EC drops serious injury target from road safety review

12.00 | 12 June 2015 | | 10 comments

An EU strategic target to reduce serious road injuries has been dropped from the European Commission’s review of the region’s road safety policy, which was published on 12 June.

In response, the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) is calling on ministers to ask the Commission to come forward with the target “as promised”.

ETSC says the “watered-down language” in a working paper says the Commission will “work on serious injuries including monitoring of progress…” – but makes no mention of the strategic target promised in a press release in March 2015.

ETSC says the decision to drop the target came from a high level in the European Commission, but says no explanation has been given publically on why there has been a “sudden u-turn”.

Antonio Avenoso, executive director of the ETSC, said: “On the one hand the Commission is saying that the criteria for setting a strategic serious road injury target have been met, and yet this very target seems to have been dropped from the announcement of the biggest review of EU road safety policy in five years.

“It’s hard to comprehend what the roadblock is when the target has broad political support and is such a simple, cheap, non-controversial and necessary step.

“Targets for cutting road deaths set by the EU in 2001 and 2010 have made a major contribution to the dramatic reductions we have seen in recent years. But we have not seen the same level of progress on serious injuries – hence the widely accepted need for a separate target.”

In a letter sent earlier this week, a coalition of more than 50 experts and organisations, and 11 MEPs, asked President Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the European Commission, for his “assurance that the…target will be proposed in the coming weeks”.

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    Hugh’s comment takes us back also to another recent thread where the monitoring of casualties as distinct from collisions was raised.

    The survival of road casualties depends on a number of things including medical developments and also on road safety legislation e.g. seatbelt laws and education – reminders and encouragement to use the seatbelt that is now required to be fitted along with the use of enforcement if you don’t. The seatbelt does not prevent a collision but it reduces the effects of that impact on the user, provided they use it. There are of course other technologies to mitigate the effects of a crash such as airbags.

    When we look at numbers, locations and contributory factors for collisions we are looking at how to prevent the crash in the first place and the casualties that can result; prevention being, as always, better than cure.


    Honor Byford, Chair, Road Safety GB
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    Having just watched BBC’s ‘An Hour to Save Your Life’, it occurred to me that reductions in fatalities following road collisions is more to do with the expertise of paramedics and doctors in saving lives and not necessarily anything to do with road safety interventions and policies. In these circumstances, wouldn’t a reduction in recorded deaths – for the same number of collisions – inevitably result in an increase in the number of injuries recorded? Looks good on paper maybe, but the problem is still there.


    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    What target would RSGB et al want the Government to set? It seems from the article about SafetyCube that the target of halving the KSI’s by 2020 seems to be back in vogue. Would that be broadly in line with RSGB’s thinking?


    Duncan MacKillop. No surprise – No accident.
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    Road Safety GB supports the setting of challenging, national quantitative targets for road safety.

    We want government to set time-limited challenging targets to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries in road collisions including rate-based targets for reducing casualties among specific road user groups. Such targets should take into consideration those which have been set internationally as well as by devolved administrations within the UK.

    We hold this view in conjunction with a number of other road safety organisations, including PACTS; RoadSafe; RoSPA; IAM; AIRSO and the Road Safety Foundation with whom we have jointly put forward this and other proposals for the new Government’s consideration.

    We recognise that targets must be set with care and need to be evidence based to ensure relevance, including consideration of the potential effect on other areas of need that are not made subject to any target.


    Honor Byford, Chair, Road Safety GB
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    I note that RSGB were not in the list of signatories. I think it would be useful to know the RSGB position on this matter.


    Rod King 20’s Plenty for Us
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    The first principle of targets in any organisation is that targets will always be met (or be reported as having been met) regardless of the collateral damage.

    At least some authorities have recognised these dangers – perhaps (even) the EU has? But not, it seems, the ESTC – “Targets for cutting road deaths set by the EU in 2001 and 2010 have made a major contribution to the dramatic reductions..” It is nigh on impossible to relate accident reductions to policies, still less to the targets intended to influence those policies.


    Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield
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    Would it be true to say that in the absence of a target but with a stated desire to reduce casualties then “us professionals” would work just as hard to maximise the reduction meaning that a target would have no effect on “our” work? For instance I don’t think I would stop working if a target to reduce casualties by half at a certain date was met as there would still be some casualties. If however the powers that be decide there is no desire to reduce casualties then I guess they stop paying me and I move on elsewhere?

    I guess I am perhaps saying that specific targets are for publicity purposes but I accept that they may have some driving force to prioritise resources in organisations that have adopted a target. Hope this makes sense – it is a Friday afternoon!


    Nick, Lancashire
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    Thank you for the suggestion, Rod, we will look into what is involved in ETSC membership (cost, level of commitment, potential benefits) and take a view.


    Honor Byford, Chair, Road Safety GB
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    I suspect that they’re dropping the target because they know they would never reach it. The casualty line has become asymptotic where doing more of the same has absolutely no effect. Perhaps it’s time to do something different to break the asymptote and start the figures on a downward trend again. Once they start heading south then it’s worthwhile setting a target, but not until.


    Duncan MacKillop. No surprise – No accident.
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    I note that RSGB were not in the list of signatories. I think it would be useful to know the RSGB position on this matter. Whilst being aware that RSGB are members of PACTS, I wonder if membership of ETSC has also been considered.


    Rod King, 20’s Plenty for Us
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