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Document 52003AR0184

Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on the communication from the CommissionEuropean Road Safety Action Programme halving the number of road accident victims in the European Union by 2010: a shared responsibility

OJ C 109, 30.4.2004, p. 7–9 (ES, DA, DE, EL, EN, FR, IT, NL, PT, FI, SV)

30.4.2004   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

C 109/7


Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on the ‘communication from the Commission’‘European Road Safety Action Programme halving the number of road accident victims in the European Union by 2010: a shared responsibility’

(2004/C 109/02)

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS,

Having regard to the European Commission Communication on the European Road Safety Action Programme (COM(2003) 311 final);

Having regard to the decision of the European Commission of 2 June 2003 to consult it on this subject, under the first paragraph of Article 265 of the Treaty establishing the European Community;

Having regard to the decision of its Bureau of 14 May 2002 to instruct its Commission for Territorial Cohesion Policy to draw up an opinion on this subject;

Having regard to its earlier opinion on the White Paper ‘European Transport Policy for 2010: time to decide’ COM(2001) 370 final; CdR 54/2001 fin; (1)

Having regard to its earlier opinion on the communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: Priorities in EU Road Safety – Progress Report and Ranking of Actions COM(2000) 125 final; CdR 166/2000 fin; (2)

Having regard to its draft opinion (CdR 184/2003 rev.2) adopted on 3 December 2003 by the Commission for Territorial Cohesion Policy (rapporteur: Cllr. Royston Brady (Member of the Dublin Regional Authority) (IE/EA)).

Whereas:

1)

road safety directly affects all the territory of the European Union and all its inhabitants. The financial cost of the 1.3 million accidents leading to 40,000 deaths and 1.7 m. injuries has been estimated at EUR 160 b. while the personal tragedies are incalculable;

2)

the Treaty on European Union makes an explicit requirement that the Common Transport Policy should include measures to promote road safety;

3)

the achievement of objectives under the Common Transport Policy and the European Road Safety Action Programme are shared competences with important roles for local and regional authorities;

4)

the Commission has proposed that the EU should set itself the target of halving the number of road deaths by 2010.

adopted the following opinion unanimously at its 53rd plenary session, held on 11 and 12 February 2004 (meeting of 11 February):

1.   The Committee of the Regions' views

1.1

The Committee of the Regions welcomes the Communication and Action Programme as an important contribution to the ongoing efforts to enhance and promote road safety.

1.2

The Committee endorses the objective of halving the number of road deaths by 2010 and welcomes the Council's endorsement of the objective. As the Communication points out, the objective is a serious collective undertaking involving responsibilities and actions at all levels of public authority. The setting of targets, the allocation of responsibilities and the integrated nature of the planning are key components for its success. However, the Committee believes that further consideration needs to be given to the target that has been set for the Action Programme. Given that the number of road deaths has declined by 50 % over the past 30 years, the target of achieving a further reduction of 50 % by 2010 may be considered overly ambitious especially when considered in the context of the measures outlined in the Action Programme. Given the wide variation in road death and accident rates across the EU, it is also important that the targeted reduction is achieved in the Member States, bearing in mind especially a country's road accident rate and its track record in road safety, and that it is achieved for all road users and not just motorists.

1.3

Although the number of deaths and injuries suffered due to road crashes has been falling the Committee emphasises that there is no room for complacency as the situation on the Union's roads is still unacceptable.

1.4

The Committee stresses that the rights of individual road users must not supersede the right to safety and security of the general community.

1.5

The success of the Action Programme will require the commitment of effort and resources by all stakeholders and the Committee of the Regions welcomes the recognition by the Commission of the key role of local and regional authorities. The Committee is also pleased that many recommendations advanced in its Opinion - Priorities in EU Road Safety - Progress Report and Ranking of Actions have been adopted by the Commission (3).

1.6

The Committee contends that action at Community level is especially important when dealing with rapidly-evolving technology and multi-national companies who operate in global markets, thus the Committee is open to the application of the Open Method of Co-ordination to certain aspects of improving road safety throughout the Union.

1.7

It is accepted that the failure of road users to comply with basic road safety legislation, particularly in relation to speeding, drink driving and non–use of personal safety devices is the main cause of serious accidents. The Committee underlines that particular emphasis must be placed on the implementation and enforcement of existing legislation in Member States.

1.8

The Committee welcomes the Road Safety Charter and seeks that it be actively promoted. It considers that the CoR could be a channel to further promote the Charter among the local and regional authorities throughout the EU and would encourage particular efforts to promote the Charter in the Accession States.

1.9

The Committee of the Regions welcomes the proposal for a European Road Safety Observatory as authoritative and comparable statistical data, particularly on the causes of accidents, are necessary to develop further targeted measures to make road transport safer.

1.10

The Committee encourages the development of technology such as standardised recording devices (black boxes) that could be fitted to road vehicles. Such devices if widely used could have a dramatic impact on driver behaviour and could also greatly alleviate much of the costs of enforcing safety legislation.

1.11

Within the bounds of existing Community policies, the Committee requests that fiscal incentives be provided for the development and application of safety-focused features for vehicles. The Committee emphasises however, that the development of safety features for vehicles and their occupants must not be at the expense of other road users who are already more vulnerable.

1.12

The communication notes that the European Union has the ‘financial means’ to support road safety initiatives. The Committee of the Regions underlines that such means be made available to local and regional authorities to implement targeted road safety programmes. Road safety considerations should also be an eligibility criterion for transportation infrastructure funded through the Structural Funds.

1.13

The Committee considers that the Communication could have further addressed the perspective of, and issues relating to the safety of non-driving road users i.e. pedestrians and cyclists. The paucity of consideration traditionally given to such road-users has resulted in too many accidents on EU roads. The Committee is concerned that the proposed Road Safety Action Programme may reinforce this traditional bias.

2.   The Committee of the Regions' recommendations

2.1

The Committee of the Regions considers that further consideration should be given to the target that is proposed for the Action Programme. This might include specifying sub-targets for individual Member States and for different categories of road users, as there are large differences in road safety within the EU. The targets set must also be realistic and provide incentives for countries with a proven track record in road safety. Sub-targets should be set in collaboration with Member States and local and regional authorities.

2.2

The Committee welcomes the current Commission - Red Cross campaign for children. The Committee underlines the importance of developing safe driving and road-use behaviour for young drivers and road users and in this regard the Committee would welcome proposals for an EU-wide Road Sense and Safe Driving Programme sponsored by the Commission aimed at secondary level students, possibly in conjunction with the YOUTH programme. The Committee suggests that local and regional authorities would be willing and able partners in helping to establish and implement such a programme.

2.3

The Committee seeks that greater consideration be given to the role of local and regional authorities in supplementing traffic law enforcement, in close co-operation with police forces, as this could greatly assist capacity towards the enforcement of existing legislation However, legislation must not be used to make additional duties compulsory; rather they should be voluntary and focus mainly on local road safety issues.

2.4

The Committee welcomes the proposal to support the development of EuroNCAP to incorporate other passive safety aspects such as whiplash protection and the compatibility of vehicles in the event of car-on-car impact. However, the Committee considers that pedestrian accident severity risk assessment should be incorporated as standard in the EuroNCAP assessment programme.

2.5

The Committee of the Regions considers that the competent authorities must treat road safety as a prerequisite, in the design and planning of infrastructural road projects, through for instance, consultation with those responsible for road safety, for example, the police.

2.6

The Committee recognises the potential contribution of improvements in road infrastructure in reducing the seriousness and frequency of road accidents. While the Action Programme sets out measures in relation to new roads infrastructure, the Committee would welcome initiatives for traffic management/road safety initiatives for application to existing roads, including urban areas. For example, general application of overtaking bans for heavy goods vehicles should be considered on high-risk sections of road.

2.7

The Committee suggests that the remit of the European Road Safety Observatory could be expanded to facilitate the collation of best practice gained in road safety enforcement and its dissemination to other practitioners. The role of the Observatory might also be extended to collect comparative data in all Member States on compliance rates with traffic/safety requirements and the probabilities of enforcement action being taken. The publication of this data, collected on a consistent basis, should provide an incentive for Member States to improve their performance in these areas.

2.8

The Committee would welcome greater consideration of the impacts of road accidents suffered by road crash victims and their families/dependants with a view towards establishing best practice relating to the provision of information and support to crash victims and their dependants. This may be a further task that could be developed by the Road Safety Observatory.

2.9

As the EU body representing local and regional levels of government, key partners in implementing the Road Safety Action Programme, the Committee seeks to be represented on the monitoring group established to review its progress.

2.10

The proposal to encourage the establishment of an information network between the national licence authorities is welcome. The Committee would also encourage consideration of some system whereby the fines outstanding from road traffic offences committed by EU citizens in a Member State where they are not resident be recovered.

2.11

The Committee reiterates its commitment to road safety by advocating improvement of methods to deter people driving without a licence or without insurance. Too many accidents happen when drivers fail to comply with licence or insurance obligations. Making roads safer means making drivers more accountable for the dangers they create, and also more accountable for fulfilling their obligations.

2.12

The Committee notes that Europe is an open space whose citizens are free to come and go as they please. Measures to reduce road accidents should not stop at borders. It is therefore necessary to step up international cooperation so that penalties imposed for road crimes and offences committed are really applied in the territory of a Member State to European and third-country nationals.

Brussels, 11 February 2004

The President

of the Committee of the Regions

Peter STRAUB


(1)  OJ C 192, 12.8.2002, p.8

(2)  OJ C 22, 24.1.2001, p.25

(3)  OJ C 22, 24.1.2001, p.25


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