Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I hope we will see the day when this topic will not need to be addressed. Every life matters.
The recent Fog Accident here in Slovenia reminds us that life is challenging and invites us to refocus and prioritise road safety; to stress education and the need for the change of behaviour and to insist and enforcement of rules at the same time. Road Safety is a shared competency between the EU, and Member States. It is good to see some present today. I hope the exchange of experiences will enrich us all.
We interact with the transport network all the time, whether we are public transport users, Motorists, cyclists or pedestrians. Transport is personal. Measures taken to improve Road Safety affect people emotionally. And when we fail in road safety, the effects are very personal indeed, as well as for the loved ones of those killed and for those injured themselves.
Taking the Lead
It is our role as policy makers and decision takers to lead. To lead by example.
- To ensure we Engineer safe infrastructure, using digital technologies to compensate human error and improve maintenance. Technology, such as interlocks, is a good example.
- To ensure we Educate road users as best we can to improve road user behaviour, especially on drink-driving. We must make drink-driving socially unacceptable. You simply cannot drink if you drive.
- To ensure enforcement takes place in a visible and consistent way throughout EU. Who hasn’t checked their speed when they see a police car at the side of the road?
Road safety is a positive story, the EU has the world's safest roads: since 2001 we cut number of annual fatalities cut by 54%. But we can't sit back and relax. Everyday 70 people are killed on EU roads alone. Statistics for 2015 show stagnation in reducing road fatalities, especially in the Member States where substantial progress was made in the past. So we have to continue with sharing best practices and at the same time we have to refocus our policy.
What has been done at EU level?
- The cross Border Enforcement Directive. It currently is being evaluated until March. In November, we publish a report on the effectiveness of cross-border exchange of information.
- Safer infrastructure: investments crucial for safer road networks. The Directive on Infrastructure Safety Management is also under review and a Proposal on this is also due next year.
- Standards for professional drivers. The Directive is under review to see is it working. If not, new proposals may come.
- ITS and safety technology. There I see a huge potential. Take E-Call which will start saving lives as of 2018. Emergency services will be able to respond in the so-called 'Golden Hour'.
Many active safety devices are already obligatory (electronic stability control, front seat belt reminders etc.). I am Working closely with Commissioner Bieńkowska on the revision of general safety regulation and potential new safety features. Active moves by other stakeholders such as insurance companies in the UK allowing young drivers to install tracking / drink-driving devices in their cars, resulting in cheaper policies are also welcome.
Road Safety: a Slovenian Success Story
Last year, I presented the ETSC PIN award to Slovenia. It Recognises Slovenia's work in road safety. More will be explained by Minister Gašperšič. Slovenia is ahead of the EU average for cutting the number killed on roads: EU reduced deaths by 43% in period 2001-2010, compared to 50% reduction in Slovenia. However figures for the months following the award showed a worsening situation and now the recent mass accident shows we cannot relax our efforts. Slovenia has a Vision Zero (for fatalities), which I support. Particular attention has to be given to vulnerable users: cyclists. They are still over-represented amongst fatalities in Slovenia. I already mentioned E-Call. And while the Directive allows e-call to be phased in until 2018, Slovenia has already put in place the structure to implement it - the first Member State in the EU. Well done.
The number of deaths due to drink-driving varies by member state. There are often multiple factors in accident (fatigue, speed, poor maintenance), but it is estimated that 1 in 4 deaths in Europe due to alcohol. This is avoidable. Let's see what is going on in this area. While it is largely a national competence, I should mention:
- The Code 69 on Licences. It Facilitates implementation of interlocks in Member States using them. This is a prime example of the Commission intervening to facilitate technology use without imposing it.
- The 2001 recommendation by the Commission on a maximum legal Blood / Alcohol limits, set at 0.5 g/l for general drivers and 0.2 for novice drivers and HGV drivers. The Practice varies: many Member States (including Slovenia) have zero drink driving tolerance for new drivers.
- Interlocks used now in more countries (as rehabilitation, commercial vehicles). It could be an alternative to licence suspension. We have Learn and build on this.
Let me elaborate a bit on interlocks as it is one of the focuses of today's conference. A Recent study by my services on interlocks recommends to further stimulate exchange of best practices and knowledge (Today's meeting is therefore particularly useful). The Cost-benefits and effectiveness are proven for offenders less so for commercial vehicles. For the moment, we are not considering any recommendation for a generalised use.
To conclude, we must continue the focus on safety as a political priority. Digitalisation and Innovation has a role to play. In the short term, with better alcohol detection. In the long term, investing in Research and Innovation will deliver connected and automated vehicles, with the potential to remove the element of drink-driving altogether. Ensuring people have a safer transport network. We can learn from each other, best practice. A lot has been done, but there's more to do. Our goal has to remain ZERO FATALTIES