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Road safety: Road Safety Action Programme (2003-2010)

This summary has been archived and will not be updated, because the summarised document is no longer in force or does not reflect the current situation.

Road safety: Road Safety Action Programme (2003-2010)

Of all modes of transport, transport by road is the most dangerous and the most costly in terms of human lives. For this reason, the Road Safety Action Programme (2003-2010) proposes a series of measures such as stepping up checks on road traffic, deploying new road safety technologies, improving road infrastructure and measures to improve users' behaviour. The ultimate objective is to halve the number of people killed on the roads by 2010.


Communication from the Commission on the European Road Safety Action Programme. Halving the number of road accident victims in the European Union by 2010: a shared responsibility [COM(2003) 311 final - Not published in the Official Journal].


1 300 000 accidents a year cause more than 40 000 deaths and 1 700 000 injuries on the roads. The direct and indirect cost has been estimated at 160 billion euros, i.e. 2% of the EU's GNP. Certain groups of the population or categories of road user are particularly vulnerable: young people aged between 15 and 24 (10 000 killed each year), pedestrians (7 000) and cyclists (1 800).

In its White Paper on European transport policy, the Commission therefore proposed that the European Union should set itself the target of halving the number of road deaths by 2010. All Member States are faced with the same road safety problems, namely excessive speed, drinking and driving, failure to wear a seat belt, the insufficient protection provided by vehicles, the existence of accident black spots, non-compliance with driving and rest times by commercial drivers and poor visibility. The forthcoming enlargement to include countries with a poor level of road safety is an additional challenge.

The main areas of action outlined in this communication are the following:

Encouraging road users to improve their behaviour

Objective: to encourage road users to improve their behaviour through stricter compliance with the existing legislation, while harmonising the penalties at EU level, having continuous training for private and commercial drivers, improving police checks and promoting education and road user awareness campaigns.

The failure of drivers to comply with basic road safety legislation is the main cause of serious accidents. The Commission will give priority to education and awareness campaigns aimed at encouraging the use of crash helmets and seat belts and discouraging speeding and alcohol consumption. At the same time, the Commission will take action to amend the Directive on driving licences in order to set minimum requirements as regards driving ability.

Main measures: to encourage the general use of crash helmets by cyclists and by all two-wheel motor vehicle users, continue specific work on young drivers, harmonise the penalties for international hauliers, establish the appropriate classification and labelling of medicines which affect driving ability, and develop best practice guidelines as regards police checks, etc.

Making use of technical progress

Objective: to make vehicles safer through the harmonisation of passive safety measures (such as mandatory fitting of seat belts) and support for technical progress.

Given that car occupants account for 57% of fatal accident victims, it is necessary that technical progress in vehicle safety is maintained. In view of this, the Commission will continue to support EuroNCAP (the European New Car Assessment Programme) to ensure that new cars are tested in accordance with harmonised testing protocols and to inform and raise awareness among consumers.

The eSafety initiative launched in 2002 by the Commission and the motor vehicle industry aims to formulate recommendations and propose a number of actions at EU level. In parallel with this, research activities in the field of road safety must be strengthened, particularly within the context of the Sixth Research Framework Programme.

Main measures: to introduce universal anchorage systems for child restraint devices, improve cars to reduce the severity of accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists, eliminate blind spots in heavy goods vehicles, facilitate the movement of persons with reduced mobility, and improve motorcycle safety, etc.

Encouraging the improvement of road infrastructure

Objective: to improve road infrastructure by identifying and eliminating accident black spots.

Road infrastructure improvements can contribute towards reducing the frequency and seriousness of road traffic accidents. The early detection of abnormal traffic conditions and the transmission of relevant data to drivers can help to improve road safety. In the context of the development of the 'intelligent road', the entry into service in 2008 of the Galileo European satellite positioning system will enable navigation and guidance systems to be developed and make it possible to provide traffic information and to monitor vehicles carrying hazardous goods.

The Commission will submit a proposal for a framework Directive on road infrastructure safety with a view to introducing a system for the harmonised management of accident black spots and road safety audits for roads on the trans-European network (TEN).

Main measures: to propose a Directive on road infrastructure safety, draw up technical guidelines concerning audit methods, urban safety management and speed-moderation techniques, draw up good practice guidelines for level-crossings, carry out research and demonstration projects on 'intelligent roads', carry out safety impact assessments of new projects, improve safety levels in tunnels, etc.

Safe commercial goods and passenger transport

Objective: to reduce the number of accidents involving heavy goods vehicles and regulate the training of commercial drivers and compliance with driving and rest periods.

In view of the growth of heavy goods traffic, it is necessary to continue to improve the safety of the trans-European road network. Driving heavy goods vehicles is one of the most dangerous professions, and commercial drivers also have a right to a safe working environment in line with the standards on working conditions.

Main measures: to tighten legislation on commercial drivers' working conditions, install digital tachographs in commercial vehicles, adapt to technical progress the Community legislation concerning the carriage of hazardous goods, make the wearing of seatbelts compulsory in coaches and heavy goods vehicles, improve protection in vehicles regularly used for the carriage of children, etc.

Emergency services and care for road accident victims

Objective: to examine best practice with regard to post-accident medical care.

The improvement of the response to and care in the event of road accidents could save several thousand lives in the EU. The emergency number 112 allows telephone network operators to provide the emergency services with information to trace emergency calls in the event of an accident. Detailed information on injury severity is also needed for a better understanding of the potential for reducing injuries and for measuring the performance of the emergency medical services.

Main measures: to carry out demonstration projects involving the whole chain of emergency service provision and study best practices in post-accident care.

Accident data collection, analysis and dissemination

Objective: to improve the collection and analysis of data on accidents so as to identify the priority fields of action.

Although accidents are random events, it is necessary to understand their causes, circumstances and consequences, so that they can be managed and prevented or mitigated. Thorough independent investigations should be carried out at national level in accordance with a European methodology. The results should be communicated to a committee of independent experts who will be responsible for improving the legislation and adapting the methodology to technical developments.

One example is the CARE database, made up of police reports, which should be developed in the interests of achieving greater transparency. The Commission aims to set up a European road safety observatory within the Commission.

Main measures: to develop and expand the CARE database, assess and improve systems for linking hospital data and national road accident statistics, set up a European road safety observatory, establish a European methodology for independent road accident investigations, set up a group of independent experts, etc.

A European Road Safety Charter

The Commission intends to mobilise all parties concerned: transport companies, vehicle and parts manufacturers, insurance companies, infrastructure operators, local and regional authorities by inviting them to subscribe to a European Road Safety Charter. Each signatory must give specific commitments which will be publicised, and their compliance with them will be monitored.


Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament "Information and Communications Technologies for Safe and Intelligent Vehicles" [COM(2003) 542 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

For more information on implementing measures and follow-up work, including the legislation either in force (Directives and Regulations) or under discussion (proposals), please consult the Directorate-General for Energy and Transport website.

European Road Safety Charter

The objective of this Charter is to mobilise civil society in the endeavours to reach the EU target of halving the number of road deaths by 2010. It considers that not only the road transport industry should take specific measures but also that a similar commitment should be shown by schools, municipalities, insurers, car manufacturers, transport companies, discotheques or service providers.

Commission recommendation of 6 April 2004 on enforcement in the field of road safety [Official Journal L 111 of 17 April 2004].

Commission Decision of 17 January 2005 on the harmonisation of the 24 GHz range radio spectrum band for the time-limited use by automotive short-range radar equipment in the Community [Official Journal L 21 of 25.01.2005].

As a result of this Decision, short-range automotive radars capable of detecting the risk of collision and of automatically engaging the braking system should become available in the second half of 2005. A special frequency band covering the territory of the EU will now be available for short-range radars.

Other useful applications are currently being developed, such as high-capacity wireless data transmission systems and the location of victims in emergency situations.

Last updated: 27.01.2005