What can European countries do?

Engage fully in international legislative development work

Most European countries are represented in technical committees of the UN ECE and the EU associated with the development of vehicle safety standards and legislation. In addition, several European countries participate actively in the work of international organisations towards the development of legislative tests and standards. For example, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden and the UK contribute to the work of the various working and steering committees of the EEVC and global research co-operation within the International Harmonised Research Activities IHRA.

Provide technical support

Achieving vehicle safety legislation which reflects real–world conditions necessitates programmes of in-depth crash injury research, crash dummy development and other biomechanical work. During the last 20 years, countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden and France have devoted significant national resource to programmes of work aimed at safety standard development.

Carry out national research and monitoring of vehicle safety measures

The monitoring of the performance of European vehicle safety legislation in real crashes to identify progress as well as future priorities for vehicle safety has taken place systematically in few European countries. A notable example is the Cooperative Crash Injury Research Study in the UK. European protocols for in depth research have been following the EU-wide projects STAIRS and PENDANT.

Support and join the European New Car Assessment Programme

Various Governments have joined the European New Car Assessment programme since its inception in 1996 including the United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands, France and Germany. Some countries actively promote Europe NCAP results. In Sweden, the National Road Administration promotes an in-house travel policy which requires that all cars used in official business have at least a 4* safety rating.

Example of a EuroNCAP crashtest

Encourage financial incentives for the use of protective equipment

Some countries provide financial incentives for the fitment or use of safety equipment. For example, in the Netherlands there is a tax (called BPM tax) for passenger cars and motorcycles. However, a purchase of a passenger car or a motorcycle fitted with specific safety systems is exempt from BPM tax. The specific safety equipment is:

Passenger cars: side airbags, anti-whiplash head rest system, navigation devices and for Motorcycles, ABS and CBS (Combined Brake System).

Ensure that protective equipment usage laws are properly enforced

Clearly protective equipment such as seat belts and child restraints are of little value unless they are used. The European Commission proposed on 6th April 2004 a package of measures aiming at improving road safety through a better enforcement of road safety rules. In addition to recommending the setting up a national enforcement plan, the Commission recommended in relation to seat belts to:


Ensure that intensive enforcement actions concerning the non-use of seat belts with a duration of at least two weeks take place at least three times a year, in places where non-use occurs regularly and where there is an increased risk of accidents, and ensure that the use of seat belts is enforced in every individual case where non-use is observed and the car is being stopped; these enforcement actions may take place in combination with other traffic enforcement actions, such as those concerning speeding and drink-driving.


A range of EC funded research reviews have been carried out which have highlighted best practice in enforcing vehicle measures requiring user action e.g. ESCAPE, GADGET.

Encourage local car industry to fast track key safety measures

The Swedish National Roads Administration has within the Vision Zero policy been successful in recent years in encouraging rapid voluntary adoption of seat belt reminders in the national car fleet and the voluntary installation of alcohol interlock devices in the national truck fleet. For example, alcohol interlocks are now installed in over 1500 vehicles and, since 2002; two major truck suppliers have been offering interlocks as standard equipment on the Swedish market. The majority of new cars sold in Sweden are fitted with seatbelt reminders.

Crash avoidance: collision avoidance systems

  • Forward Collision Warning is a system which comprises a visual and audible warning that the driver is too close to the vehicle in front. The warning depends on how long the distance is between the vehicle and the vehicle ahead. The level of warning changes from “safe” to “critical” as the following distance decreases.
  • The Reverse Collision Warning System is a visual and audible system which warns drivers about the likelihood of collision with an object behind the vehicle by means of sensors in the rear bumper. The warning intensifies when the distance between the vehicle’s rear and the object decreases.
  • Adaptive Cruise Control enhances automatic cruise control found in many new vehicles by automatically maintaining a set following distance to the vehicle in front.The distance to the preceding vehicle is measured by radar either with laser radar or millimetre wave radar. When the speed of the vehicle in front is slower than the adjusted speed, the ACC system adjusts vehicle speed to allow a safe distance the lead vehicle at a safe distance.
  • Lane-Keeping Devices are electronic warning systems that are activated if the vehicle is about to veer off the lane or the road. Times to collision in safety-critical lane changes are normally much less than one second. Since mean driver reaction time is about one second, there is not sufficient time for a driver to respond to a warning before crashing. Because there is insufficient time for reaction to a warning, lane change and merging crashes can probably only be avoided by intervening systems. But these have their own problems: how to detect driver intentions and how to intervene. This may be by taking over the steering from the driver or by providing feedback through the steering wheel. The technical and operational feasibility of such systems has still to be demonstrated.Most existing systems are warning only systems.
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