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RTD info logoMagazine on European Research N° 37 - May 2003    
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ROAD SAFETY
Title  Technology puts road safety first

The problem of road safety is often discussed but never solved. It has now become a social priority of top importance for the European Union. The results of technical progress at the European level play an essential role on this front.

 ©DaimlerChrysler
©DaimlerChrysler
European Community responsibility for road safety was originally limited to simply drawing up homogenous standards, with a view to the single market, applicable to vehicle equipment such as seat belts, ABS braking systems and laminated windscreens. With the adoption of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, (1) the Union acquired extensive powers to submit road safety recommendations to the Member States - in some cases binding ones. 

The 1997-2001 action programme was Europe's first attempt to take stock of the road safety issue and to reflect on the priorities for improving it (2). The September 2001 White Paper on a common transport policy for 2010 (3) subsequently set the ambitious target of halving the 40 000 or so deaths a year on the Union's roads.

This commitment to combating the scourge of road accidents reflects public opinion, which is increasingly aware of and outraged by the scale of the carnage. Such a strategy includes stricter and more effective implementation of tougher regulations, as well as preventive measures and campaigns to train and educate road users.

The role of technology
Current developments in passenger protection technology – or 'passive' vehicle safety – as well as 'active' safety, are helping to achieve this ambition of a drastic reduction in road deaths. Information and telecommunication systems are enabling 'intelligent' vehicles to interact with other vehicles and the road environment.

It is crucial for these technological innovations to be implemented at European level. Efforts to provide common and compatible passive and active solutions must be coordinated throughout the Union, in terms of the automotive industry and the public authorities responsible for approving standards and managing infrastructure.

Over the past decade, European programmes have provided growing support to the development of cross-border co-operation – both public and private – in research on safe vehicle design and the development of intelligent systems. These two avenues of research will continue to benefit from major EU financing to create networks of excellence and to set up integrated projects within the priorities of the Sixth Framework Programme. These fields are also supported by the European Vehicle Passive Safety Network (EVPSN) and eSafety initiatives, which are designed to bring together all the main players – scientists, manufacturers, and road safety and infrastructure authorities – with the aim of building a European strategy strengthened by R&D and the application of results.

The following pages provide a picture of on-going efforts to ensure that, by 2010, Europe's roads will claim half as many victims as they do today.

(1) Article 71 of the Maastricht Treaty.
(2) To read the conclusions, go to: http://europa.eu/eur-lex/en/com/cnc/2000/com2000_0125en01.pdf
(3) For more information on the White Paper, go to: http://ec.europa.eu/energy_transport/en/lb_en.html

 

    
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