Pedestrian safety to be enforced by law?

By the end of January, the Commission is expected to present a new proposal for a framework directive on pedestrian protection.

The proposed framework directive will focus on passive safety measures, ie. pedestrian protection in the case of a collision. It will be fully in line with the provisions of the volontary agreements. The two crash tests developed by ACEA and the Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) will be introduced in 2005, and the four EEVC tests, widely acknowledged as “current best practice”, will set the standard for all new cars as of 2010.

According to ACEA’s safety officer Jacques Provensal, there will be a legislative package consisting of the volontary commitments and their slightly modified technical annexes on the one hand, and the framework directive to provide the legal basis for them on the other.

It is still open if the proposal will also impose a ban on rigid bull bars. Provisions on the use of daytime running lights, ABS and alternative technologies are being discussed.

BothACEAandJAMAembrace the legislative package as it is currently being planned. "It is clear that this directive is not going to damage the contents of the commitment of the industry to the Commission," JAMA communications manager Sabine Spell pointed out. "It translates the commitment that we were ready to meet in any case into the form of a directive," ACEA safety officer Jacques Provensal said.

European level NGOs like theEuropean Transport Saftey Council (ETSC), theEuropean Public Health Alliance (EPHA), theFederation of European Road Traffic Victims (FEVR), theEuropean Disability Forum (EDF)as well as the two consumer organisations,ANECandBEUC, on the other hand, are expected to question the proposal. They have opposed the volontary agreement with ACEA, saying that it failed to implement the "state of the art" EEVC crash tests, and therefore achieved "75 percent less protection against fatal injury" than those tests could provide.

More recently,ETSC, BEUCandANECcomplained to the Commission that the car industry, but not the European safety and consumer organisations have been consulted on the draft directive.

Over 8400 pedestrians and cyclists die on EU roads annually, over 170 000 are seriously injured. Over the last ten years, several attempts at introducing legislation to ensure pedestrian protection through the harmonisation of vehicle front design have failed.

In 2001, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) committed itself to a number of measures to improve pedestrian protection. The volontary agreement with the Commission includes both short-term measures, ie. the introduction of daytime running lights (DRL) and anti-lock brake systems (ABS) as well as the removal of rigid bull bars on vehicle fronts, and a long-term commitment to comply with the standards developed by the European Enhanced Safety Vehicle Committee (EEVC), a gathering of scientists from the Member States' regulatatory authorities and specialists from the automotive sector. In the short term, two pedestrian tests developed by ACEA and the Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) were to be applied.

In July 2001 and March 2002, parallel agreements were signed also with the Japanese and Korean car manufacturers' associations (JAMA and KAMA).

However, both European Parliament and Council called on the Commission to prepare binding directives to supplement and, if necessary, replace the volontary commitments. Only in that way, they argued, could the legal validity of the measures and uniform inspection procedures be guaranteed.

Moreover, recent findings of the European New Car Assessment Programme (EuroNCAP) have suggested that pedestrian safety is still not sufficiently taken into account in the design of new cars in Europe.

The Commission meant to present its proposal on 29 January 2003. It has been postponed until 11 February 2003.

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