EU hopes to avoid 1,500 deaths per year with eCall system

In 2016, 25 500 people lost their lives on EU roads. [Shutterstock]

From 31 March, all new cars will have to be equipped with the new European eCall device, which automatically calls 112 in the event of a serious traffic accident. EURACTIV.fr reports.

Imagine you are driving your car, you have an accident and you are unconscious. You have to wait for someone to call for help and you risk waiting a long time, especially in rural areas.

From 31 March, your car will automatically call 112 thanks to sensors located in the airbags, as from this day onwards, all new vehicle models will have to be equipped with this technology.

The Commission put forward this proposal based on the following observation: 40,000 people die each year in car accidents and 150,000 remain disabled for life. In 2016, 25,500 people lost their lives on EU roads. The Parliament approved the legislation on 28 April 2015.

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“Unfortunately, the number of deaths on European roads is still unacceptably high. With eCall, emergency services’ response time will be reduced by 50% in rural areas and 40% in urban areas, leading to a reduction of fatalities estimated at up to 1,500 saved lives per year,” said Czech MEP Olga Sehnalová, in charge of the dossier in the Parliament.

In 2016, 55% of fatal accidents took place on country roads in areas where relief sometimes takes time to arrive. The purpose of the system is to speed up interventions during the “golden hour”, the first hour after the accident when chances of survival are still high.

The call will be made via the European emergency number 112, which operates on a cross-border basis. The three-year transitional period will be used to establish a standard system, particularly to erase the language barrier across Europe, as well as in Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

Personal Data

At the time of the vote, the implementation of the system had caused a stir among defenders of the protection of personal data who feared a misappropriation of technology, a recording of conversations, tracking movements etc.

“The eCall system paves the way for private services to use the data sent by the vehicle and may push authorities to use the system to monitor drivers. It would therefore have been right to obtain the consent of each vehicle owner to use the system, however, this possibility was not provided in the European regulation,” said Jan Philipp Albrecht, a spokesperson for the Greens in the EP on Justice and Internal Affairs.

Faced with these arguments, the Parliament provided guarantees: the system “should be designed in such a way that no exchange of personal data between them is possible. Where provided, those services should comply with the applicable safety, security and data protection legislation and should always remain optional for consumers,” stated the EP legislation on eCall.

The information retrieved is said to be “minimal” and includes the geolocation of the accident, the type of vehicle, the fuel used and optionally the data of the onboard system. Emergency services will also know if eCall was triggered automatically or manually.

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