That’s why police officers take action against drivers who fail to comply with speed limits.

“The 24-hour speed marathon is one component in our strategy for reducing casualties, and making Europe’s roads safer.”

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The French government has announced the installation of 400 new-generation speed cameras, following a spate of attacks on existing devices in recent months.

The interior minister Christophe Castaner announced last month that up to 75% of speed cameras across the country had been vandalised and put out of action.  Attacks on speed camera equipment in France have increased dramatically since the reduction of the rural road speed limit to 80km/h last summer and the rise of the Yellow Vest protest movement.

The new French-made speed cameras sit on towers 4-metres high, making them less susceptible to vandalism.  A single device can check vehicle speed across five lanes of traffic, and also has the capability of checking for other driving offences, following regulatory approval.

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The fifth REVIVE Round table focused on improving post-collision outcomes in Cyprus, Greece Ireland, Malta and the UK

In the framework of the REVIVE Project, experts in Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Rescue/Fire Service (RFS) and road safety from Cyprus, Greece Ireland, Malta and the UK  met in Dublin on the 3rd April 2019. They discussed the way forward for improving post-collision response and emergency care across the EU. The meeting gathered representatives from health agencies, rescue services as well as researchers and other actors active in post-collision care and emergency response. The event was co-organised with the Road Safety Authority of Ireland and the European Federation of Road Traffic Victims (FEVR).

ETSC REVIVE Roundtable Ireland – Agenda

REVIVE Round table, Ireland,  3 April 2019 – Presentations:

The event started with a welcome from Declan Naughton, from the Road Safety Authority of Ireland (RSA). This was followed by a keynote speech from Moyagh Murdoch, CEO of the RSA. Moyagh explained the RSA’s work on post-collision care and highlighted the importance of an effective emergency response in helping to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries, both in Ireland and across Europe. She also noted the need for a more holistic approach to road deaths, and the need for greater consideration of the roles of the Health and Emergency Medical Services.

Then, Laurence Atchison presented ETSC and its activities, as well as the REVIVE project.

Frank McGill from the RSA gave a presentation on Ireland’s Emergency Services Driving Standard.

1. Laurence Atchison – ETSC and REVIVE

2. Frank McGill – Irish Emergency Services Driving Standard

Debate 1: Access to road traffic collisions

The first debate session focused on the ways in which emergency services access road traffic collisions and the issues that often arise – such as blocked roads and the use of lights and sirens. This was followed by a discussion on how they operate in different European countries.

Dave Carroll, from the Chief Fire Officers Association of Ireland gave a presentation covering the various ways in which the fire services in Ireland access and secure collision sites.

3. Dave Carroll – Access and Security at the site of a road traffic collision

Debate 2: Structure of EMS Systems

The second debate focused on the structure of the emergency medical services in each of the countries in question. Dr. Jonathan Joslin, from Mater Dei Hospital in Malta opened the session with a presentation outlining his experiences and insights as part of the Maltese emergency medical system.

4. Dr. Jonathan Joslin – Emergency Medical Services in Malta 

Debate 3: Fire and rescue services roles in response to a collision 

The final session of the day was a discussion of extrication issues and new research. The session was opened by Mike Dayson of the UK’s National Fire Chiefs’ Council. Mike explained some of the latest research in the UK into new methods of extrication.

5. Mike Dayson – UK Research into new and existing extrication methods

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The European Parliament has given the green light to new minimum EU vehicle safety requirements that will come into force from 2022.  The vote by the full parliament, at its last session of this mandate, follows a provisional deal reached by the EU institutions last month.

According to the final deal on the legislation, new cars, vans, lorries and buses sold in Europe will be fitted as standard with a range of new vehicle safety features such as Automated Emergency Braking which can detect pedestrians and cyclists, as well as overridable Intelligent Speed Assistance. New lorries will be required to have improved levels of “direct vision” to give drivers a greater chance of seeing vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists around the vehicle.

The legislation also tackles drink driving, making it easier to retrofit an alcohol interlock device – a technological solution for tackling repeat drink driving in use in a number of EU Member States.

New vehicles will also be fitted with Electronic Data Recorders.  But only data from a few seconds before, during and after a collision will be recorded, in order for analysis to take place that could help prevent future collisions.

Commenting on the vote, Antonio Avenoso, Executive Director of the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) said:

“Thanks to this legislation, the latest safety technologies will be fitted as standard on new vehicles in Europe.  It’s a massive step forward that could prevent 25,000 deaths on our roads within fifteen years.  Importantly, the new requirements will also improve the safety of all road users, not just vehicle occupants.  Lorry drivers will have better visibility of pedestrians and cyclists around their vehicles, all drivers will find it easier to keep within the posted speed limits, and automated emergency braking systems will be able to detect people, not just other vehicles.

“We would like to thank MEPs from across the political spectrum that have supported a number of important road safety measures over the last five years.  Thanks to their commitment, many lifesaving measures have been agreed, including automatic emergency calling (eCall), cross-border enforcement of traffic offences, improved road infrastructure safety standards, and finally the world’s most advanced vehicle safety standards.  These are major achievements that Europe can be proud of.”

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