Mixed reception for new EC safety plan

14.10 | 20 July 2010 |

A new road safety programme unveiled yesterday (20/7/10) by the European Commission has received a mixed reaction from road safety organisations.

While RoSPA and Liz Brooker, Road Safety GB’s press/PR spokesperson for London and chair of a European road safety group, both welcomed the publication, the Institute of Advanced Motorists called it a ‘missed opportunity’.

‘European Road Safety Policy Orientations 2011-2020’ includes challenging plans to reduce the number of road deaths on Europe’s roads by half in the next 10 years. Initiatives outlined in the programme range from setting higher standards for vehicle safety, to improving road user training and increasing enforcement.

Slim Kallas, European Commission vice-president responsible for transport, said: "100 people die everyday on Europe’s roads. We have made good progress since 2001 but the number of fatalities and injuries on our roads is still unacceptable. We are looking at what kind of cars motorists drive, where they drive and how they drive."

Liz Brooker, Lewisham’s road safety manager and chair of the Eurocities Mobility Forum’s Road Safety Working Group, said it was pleasing to see the EU describing road safety as a ‘major societal issue’. 

She added: "The Commission’s emphasis on strengthening road user education and training is recognition that the road user is the first link in the safety chain and the one most prone to error.

“Let’s hope this helps to convince the UK Government that there is still a need to invest in road safety in order to further reduce casualties.”

RoSPA says the report shows that in 2009 the UK was the Member State with the lowest road fatality rate by population – at 38 fatalities per million inhabitants. This figure has fallen by 35% from 61 fatalities per million inhabitants in 2001, when the UK also had the lowest fatality level among Member States.

Kevin Clinton, RoSPA’s head of road safety, said: “Given its position as a road safety leader the UK can share a lot from its experience, but we must remember that there are important lessons for us too.

 “Although a great deal of progress has been made since 2001, it would be wrong to see road safety as a ‘job well done’.

“This publication contains some good ideas, including the strengthening of cross-border procedures for dealing with driving offences. Measures related to technological developments are also welcome. These include making electric stability control and seatbelt reminders mandatory and forthcoming proposals for new technical specifications for ‘smart technology’, which facilitates the sharing of data such as real-time information on speed limits, traffic flows and congestion.”

In contrast, the IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists) is ‘disappointed’ that the programme has ‘failed to take driver training into consideration beyond the learner test’.

The IAM says that the programme also makes no mention of further training for business drivers.

Neil Greig, IAM director of policy and research, said: “This is a missed opportunity to highlight the benefits of a lifelong learning approach to driving. There is convincing evidence that further training makes drivers safer, and could be relatively cost-effective compared to some of the other suggestions which involve massive changes to cars and roads.

“A common education and training strategy for safer roads will go a long way towards reducing the number of crashes involving foreign drivers here in the UK.  It is essential that training standards in the UK do not slip, and that the role of post-test and business driver training is recognised.”

Click here to read the full EC news release.


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