Five ways Europe can tackle road deaths
The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) recommends five measures that the European Union (EU) and European governments should consider implementing to help halve road deaths and serious injuries over the decade to 2030.
According to new figures published at the end of February, there were 20,600 road deaths in the EU last year, a 3% increase compared with 2021. A 10% decrease was seen starting in 2019, the previous year before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Boost levels of traffic enforcement to mitigate significant risks such as speeding, drunk and drug driving, and distraction
Effective enforcement of existing road traffic laws is a quick, simple, and straightforward way of improving road safety. Enforcement of drink-driving has decreased in many European countries in recent years, and checks on vehicle speed, seatbelt wearing, and distraction from mobile devices vary widely across the continent. On the EU level, an upcoming revision of the cross-border enforcement directive, due next month, must ensure that every offense committed by a non-resident driver is followed up.
Boost investment in cycling and walking, modes that do not increase risks for other road users
In recent years, cycling and walking rates have increased in many countries. But deaths among these groups have also stagnated or increased while those of other groups, such as car users, declined. The link between increased rates of cycling and increased numbers of cyclist deaths needs to be broken through a significant increase in investment in infrastructure, such as safe, joined-up networks of separated cycle lanes. The EU requires larger towns and cities to commit to developing Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans – but more needs to be done to ensure local governments follow up on these plans with real and lasting changes.
Make inexperienced drivers safer through changes to driving licenses
The crash risk is highest for drivers that have just passed their test, with one in five crashing within the first six months of solo driving, according to one study. Accordingly, the European Commission is set to publish updated rules on driving licenses. ETSC wants to see new requirements for Graduated Driving Licenses and more accompanied driving to ensure that new drivers do not undertake the riskiest driving activities during at least their first year on the roads. These include driving at night, driving with a group of young people in the car, and driving after having drunk any amount of alcohol. ETSC also calls for the Commission to keep the minimum age for solo driving in any vehicle category.
Set appropriate speed limits, with 30 km/h as the default in urban areas
The European Commission has suggested that EU Member States reduce speed limits to save lives and reduce fuel consumption and emissions. But much more must be done to tackle inappropriate speed, which is directly linked to increased crash frequency and severity. While some countries have made significant changes in recent years, e.g., the Netherlands’ daytime limit on motorways of 100km/h and Spain’s default limit of 30 km/h in all urban areas, much more still needs to be done. The European Commission could help by formally recommending the appropriate speed for all road types.
Reverse ineffective application of new vehicle safety measures
In 2019, the EU agreed to introduce new vehicle safety technologies. But the final technical standards agreed since have included intelligent speed assistance systems that rely on annoying beeps and are likely to be switched off, distraction warning systems that may not detect the most common forms of distraction from mobile phones and infotainment systems, and event data recorders that are useless for safety researchers. ETSC calls for the technical requirements for all three systems to be urgently reviewed.
- Road deaths
- European Union
- European Transport Safety Council (ETSC)
- Road traffic laws
- Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans
- Driving licenses
- European Commission
- Speed limits
- Intelligent speed assistance systems
- Distraction warning systems