Transport ministers from eight countries have united to demand new EU-wide standards for vehicle safety. Safer vehicles, such as trucks with improved direct vision to eradicate blind spots, need to be rolled out fast, the governments – which include those of France, Germany and Italy – told internal market commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska in a letter. In 2015, 26,000 Europeans died in traffic accidents but the number of fatalities has stagnated since 2013 – despite the EU demanding that member states halve the number of road deaths by 2020.

The ministers underlined the importance of truck safety, saying that improved truck design could save up to 900 lives a year through better direct vision as well as crash performance. They said the EU, which has exclusive competence on vehicle safety measures, must make a proposal “well before the end of 2017”.

Austria’s minister for transport, Jörg Leichtfried, said: “Truck design has huge potential for safety improvement, especially with regards to vulnerable road users. EU standards for direct vision and mandatory fitment of active safety technology such as camera systems that provide drivers with a 360° view around the vehicle could save lives. The review of the General Safety and Pedestrian Safety Regulations should therefore be a top priority for the European Commission.”

The ministers underlined the safety of cyclists and pedestrians especially in cities and called on the Commission to not wait any longer and make road and truck safety a priority, echoing an earlier call from London, Madrid, Copenhagen and Amsterdam for safer trucks. Only the EU can make safety technologies mandatory for new vehicles but the EU’s last vehicle safety law – the General Safety Regulation – dates back to 2009 and the Commission has repeatedly missed deadlines to review it.

The chair of the European Parliament transport committee, MEP Karima Delli, said: “Safety on roads is a top priority. The EU must do its part by mandating the roll out of the most effective safety technologies in our vehicles, which will protect pedestrians, cyclists and other road users. We have been waiting too long and expect a General Safety Regulation proposal that enables behavioural changes and allows new tools for digital assistance to drivers. We need this before the end of 2017 if we are to achieve our goal of zero road deaths a year.”

Stef Cornelis, safer and cleaner trucks officer at NGO Transport & Environment, said: “Support for a EU action on vehicle safety is overwhelming. In recent months city mayors, safety groups and now the biggest EU governments have called on the Commission to urgently mandate car and truck safety improvements that could save thousands of lives. The General Safety Regulation is a unique opportunity that shouldn’t go to waste.”

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