Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Most Improved Serious Accident Records on European Roads Published as Estonia Wins Top Award

Safety Group Concerned However That Truck Direct Vision Standards May Be Watered Down
Shipping News Feature

EUROPE – Road safety statistics will always be a key factor in the logistics business, hauliers made constantly aware of how trucks, quite naturally given their relative size, are often involved in the most serious incidents. Today's release of figures from the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) certainly make interesting reading.

Whilst the 2020 Annual Report concentrates on overall road accident data covering the 32 countries that participate in ETSC’s Road Safety Performance Index (PIN) programme, ETSC has noted separately its concern over the pressure from the road freight lobby and the motor industry to water down proposals for better Driver Vision Standards.

The results of the report see Estonia being presented today with the ETSC Safety Award as best improved nation state. The Baltic country now has a level of road mortality (road deaths per million inhabitants) comparable to the Netherlands, a remarkable accomplishment and a reflection of significant investment and strategic leadership on road safety over several years.

Greece and Portugal were in the top three improving countries whilst two of Europe’s traditional leaders on road safety: the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, while remaining relatively safe when compared on road mortality, had more road deaths in 2019 than in 2010. France, Sweden and Germany have also shown disappointing progress over the last nine years with only modest reductions in deaths. Bulgaria and Romania remain Europe’s worst performers in terms of road mortality and have also made below-average reductions in recent years.

None of the EU member states, all of whom agreed a target to cut road deaths by half in the decade to 2020, will reach this. With one year left until full data for 2020 is available the target will almost undoubtedly be missed, despite the dramatic effect the pandemic lockdown has had on traffic levels.

The results of the top three performers are without doubt due to changing policies and attitudes in the countries involved. Estonia for example has seen seat belt use rise 5% to 97% for front seat passengers, 25% for those in the rear in under a decade, principally due to legislation and police enforcement.

ETSC says this effect is likely to transfer across the EU, with a boost in safety over the next decade thanks to new legislation on minimum vehicle and infrastructure safety standards agreed last year. But much will depend on the detailed technical standards for the new laws, which are currently being worked out. ETSC is particularly concerned about the requirements for Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) technology for new cars and those direct vision parameters for newly built trucks. Antonio Avenoso, Executive Director of the European Transport Safety Council, commented:

“While progress across Europe has disappointed over the last nine years, some countries have been quietly undergoing a road safety revolution. We’re delighted to award Estonia this year for its remarkable progress, following Ireland’s win in 2019. Overall, EU Member States will need to step up a gear to hit the new targets for 2030. But the recent response to the Covid-19 epidemic may signal a way forward.

”A dramatic shift to walking and cycling in urban areas, combined with infrastructure changes and lower speed limits, could have a massive impact on road death and injury. But if we just revert to business-as-usual after this crisis, the results could be even worse than before. There are danger signs already in the large numbers of speeding offences being reported as lockdowns are lifted, which only adds to the work of overstretched police and emergency services.”