Twelve new safety features are to become mandatory on cars from 2021 onwards in the EU’s latest effort to cut road deaths.
Currently, road deaths stand at 26,000 per year across the EU. The aim is to reduce this to 13,000 and halve the number of serious injuries by 2030.
Since 2010, fatalities on EU roads have reduced by 20%, but the European Commission acknowledges that there has been no significant drop since 2013. The new measures are expected to save the lives of 10,500 people and prevent an estimated 59,600 serious injuries by 2030.
The new mandatory features, listed below, cover several facets of road safety and constitute the first update of vehicles’ minimum EU safety standards since 2009. Many of these features are already offered on cars, often as options.
- Advanced emergency braking
- Alcohol interlock installation facilitation
- Drowsiness and attention detection
- Distraction recognition and prevention
- Event (accident) data recorder
- Emergency stop signal
- Full-width frontal occupant protection crash test, plus improved seatbelts
- Head impact zone enlargement for pedestrians and cyclists, plus safety glass
- Intelligent speed assistance
- Lane-keeping assist
- Pole side-impact occupant protection
- Reversing camera or detection system
Several further systems are proposed for inclusion on commercial vehicles. These are either already mandatory on cars or not relevant to them.
Automatic emergency braking (AEB) and lane-keeping assist systems are a requirement of Euro NCAP for a car to receive a five-star safety rating. This rule was introduced in 2018 – a year later than planned, following backlash from areas of the industry claiming that this was too difficult to implement. It’s not yet against EU law to sell a car without the systems fitted, though, despite the insurance industry’s acknowledgement that the system reduces rear-end accidents.
One of the more controversial systems planned for introduction is intelligent speed assistance, which can control the speed of the car by adhering to the speed limits where possible. The system can be turned off temporarily and is widely available on a variety of cars already, although critics highlight that it's the first step towards total governance of a car’s speed, plus the possible insurance ramifications of turning the system off temporarily once the system is a legal requirement.
Alcohol interlock installation facilitation is a more radical feature. It will stop the driver from using the car if alcohol is detected in their system. Despite some EU states having breathalyser-carrying laws and breathalyser immobilisation technology available to buy, this technology has not yet been written into law.
The EU's proposal has been universally praised by road safety groups.
Joshua Harris, campaigns director at road safety charity Brake, said: “These technologies are proven to save lives, so this announcement should be warmly welcomed by all who are truly committed to improving road safety.
"Drivers want their vehicles to be safe, but the reality is they rarely opt to spend more on safety features as optional extras. This decision puts the onus for safety back on the car manufacturers and in one swoop, will dramatically improve the safety of our roads forever.”
Jessica Truong, executive director of the Towards Zero Foundation, said: “As the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety and the sustainable development goals to halve road deaths by 2020 draws to a close, it's time for us to work out a new plan to capitalise on the gains made this decade and ensure that we don’t lose momentum.
"Now is the time for us to redouble our efforts to safeguard people from road crashes that are both predictable and preventable. The EU’s decision to keep a focus on road safety and set a new 2030 target is a win for the safety of the communities in the EU.”