and injuries on the road reduced drastically over the last decade in Europe
thanks in part to Europe-wide research into road transport policy. However,
there is little room for complacency. The sharp decreases in fatal accidents
posted in the early 1990s have levelled off in recent years. Some countries,
such as Ireland, have even registered increases in road deaths recently
with the same trend evident in most of the candidate countries lined up
to join the EU.
growth, which translates into higher car use and more congestion, is likely
to increase the death toll on Europe's roads. Currently, there are around
40,000 deaths and around 1.5 million reported casualties a year on Europe's
roads. Under-reporting means that the casualty rate is probably much higher.
In blunt economic terms, a guideline figure of around
1 million has been selected as the cost of every death. The total bill
for accidents is likely to be around twice the annual budget for the EU
differences in the levels of road safety exist across Europe - the
number of accidents per million people is twice as high in France,
Spain, Italy and Germany as in the EU's safest countries, Sweden
and the United Kingdom. This comparison shows the margin for improvement
that can be achieved by countries learning from each other and adopting
the best practice available.
into new ways to improve safety levels was given high priority under
the EU's Fourth
Framework Research Programme (FP4) and continues under FP5.
It is also a key issue in the EU's Common
efforts into road safety so far have been broad based. Around a
dozen different projects were launched under FP4 covering topics
improving understanding of the causes and effects of accidents
through harmonised reporting;
best to warn drivers at roadworks;
how to boost the safety of pedestrians and cyclists; and
measuring the effects of drugs and medicines on drivers.
of the research projects were grouped together to produce better
The European Commission issued a communication on road transport
safety in March 2000. This makes a number of suggestions drawing
on past and ongoing research. It calls for:
work on car crash tests to continue;
the launch of campaigns on seat belts and child restraints;
recommendations by governments on maximum blood alcohol levels;
speed limiters for light commercial vehicles;
guidelines to be drawn up for improving black spots, for example
by designing roadsides with less street furniture that can cause
legislation on safer car fronts; and
research into the cost benefit of medical standards for driving
tests, tougher driving tests, the use of daytime lights on vehicles,
the effects of medicines on driver behaviour, and post accident
range of projects
EU-funded research projects include improving bus and coach safety,
better frontal impact protection and how to tackle the problems
into bus and coach safety
the trend for cars, deaths and injuries involving buses and coaches
have been stubbornly stable over recent years. Every year around
20,000 buses and coaches weighing over 5,000 kg are involved in
accidents with around 35,000 people injured and 250 killed.
The FP5 ECBOS project involves seven institutions in six countries.
It aims to develop cost-effective tests for evaluating when drivers
and occupants are involved in accidents and what types of injuries
What contribution passenger safety belts can make to improving
the situation will be covered, especially whether these could
be standardised on buses for children. Safety on city buses will
also be the subject of special focus since these are often crowded,
with many passengers standing. Injuries can be caused by sudden
braking or fairly minor collisions.
Research results will be used to decide whether current EU regulations
governing such aspects as bus stability and the stability and
anchorage of seats should be altered. The seven partners involved
der Deutschen Versicherungswirtschaft (GDV); the Technical
University, Graz; Universidad de Madrid; Loughborough
di Torino; the Netherlands Association for Applied Research;
frontal impact protection
after years of research by producers and governments into ways
of making cars safer for their occupants during crashes, a crash
dummy which properly reflects the injuries and body behaviour
during frontal collisions has not been developed. The most widely
used dummy was developed in the USA in the 1970s but has a number
of important limitations in particular with respect to injury
evaluation of the head, face and lower leg.
The FP5 FID project seeks to fill this important gap. Building
on current knowledge and dummy know-how, the project aims to develop
a new worldwide test dummy for frontal collisions, the most widespread
type of accident which most often results in deaths. The dummy
will be used to monitor the types and seriousness of injuries
incurred during frontal impacts.
Four research institutes and two universities are sharing the
burden of work on this three-year programme at the end of which
a prototype dummy should be ready. It is hoped that knowledge
from the research and prototype could be translated into new European
safety standards for cars by 2005 or 2006.
Close co-operation with the USA on this research should result
in harmonised trans-Atlantic safety standards for cars that could
also provide the basis for worldwide rules. This would avoid EU
and US manufacturers facing the nightmare of having to comply
with different sets of regulations, which represent a significant
cost burden on their operations and a major barrier to exports.
FID will build on research already carried out under the FP4 ADRIA
has a fatal attraction for many modern motorists, causing needless
deaths and injuries. A rough rule of thumb says that for every
1 km/h of excess speed, accidents and injuries will rise by between
2 to 3%. The two-year FP4 MASTER
research programme tried to establish acceptable speed limits
in given environments, what determined drivers' choice of speed,
and the best tools available for forcing motorists to obey limits.
Current European speed limits are broadly similar for built up
areas but diverge sharply on rural and secondary roads, where
limits can range from 70 to 113 km/h. On motorways, most countries
have similar limits but Germany stands out with no limits at all.
Research found that almost 80% of drivers flout speed limits.
The research work provided no easy answers on how to limit speeds.
Automated speed controls and automatic speed cameras are effective
means to police limits in rural and urban areas but inappropriate
for motorways. Variable speed limits, which alter the maximum
according to conditions, are expensive to install but can offer
great advantages in terms of reduced casualties. Built-in speed
limitation devices in cars can offer some advantages but can also
increase driver frustration and give a false sense of security.
Research results came out firmly in favour of harmonised speed
limits for European motorways that are the routes mostly likely
to be used by non-national drivers.
safety research is carried out as part of the Sustainable
mobility and intermodality key action. Major projects underway
- research into bus and coach safety
- improved frontal impact protection
- research into the problem of speeding
A fuller list may be found here.