Members' Research Service By / September 15, 2015

Towards a European road safety area

Written by Alessandra Di Tella Road transport is known to be the most dangerous of all transport modes and deaths…

© photofranz56 / Fotolia
Written by Alessandra Di Tella
Towards a European road safety area
© photofranz56 / Fotolia

Road transport is known to be the most dangerous of all transport modes and deaths and serious injuries from road traffic crashes represent a major societal challenge for EU. Road safety is a shared competence between the Union and the Member States, and the responsibility for a large bulk of work related to this issue lies with the Member States. In order to streamline and complement actions undertaken at national or local level, since 2003 the European Commission has been promoting a policy framework in the field. In 2003 the European Road Safety Action Programme 2003 – 2010 was launched, aiming at halving the number of road accident victims in the European Union by 2010. The programme measures included reinforcement of checks on road traffic, deployment of new road safety technologies, and improvement of road infrastructure. Later in 2010 the Commission adopted the communication ‘Towards a European road safety area: policy orientations on road safety 2011-2020 ‘, setting the aspirational target of halving the overall number of road deaths in the European Union by 2020 and outlining 16 proposed actions divided under seven focus areas. The White Paper on Transport 2011 took over that target and set 2050 as deadline for approaching the ‘zero fatalities’. In particular, the White Paper put a special emphasis on the protection of vulnerable road users (pedestrians and cyclists) and on the promotion of initiatives in the area of technology, enforcement and education. However, despite the various legislative and non-legislative instruments adopted in the field in the past decade, the latest road safety statistics show that the decrease rate has slowed down in 2014 , compared to previous years. In particular, road deaths are falling more slowly among vulnerable road users and elderly road users (over-65s) than for other groups. Furthermore, serious injury statistics are not decreasing as quickly as fatalities. In particular, the European Commission Interim evaluation of the road safety policy framework 2011-2020 stresses that, in order to meet the 2020 target, road fatality numbers must go down at a higher speed from today and onwards. It draws an assessment of the 16 initial actions and identifies areas to be strengthened. In addition, it presents future road safety challenges to be considered in upcoming Commission initiatives, such as population ageing, the increased use of potentially distracting technical devices at the wheel, the development of new safety technologies such as cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) and automated driving systems. These conclusions have been widely shared by the European Parliament. On 9 September 2015, in the framework of the Mid-term review of the 2011 White Paper on transport , the EP adopted a resolution on the implementation of the 2011 White Paper on Transport calling on the European Commission to swiftly adopt a 2020 target of a 40 % reduction in the number of people seriously injured, accompanied by a fully-fledged EU strategy. In line with this, the EU Commissioner for Transport confirmed that two Commission proposals aiming at reviewing the rules on training and qualifications of professional drivers as well as the EU framework on infrastructure safety management drivers are expected to be adopted by ethe nd of 2016.

This keysource gathers recent documents about the state of play of road safety policy in the EU. It also illustrates some recently adopted measures in the field of road transport sector aiming at improving road transport safety at EU level, such as the technical harmonisation of vehicles; the transport of dangerous goods; Intelligent transport systems (ITS) and the ‘eSafety’ initiative; the safety of road infrastructure; and cross-border enforcement in respect of road traffic offences.


Road fatalities: 2014 was a bad year / Europolitcs, 19 June 2015

Road safety and safety provisions , Fact sheet on the European Union, Fact Sheets on the European Union, European Parliament, 2015

How safe are your roads? Commission road safety statistics show small improvement for 2014, European Commission, March 2015


Road safety in the European Union: Trends, statistics and main challenges / European Commission, 2015
This report provides some facts and figures for a better understanding of the overall road safety situation in the European Union.

9th Annual Road Safety Performance Index (PIN) Report / European Transport Safety Council ETSC, 2015
In 2010, the European Union renewed its commitment to improving road safety by setting a target of reducing road deaths by 50% by 2020, compared to 2010 levels. This goal followed an earlier target set in 2001 to halve road deaths by 2010.2014 was a bad year for road safety. 25,845 people were killed in the EU28 as a consequence of road collisions compared to 26,009 in 2013, representing a decrease of only 0.6%, compared with the decrease of 6.7% that is needed to reach the target for 2020 by equal annual reductions. Out of the 32 countries monitored by the PIN Programme, only 18 registered a drop in the number of road deaths between 2013 and 2014, 13 saw an increase while progress stagnated in one country. However, some countries are doing better than the others.”

Cities Safer by Design / WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, 2015
This report is a global reference guide to help cities save lives from traffic fatalities through improved street design and smart urban development. Over 1.3 million people die in traffic crashes globally, mostly pedestrians, and that number is growing every year. This hands-on guide taps examples from cities worldwide and includes 34 different design elements to improve safety and quality of life.

Ten Strategies for Keeping Children Safe on the Road / World Health Organization, 2015
Every four minutes a child is prematurely lost on the roads of this world. Many more are injured, often severely. The ten strategies described are those which are best known – especially when implemented as a package of measures – to keep children safe on the roads. (controlling speeding, reducing drink and driving, using helmets, child restraining systems, see and be seen, enhancing road infrastructure, reducing risks of young drivers, appropriate care, supervising children.

Road Safety Annual Report 2014 / OECD; ITF, 2014
The number of road fatalities fell by 1.7% between 2011 and 2012 in the 31 countries covered by the International Road Traffic and Accident Database (IRTAD), according to the International Transport Forum at the OECD. However, road safety policies are not succeeding in improving protection for vulnerable road users. The latest available data show that reductions in road deaths among pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists”. The report includes Road safety country profiles.

Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013 , World Health Organization, 2013
This report indicates that worldwide the total number of road traffic deaths remains unacceptably high at 1.24 million per year. Furthermore, it underlines that only 28 countries, covering 7% of the world’s population, have comprehensive road safety laws on five key risk factors: drinking and driving, speeding, and failing to use motorcycle helmets, seat-belts, and child restraints.

Stakeholder views

EU Institutions’ views

European Commission

The Interim evaluation of the road safety policy framework 2011-2020 consists of three main documents: Staff Working Document on the interim evaluation of the road safety policy framework 2011-2020Independent support study to the interim road safety evaluation ; The interim evaluation report .

European Parliament

Parliament backs deal to make lorries safer and greener , Press release 10.03.2015

Tracing traffic offenders across borders: EP approves new data-sharing rules , Press release 11.02.2015

Transport MEPs push for safer, more environmentally-friendly trucks , Press release, 18.03.2014

Parliament supports life-saving eCall system in cars , Press release 26.02.2014

Transport MEPs back vehicle inspections agreement , Press release 21.01.2014

European Parliament resolution of 3 July 2013 on Road safety 2011-2020 – First milestones towards an injury strategy 

International organisations’ views

United Nations

United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020
The UN launched a Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020. The categories or “pillars” of activities are: building road safety management capacity; improving the safety of road infrastructure and broader transport networks; further developing the safety of vehicles; enhancing the behaviour of road users; and improving post-crash care.

NGO views

Serious road traffic injuries: No quantified objective yet. Several NGOs expected the Commission to announce an objective at the 11 June Transport Council. In vain. / Europolitics, 10 June 2015
The articles reports that several NGOs, along with a majority of MEPs, addressed a letter to the President of the European Commission asking for a quantified objective, to be adopted by the European Commission, namely a 35% reduction of serious road traffic injuries in the EU between 2015 and 2020.

European Traffic Police Network (TISPOL)

Better-resourced road policing across Europe will help cut casualties, says TISPOL , April 2015
TISPOL calls on governments to act and protect their citizens through better funded road policing, stating that this will lead to immediate improvements in road safety and security. The organisation also underlined four work priorities to improve road safety in Europe: reduce the number of speeding cases; prevent driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs; promote seat belt use not only for the persons sitting in front, but also for passengers in the back; eradicate divided attention while driving.

European Transport Safety Council

European Commission Interim evaluation of the Policy orientations on road safety 2011-2020 , 2015
This briefing has been published in response to the review. It presents an in-depth analysis of the main conclusions of the study and introduces some additional element s to be taken into consideration.

Forum of European Road Safety Research Institutes (FERSI)

Nine key challenges for road safety research for the next decade the next decade , Position Paper – April 2014
FERSI has identified 9 key challenges and related research questions that are important to address, if Europe wants to succeed in its ambition to improve road safety and reduce significantly the number of crash victims. These challenges are: ageing society; vulnerable road users; cultural diversity; vehicle automation and ITS; the burden of injuries; safe road design; educating and training road users; behavioural change; road safety management.

National views

National road safety strategies and action plans


The latest figures about EU road fatalities are available via the CARE website (CARE is a Community database on road accidents resulting in death or injury):
Road safety fatalities
Road Safety evolution in the EU
Road Safety evolution in the EU by population

EU programmes and projects

Road Safety Charter – Good practices
This source gathers some good practices on road safety initiatives and programmes promoted by various public or private organisations in the EU.

CARE Database
This database maintained by DG MOVE presents a selected list of projects in the field of road safety supported by the EU.

Transport Research and Innovation Portal
This portal gives an overview of research activities at European and national level and allows for customised search of EU projects profiles in the field of transport, road safety included. The projects are divided by specific categories. Suggested criteria:  Security and Safety; Passenger Transport; Road transport.

Related legislative procedure(s)

Implementation of the 2011 White Paper on transport: taking stock and the way forward towards sustainable mobility

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  • Cleary cars should all be right hand drive, driven on the left with MPH instead of KPH. The UK has the safest roads of any comparable nation 😉 – ANR & Ave Speed Camera’s should be deployed across all Dual carriageway roads & A Class roads & as many B class roads as can be afforded. In cities the above cameras should be deployed at junctions & traffic lights. there really is no need to deploy manpower in the digital world. ANR systems get rid of the need to display TAX, MOT or Insurance discs.

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