Who regulates vehicle safety?
Vehicle safety in European Union countries is regulated mainly by international standards and regulation devised by the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN ECE).
With the main objective of removing trade barriers, international harmonisation in vehicle standards by the UN ECE started in 1958 supervised by the Inland Transport Committee’s Working Party on the Construction of Vehicles  in Geneva. This provided the framework for a voluntary type approval system based on UN ECE Regulations.
In 1970, the EU and its Member States developed a new framework for international agreement and co-operation on vehicle safety initiatives culminating in mandatory EU Whole Vehicle Type Approval for cars (which came into full effect in 1998) and for two and three wheeled motor vehicles (into effect in 2003). The process of introducing such a system for trucks and buses is currently underway. All harmonized vehicle standards are supposed to provide a high level of consumer protection (Treaty Article 75(1) as amended by the Treaty of Amsterdam). European Union derived standards are mandatory for all the members of the European Union if they fall within Whole Vehicle EU Type Approval. In other circumstances, European countries can adhere to Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) of the United Nations either voluntarily or mandatorily if a country decides to incorporate the regulation into national regulation.
The accession of the EC to the revised 1958 Agreement in 1998 is giving further impetus to work on global technical regulations. While such global work will increase the convenience of manufacture and removal of barriers to trade, it reduces opportunities for current full Parliamentary scrutiny and involvement at regional (EU) and national levels. As noted by the World Health Organisation and World Bank, vehicle safety standardization at the regional and national levels, taking into account as it does local conditions, can often produce faster action than a similar process at the international level World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention.
Legislative work at EU level is led by European Commission’s Directorate of Enterprise and Industry. Vehicle safety promotion is also pursued by the European Commission through initiatives such as DG Transport’s EU road safety action programme and DG Information and Society’s Esafety and Intelligent Car initiatives.