We sometimes hear people say,
'My car is my passport to freedom,' and it cannot be denied that the
car has given us a great deal. A car enables us all to get around; it
is also a factor affecting growth, jobs and competitiveness for the
whole economy. Nowadays most families in Europe have their own car.
It is difficult to imagine reversing this trend.
But there is another side to the coin. In the European Union, road accidents
kill more than 40000 people every year. The damage to the environment
is significant, particularly from CO2 emissions, which contribute to
the greenhouse effect. And the constant increase in traffic is beginning
to overwhelm and suffocate our towns. Traffic jams are more and more
frequent and even major roads are congested.
The warning signs are there and a change of policy is needed. This change
will have to be radical - taking care of the environment, encouraging
other modes of transport to promote intermodal transport, and developing
infrastructure, safer vehicles and incentives to change drivers' behaviour.
There is no one solution. If we are to avoid our roads becoming dead
ends, the war will have to be waged on all fronts in a consistent and
coordinated manner. European research is playing a fundamental role
in this - and working for us all in the process. Read on for some examples.