Commission seeks tougher road safety rules

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The European Commission is proposing tougher vehicle testing rules that for the first time would require inspections of all motorcycles and scooters. The move comes as the number of road deaths spiked in recent months.

Commission Vice President Siim Kallas revealed the proposed measures on Friday (13 July) amid “worrying increases” in highway fatalities after a decline of close to 50% over a decade.

Kallas also unveiled new vehicle testing proposals, which the Commission hopes could save more than 1,200 lives a year and prevent a further 36,000 accidents linked to technical failure.

Testing for scooters and motorbikes would become compulsory across the EU under the new legislation, since two-wheelers are the highest risk group among road users, the EU executive said.

If approved, the directive would require nine countries that do not inspect motorcycles and scooters to do so.

Under a new ‘roadworthiness package’ old vehicles and those with exceptionally high mileage would be required to undergo a first test after four years, then every 2 years after.

Statistics show that the likelihood of technical failure increases dramatically after five years. Cars and light commercial vehicles of up to 3.5 tonnes which have more than 160,000 km after four years would then have to undergo yearly inspections.

The Commission also proposed EU-wide minimum standards for vehicle inspection and a clamping down on mileage fraud.

‘A tax on poverty’

But the Federation of European Motorcyclists Associations denounced the the proposals as unfairly targeting two-wheeled vehicles, and said the existing EU directive on roadworthiness of cars, trucks, taxis and other vehicles was adequate.

The association said the new proposals would cost two-wheeled vehicle owners some €1.2 billion per year in additional operating costs.

“This is nothing less than a tax on poverty for those who cannot afford a new vehicle every three years," Aline Delhaye, FEMA’s general secretary, said in a statement. "In terms of time and money, the cost for citizens is going to be astronomical, with no benefits in return. This is not acceptable.”

Rising fatalities

Kallas, who is in charge of transport, said the directive was aimed at removing unsafe vehicles from highways.

“If you’re driving a car which is not fit to be on the road, you’re a danger to yourself and to everyone else in your car … What’s more you’re a danger to all the other road users around you”, adding “We don’t want these potentially lethal car on the road.”

The EU recorded 30,900 roadway fatalities – including pedestrians – in 2011. In 2009, the latest figures available, motorcyclists accounted for 16% of fatalities, 20% were pedestrians, and 47% were in cars.

Road deaths in Sweden were up 18% over the last year and close to 10% in Germany, countries with traditionally good safety standards. Britain saw a 6% rise and Finland and Poland 7%.

Other regions also notched up worrying figures – such as Estonia (29%) and Luxembourg (13%) – but they are small countries which record very few road deaths per year. Over the past 10 years, the numbers for Estonia and Luxembourg dropped well over 50%.

What is more, EU-wide progress in limiting road deaths slowed to a decrease of only 2% last year.

The reasons reversal in high fatalities are unclear but difficult weather conditions have been touted as a possible cause.

Existing EU rules on vehicle checks date from 1977, which set minimum standards for vehicle checks and have only been marginally updated since, the European Commission says.

Some 30,900 people died on the roads of the 27 EU countries in 2011. Globally, the World Health Organisation reports that on any given day, 3,500 people die in traffic accidents while 50 million people are injured or disabled each year in crashes. Half of the injured are pedestrians, motorcyclists or on bicycles.

  • By 2016?: Vehicle testing proposal to be implemented following the agreement of the European Parliament and European Council.

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