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PUBLICATIONS, Structural and Cohesion Policies

Two small actions to improve road safety?

Picture used under licence conditions from ©

Approximately 100 people have been killed today in the European Union on our roads, the same was true of yesterday and it will probably be the same tomorrow. What are we doing about it? Could we do more?

How can policy help save lives that would needlessly have been lost in road accidents? Is it by communicating the dangers to drivers, enforcing penalties on offenders, stigmatizing drunk-driving, improving public transport….or all of those measures in moderation?

According to the European Automobile Manufacturers” Association (ACEA) the motorization rate in EU-27 was 473 cars per 1,000 inhabitants (2010). The European vehicle fleet reached over 270 million units in the same year. The average annual distance travelled by a car in the EU is about 14 000 km/year.

Staggering numbers which only increase. Seemingly, everybody wants to be on the road. But is all this car use justified. I don’t think so. Two cases to illustrate this.

A car for your birthday: a poisoned gift

In Belgium (and presumably in other European countries), it is current practice to donate a car to your son or daughter when he or she turns 18. Such a practice obviously stimulates the dependence of youngsters on vehicles, quasi as the only way of moving around.

It is proven that young novice drivers are heavily over-represented in single vehicle crashes (crashes that do not involve other vehicles) and loss of control crashes. Although young novice drivers are over-represented in crashes at all times of day, weekend evenings and nights present higher risks per kilometre driven, especially for male drivers. For males, speeding is an important accident cause. This, in combination with the fact that young drivers often carry more passengers in their cars, also results in more severe injuries and a higher number of people injured. (Source: European Commission) Young people have other things on their minds whilst driving…they think about a brilliant future, they want to impress.

Shouldn’t we try to do the inverse and get these young people off the roads and promote the usage of public transportation, walking and cycling? We should learn our youngsters they can get everywhere using the wide variety of public transport means.

I personally would be in favor of raising the minimum age to 21 years for getting a driving license or at least for solo driving.

Another fact: company cars

There are roughly 20 million company cars in Europe—about 12% of employees throughout the continent drive them, they account for roughly 50 percent of all new sales of cars in EU. Company cars tend to be more luxurious, as well as 18% heavier and 18% bigger, than cars bought by individuals. In many cases the company car is not necessary for the actual exercise of the profession. Company cars are often used by the family, for the holiday drive, to escape higher insurances rates for learner drivers. So, what company cars do, is only increasing the number of road users and causing more congestion.

Young people and company employees off the roads and onto trains and busses. If we want less road deads or road accidents, should we not try to have less people on our roads? And make sure that those who are on the road, are conscious drivers who make necessary trips?

More information:

Library summary: Vers une taxation plus équitable des voitures de société? (internal link)

Welfare Effects of Distortionary Fringe Benefits Taxation: The Case of Employer-Provided Cars / Eva Gutiérrez-i-Puigarnau, Jos N. Van Ommeren (2011)

Company car taxation (taxation papers) / European commission (2010)

About Geert Plas

Polyvalent information specialist at the European Parliament Library

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