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Brussels, 5 October 2006

New directives for safer roads in the EU

In its efforts to halve the number of road fatalities by 2010, the European Commission has adopted two proposals for directives today. The first directive aims at improving safety on the major roads, i.e. the trans-European transport network (TEN-T) through infrastructure measures and better engineering. The second directive provides for existing heavy vehicles to be equipped with "blind spot mirrors" in order to reduce the number of accidents involving in particular cyclists and motorcyclists.

Jacques Barrot, European Commission Vice-President in charge of transport, welcomed the adoption of the two proposals. He underlined that in order to bring down the high number of road fatalities, a comprehensive road safety programme was needed that builds on three pillars: infrastructure, vehicles and drivers. Referring to the first proposal he said: "Many lives could be saved and many accidents avoided if the existing road infrastructure was managed according to the best available know-how on safety engineering."

The first draft directive aims to bring road safety management to higher standards throughout the EU. It defines guidelines and best practices for all stages of infrastructure management, including road safety impact assessments, road safety audits, network safety management and safety inspections. The directive does not impose technical standards or procedures but invites Member States to make better use of existing procedures and practices.

The Commission estimates that the proposed measures, if applied to the major roads, i.e. the Trans-European road network, could reduce the number of accidents with injuries by 7000 and avoid the loss of 600 lives every year. With the second directive on retrofitting existing heavy vehicles with "blind spot mirrors", 1200 more lives could be saved on European roads until 2020.

This measure aims at protecting particularly vulnerable road users such as cyclists and motorcycle drivers. Every year approximately 400 road users lose their lives in accidents, because lorry drivers fail to notice them when taking a right turn. New heavy duty vehicles of more than 3.5 tons will already have to be equipped with blind spot mirrors as of next year under an EU Directive of 2003. This will, however, not reduce the risks stemming from the existing fleet of heavy goods vehicles, which in the EU stands at around 5 million today.

Compared to the average costs of a retrofit (between € 100 and 150 per vehicle), the benefit for the society will be much higher. Where due to specific circumstances heavy vehicles can only be retrofitted at much higher costs, the proposed directives allows for flexibility; inspection authorities can accept exceptional alternative solutions in order to prevent distortion of competition in the haulage market.

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