Asphalt massacre

35.000 deaths in 2009: the EU Commission seeks a solution

Cyclical figures, each marked by few changes and unvarying dismay. In 2009, more than 35,000 people died on the roads of the European Union, a thousand of whom were children. The equivalent of a medium town razed to the ground. And it’s not all. Over 100thousand disabling injuries were reported in EU-27 in the same year, 350 thousand serious injuries and over one million minor injuries. The estimated economic cost to society is 130 Billion Euros a year. These figures represent suffering and tragedies. The EU Commission seeks to improve road safety yet again.Ongoing slaughter. “A hundred people die everyday on Europe’s roads. We have made good progress since 2001 and we have succeeded in saving nearly 80,000 lives. But the number of fatalities and injuries on our roads is still unacceptable”. On July 20 European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas responsible for Transport presented “challenging plans” to “halve road deaths over the next ten years”. The Commissioner presented a table that shows progress under the “2001-2010 Road Safety Action Plan”. The most relevant figure is that in 2001 there were 113 road fatalities in the EU. Figures fell to 69 in 2009 with a 36% decrease. Significant progress was registered also across several Countries (with lowest fatality rates in Latvia, Spain, Portugal, Estonia, France, Lithuania, Slovakia, Italy, Ireland and Germany), although initial situations differed. Minor progress was registered in Bulgaria, Poland, Greece, Denmark, Czech Republic, Hungary, the U.K., Austria, The Netherlands and many more. Conversely, Malta and Romania stand out for increased road fatalities. EU proposals and uncooperative States. The Commission is set to adopt measures for the next decade. “We want to cut road deaths in half by 2020”, Kallas points out. “We are looking at what kind of cars motorists drive, where they drive and how they drive”. There are seven strategic objectives that Member States and the EU will implement with joint initiatives including: mandatory safety devices for vehicles and trucks; safer road infrastructure; “Intelligent” transport; tighter controls for newly licensed drivers; strengthening measure enforcement supervision; key-targets to reduce the number of injuries; a new focus on motorcyclists. Measures range from active (seat-belts…) and passive safety devices (electronic stability control, lane departure warning systems) to the building of modern and safe road infrastructures, controlling traffic flows and awareness-campaigns for travellers). After a set of questions, Kallas was forced to admit the problems. “Road safety largely depends on the drivers”, she said. But national regulations differ in terms of speed limit, rules of the road, fines… “Foreign traffic offenders think they will get away scot-free. And often this is precisely the case! Binding measures will have to be taken. As relates to speed-limit and fines full harmonization isn’t possible yet”. Member States do not wish to enforce common regulations for the time being, Kallas said. Drink-driving and high-speed. After the measures aimed at reducing road deaths Commissioner Kallas presented the results of a Eurobarometer survey which shows that “Europeans call on Member States to boost their action to improve road safety”. “Nine out of ten Europeans (94%) considered driving under the influence of alcohol to be the most significant road safety problem, while eight out of ten (78%) called speeding a major safety problem”. A majority of respondents (52%, amounting to 25 thousand EU citizens over 15) said “Member States should focus on improving road infrastructure as a first or second priority”, while 42% said the same for “improving the enforcement of traffic laws and 36% for dealing equally forcefully with resident and foreign traffic offenders”. “These figures show that Europeans consider road safety to be an important issue. Although much progress has already been made in recent years, we agree with our citizens that a lot more could be and should be done”, Kallas added.

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