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Mandatory seat belts for commercial vehicles: Commission welcomes Parliament decision
Commission Européenne - IP/05/612 26/05/2005
Brussels, 26 May 2005
The European Commission welcomes the major step taken by the European Parliament towards substantially improving road safety in the European Union. By adopting three directives on the mandatory fitting of seat belts, the Parliament has made a major contribution to the goal of halving the number of road accident victims by 2010. The requirement to fit seat belts in commercial vehicles should now apply six months after the Directive enters into force, i.e. in the last quarter of this year. Initially applied to all new vehicle types, it will then be extended to new vehicles of types already in production. This measure, applying to all commercial vehicles and in particular tourist coaches and minibuses will have, in conjunction with the obligation to wear seat belts, a major effect on the dramatic figures seen in Europe in recent years.
Günter Verheugen, the Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry, stressed the significance of the decision: “The adoption of these directives is enormously important in the Commission’s fight to reduce the number of road accident victims. This decisions will provide for a uniform legal framework for the European manufacturers, by doing away with diverging national laws.”
As a result of this decision, the requirement to fit seat belts will apply to two million commercial vehicles annually. These include in particular tourist coaches, where seat belts should stop passengers from being ejected if the vehicle overturns, a tragic, but unfortunately frequent occurrence that causes several deaths per year, when passengers are thrown out of their seats and trapped under vehicles.
The use of safety belts has been mandatory in passenger cars and light duty trucks (only at the front) since Directive 91/671/EEC came into force. For such vehicles, the use is obviously only mandatory when a safety belt has been fitted by the manufacturer, under national laws.
All cars placed on the market since January 1998, i.e. more than 15 million vehicles, have had to have safety belts fitted on all seats.
With Directive 2003/20/EC amending 91/671/EEC, the use of safety belts will become mandatory in all vehicles where a safety belt has been fitted. Even if some Member States have already transposed the Directive, the obligation concerning use must be in place in May 2006 at the latest.
This decision closes the last remaining gap, making the fitting of safety belts in utility vehicles obligatory. Consequently, from 2006, the use and fitting of safety belts will be mandatory in all commercial vehicles, including coaches.
The adopted measures include the requirement that seats undergo resistance and energy-dissipation testing in order to ensure maximum protection for passengers in all accident situations.
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