EU proposes new car safety regulations

Judy Williams 

The number of deaths on Irish roads has been falling, according to figures from the RSA. Credit: The Irish Times

The European Commission approved proposals last week for new safety features to be mandatory on all new models of cars and vans sold in the European Union from 2022 onwards.

According to EU statistics, 25,300 people lost their lives on Europe’s roads in 2017. The number of deaths on Irish roads has been falling, according to figures from the RSA. In 2016, there were 186 fatalities on Irish roads which had reduced to 158 fatalities in 2017 and provisional figures for 2018 show a further reduction to 147 fatalities.

“There have only been a handful of moments in the last 50 years which could be described as big leaps forward for road safety in Europe,” said Antonio Avenoso, Executive Director of the European Transport Safety Council.

“The mandatory introduction of the seatbelt was one, and the first EU minimum crash safety standards agreed in 1998, was another. If the agreement is given the formal green light, it will represent another of those moments, preventing 25,000 deaths within 15 years of coming into force,” he added.

Initial newspaper reports suggested that the EU had agreed on proposals to install speed delimiters, which would prevent cars from going over the official speed limit for the road.

These reports were incorrect as the ‘intelligent speed assistance’ feature that the EU proposals include, would alert drivers when the speed limit for the road had been exceeded, but would not adjust the speed automatically.

Certain new models of car already have the intelligent speed assistance feature fitted, such as the Ford Galaxy, Ford S-Max and the Peugeot 3008.

Volvo recently announced that it would become the first car manufacturer to limit the top speed on its cars. However, at 180kph it would be much higher than the maximum speed limit in European countries, except the German autobahn, which doesn’t have a maximum limit, but a recommended limit of 130kph.

The intelligent speed assistance technology is one of almost 30 safety features to be announced as part of the European Commission’s attempts to reduce the number of deaths on Europe’s roads. Other technology safety measures include advanced emergency braking, warning of driver drowsiness and distraction, reversing cameras and sensors, lane keeping assistance and event data recorders.

Trucks and buses will also be included in the new regulations and will have specific rules applied to them to improve driver vision and remove blind spots, such as vulnerable road user detection technology, especially when turning.

Conor Faughnan, Director of Consumer Affairs for AA Ireland, said that the proposed new features have the potential to help make Irish roads safer and to assist drivers in adhering to speed limits across Ireland.

“We know that speeding is a contributory factor to many accidents that occur each year on Irish roads,” he said.

However, Faughnan stressed that it would be important for councils and the Department of Transport to carry out a review of speed limits across the country, to ensure that these are adequately set before the introduction of the new safety features.

“There are too many cases in Ireland of speed limits being out of sync with the road conditions, for example – narrow country roads which have an 80km/h speed limit.  To allow the proposed speed assistance technology to function correctly, a complete review of nationwide speed limits and a satisfactory database of each limit will need to be completed ahead of 2022,” he added.

The European Commission hopes that these new proposals will help to save 25,000 lives and prevent 140,000 serious injuries over the next 20 years.

The proposals still need to be confirmed by member states, before being put to the full European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers for final approval.

Judy Williams 

Image credit: The Irish Times