Saturday 20 July 2019

New car safety measures need support in the EU Parliament

The EU is on the verge of signing off on a package of vehicle safety measures that will have a profound impact on our roads, writes Brian Farrell of the Road Safety Authority

The most significant element of the package includes a set of new vehicle safety measures for cars, vans and trucks. (Stock image)
The most significant element of the package includes a set of new vehicle safety measures for cars, vans and trucks. (Stock image)

It's no exaggeration to say that a new range of road safety technologies on new vehicles will be the biggest step forward in road safety since the introduction of the seatbelt.

Almost ten years have passed since the last update to the EU's vehicle safety regulations. In that time there have been major advances taking place with in-vehicle safety technology. Last year the European Commission finally approved a large package of transport policy proposals known as the 'Third Mobility Package', which includes some very significant measures to improve road safety in the EU.

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The most significant element of the package includes a set of new vehicle safety measures for cars, vans and trucks.

However, although the Commission has approved these features becoming mandatory under EU vehicle safety regulations, they have one big hurdle to clear: a vote in favour of the measures by MEPs in the EU Parliament.

If voted on and adopted, proven lifesaving technology such as intelligent speed assistance and lane departure avoidance will no longer be optional extras on vehicles sold in the EU but a basic minimum requirement. And we could expect to see the measures come into force on new vehicles from 2021 onwards.

On behalf of the European Commission, the Transport Research Laboratory in the UK (TRL) examined the potential for these advanced technologies to save lives. Its report estimated that these new vehicle safety features could prevent 25,000 deaths over the next 15 years cross the EU if implemented.

The package of new vehicle safety standards includes 15 lifesaving technologies, which includes:

1 Advanced emergency braking (cars)

2 Alcohol interlock installation facilitation (cars, vans, trucks, buses)

3 Drowsiness and attention detection (cars, vans, trucks, buses)

4 Distraction recognition / prevention (cars, vans, trucks, buses)

5 Event (crash) data recorder (cars and vans)

6 Emergency stop signal (cars, vans, trucks, buses)

7 Full-width frontal occupant protection crash test - improved seatbelts (cars and vans)

8 Head impact zone enlargement for pedestrians and cyclists - safety glass in case of crash (cars and vans)

9 Intelligent speed assistance (cars, vans, trucks, buses)

10 Lane keeping assist (cars, vans)

11 Pole side-impact occupant protection (cars, vans)

12 Reversing camera or detection system (cars, vans, trucks, buses)

13 Tyre pressure monitoring system (vans, trucks, buses)

14 Vulnerable road user detection and warning on front and side of vehicle (trucks and buses)

15 Vulnerable road user improved direct vision from driver's position (trucks and buses)

Two technologies in particular could have a huge impact on making the roads safer if they were made mandatory.

Advanced emergency braking technology automatically slows down and stops the vehicle if it detects another vehicle, pedestrian or cyclist in its path.

Intelligent speed assistance communicates the current speed limit to the driver using satellite and speed-sign recognition technology and helps keep the vehicle within the posted limit. And yes, it will be an overridable system. As speeding is a contributory factor in a third of fatal crashes in this country, such a measure could have a significant positive impact on safety.

The Commission is also proposing enhancing the need for manufacturers to design better visibility into trucks and include sensors on the front and side so drivers can see cyclists and pedestrians more easily. This measure alone would be of great benefit in this country as annually a number of cyclists and pedestrians are killed or seriously injured in collisions where the blind spot is a contributory factor.

If we want to see these technologies as standard on all new vehicles in Europe it is vital that EU member states and the European Parliament, specifically MEPs, give their backing to the plans. It's also crucial that they do not give in to pressure from car manufacturers, who according to the ETSC have attempted to weaken parts of the vehicle safety proposals.

As recently as January 10 last, the European Parliament's Transport committee, comprised of MEPs, voted in support of the wide-ranging package of new vehicle safety measures.

As we look to close the gap between Ireland and the safest countries in the EU, the rollout of these new safety technologies would help us greatly in achieving this goal. Ireland and its MEPs must add its weight to the push to get these measures made mandatory when it comes to a final vote in the EU Parliament. This needs to happen before the EU Parliament's term ends on April 18.

Sunday Independent

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