Progress towards meeting the EU target to halve road deaths by 2020 has all but ground to a halt, with a dismal one per cent drop in the number of EU road fatalities in 2014.
Examining data by country shows vast inconsistency across the 28 member states – some countries like Slovakia have sped ahead in reducing road deaths in recent years, with a 37 per cent drop from 2010-13, while other countries, like France and Britain, trail behind in making reductions, even seeing a slight increase in some areas.
While the UK usually reports some of the lowest road death rates in the EU, 2014 saw a surge in fatal accidents in 2014, which road safety watchdog Brake attributed to austerity measures resulting in an overall cut of 12 per cent in road police numbers – up to 40 percent in some regions.
Fewer road traffic police means less chance of enforcement when rules are broken. Visibility of police on the roads also acts a deterrent against speeding and drink and drug driving.
Antonio Avenoso, Executive Director of the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) said it’s a matter of prioritising road safety, and called for action from national governments:
“If you cut back on police enforcement and road maintenance, if you don’t do enough to protect the increasing numbers of people walking and cycling, and if you ignore new trends such as distraction – it’s obvious that the numbers dying will not just stagnate, they will start to increase.
“Member states can boost police enforcement and that will have an immediate effect.”
Another solution is to extend EU’s infrastructure safety rules to cover the whole road network, rather than just EU motorways, ensuring regular audits are carried out and accident hot spots are made safer.
In the longer term, new technology such as Automated Emergency Braking and Intelligent Speed Assistance should become standard safety mechanisms in all vehicles, not just at the premium end of the market.
The most important areas to look at in lower fatalities are reducing speeding, increasing drink and drug driving testing and enforcing seat belt use.