FIM Brussels, an overview on the General Safety Regulation
2016 marked a high point for European road safety. European roads ranked as the safest in the globe and saw a 19% drop from 2010, meaning 6,000 less people were killed. Compared to the worldwide average of 174 road deaths per million, Europe came in significantly lower at 50 deaths per million. However, despite this progress the EU is still lagging behind its overall targets and now must see a year-on-year progress of an 11.4% reduction to meet its goals in 2020.
The overall level of progress is evidently positive, but this trend does not hold up when considering individual transport modes. Statistics published by the European Commission show that fatalities among vulnerable road users, including cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists, did indeed decrease over the same time period, but at a rate far below that of the overall average. Additionally, the same statistics contended that vulnerable road users were subject to the majority of serious injuries on EU roads, of which they are an estimated 135,000 each year, five times the annual fatalities. In particular, motorcyclists are disproportionality the victim of serious road injuries, accounting for 18% of all EU road deaths despite representing just 11% of road users.
Against the backdrop of this information, the European Commission is preparing to bring forward a proposal for the revision of the regulations which set out the safety standards in EU road transport in March 2018. This will be the first revision of the General Safety Regulation (GSR), which focuses on motor vehicle safety (i.e. in-car users and safety features), and the Pedestrian Safety Regulation (PSR), which concentrates on the protection of pedestrians (i.e. third parties to a vehicle), since 2009.
In support of this, the European Commission published a study of the GSR/PSR, Saving Lives:
Boosting Car Safety in the EU in December 2016. The report contained 19 specific safety measures for consideration, including a number of active safety tools for drivers of light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles, which have the potential to have a significant knock-on safety impact for other road users. Specifically, the recommendations included consideration for the introduction of Autonomous Emergency Braking, Driver Distraction/Drowsiness Monitoring, Lane Keeping Assist and Intelligent Speed Adaption.
The European Commission will not bring forward its final proposal until March 2018, but its report, published to the European Parliament and the European Council, already indicates that it has strongly considered methods by which to improve road safety for vulnerable road users. In particular, implementation of driver-assistance tools to assist with speed, braking, remaining within lane boundaries and to monitor driver alertness will be hugely beneficial. Most crucially, these tools will provide far greater certainty for motorcyclists and ensure that drivers of light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles have a higher level of awareness.
The European Parliament too set out its initial vision for the revision of the GSR/PSR in an own-initiative report, ahead of the European Commission’s proposal. The report strongly supported many of the 19 measures contained within the Commission’s report, placing an emphasis on the potential benefits of new technology. Interestingly, the EP report called for an extension of the emergency braking requirement for trucks and buses to include detection of vulnerable road users, also noting that driver assistance systems, autonomous vehicles and over-ridable intelligent speed assistant systems could have a significant impact on road safety for all users.
While the Commission proposal has yet to published, the indications are that the revision of the GSR/PSR will place an emphasis on the use of advanced driver assistance tools to improve road safety for all road users. At this point, the developments in similar technology for motorcycles has been sluggish, but the indirect benefit of driver assistance tools for light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles for vulnerable road users could be hugely significant for road safety.