Road safety: promoting road safety in the European Union
This Communication aims to improve road safety with a view to reducing the number of accidents in the European Union.
Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: Promoting road safety in the European Union: - the programme for 1997-2001 [COM (97) 131 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
The Communication takes stock of road safety matters in the European Union for the years 1993-1996:
- almost all legislative measures announced in the action programme presented in 1993 have been undertaken;
- all planned studies have been carried out; these focused mainly on vehicles (passive safety), telematic applications and behaviour analysis;
- non-legislative measures such as the Year of the Young Driver 1995 and the YES campaigns were implemented;
- the CARE project was initiated, facilitating the creation of a detailed database on road accidents involving personal injury in the different Member States.
The trends and characteristics of road safety in the European Union are as follows:
- figures vary widely from one country to another;
- an explosion in the number of cars in certain Member States has gone hand in hand with a worsening of the situation in those countries;
- the number of fatal accidents is decreasing;
- those most at risk are pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, young adults and the elderly;
- alcohol is still a significant factor in accidents, despite the undoubted success of alcohol-related programmes in some countries;
The Commission advocates a cost-benefit approach in the formulation of future road safety policy.
The record shows that road accidents are estimated to cost 45 billion euros per year, consisting of 15 billion for medical care, police involvement and vehicle repairs, and 30 billion in lost economic production due to fatalities or injuries. With 45 000 vicitims annually, the avoidance of a fatal accident would save 1 million euros. There is therefore an economic justification for taking measures costing up to one million euros rder to save a single life ("the million euros rule").
Using this approach, the Commission identifies several courses of action involving:
- the wearing of seat belts;
- vehicle design (reduction of the risk to pedestrians, improvements to passive safety):
- the use of collision warning and cruise control systems;
- day running lights;
- blood alcohol level while driving;
- the effect of drugs or medicines on driving;
The aim of this new policy is to reduce the annual total of victims to 18 000 in 2010 (as against 27 000 if the current policy is maintained).
The primary role of the Commission is:
- to monitor the overall progress of road safety in the Union;
- to collect, interpret and disseminate information relating to all aspects of road safety;
- to ensure that the most efficient practices are promoted throughout the whole of Europe;
- to collect information on offences giving rise to serious accidents in the Union;
- to support research.
The main elements of the programme for 1997-2001 are the following:
- a Commission Recommendation which acknowledges the high financial cost of road accidents by applying cost-benefit methods of evaluation to road safety measures;
- an integrated information system for the European Union which would consolidate information on accident statistics and data on the implementation of road safety measures, research etc.
- measures aimed at combating driving while in a state of fatigue or under the influence of alcohol, medicines or drugs;
- the application of technology and telematics in order to increase driving safety;
- the co-ordination and promotion of a safety classification system so as to give consumers scientifically accurate information on vehicle safety features.