Wednesday, March 22, 2006


(Copy from the European Union website)

I found this article amazing...

Europeans love to travel by road, at present there are over 375 million road users in the European Union. We love the freedom, independence and practicality that it provides. What is less appreciated is the death, injury and carnage that accompanies it. In 2003, the last year in which figures were recorded, 39,062 people died and 1.7 million were injured on Europe's roads (1).

The truth is that if you are under 50 you are more likely to die in a road accident than you are of heart disease or cancer - whilst those in the 15 to 24 age group account for a quarter of these deaths. If the human suffering this carnage creates is incalculable, in purely economic terms it has been estimated at 2% of the Gross Domestic Product of the European Union. Fatal road accidents rarely make the national news unless there are multiple fatalities such as a coach crash, or if several children are involved. This seems to suggest a depressing fatalism that they are just "inevitable accidents", but are they? Why are so many people dying on the roads? There are four main factors:

1. Excessive speed - this accounts for about a third of accidents.
2. Alcohol or drug consumption - drink driving alone accounts for 10,000 deaths a year.
3. Failure to wear a seat belt or a crash helmet.
4. Different levels of safety offered by different vehicles - if all vehicles were as safe as the best in their class then half of disabling injuries could be avoided.

Given this, you don't have to be Sigmund Freud to work out that it is human behaviour - bad and irresponsible driving - that is leading to the carnage. To put it bluntly, if we all followed the rules of the road correctly Europe would be a much safer place. To cite just one area, a study carried out in Sweden in 2000 concluded that full compliance with the speed limit would reduce fatalities by 40%.

Amid the wreckage, the EU and national governments are cooperating on ways of reducing the death toll. The target they have set themselves is to halve the number of fatalities by 2010. The basis for this is the proposal for a European "Road Safety Action Programme" made by the European Commission in 2003. This proposal identifies 60 measures that can be implemented at EU and national level. Acting on these recommendations, European transport Ministers agreed last December that four main areas required immediate action; they are:

1. To enforce existing rules of the road and encourage better, safer driving.
2. To make vehicles safer - encourage continued research into safety - particularly using new technology. Consider way of encouraging people to drive newer, safer cars through possible tax incentives.
3. To improve road infrastructure - with particular attention in reducing accident "black spots".
4. To collect and share knowledge and ideas on ways of improving road safety.

This last task could be carried out by a proposed new European Road Safety Agency which is in principle favoured by the man steering the recommendations through the European Parliament - Ari Vatanen MEP, the 1981 World Rally Champion. "Politicians must take responsibility, no single death on the road is acceptable" commented the Finnish parliamentarian. He believes that the Parliament will pass a resolution wholeheartedly endorsing the Road Safety Plan when it votes on the matter in late September. Ultimately though, it's you and me as road users who must take responsibility for safety on Europe's roads.

(1) Number of road deaths recorded by EUROSTAT for 2003. Figures for Italy, Belgium and Slovenia unavailable