Explainer: All you need to know about the EU's new road safety technology proposals

The EU yesterday announced a string of new measures proposed by the EU to help improve road safety.

THE EU YESTERDAY announced that a provisional agreement has been reached with member states that will see road safety technologies become mandatory on vehicles sold in European from 2022 onwards. 

Last year, 148 people were killed on Irish roads, according to the RSA.

The European Commission said it hopes these measures will help save over 25,000 lives and prevent at least 140,000 serious injuries by 2038. 

So, what exactly are the new safety features?

Certain cars are already fitted with advanced safety features. There are also differences between EU countries. Yesterday, the Commission proposed a revision of its general safety regulation to “ensure that all Europeans benefit from the latest developments in technology”. 

The Commission is proposing that within three years, all new models introduced on the market must have 11 advanced safety features. A further four measures will follow a few years later.

Here’s a breakdown of what these features are: 

For cars, vans, trucks and buses - Warning of driver drowsiness and distraction (eg. smartphone use while driving), intelligent speed assistance, reversing safety with camera or sensors, and data recorder in case of an accident (‘black box’).

For cars and vans - Lane-keeping assistance, advanced emergency braking, and crash-test improved safety belts.

For trucks and buses - Specific requirements to improve the direct vision of bus and truck drivers and to remove blind spots, and systems at the front and side of the vehicle to detect and warn of vulnerable road users, especially when making turns.

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Why are these measures being proposed by the EU? 

25,300 people lost their lives on EU roads in 2017. 

As a result, the EU has said reaching its objective of halving road fatalities between 2010 and 2020 is now “very challenging”. 

“Beside the victims, road accidents affect the society as a whole, with an estimated socio-economic cost of €120 billion a year,” the EU said. 

As a result, the EU said all this calls for “fresh efforts from all actors to make European roads safer”. 

“While national and local authorities deliver most of the day-to-day actions, the Commission is proposing a number of measures with strong EU added value,” it said.

Will the changes make vehicles more expensive? 

Aside from the obvious safety improvements, the proposals will also lead to savings for consumers, according to the EU. 

According to the Commission’s analysis, the proposal would have little or no impact on the price of new vehicles. 

“On the contrary, lives saved and injuries avoided would lead to societal benefits estimated at €73 billion.” 

Has Ireland changed its driving laws recently? 

A number of road safety measures have been introduced by the government in recent months. 

In July, the controversial drink-driving legislation that had been delayed for over a year passed all stages in the Dáil, which sees an automatic ban for drivers on their first offence in their regard.

December saw the commencement of the unaccompanied learner driver provisions of the Road Traffic Amendment Act 2018, known as the ‘Clancy Amendment’

These new provisions now make it an offence for the owner of a vehicle to knowingly allow an unaccompanied learner or an unlicensed person to drive his or her vehicle. 

How will this affect Ireland? 

Well, there are no car brands manufactured in Ireland, so it won’t affect the country from a manufacturing perspective. 

However, if these changes are implemented in 2022, all cars sold in Europe, including Ireland, will have these technologies built in as standard. 

It won’t impact cars made before 2022. 

What has the reaction to the proposals been? 

The new proposals have been warmly welcomed by the European Transport Safety Council. 

Its executive director Antonio Avenoso said: “There have only been a handful of moments in the last fifty years which could be described as big leaps forward for road safety in Europe.  The mandatory introduction of the seat belt was one, and the first EU minimum crash safety standards, agreed in 1998 was another.

If last night’s agreement is given the formal green light, it will represent another of those moments, preventing 25,000 deaths within 15 years of coming into force.

The Road Safety Authority have been “big supporters” of the proposals, according to communications manager Brian Farrell. 

“We’ve been calling for the introduction of this safety package for quite a while. It’s been over a decade since we’ve seen any new vehicle safety improvements on cars,” Farrell said.

“It’s long, long overdue.”

What happens next? 

As mentioned above, this agreement is only provisional. 

So, what happens next? How concrete are these plans? 

Well, the political agreement reached by the European Parliament, Council and Commission in so-called “trilogue negotiations” will now be subject to formal approval by the European Parliament and Council.

Once that approval happens, the new safety features will become mandatory from 2022, with the exception of direct vision for trucks and buses and enlarged head impact zone on cars and vans. These will follow later due to necessary structural design changes, according to the EU. 

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