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Brussels, 4 June 2003

Road safety: The Commission wants to save 20 000 lives a year on European roads

Over 40 000 people killed and 1 700 000 injured each year, this is the sad testimony to the lack of safety on the roads in the EU. The European Commission will not accept this carnage, and is backing the Member States in their efforts to put an end to this tragedy. In the European Road Safety Action Programme 2003-2010 which it is presenting today, the Commission is pursuing an ambitious overall objective, that of halving the number of people killed on the roads by 2010. With this initiative, the Commission is seeking to guide action by the EU in the field of road safety, complement the Member States' efforts and define a clear framework for the sharing of responsibilities between all the parties concerned. In particular, it wants to encourage users to behave better, make vehicles safer, and improve road infrastructure. In addition, the Commission will continue to enforce and promote new measures aimed at safe and high-quality commercial road transport, while promoting the harmonisation of penalties across Europe. "Saving human life through a genuine road safety policy is a challenge and an obligation, and all the public authorities should work together to this end: it is high time that, at all levels, actions are commensurate with intentions" said Loyola de Palacio, Vice-President of the European Commission with special responsibility for transport and energy. "For its part, the Commission will shoulder its responsibilities and will not hesitate to make all necessary proposals to make it possible to radically change the trends observable in many countries."

The Commission's proposal to halve the number of people killed on the roads by 2010 is much more than a legal requirement: it is a political commitment on the part of all those involved in road safety. The European Road Safety Action Programme presented today takes stock of the actions to be implemented in order to achieve this objective.

In particular, it aims to:

  • encourage users to behave better, especially by complying more strictly with the existing legislation and through the harmonisation of penalties, through initial and continuous training of private and commercial drivers and by continuing with the efforts to combat dangerous driving. In this respect, the Commission will encourage the best practices observed in various countries (e.g., the "designated driver" campaign, putting into practice the recommendation concerning blood alcohol levels, establishing appropriate classification and labelling for medicines which have an effect on driving ability...).

  • make vehicles safer, in particular by harmonising passive safety measures (fitting ands compulsory wearing of seat belts, in particular in coaches, widespread use of universal attachment systems for child-restraint devices, development of vehicle design to reduce the impact of accidents, etc...) and support for technical progress. The aspects concerning electronic technologies (eSafety) will be spelled out in the forthcoming Commission communication on information and communication technologies for intelligent vehicles which, in particular, will be aimed at developing navigation and guidance systems, providing information on the traffic situation, alerting drivers in the event of accidents, and monitoring vehicles carrying hazardous goods.

  • improve road infrastructure, in particular by identifying best practices and disseminating them at local level and by eliminating black spots. In addition, the Commission will propose a framework directive on the safety of road infrastructure in order to establish a harmonised management system for black spots and road safety audits for roads on the trans-European network.

The European Road Safety Charter

In order to boost and coordinate policy measures and promote the emergence of new projects, the Commission intends to mobilise all the parties concerned (transport companies, vehicle manufacturers, equipment makers, insurance companies, infrastructure operators, and local and regional authorities) by inviting them to subscribe to a European Road Safety Charter (see Annex). Each signatory will be required to enter into specific commitments which will be made public.

The issues at stake

Despite the long-term progress that has been made, every year there are still over 40 000 people killed in road traffic accidents and 1 700 000 injured, entailing a total cost put at EUR 160 billion. Over the last 50 years over two million people have died on European roads and over 100 million have been injured.

Certain population groups and categories of users are particularly vulnerable: young people between 15 and 24 years of age (10 000 killed a year), pedestrians (7 000 killed), people on motorcycles and mopeds (6 000 killed) and cyclists (1 800 killed). The irresponsible behaviour of certain drivers is the main cause of fatalities, excessive and inappropriate speed (15 000 dead), drinking, drugs, fatigue (10 000 dead), failure to use seat belts or helmets (7 000 dead) [non-cumulative figures on account of the combination of several factors].

All the EU Member States have the same problems, with varying levels of intensity, and the forthcoming enlargement bringing in countries with a low level of road safety is an additional challenge. In 2001, there were 12 000 deaths on the roads in the enlargement countries.

For more information, please see:


European road safety charter

I, the undersigned [name, address], represented by [name and position of person signing]

Having authority, decision-making, economic or social powers or a mandate to represent,

And, in this capacity having a share of the responsibility for road safety in the European Union,

Whereas the number of road accident victims in Europe at present is unacceptable, and the most effective possible measures need to be taken to reduce this number in the shortest possible time,

Whereas coordinated action between the many parties having responsibility, in one capacity or another, is more likely to achieve the intended results,

Believing that there are effective measures available to encourage road users to apply safety rules and even to take further measures, for example in order to reduce the exposure of users to the risks of accidents; and believing that the scope of such measures will be all the greater if a critical number of stakeholders commit themselves to them,

Subscribing to the objective of reducing the number of deaths on the roads by at least 50% by 2010,

Confident in the sense of responsibility of the individuals and organisations concerned,

Aware that actions to promote road safety entail extremely low costs compared with the human, social and economic cost of unsafe roads,


undertake to implement, proactively, the measures within the sphere of my responsibility and activities so as to speed up progress on road safety.

undertake in particular, within the bounds of my responsibility and specificities, and where necessary, in accordance with the annex to this charter, to implement the following principles and measures:

    To take the measures within my sphere of responsibility to contribute to the abovementioned objective of reducing the number of road deaths.

    To include road safety actions and safety performance measurement among my major objectives and principal decision-making criteria, in particular in the context of research activities, organisation and investment and in the more general framework of the organisation of professional activities, so as to draw up a veritable road safety plan.

    To share with the competent bodies responsible for road safety technical and statistical information making for a better understanding of the causes of accidents, the injuries caused by accidents and the effectiveness of preventive and palliative measures.

    To contribute to preventing road traffic accidents by pursuing high-quality actions in one or more of the following areas:

    • initial and continuous driving training and information,

    • motor-vehicle equipment and ergonomics,

    • infrastructure designed to minimise the risks of accidents and their gravity and to encourage safe driving.

    To develop and implement technologies for reducing the consequences of road traffic accidents.

    To contribute towards the development of means of uniform, continuous and appropriate monitoring of compliance with traffic rules by persons acting in my name or under my authority and penalising any offenders in a uniform, rapid and proportionate way.

    To create a framework encouraging the introduction of continuous education actions and the rehabilitation of high-risk drivers.

    To endeavour to contribute, wherever possible, to a better understanding of the causes, circumstances and consequences of accidents in order to draw lessons from them in order to avoid their repetition.

    To contribute towards ensuring that effective and high-quality, medical, psychological and legal assistance is available for road accident victims.

    To accept post-evaluations by peers, in accordance with appropriate confidentiality rules, of the measures taken to improve road safety and, where necessary, to draw lessons from them to review the measures.

and lastly

    To deliberately take the initiative of implementing measures going beyond the regulatory requirements in force, namely ……….. [to be completed by the signatory].

Done at …,



[Graphic in PDF & Word format]

Road traffic accidents - Trend 1991-2001 - Number of deaths

[Graphic in PDF & Word format]

Road traffic accidents - Trend 1991-2001 - Number of deaths per million inhabitants

Sources: CARE, and national data. Estimates in italics

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