Road Safety for Pedestrians

In November 2003, the Council adopted a directive on pedestrian safety with the aim to reduce deaths and injuries of pedestrians involved in traffic accidents through changes to the construction of the front of vehicles. The proposal is based on a voluntary agreement signed by European, Japanese and Korean car makers in 2001 and 2002.

Over 8,000 pedestrians and cyclists die annually on European roads, and a further 170,000 are seriously injured. Car makers can help to cut down the number of casualties by designing car fronts in a way that the impact of a collision on the pedestrian is significantly reduced.

Over the years, the passive protection of car occupants had increased immensely with new technologies like air bags being introduced into passenger cars, but pedestrian safety was not yet really taken into account. The EU had made several attempts to introduce legislative measures to ensure that designers of new cars consider pedestrian safety as well as passenger safety.

In 2001 and 2002, European, Japanese and Korean Automobile Manufacturers Associations (ACEA, JAMA and KAMA) committed themselves to a number of - both active and passive - measures to improve the protection pedestrians in a voluntary agreement. Over 99% of cars and small vans sold in Europe are covered by the industry commitments.

Still, both Parliament and Council found it necessary to adopt binding directives in this area to guarantee the legal validity of the measures as well as uniform inspection procedures. Moreover, findings of the European New Car Assessment Programme (EuroNCAP) suggested that pedestrian safety was still not sufficiently taken into account in the design of new cars in Europe and so the Commission decided to take action.

The Directive is based on the principal requirements and objectives of the industry commitment. This means that car manufacturers have to demonstrate that their vehicles pass a series of tests before they can market them. The directive contains two phases:

  • From 1 October 2005, all new types of vehicles must comply with two tests concerning protection against head injuries and leg injuries. These criteria were developed by the Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) and, as of 31 December 2012, all new vehicles will have to comply with them.
  • From 1 September 2010, four tests of increased severity will be required for all new types of vehicles - two tests concerning head injuries and two concerning leg injuries. The tests have been developed by the European Enhanced Safety Vehicle Committee (EEVC). From 1 September 2015, all new vehicles will have to comply with the tests.

The Commission recognised that the application of these technical provisions to heavier vehicles (trucks and buses) would neither be easy nor necessarily appropriate. It has therefore limited the scope of application of the Directive to passenger cars and car-driven vans up to 2.5 tonnes.

The proposal's provisions were however subject to a feasibility assessment. A study, published in July 2004, examined the requirements of the second phase of the Directive and assessed their implications for the construction of vehicles and their functionality and safety. The results indicated that the present requirements for the second phase of implementation of the Directive are not technically feasible.

An active safety system, called ‘Brake Assist’ has been identified which, in combination with revised technical requirements, would provide a significantly higher level of protection than the existing provisions. 

Thus, the Commission has issued a preliminary draft proposal suggesting that the new braking system be introduced in all new vehicles as of July 2008 and advocating the use of new collision avoidance systems. The current Directive 2003/102/EC would be repealed.

Car makers embraced the initial directive on pedestrian safety, as it includes the substance and the main provisions of the industry commitment. "JAMA welcomes the framework directive, which contains our industry commitment of two years," JAMA Communications Manager Sabine Spell said. "It translates the commitment that we were ready to meet in any case into the form of a directive," ACEA Safety Officer Jacques Provensal pointed out. "KAMA's position is identical with those of ACEA and JAMA," said Koh Young-Jong, Deputy General Manager of KAMA's Transportation and Safety Team.

Transport safety and consumer NGOs, on the other hand, harshly criticised the directive as being "very weak". They say it fails to provide sufficient protection to pedestrians, even though the relevant technology is already available on the market.

More particularly, the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) criticised the fact that the four EEVC tests, which currently represent "best practice", are to be introduced only at a very late stage and subject to a feasibility study. The only crash tests the directive really mandates (i.e. the two JRC tests) "offer 70% less protection against fatal injuries than EEVC," said Marie Defrance, ETSC Information Officer.

According to BEUC, the European consumers' organisation, the directive "sets in stone all the weaknesses and uncertainties of the voluntary agreement". The organisation also said it "questions the Commission's 'new forms of governance' if 'consultation with all stakeholders' only involves industry - in this case, the car industry".

  • Stakeholders are invited to give their views on the results of the feasibility study by mid-October 2004.
  • The detailed technical provisions for the tests will be set out in a seperate Commission decision. It is not clear yet when this Decision will be taken.

Subscribe to our newsletters