The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) is calling for EU member states to implement 30 km/h zones in residential areas, on the back of a report which shows that 7,600 people died in road traffic while cycling or walking in the EU in 2013.
The ETSC, authors of the new report, say unprotected road users need ‘special attention’ because the numbers being killed are falling more slowly than those for vehicle occupants. It says in the last 10 years, deaths among pedestrians and cyclists fell by 41% and 37% respectively, while vehicle occupant deaths fell by 53%.
Since 2010 the reduction in the number of pedestrian and cyclist deaths has slowed down markedly with numbers falling by only about 10% and 3% respectively between 2010 and 2013.
ETSC says the risk of being killed in traffic as a pedestrian differs greatly among European countries. It is lowest in The Netherlands and Scandinavia, but about six times greater in Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania. Latvia and Lithuania are responding to this challenge by achieving two of the fastest reductions in risk.
The authors cite evidence of ‘safety in numbers’, showing that increases in cycling and walking can reduce the levels of risk to walkers and cyclists as motor traffic becomes more used to sharing the road, and could improve overall road safety if car travel were replaced by walking and cycling.
Antonio Avenoso, Executive Director of ETSC, said: “Despite the health and environmental benefits, people who cycle and walk are not getting a fair share of improvements in road safety in Europe.
“This year, the EU has a very powerful weapon at its disposal, namely the review of safety requirements for new vehicles – it should not shy away from mandating the changes that can save the most lives.”
ETSC says the EU should upgrade the pedestrian protection tests that form part of the ‘type approval’ process that all new vehicles sold on the EU market must undergo, and the tests should also take into account the need to better protect cyclists when they are hit by a car.
In addition, ETSC is calling for new vehicles to be fitted with an overridable system for helping drivers stick to speed limits, known as Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA); and for mandatory safety requirements for heavy goods vehicles to improve drivers’ visibility.
At the national level, the report recommends encouraging local authorities to introduce 30km/h zones in residential areas and areas used by many pedestrians and cyclists. ETSC says this is already happening in a number of countries.