UK set to adopt new vehicle safety standards

10.57 | 27 March 2019 | | 15 comments

A new package of mandatory minimum vehicle safety standards – set to be introduced by the EU – will apply in the UK whatever the outcome of Brexit, the DfT has confirmed.

First announced in May 2018, the proposals would require every new vehicle to satisfy 11 safety rulings from 2022, mandating technologies such as intelligent speed assistance (ISA), advanced emergency braking (AEB) and lane-keeping technology.

New lorries will be expected to have better levels of direct vision to give drivers a better chance of seeing vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists.

If introduced in full, it is estimated that the measures could save 25,000 lives across the EU over the next 16 years.

On 25 March, EU lawmakers reached a provisional agreement on the package – with formal votes set to take place later this year.

Elzbieta Bienkowska, EU Commissioner, said: “Every year, 25,000 people lose their lives on our roads. The vast majority of these accidents are caused by human error.

“With the new advanced safety features that will become mandatory, we can have the same kind of impact as when safety belts were first introduced.”

‘A landmark day for road safety’
The latest developments have been almost unanimously welcomed by stakeholders, including Road Safety GB, who says mandating ISA will benefit road safety professionals.

Steve Horton, Road Safety GB’s director of communications, said: “This is a development that road safety professionals will support because it removes the concern for when speed is legal and allows drivers to concentrate on the road and appropriate speed for the time and place.

“The common excuses used by drivers who are caught speeding are that they either don’t know what the limit is for that road, or that if they were expected to constantly monitor their speedometer it would take their attention away from the road… and that would be unsafe, wouldn’t it?

“So drivers recognise that sticking to speed limits is a challenge, in which case a system of automatically setting speed to the legal limit would free up drivers to make the critical decision of what speed is both legal and appropriate.

“I’m sure some drivers would challenge the automation of speed limit adherence on the basis that ‘sometimes it’s safer to speed up’ – but generally the benefit of accelerating out of danger is less effective than stopping before the danger.

“Speed is of course linked to severity of injury; the faster you travel, then the harder you hit and the more damage you do. The faster you travel the harder it is to process the hazards coming towards you and the more space and time you need to react and stop.”

Road safety charity Brake has described the announcement as a ‘landmark day for road safety’.

Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for Brake, said: “These measures will provide the biggest leap forward for road safety this century, perhaps even since the introduction of the seat belt.

“These lifesaving measures come at a vital time, with road safety in a concerning period of stagnation with more than 70 people still being killed or seriously injured on British roads every day.”

The RAC says it is important to take advantage of all the technological developments associated with autonomous technology.

Pete Williams, RAC road safety spokesperson, said: “As we progress on the journey to self-driving cars it is important to take advantage of all the associated technological developments to take safety to the next level, particularly as road casualty statistics appear to have stopped falling in recent years.

“While there is much talk in these proposals about speed limiters, the greatest benefit may well be in technology that can prevent distractions and improve drivers’ concentration as this could massively improve road safety.”

TRL says the advanced safety measures for new vehicles will provide ‘state of the art protection to all road users’, while IAM RoadSmart calls it ‘an undoubted life-saver’.



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    I think you are exaggerating things Pat. I seem to have no difficulty reading most speed limit signs.

    Rod King, Warrington
    Agree (2) | Disagree (5)

    Thanks for the technical regs Rod but Charles’s last post reflects the reality.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (7) | Disagree (0)

    Highway Authorities are already obliged and financed to keep signs legible. See Traffic Signs Manual :-

    “1.14.2.  Signs should be cleaned at intervals appropriate to the site conditions. Signs located where they are subject to heavy soiling from passing traffic, or algae growth (a common problem with signs beneath tree canopies) will need more frequent cleaning. Neglect reduces the external contrast between the sign and its surroundings, making it less likely to be noticed by drivers. It also reduces the internal contrast between legend and sign background, making the sign more difficult to read. Moreover, it seriously reduces light transmission through the retroreflective medium. Dirty signs are far less effective at night. Older drivers are particularly disadvantaged; the ageing process of the eye means that progressively more light is required to maintain the same legibility performance. Dimmer signs take longer to recognise and to read, reducing the time available for drivers to take appropriate action.”

    Rod King, Warrington
    Agree (0) | Disagree (3)

    As far as I know, traffic sign recognition technology relies on the signs being visible, clean and legible, so I guess that this initiative will have to be postponed indefinitely in the UK.

    Or are the Roads Authorities going to be obliged (and financed) to ensure that every speed limit change (up or down) on every public road in the country is correctly and unambiguously signed? That doesn’t just mean that signs were erected at some time in the past, but that they are still standing, facing in the correct direction and not obscured by trees, hedgerow, long grass, weeds, litter, etc. Their siting may need reviewing too, to ensure that they cannot be hidden by traffic queues, parked vehicles, buildings, etc. They will also need regular maintenance to be kept legible and free of dirt, algae, ivy, bird’s muck, etc.

    Charles, Wells
    Agree (6) | Disagree (0)

    Unfortunately Rod, there will still be those who want to buy ‘fast’ cars. It will be interesting to see how the manufacturers, retailers and advertisers deal with this development and whether they will promote it as a safety feature as some car manufacturers with a reputation for safety, already do with other safety features.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (0) | Disagree (1)


    Unless there is harmonisation of max speed limits then I can’t see that happening. However, with the black box recording data, including driver over-ride, then I think this will have a major effect on behaviour. This in turn may result in reducing the demand for faster cars.

    Rod King, Warrington
    Agree (0) | Disagree (5)

    > One other point, does this mean in the future, car manufacturers will no longer be making vehicles capable of speeds much greater than the law allows?

    Considering how there are currently two jurisdictions where no speed limits may apply, then I hope not.

    David Weston, Corby
    Agree (2) | Disagree (1)

    I wasn’t aware of that Rod, but now that you mention it yes, I can see that it could work. In any event, I look forward to much greater compliance in 20 limits where compliance is at its lowest.

    One other point, does this mean in the future, car manufacturers will no longer be making vehicles capable of speeds much greater than the law allows?

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (1) | Disagree (1)


    Many new cars already have cameras in the front which look out for speed limit signs and will recognise the speed limit in operation from these. If we think about the technology for ANPR then recognising a much larger number in a red circle is relatively easily. Hence, whilst a database of all speed limit based on geo-positioning is useful it is not necessary to provide ISA.

    It also has the benefit of taking temporary speed limits into account. Even a basic Honda Jazz has had this for 3 years now, so the technology is neither expensive or new.

    Rod King, Warrington
    Agree (2) | Disagree (3)

    I too have given it more thought, partly prompted by David’s last comment and I wondered how would a speed limiting system ‘know’ what the prevailing speed limit on any particular road is anyway? Most roads’ speed limits are not covered by a TRO as they are default limits and it would therefore require a very sophisticated system to know every road’s speed limit in the UK and would inevitably be prone to errors.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (4) | Disagree (0)

    Having given this some extra thought, I can only think of one genuinely positive outcome of this.

    In order for these systems to work reliably, there must be a coherent single source of truth of traffic orders. There’s currently a consultation (run by GeoPlace) with the aim of digitising all of these traffic regulation orders into one easy to search database.

    This tied with perhaps a live and archived feed of speed limits placed on the Managed Motorway network – could be groundbreaking when it comes into statistical analysis of road safety – plus saving time for everyone concerned as I’m not sending e-mails to various people chasing up TROs!

    Open data is amazing.

    David Weston, Corby
    Agree (5) | Disagree (1)

    My comment in our press release :-

    “Speed limiters being widely used are a total game changer for road safety and quality of life. This will transform compliance levels and make obsolete any previous complaints about speed limits being “ignored” by drivers. However, for a speed limit and limiter to be effective we do need the correct set of speed limits across our community road network and there is overwhelming evidence from WHO, OECD, iRAP and many more that 20mph should be the maximum speed limit where motor vehicles mix with pedestrians and cyclists. Now in anticipation of ISA we should set a national urban/village 20mph default with exceptions decided locally. It will transform the way we share the streets in our communities and provide the required conditions for a healthier and more active nation.”


    Rod King, Warrington
    Agree (3) | Disagree (11)

    Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me. Drivers take too little notice of things and that includes safety matters as they are and it’s believed by some that taking them out of the equation is going to be the answer. It’s not. It will make things worse.

    Consider a main road in an urban area is presently limited to 30 mph and in dry bright good weather conditions with little traffic or parked cars, a road clear of buses, HGV’s etc. and with such little danger. It could be considered to being relatively safe to drive at or close to that speed but in the dark and in inclement weather with perhaps heavier than normal traffic, narrowed by parked cars then that speed limit should never be reached or be anything like it but it is and still will be when these electronics come into play

    Same road but completely varying conditions and degrees of danger. No electronics will be able to deal with that..

    Agree (11) | Disagree (5)

    > This is a development that road safety professionals will support because [it] allows drivers to concentrate on the road and appropriate speed for the time and place.

    No it doesn’t.

    70mph, in the right conditions on a good proportion of the UK’s high quality dual carriageway/motorway network is at least 20mph to 40mph (and perhaps more) below what I would call “appropriate speed” but we’re all entitled to our opinions!

    And following from Hugh’s point, there’s absolutely nothing stopping a driver from seeing the roundel on the screen as a green light to follow it with ignorance. Because, since it’s displayed on sticks on the road AND the instrument cluster, it’s definitely what’s safe, right?

    At the very least, it’s a gimmick, at the most, it’s an merely an assist. But, what happens if a driver becomes over-reliant on this aide?

    David Weston, Corby
    Agree (11) | Disagree (11)

    “…a system of automatically setting speed to the legal limit…” I sincerely hope that doesn’t mean literally setting the speed AT the legal limit i.e. no more or less and I hope it simply means restricting to no more than the limit.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (5) | Disagree (0)

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