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Calls for Action on Vehicle Safety Standards

The European Commission has been urged to bring forward as a matter of priority new minimum safety standards for new cars, vans and trucks, after years of delays.

The call comes from a coalition of industry, NGOs and consumer groups, including the European Association of Automotive Suppliers, the European Cyclists Federation, POLIS, the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) and Transport & Environment. They say that new minimum vehicle safety standards are ‘absolutely critical’ to reducing deaths and serious injuries on European roads.

Road Casualty Figures Slow to Fall

The coalition makes reference to figures released earlier in the year by the European Commission that show deaths on EU roads fell by just 2% in 2016, following a 1% increase in 2015.

According to ETSC analysis, road deaths will now need to fall by 11.5% a year in order to meet the EU target of cutting deaths by half in the decade to 2020.

“EU minimum vehicle safety standards have not been updated since 2009,” commented Antonio Avenoso, Executive Director of the ETSC, speaking after the publication of the Commission’s figures. “A plan to require carmakers to install life-saving technologies such as automated emergency braking, overridable intelligent speed assistance and passenger seat belt reminders in all cars was postponed last month until March 2018, and even then will face several years before the changes are implemented. Every day of delay will mean more avoidable deaths.”

“Member states also need to re-prioritise action on enforcement, infrastructure safety improvements and measures to make pedestrians and cyclists safer on our roads,” he added. “Road deaths and serious injuries devastate lives and cost the European economy billions every year.”

The groups is concerned that consumers could be getting the wrong impression about the safety of new vehicles. That’s because new cars that currently only meet the minimum legal safety standards in the EU would receive zero stars today in tests carried out by Euro NCAP, a consumer testing organisation. Euro NCAP does not have the resources to test all models of cars and there is currently no equivalent for large vans and lorries.

New Safety Technologies

Last year the European Commission published a list of 19 safety technologies that it is considering making mandatory. The group says the Commission should now turn this into a formal legal proposal.

The technologies under consideration for new cars include Automated Emergency Braking, Intelligent Speed Assistance – an overridable system for helping drivers stick to speed limits – as well as updates to crash testing requirements. For trucks the Commission is considering upgrading direct vision requirements so truck drivers can see cyclists and pedestrians more easily as well as barriers to prevent them being run over in the event of a collision.

Improved vehicle safety requirements received the backing of EU member state transport ministers in March when they issued a declaration calling on the Commission to ‘accelerate’ the work on new standards. In a resolution adopted on 18th May, the European Parliament also called on the Commission to update vehicle safety regulations ‘without delay’.

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