Various Documents considered by the Committee - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

9 Road safety



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COM(10) 389

Commission Communication: Towards a European road safety area: policy orientations on road safety 2011-2020

Legal base
Document originated20 July 2010
Deposited in Parliament30 July 2010
Basis of considerationEM of 3 November 2010
Previous Committee ReportNone
Discussion in Council2 December 2010
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared


9.1 The Commission published a Communication: European Road Safety Action Programme: Halving the number of road accident victims in the European Union by 2010: a shared responsibility in June 2003. [25] The programme included a target of halving the number of road deaths by 2010. Whilst the numbers of fatalities have substantially decreased during the period of the programme, the target is unlikely to be met.

9.2 During the period of programme the Commission published a draft Directive to facilitate cross-border enforcement in the field of road safety, which is still under scrutiny,[26] and a Communication, Action plan for the Deployment of Intelligent Transport Systems in Europe, and a draft Directive laying down a framework for deployment of Intelligent Transport Systems in the field of road transport and for interfaces with other transport modes.[27]

The document

9.3 In this Communication the Commission sets out a fourth European Road Safety Action Programme, for the period 2011-2020. Its objective is to halve the number of EU road deaths by 2020. The target is expected to be achieved through a mix of measures, including sharing best practice, research, awareness campaigns and in some cases possibly regulation aimed at making road users, vehicles and infrastructure safer. The Commission also intends to make progress on a target for reducing road traffic severe injuries and proposes to add an "injuries reduction target" to the action programme.

9.4 In the light of the failure to attain the death reduction figure of the previous programme the Commission has identified seven strategic objectives for the next decade, to ensure continued progress towards reducing casualties and improving road safety in the EU:

  • improve education and training of road users — the Commission proposes to promote improvements to the learning to drive process, with a focus on young novice drivers, and to create an EU road safety education and training strategy to foster a lifelong "educational continuum" for drivers;
  • increase enforcement of road rules — the Commission proposes to implement measures on the cross border exchange of information, in the context of the draft Directive on cross-border enforcement in the field of road safety, to ensure that all EU nationals are treated equally for traffic offences (for example penalties and fines) and is seeking to develop a common road safety enforcement strategy, which could include the introduction of speed limiters in light commercial vehicles and use alcohol interlock devices;
  • safer road infrastructure — the Commission plans to ensure that EU funds are only granted to infrastructure compliant with road safety and tunnel safety Directives and is looking to encourage Member States to apply these safety measures to their urban and rural roads;
  • safer vehicles — the Commission plans to make proposals to encourage progress on active and passive safety of vehicles, such as motorcycles and electric vehicles, will make proposals to encourage the harmonisation of roadworthiness tests and technical roadside inspections and proposes to assess the impact and benefits of co-operative systems (for example, where vehicles exchange data and interact with the infrastructure and other vehicles) to identify the most beneficial applications, with a view to recommending relevant measures for their deployment;
  • promote the use of modern technology to increase road safety — the Commission highlights the role of Intelligent Transport Systems and within the context of the Intelligent Transport Systems Action Plan and Intelligent Transport Systems Directive plans to examine the possibility of retrofitting commercial vehicles and cars with advanced driver assistance systems (for example, Lane Departure Warning) and accelerating the deployment of e-call (that is, an in-vehicle safety device which manually or automatically generates a call to the nearest emergency service in the event of an accident) and extending e-call to motorcyclists, heavy-duty lorries and buses;
  • improve emergency and post-injuries services — the Commission proposes to work with Member States to establish a common definition of serious and minor injuries with the view to developing a global strategy for action to address road injuries and to promote best practice on emergency service responses to incidents; and
  • protect vulnerable road users — the Commission plans to make proposals to monitor and further develop technical standards for protection of vulnerable road users, particularly powered two wheels vehicles, by introducing periodic inspections and increasing the safety of cyclists and other vulnerable road users.

9.5 The Communication is accompanied by a staff working document which provides an assessment of the results of each of the 62 measures described in the previous programme and of the outcome of a consultation of stakeholders about the proposed successor plan.

The Government's view

9.6 The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Mike Penning) first tells us that:

  • the Government shares the Commission's objective of improving road safety and saving lives;
  • with the current road safety strategy and targets for Great Britain due to expire at the end of 2010, the Government is considering its options for road safety policy beyond 2010, including the role of a new road safety framework;
  • the Government would be concerned if any EU-wide casualty reduction targets were taken to imply target levels for individual Member States;
  • different Member States will be at different starting points, so the UK, which has the safest roads in the world, would find it disproportionately difficult and expensive to achieve a 50% reduction which the Commission has proposed as a target for the EU; and
  • the Government would also have concerns if the idea of adding an "injuries reduction target" were adopted as an EU wide target, as opposed to Member States being able to choose to have their own injury targets — there are different definitions across the EU for injuries and it is not clear what different actions would be taken as a consequence of an EU target for injuries.

9.7 The Minister then addresses the possibility of legislative proposals, saying that:

  • the nature of the Communication means that the details of the proposed actions have not been provided;
  • the Government notes that the Commission is seeking harmonisation in areas such as driver training, enforcement activity, road-worthiness tests and technical road side inspections and vehicle technologies;
  • the Government would need to carefully consider these proposals once they have been developed further and will work with the Commission and other Member States to ensure that the actions taken are proportionate;
  • as a central principle, the Government does not believe further EU legislation is generally the right way forward to deliver improvements in road safety; and
  • any formal legislative proposals subsequently arising from this document would be subject to individual parliamentary scrutiny in the normal way, but would need to demonstrate a very strong case that further EU legislation was appropriate for the Government to support them.


9.8 Promotion of road safety is important. But, whilst clearing this document, we note the Government's reservations about some of the Commission's proposals. And, as the Minister suggests, the Government will examine carefully any legislative proposals that arise from this Communication.

25   (24592) 9713/03: see HC 63-xxviii (2002-03), chapter 11 (2 July 2003). Back

26   (29587) 7984/08 + ADDs 1-2: see HC 16-xxiii (2007-08), chapter 4 (4 June 2008) and HC 16-xxxvi (2007-08), chapter 6 (26 November 2008). Back

27   (30312) 17563) + ADDs 1-2 (30313) 17564 + ADDs 1-2: see HC 19-vii (2008-09), chapter 4 (11 February 2009), HC 19-xi (2008-09), chapter 6 (18 March 2009) HC 19-xix (2008-09), chapter 6 (10 June 2009) and HC 19-xxii (2008-09), chapter 1 (1 July 2010) and Gen Co Debs, European Committee A, 20 July 2009, cols 3-14.


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