EU road safety policy: state of play and vision for 2030

On 20 April, the EU Road Safety Results Conference took place, during which the newest traffic fatalities numbers from the EU Member States were presented. In 2020, almost 19.000 people lost their lives on European roads, which is a 17% reduction compared to 2019. This was not entirely in line with the decrease in traffic due to the pandemic. Between 2010 and 2020 fatalities fell by 36% across the EU, meaning that European roads are still the safest in the world, with 42 road deaths per 1 million inhabitants.

However, progress has been slowing down for several years now, and the road safety numbers are nowhere near the desired targets for 2030 and 2050. Additionally, the disparity in road injuries and deaths between EU Member States remains big. Where the roads of Scandinavian countries such as Sweden and Denmark are among the safest on the continent, countries like Romania, Slovakia or Slovenia still bear a higher share of road fatalities.

These developments raise the question if current EU road safety policy measures are sufficient and effective. What initiatives are currently in the EU pipeline to bring the number of serious traffic accidents down, and what are the different aspects influencing the number of injuries and deaths? Dr2 Consultants’ Transport Team outlines what legislative initiatives relevant for companies and end-users in the road transport sector the EU is expected to table. Innovative solutions will be needed to further bring down the number of fatalities on European roads, which will both put additional responsibilities on both road users as well as providers of transport services.

Looking ahead: “Vision Zero”

Currently, the European institutions are working together with several international organizations to achieve ‘Vision Zero’. Vision Zero is a strategy to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safe, healthy and equitable mobility for all by 2050 inter alia through policies that stimulate the use of new technologies that enhance road safety.

To combat the stagnation of the reduction of the number of road deaths, and ensure that the EU maintains its leading position in the world in terms of road safety, Commissioner for Transport, Adina Vălean, highlighted several areas of attention during the Road Safety Results Conference:

  • Considering an urban mobility initiative which includes safety at all stages of mobility and urban planning. This initiative should also address the fast roll-out of micro-mobility devices throughout European cities, leading to road safety challenges;
  • Taking action to reduce speeding and alcohol consumption through further use of EU recommendations;
  • Developing and stimulating the uptake of innovative solutions, for example systems detecting weaker road users and advanced driver-assistance systems.

More will become known on these initiatives in the coming months, of which Dr2 Consultants is expecting it will influence road transport for years to come. Therefore, it is essential to gather the latest information through contact with EU institutions in Brussels. Learn more about how our monitoring services can help you stay up to date on relevant EU legislative initiatives here.

Adina Ioana Vălean - European Commissioner for Transport
Adina Ioana Vălean | European Commissioner for Transport   © European Union, 2019

One of the most prominent pieces of EU legislation safeguarding road safety, also mentioned by Commissioner Vălean during her conference keynote, is the Directive on Driving Licenses. The Directive, laying down specifications for mandatory theory tests, medical tests for professional drivers, and qualification and training of driving examiners, will be subject to a revision process starting end of this year with an eventual proposal expected by the end of 2022. Moreover, the Commission will revise the Directive on cross-border enforcement of traffic rules, come up with new guidance on blood alcohol content and the potential use of alcohol interlocks, and adapt the eCall Framework to new technologies (expected at the end of 2021, or early 2022).

In 2020, the transport committee (TRAN) of the European Parliament also started working on its own recommendations to further improve EU road safety, tackling the number of fatalities on European roads. In its draft report, the committee states inter alia that Member States and cities should consider bringing down speed limits from 50km/h to 30km/h, making EU funding available to increase road safety in countries such as Romania and Slovakia, and further incorporating (digital) advanced safety features such as intelligent speed assistance and emergency lane keeping systems as mandatory instruments in new vehicles. Apart from the increased safety that could be achieved for individual drivers, road transport companies and manufacturers of heavy-duty vehicles will have to look out for additional obligations to improve road safety in the upcoming years.

However, as traffic management and road safety are still Member State competences, it is questionable if the European Parliament and European Commission can realistically achieve Vision Zero by 2050. In the coming years both EU institutions will aim to integrate road safety in all of their proposed legislation, including the latest trends in mobility (new forms of mobility, driver-assistance systems, etc.), but ultimately the responsibility and initiative will be with the Member States to make a dent in the traffic fatality numbers.

For stakeholders it will be crucial to remain in an open dialogue with both EU institutions as well as Member States. Providers of innovative solutions for transport will have to ensure that the costs of conforming to EU policy do not weigh a too heavy burden on the business model. On the other hand, EU Member States remain strongly in the lead in the national implementation of policy for all modes of transport.

What can Dr2 Consultants do for you?

Over the last years, Dr2 Consultants has built up a track record in advising a broad range of transport clients in navigating the EU ecosystem. Feel free to reach out to discuss opportunities and threats in the upcoming legislation related to EU road safety for your company or organization with us over a virtual coffee. Visit our transport sector webpage for more information.

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