Ewa Hedkvist Petersen (PSE), rapporteur. – (SV) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, more and more people drive abroad within Europe. They include professional drivers, bus drivers, families on European tours and those who commute across borders. Why should these people tolerate poor road safety in any of the countries they drive in? Approximately 40 000 people die each year on European Union roads an ongoing tragedy affecting families. It is also a huge waste of resources. Just think how much we should gain in terms of health care if we were to halve the number of deaths on our roads.
The problem is that, in practice, European countries each place a different value on road safety and that the differences between those Member States with low standards of road safety and those with high standards continue to increase. I do not believe, however, that Europeans will accept this in the long term. We shall demand safe roads everywhere in Europe. We shall demand that the police stop drink-drivers, irrespective of their nationality. We shall demand speed limits throughout Europe and require cities to have public transport systems so that we can get about without cars. We shall demand to be able to get about safely by bicycle in urban areas. The European Parliament must respond to these demands on the part of our citizens and put pressure on the European Commission and the Member States. However, the Member States like, for the most part, to act on a national basis. Reference is made to the proximity principle. Unfortunately, this sometimes involves paralysis. Road safety must be regarded as a responsibility shared between the Member States and the EU. We now see a decline in the figures for fatalities on European roads, but the rate at which they are falling is unfortunately too slow. Measures must now be taken quickly if we are to achieve the objective of halving the number of deaths by 2010. The Member States must ensure that existing legislation is complied with and that penalties are meted out, even if the driver concerned is infringing the rules of an EU country other than his own. We are concerned primarily here with legislation on seat belts, with the observance of speed limits and with bans on the use of alcohol and drugs by drivers. This would lead directly to a dramatic reduction in the number of deaths on our roads.
It is important to involve the new Member States in road safety work. The Commission should act to bring about twinning projects, as they are called, between new and old Member States and ensure that the new Member States take part in the Commission’s expert groups. Exchanges of best practice are vitally important.
Mr President, Drink-driving is a problem in the EU that causes getting on for 10 000 deaths per year. The number of checks made on drink-driving varies from one Member State to another. We therefore need a common upper alcohol limit for the whole of the EU of 0.5 per mille, with the option of setting a lower limit. It is not, however, possible to have a 0.0 per mille limit, as decided on by the majority of the committee. Not being measurable, such a limit would be unsustainable. That point must therefore be removed from the report.
We must also improve driver instruction, and driving school instructors in the EU should therefore be certified. It is also important to make further progress on implementing the eCall system so that emergency services reach the scenes of accidents quickly. More countries must issue declarations of intent on that subject. The transport industry must also take action, and in this area the hire car companies have a major role to play because they purchase new cars every year. Were they to buy only safe cars, there would be a significant improvement to the EU’s vehicle fleet. It is the transport industry that is best placed to influence the design of vehicles. If they were to build safe vehicles and make safety equipment standard, that would be less expensive for consumers and it would save lives. An example of such equipment is alcohol locks, which prevent people who are drunk from driving. Such locks have fallen considerably in price since the market began to take off.
We should begin to regard vehicles as mobile places of work when employees use cars as part of their daily work, and health and safety legislation should therefore also apply to vehicles, thereby increasing road safety. We must, then, take a holistic view of road safety in Europe. It is a question of having safe vehicles and roads and so making life easier for road users, but also of training drivers. All the interested parties must assume their share of our common responsibility if we are to succeed in achieving our goals.
This is my last debate in the European Parliament. My term of office will come to an end on 1 February, and I wish to thank all my fellow Members for their splendid cooperation over the years, including on this report. I also wish to thank all the employees of the European Parliament, who have always facilitated our work. I would also thank everyone else – naming no names, so as not to forget anyone – with whom I have worked during my years in Parliament.
President. We too, all of the Members, thank you, Ewa. We are going to miss you.
We wish you every possible success in your future activities.
Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the Commission. (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like firstly to address Mrs Hedkvist Petersen and to thank her warmly for this fight – and that is the right word – that she has led in favour of road safety. You have not just produced an excellent report, but you have also demonstrated the importance of road safety on many occasions in this Parliament. The motion for a resolution also shows that there is broad consensus amongst Parliament, the Council and the Commission on this priority and on the need for action at European level.
I would like to make a brief assessment of our fight for road safety. In terms of global results, we suffered 50 000 deaths on the roads in 2001 and our objective is not to exceed 25 000 by 2010. In 2005, in the Europe of twenty-five, a further 41 600 deaths were recorded. It is essential that we update our mid-term assessment with the first results for 2006. This year has been rather better than previous years. We have improved by 9% and certain countries that had remained stagnant have made significant progress. Overall, the States that joined in 2004 have made more progress than the Fifteen. The success has been fragile, but it deserves to be welcomed. There are disparities, however, between the best and the worst performing countries. There is a range of 1 to 3 deaths per million inhabitants, or 1 to 5 deaths per million private vehicles.
The Community’s initiatives since 2001 have been effective. Road safety has become a major political priority in most of the Member States. The majority have therefore drawn up national road safety plans. We have adopted legislation on driving times and rest times for professional drivers, adopted measures on vehicle safety and launched education and awareness campaigns. We have also adopted a third directive on driving licences, which will provide better protection, for motorcyclists in particular.
The assessment presented by the Commission in February 2006 was simply factual and we are preparing new initiatives. We must fill the gap in the current legislation relating to mirrors that eliminate the blind spot for existing heavy goods vehicles. We must speed up the installation of that mirror. We cannot wait for the complete renewal of the European lorry fleet, that is to say more than fifteen years, for this practical and inexpensive measure to become fully effective. I am very much counting on the European Parliament to support this speeding up of the implementation of the mirror eliminating the blind spot for existing heavy goods vehicles.
We have presented a proposal to the co-legislators on the management of the safety of Trans-European Network infrastructures. It consists of a range of tools to allow the Member States to better manage the safety of their network. Furthermore, we must ensure that nobody has impunity from traffic offences because they have been committed abroad. I will make a formal proposal this summer on the cross-border enforcement of the more significant traffic offences. We have also launched a consultation on the obligation for daytime running lights. No decision has yet been taken. We need to hear the opinion of the Member States and of users.
Having said that, what matters if we are to win the safety battle is that we stay in direct contact with the citizens. That is why we launched the European Road Safety Charter in April 2004. 650 road safety actors are signatories to that Charter: companies, automobile clubs, associations, schools, media organisations, local authorities, to name but a few. By signing the Charter, actors commit themselves to taking responsibility and taking concrete and measurable action within their area of competence.
Finally, Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, a first European Road Safety Day will be held on 27 April 2007. This Day falls at the same time as the United Nations Global Road Safety Week, and I would urge Parliament and every Member of Parliament to take part in this event, which is very dear to us.
I shall end, Mr President, by once again highlighting the quality of the document prepared by Mrs Hedkvist Petersen. It offers a well-argued vision of the future. Not only does it emphasise the short-term priorities, but it also proposes promising medium-term solutions, on which the Commission’s services are also working. Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted that our views coincide, but I would like to say that this record of more than 40 000 deaths on the roads means that we have a very great responsibility in the field of road safety. I am therefore grateful to Parliament, Mr President, for being involved in and totally committed to improving it.
Dieter-Lebrecht Koch, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, first of all, I am very grateful to Mrs Hedkvist Petersen for her good cooperation and trust over many years. Thank you, Mrs Hedkvist Petersen, for your excellent report.
Reducing the number of deaths on Europe's roads to no more than 25 000 by 2010 is a very ambitious goal given the increase in road traffic. It is achievable though – if only we want it enough! The successes of recent years can be seen, even though many of our laws and measures, particularly from the last two and a half years, have not yet had any effect because they have not yet been transposed into national law. I need only remind you of the driving licences directive.
Despite the major successes, we will still not achieve the target if we do not act more ambitiously and more consistently, and implement both existing and new projects speedily. In order to do so, not only do we need European decision-making, but the Member States also have a considerable responsibility. The report provides clarity in this respect too.
I would like to mention six specific categories.
The first is that we will be going in the right direction if we can ensure that existing laws are obeyed more consistently. The main points are appropriate speed, not driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs or medicines, wearing seatbelts, and complying with the regulations for pedestrians and cyclists.
The second is that we need new European laws to be enacted, with regard, for example, to daytime running lights, the use of blind-spot mirrors and marking the edges of lorries.
Thirdly, we must take action to avoid congestion, for example by promoting new logistics systems solutions, by speeding up roadworks or by authorising gigaliners under certain conditions.
My fourth point is that we are responsible for ensuring that health and safety at work regulations are also implemented when the workplace is a vehicle, in other words a mobile workplace. This includes the provision of appropriate opportunities for medical care for professional drivers during their working week away from their company headquarters.
Fifthly, we must promote not only the use of up-to-date emissions technology, but also the introduction of active safety features, such as the electronic stability program (ESP), emergency braking or distance controls and driver assistance systems.
Sixthly, we hope that the automatic emergency call system eCall will be introduced as soon as possible, particularly in view of the fact that, firstly, tried and tested automatic accident detection systems are already in place and, secondly, a campaign is currently underway for some kind of emergency call system for pedestrians.
Gary Titley, on behalf of the PSE Group. – Mr President, I congratulate Ewa Hedkvist Pedersen on this last report for the European Parliament. It is an excellent report, although it has been rather bombarded by some weird and wonderful amendments.
We do not need elaborate schemes. We simply need safer roads, safer drivers and safer vehicles and, most importantly, we need action and enforcement. When I was Parliament’s rapporteur on eCall, for example, the industry had made progress but the governments were not making progress. That is why I say we need action.
However, I have two reservations. Firstly, on the issue of daytime running lights, I do not believe that there will be any overall net gain in road safety because, as cars become visible, other users, particularly motorcyclists, become less visible. Daytime running lights will mean more fuel usage, and that is bad from a climate change point of view. It is a matter of subsidiarity. The situation in Spain during the day is not the same as the situation in Sweden. I think this should be left to Member States.
Secondly, I do not believe in harmonised blood alcohol limits, simply because you can have all the standards in the world, but they are no use unless you have enforcement. We in the UK have perhaps a more generous blood alcohol limit, but we have the lowest level of drink driving. Why? Because enforcement is rigid and the penalties are very severe. That is where we should be putting the emphasis.
Arūnas Degutis, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (LT) Thank you, Mrs Petersen, for a comprehensive and above all very timely report about safety – or more precisely, danger – on our roads. The situation is indeed quite serious. As the European Union accepts new members, the problems increase. The gap widens between them and the older countries which are able to take advantage of more advanced infrastructure and technologies.
Since the major responsibility for improving safety measures on the roads is currently within the various countries’ jurisdiction, I fully support the rapporteurs’ urging to increase the Commission’s role in bringing uniformity to the standards applied by the various countries, and in introducing uniform legal norms and applying better European practice in these matters. This resolution is indeed a well prepared catalogue of diverse stratagems whose implementation would undoubtedly help us to avoid many of the tragic incidents on the roads. It is also an encouragement to intensively implement the latest safety technology into transport vehicles and on the roads; to unify the European countries’ transport safety and inspection standards, regulations for issuing driving licences and road traffic sign systems; to apply traffic fines in a unified and universal way; and to give the required attention to information and education. A big incentive in this field could be the Commission’s readiness to finance partnership projects being undertaken by new and old countries of the European Union. The practical implementation of new developments could be helped along by appropriate regulation of the activities of insurance companies. I would like to emphasise that member countries, especially those in which road death figures are among the highest, should set a blood alcohol limit of zero for individuals who have recently begun to drive and for professional commercial transport vehicle and bus drivers carrying passengers and, for example, dangerous goods. Likewise, member countries should make the penalties for those responsible for infractions more severe, especially those relating to drunk driving.
I myself am from a new Member State, in which the situation is possibly the worst in the EU. Therefore, this problem is particularly painful for me. The number of victims in Lithuania per one million inhabitants or per vehicle is three times higher than in any old European Union country. Carefully monitoring the statistics, I have observed a curious pattern: namely, European countries can be divided into three groups on the basis of numbers of people killed on the roads. These are: the old EU countries, the new EU countries – the former members of the Soviet bloc, and the new EU countries – the former member republics of the Soviet Union. It is interesting that the more a country has been affected by totalitarianism, the less the drivers feel respect for other road users, and the less they worry about their own and others’ health or even life. It appears as if they have been let off the leash. There is a war of sorts taking place on the roads. In Lithuania we even joke that soon we will have more people dying on the roads every year than there are Americans dying in the war in Iraq. It is a question of attitudes, related to values, respect and concern for the environment. Therefore, I think that attention should be given to education and culture, that is, the attitude-forming areas, starting with the youngest group of people in society.
Seán Ó Neachtain, thar ceann an Ghrúpa UEN. – Maraítear os cionn 40,000 duine ar bhóithre na hEorpa chuile bhliain. 'Sí aidhm an Choimisiúin an staitistic seo a laghdú 50% faoin mbliain 2010.
Tá an chumhacht chéanna ó thaobh reachtaíochta dhe ar shábháilteacht bóthair ag Parlaimint na hEorpa agus atá ag rialtaisí na mBallstát fhéin. Ba chóir do Pharlaimint na hEorpa lántacaíocht a thabhairt d’aidhm an Choimisiúin, líon na marbh a laghdú ar na bóithre.
Timpistí bóthair an chúis is mó a mharaítear daoine óga idir chúig bhliana déag agus cheithre bhliana is fiche d’aois.
Caithfear anois comhordú a dhéanamh ag leibheál an Aontais Eorpaigh chun tabhairt faoi fhadhb na dtimpistí bóthair agus chun polasaí sábháilteachta bóthair a chur i bhfeidhm go dian.
I measc na bpoinntí sábháilteachta is tábhachtaí tá siad seo a leanas: pionós trasteorann a ghearradh orthu siúd a bhriseann rialacha an bhóthair ar fud na hEorpa; ní mór breathnú ar rialacha tráchta a bheadh ar aon fhocal i measc na mBallstát uile a chur i bhfeidhm; ba chóir do na Ballstáit uile an córas éigeandála E-Glaoch a bheith i chuile charr, chomh luath in Éirinn agus is féidir.
Ba chóir do chuile Bhallstát reachtaíocht sábháilteacht bóthair a chur i bhfeidhm go dian dúthrachtach.
Iarraim ar thiománaithe iad fhéin a iompar ar bhonn cúramach, freagrach agus iad ar an stiúir. Tá dualgas orainn uilig an bóthar a dhéanamh sábháilte dóibh siúd a bhaineann úsáid as.
Margrete Auken, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DA) Mr President, congratulations on your election. We have a huge problem here in Europe, and I believe indeed, am convinced - that it is one we shall not manage to solve unless we become much more effective. I should like to thank Mrs Hedkvist Petersen. I believe that she and I are agreed that what is at present in place is not good enough if we are to make progress. Speed limits are not being properly addressed. Nor are drink-driving and the business of carrying out checks being tackled properly and sensibly. The situation needs, then, to improve so that we take these matters extremely seriously. Allow me also to refer to something I have found quite surprising. I have worked on road safety for 15 to 20 years, and one thing I have learned is that serious and constructive work on the subject depends on having good statistics. The statistics we have here in the EU are hopeless, yet when we in the committee proposed – and we still have amendments – that accident statistics should, of course, relate to the number of people –that is to say, inhabitants – involved, we were actually voted down. It is as if the more cars a country has, the safer it is, because the statistics at present relate to the number of cars. In that way, Cyprus becomes one of our safest countries because it has such an awfully large number of cars. By buying many more cars, we obtain a higher level of safety. If we do not put our statistics in order so that the number of accidents is measured in relation to people and inhabitants, we might as well forget all about doing any serious, unified work in the interests of road safety in Europe. The whole thing just becomes nonsensical.
Allow me, finally, also to thank Mrs Hedkvist Petersen for her constructive cooperation. I very much hope that, in the future too, you will have the opportunity to make use of your splendid abilities, including within the field of road safety.
Erik Meijer, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (NL) Mr President, certain elements of traffic safety are better regulated on a small scale, and by that I mean not only speed ramps or keeping cars away from residential areas and support for public transport. The needs with regard to car use in densely-populated areas with many pedestrians and cyclists are different from those in sparsely populated areas with long quiet roads. Visibility of vehicles is different in areas where the position of the sun is lower than those where it is high. This leads, for example, to a possible requirement for cars to have their headlights switched on during the day being right in one area whereas it could be wrong in others.
In other areas, uniform ruling at European level is preferable, such as uniform traffic signs, mirrors for blind spots, crash barriers that do not present extra risks to motorcyclists or the protection of drivers against fatigue as a result of long consecutive driving times.
I regret that the proposals on the use of mobile phones behind the wheel, traffic safety training and the risk of snow on car roofs have been withdrawn by the rapporteur. For the rest, this is a sound and comprehensive report, and my group supports it.
Kathy Sinnott, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – Mr President, I would say to the Commissioner that many of us have personal experience of tragedy on the roads. Road safety is a constant concern to all of us and to the people we represent.
I am sure we will vote for greater safety measures and that is a good thing. However, what worries me is that when our safety provisions become law, we will have a false sense of security that our roads are safer. That is not always the case. In the interests of safety, we have legislated that truck drivers must take short breaks every four hours and a long break every nine hours. However, in Ireland there are very few places for trucks to park so that their drivers can rest. Instead, drivers are forced to pull over on the hard shoulder, which is a very dangerous practice for the driver and for everyone using the road.
The problem is that in the cause of safety, we have placed an obligation on truck drivers which in Ireland they cannot comply with safely. This has happened because we did not place a corresponding obligation on governments to supply roadside rest areas, even on EU-funded roads. A new motorway that opened in my own constituency three months ago does not have a single rest area. Today we are considering provisions to make roundabouts, secondary roads, and roadwork zones safer. All this is a good thing, but let us learn from the experience of the Irish truck drivers and require the national governments to make the necessary adjustments to roads in order to implement these safety measures. Otherwise, despite all our efforts, we will continue to be plagued by carnage on our roads.
Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou (PPE-DE). – (EL) Thank you, Mr President-in-Office. I congratulate you on your appointment and look forward to our working together within the framework of the new Presidency. My congratulations also to our rapporteur, Mrs Petersen, on her work and my best wishes to her for the future now that she is leaving our Parliament.
Ladies and gentlemen, Commissioner, the question of road safety which we are debating this evening is extremely important; first of all because it concerns the very lives of European citizens. However, it is also an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the efficacy which the European Union can have in citizens' daily lives and the added value which it can give to Member States' endeavours and policies.
The mid-term review of the action programme marks the progress made in combating accidents; however, we have every reason to point out that we need to do more and take quicker steps within the framework of a more general strategy. We must not forget that efforts to strengthen the single market, to strengthen our tourism, to strengthen the mobility of European citizens and to strengthen our competitiveness increase the number of road traffic accidents and increase the potential for accidents.
The first issue I wish to highlight this evening is that we need to coordinate the tools and facilities at our disposal by applying legislation on traffic signals, driving standards, road construction and maintenance standards, safety belts and so forth.
The second issue I wish to highlight is the need for uniform safety throughout the European Union. Apart from coordinating and exchanging best practices, we need to promote a standard driving licence and prevention and response systems such as eCall.
Zita Gurmai (PSE). – (HU) Thank you very much, Mr President, and congratulations on your new post. Road safety is literally a matter of life and death, while at the same time a difficult and complex matter, since people – each of us – take great risks. In my country, more than half of one per cent of all citizens dies as a result of road accidents. To achieve the planned reduction in the number of road accidents by 2010, various well-thought-out measures are necessary. The report by my fellow Member Mrs Hedkvist Petersen reviews the steps to be taken, starting with enforcing existing regulations, through insisting on better driving techniques, for instance, to introducing technical innovations and improving the infrastructure. Better safeguards are needed for the most vulnerable users of public roads: pedestrians and cyclists. We should not forget people with disabilities, whose safety also calls for special solutions. This is all the timelier now, given that 2007 is the Year of Equal Opportunities for All.
The EU and its Member States bear joint responsibility for road safety. In order to strengthen the social background, we invite civic society organisations to demonstrate their commitment to improved traffic safety by signing the Road Safety Charter within the next three years.
The EU should play a coordinating role primarily in the campaigns, in launching research programmes and in sharing experiences. If we succeed in reaching our goals, we can, in a smaller country like Hungary with its ten million inhabitants, save 500 lives, about the number of seats in this hall.
Dear Ewa, we shall miss you. I trust that you will find what you are looking forward to. For our part, we will try to follow the lessons we have learned from you in this Parliament.
Let us try to travel in healthy, decent and good conditions!
Hannu Takkula (ALDE). – (FI) Mr President, first I wish to thank the rapporteur Mrs Hedkvist Petersen for her excellent work. I have also got to know you a little in association with the work of the committee, and you have always been very diligent and committed to your work on the committee, and so these issues of road safety have been of particular concern to you. Thank you for mentioning them, for the report, and for the work that you have done.
It is true that we have a lot of laws in the European Union. What is crucial, though, is how they are complied with. The greatest threat to road safety is still to be found between the wheel and the seat. We need a more enlightened attitude to traffic and education in road safety, and I do think it will be a good thing if we can have harmonised criteria throughout Europe relating to road safety education and driving licences, as there is free mobility. Obviously there also needs to be investment in the condition of vehicles and roads, but education in road safety culture is the key to everything.
As for alcohol limits, I wish to say once again that there is only one option here: zero tolerance. Alcohol and driving always make an incompatible couple, and for that reason there should be zero tolerance to alcohol throughout Europe.
Janusz Wojciechowski (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, the hazards of road traffic are the main danger to which the average citizen is exposed in the contemporary world, and that is why it is so important to discuss the matter today.
I would like to raise an issue that is not mentioned in the report. It involves an element of road transport that does not at first sight seem to have a direct bearing on its safety, but which features prominently in accident statistics. I have in mind roadside trees. In the old days, these trees served to protect horse-drawn carriages from the wind and snow. We are now in the era of fast cars, however, and the trees pose a lethal threat. Over one thousand people die each year in my country, Poland, as a result of driving into trees. Twice as many die as a result of head on collisions, when trees block potential escape routes from dangerous situations on the roads.
I am very environmentally minded and I love to see trees in parks, forests and many other places. I do believe, though, that roadside trees should be removed because they pose such a great danger. A provision of this nature should be included amongst the actions intended to improve road safety. Trees could be replaced with non-hazardous hedges. There are many places where such measures would help improve safety on the roads.
Renate Sommer (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, going out on the roads is certainly not without its dangers – everyone knows that – but we obviously cannot avoid transporting people and goods by road. It is, after all, the most flexible form of transport, and we are dependent on a functional road system. Roads are the arteries of our economy.
The EU has set itself the goal of making road transport safer, and, indeed, it is quite unacceptable that so many thousands of people die on our roads and motorways every year. We are still, though, recording more than 40 000 deaths on the roads. So, what can we do about it?
One important and simple way of further reducing the number of accidents would be to introduce a complete ban on drinking and driving for young and new drivers, and for professional drivers in passenger transport and, for example, the carriage of dangerous goods. I would therefore call for a regulation moving towards zero blood alcohol content for these drivers, who present an increased risk. New drivers lack experience, and are therefore particularly prone to accidents if they drink alcohol. In the case of the transport of passengers or dangerous goods, drivers have a particularly high responsibility. It is therefore quite right that they should avoid alcohol completely when driving. There can be no tolerance here.
Another measure that could help bring about a significant and lasting reduction in the number of serious accidents is adequate traffic controls. It is up to the Member States to properly monitor compliance with existing laws, for example through driving licence, safety and alcohol checks, because not everything has to be regulated by new and additional European laws. This is also true, incidentally, of an EU-wide speed limit. I think that this is something for the Member States to decide individually, based on the quality of their roads and motorways. Fast driving – by which I do not mean reckless driving – does not, in itself, increase the risk of an accident. Tiredness is, perhaps, a much greater risk factor, but how can we monitor that, at any rate in individual car transport?
One thing we can control, though, is the use of mobile telephones while driving. Drivers are distracted by the telephone at their ear. A requirement to use hands-free kits for mobiles while driving would therefore make a major contribution to road safety. I do not understand those people here who want to prevent this: it was proven to be a problem a long time ago.
A general ban on overtaking for vehicles over 12 tonnes would certainly be desirable from my personal point of view as a car driver – and I do a lot of driving – but the question is whether it is realistic. Perhaps we should, instead, link it to a specific speed. I think it is absolutely vital to have regular technical safety inspections for all motor vehicles, standardised across Europe.
Finally, I would just like to make one more comment: incentives, usually tax incentives, for renewing the vehicle fleet would be an excellent instrument for solving the safety problem, and it is also important with regard to environmental protection. For example, the abolition of registration taxes in some Member States would make an important contribution to that. As we know, though, that is a whole other topic.
I am most grateful to the rapporteur for her excellent work and to you, ladies and gentlemen, for your attention at this late hour.
Emanuel Jardim Fernandes (PSE). – (PT) Mr President, I should like to begin by congratulating you, and by expressing my satisfaction at seeing you in this post, given your record in political life. I should like to commend Mrs Petersen on the high quality of her report and for all that she has done in Parliament and in Europe for road safety.
I support this report and shall be voting in favour of it, because I feel that it is only through stringent measures taken by the Member States and by the EU that we will be able to tackle, in a coordinated fashion, the problem of our dangerous roads, which cause some 40 000 deaths per year and which directly cost the economy as much as 2% of GDP per year, as you pointed out.
Among other measures, I warmly welcome the proposals to enhance safety, for example by implementing European-level harmonised driving rules in the future, developing and strengthening infrastructure and the management thereof, enhancing vehicle safety, introducing the e-call automatic emergency system, introducing speed restriction systems and bringing in alcohol interlocks. I also believe it is unfeasible, not least from a scientific perspective, to bring in a zero alcohol limit.
I also lend my backing to the similarly important proposals aimed at developing legislation to make seatbelt use compulsory at all times and for practically all vehicle types. In any event, in these and other areas, the Commission has further responsibilities as the institution that initiates the legislative process - responsibilities that I hope, and am convinced, it will honour.
IN THE CHAIR: MRS ROTHE Vice-President
Nathalie Griesbeck (ALDE). – (FR) Madam President, I would like to congratulate you on your election. I too would like to say a few words about this report on road transport. Road transport – and I very much regret this, like many other people here do – continues to grow, and this means that the Union must make road safety a political priority – a point on which we all agree.
This report points to the progress recorded and proposes new measures that supplement the provisions voted for very recently on the European driving licence and that are satisfactory as a whole. I shall not list them, but they represent much progress. I would simply like to return to the issue of daytime running lights, to which I am entirely opposed. In fact, no reliable study has shown that this measure would be effective. It is true that the number of deaths has dropped since this measure was introduced in my country, and that is a good thing, but if we look more closely, we see that the number of deaths by category of user classified as vulnerable has increased, according to the figures that I have found, by more than 8% for pedestrians, by more than 0.6% for cyclists and by more than 3.8% for motorcyclists, and hence particularly for the latter. Without wishing to insist any more, I would like to draw the honourable Members’ attention to this aspect and ask that we look further into it.
I too shall end by thanking the rapporteur and by wishing her the best of luck in her new life.
Ryszard Czarnecki (UEN). – (PL) Madam President, forty thousand persons die on the roads each year. That is the scale of the problem. The direct and indirect costs of accidents total EUR 180 billion, which amounts to 2% of the European Union’s GDP. In view of this situation, it really is essential to take stronger action at Union level. Stiffer penalties must be imposed for typical traffic offences and crimes such as speeding and drink driving.
New situations also need to be dealt with, however. In many countries, including my own, an increasing number of drivers are taking the wheel under the influence of drugs. This is why the Druid project was set up. It aims to halve the number of fatal road accidents by 2010, which is an ambitious target. The latest two European Commission opinions on the directives on managing road infrastructure and safety will be a great help. They may reduce fatalities on the roads by as much as 16%. I support the introduction of the so-called zero blood alcohol level for new and professional drivers.
Luis de Grandes Pascual (PPE-DE). – (ES) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, Commissioner for Transport, I would like to congratulate the President on her election and wish her the best of luck in her new role.
Ladies and gentlemen, road safety is one of those issues that is always topical. At one time or another, all of the Member States have to deal with accidents and victims, and the conclusion is usually the same: all of us can always do more to reduce the number of victims.
I believe that there are three fundamental elements to improving road safety: improving the safety of infrastructures, the progressive harmonisation of standards and education for road-users. Improving the safety of the trans-European road network is fundamental. Unfortunately, however, once again, the Union’s new financial framework is not exactly hopeful and it does not contain sufficient resources to improve the quality of Community roads.
Furthermore, the European Commission has produced a proposal for a Directive to improve the safety of infrastructures. The Directive deals with one issue that I believe to be of particular interest, although it does not deal with it in a very extensive manner: the need for protection barriers on roads also to provide safety for motorcyclists. Many harmonisation measures will also have positive effects for road safety; examples include the establishment of minimum active and passive safety requirements for vehicles, obligatory reflective strips on lorries, uniform technical standards for road signs and the establishment of rest areas for drivers.
Furthermore, I believe that schools should provide a minimum level of road safety education for our young people, both as pedestrians and as potential drivers. Education and training are essential in order to achieve consistent results in the long term.
I therefore hope that plenary will reject the Socialist Group's last minute proposal to remove what the Commission on Transport approved in this regard. I was delighted to hear what the Liberal Group has said and I hope that the Commission will reject that proposal and approve these suggestions.
Thank you for your work, Mrs Hedkvist Petersen. Goodbye and the very best of luck.
Inés Ayala Sender (PSE). – (ES) Madam President, I would like to offer you my particular congratulations. I am delighted to see you in this new post. I am sure you will do a wonderful job.
I would also like to thank our colleague Ewa for the huge efforts she has made over all these years to improve road safety in Europe. I saw her arrive from her region of Luleå and we have learnt the best things together, and I hope – I am convinced – that in her professional future she will be able to apply all of the tenacity and conviction that she has shown here in the European Parliament. I wish you all the best, Ewa.
The review that we have on the table today demonstrates that we will not achieve the objective of reducing by 50% the number of deaths by 2010, since that is only three years away and we are still moving rather slowly. The worst thing is that the greatest proportion of victims are children and young people, and pedestrians over 65 years old.
I must once again express my frustration at, as a result of legislation, not being able to achieve a broad majority on speed restriction despite the overwhelming evidence indicating that speed is the main cause of death, and that even the World Health Organisation has indicated that it should be our priority. My delegation will therefore vote in favour of Amendment 1 by the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance.
On the other hand, I am absolutely delighted that the rapporteur and my group are in favour of restricting the alcohol level to 0.5 mg in general and to 0.2 mg for young people and professional drivers.
Of the other devices and proposals ― of which there are a huge number, though the majority are unfortunately voluntary ― I would like to stress some which, though they may appear less important, are very effective. For example, increasing the use of seat belt reminders, not just for front seats but also for rear seats, and for all cars, both the higher and the lower ranges; also installing ergonomic crash barriers with a view to preventing the high death rates amongst motorcyclists and removing level crossings.
Finally, though this may not sound like a very significant issue, I would like the automobile sector to consider an inexpensive device — though a highly efficient one in terms of influencing the driver — which would involve indicating the speed limit – on which we would have to agree, 130, 140, the maximum – on the speedometer, in the same red colour that is currently used on the tachometer, which could act as a psychological warning, something that has shown itself to be highly efficient in other cases.
We shall of course continue to cooperate with the Commission with regard to the new proposals on infrastructures and the enforcement of offences.
Leopold Józef Rutowicz (UEN). – (PL) Madam President, the European Road Safety Action Programme Mid-Term Review is a significant document. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people all over the world lose their lives as a result of road accidents. Better preventive measures must be devised to deal with this tragedy.
In my view, the following actions are very important: harmonising and implementing road traffic legislation across the European Union, increasing penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (the latter being a new phenomenon), developing good educational programmes for young people, and using all available means of improving safety. I have in mind improving the quality of roads and roadsurfaces and developing plans for upgrading roads and eliminating dangerous sections. I also think that stricter technical requirements for road building should be introduced. For example, all trans-European routes should have at least six lanes.
I would like to thank Mrs Petersen, the rapporteur, for an excellent report.
Justas Vincas Paleckis (PSE). – (DE) Madam President, I would like, once again, to congratulate you most wholeheartedly!
(LT) The author of the report has given every EU citizen some important suggestions. Now is the time to be concerned, and yet to ensure, that by the year 2010 there is a 50% reduction in the visits of the spectre of death to our roads. When one looks at a statistical map of road deaths in European Union countries, the predominance of the colour of blood in the eastern half of the Union catches one’s eye. In almost all the new EU countries the situation is significantly worse than in the old countries, and on Lithuania’s roads there are proportionally up to five times as many people killed as in Holland. The EU has an obligation to share accumulated experience with new countries, to help eradicate the aggressive driving style, to inculcate on the roads the tolerance about which so much has been spoken in this Chamber today. It is important to improve road infrastructure and vehicle safety, and to make traffic requirements and fines more severe and more uniform. The drunk and irresponsible at the steering wheel must be equally restrained in all EU countries.
Luís Queiró (PPE-DE). – (PT) Mr President, may I also congratulate you on your election. What strikes me most when we debate the issue of road safety is the gulf between countries with low accident rates and few victims and those in which, despite significant improvements in recent years, the figures, tragically, remain poor.
I understand and share the position held by Mrs Petersen who, as well as having prepared an excellent report, has drawn up a most pertinent list of specific issues that must be taken into account including, the compulsory fitting of hands-free mobile telephone systems, the problem of road traffic signs, the need for cross-border cooperation in the effective implementation of penalties, the debate on the use of daytime running lights, the zero alcohol limit for young drivers, the need to be realistic when it comes to setting speed limits, the use of central reservations and the need to protect motorcyclists from deadly central barriers. I could go on, as the list is a long one.
That being said, I would emphasise that what strikes me most is the differences between countries and, over and above the rules applied, I feel that there are two key factors: on the one hand obviously the quality of vehicles and the state of road infrastructure and, on the other, drivers themselves. There are educational, and even cultural, dimensions reflected to a large extent in the figures that have come to light. I believe it is these aspects that we should mainly be looking at. Of course, what counts is not only the technology and the rules but also, and most importantly, the person driving and his or her attitude at the wheel. If a road is dangerous, a particularly careful driver can avoid an accident, whereas any form of dangerous driving could cause a tragedy regardless of how safe the road is. I am convinced that the authorities and the citizens of some countries have grasped this and that in other countries the message still has not got through at all, and must be reinforced.
Otherwise, what we have here is an important and highly relevant set of measures with which I am broadly in agreement. Perhaps it is not essential to impose the same rule on the right of way at roundabouts throughout the EU, given that there are some countries where people drive on the left; ice and snow on the roofs of vehicles is not a problem across all Member States (at least in mine it is not), but overall I recognise that most of the measures put forward are useful. I wish to finish by emphasising the point that drivers have it within their power successfully to improve road safety if they are educated and made aware of their responsibility; otherwise, they will go on causing accidents and producing victims.
Proinsias De Rossa (PSE). – Thank you, Madam President, and congratulations on your election.
Police cooperation on cross-border enforcement of traffic offences, accounting for 25 % of cases in some Member States, either is not implemented properly or has to be carried out through complex bilateral agreements. In border areas in Ireland, for example, motorists who are caught speeding on one side of the border go unpunished if their vehicles are registered on the other side. Yet neither Ireland nor the UK applies the 1998 European Convention on driving disqualifications, despite being enacted in domestic legislation in both jurisdictions.
The Commission should, I believe, come forward urgently with proposals for a Europe-wide enforcement of road traffic penalties, mutual recognition of penalty points, driver disqualifications and training and rehabilitation. I would also like to see a common European blood alcohol limit. My own view is that it should be no more than 50 mg.
I want to refer in passing to a comment made by one of my colleagues here about trees. I would strongly oppose any proposal that trees should be cut down in order to facilitate speeding, drugged and careless drivers. I also support Mrs Sinnott in her view in relation to lay-bys for truck drivers, which should also be available for car drivers. I had the recent experience of a two-hour journey on the road from Wexford to Dublin in Ireland, a road recently upgraded using substantial amounts of EU funds, and there was not a single lay-by in that two-hour journey on either side of the road. I think that is quite appalling.
Jim Higgins (PPE-DE). – A Uachtaráin, ar an gcéad dul síos fáiltím roimh an tuarascáil seo ón gCoiste um Iompar agus um Thurasóireacht agus fáiltím chomh maith na moltaí go dtí an Coimisiún. Labhrann na staitisticí ar a son féin. Maraítear 40 000 duine chuile bliain ar fud an Aontais Eorpaigh. Ó théarmaí airgeadais is ionann seo agus 2% de GDP nó EUR 180 000 billiún. Is iad timpistí bóthar an chúis is mó le bás pháistí agus le bás dhaoine óga. Más féidir le tíortha áirithe an caighdeán sábháilteachta bóthair a fheabhasú, caithfear tú fiafraí conas atá tíortha eile ag titim chun deiridh. Is cúis bhróin dom é nach bhfuil mo thír dhúchais, Éire, ag déanamh níos fearr ná mar atá sí i láthair na huaire. Tá an Chomhairle Eorpach um Shábháilteacht Iompair ag foilsiú tuarascáil chuile cheathrú agus is maith an rud é seo mar coinníonn sé an fhadhb faoi shúil ghéar. Aontaím leis na moltaí ón Rappórtéir agus is iontach an tuarascáil í agus mo chomhghairdeas léi agus an moladh go mór mhór go mbeidh saghas leathchúplaíocht idir na tíortha atá ag déanamh go maith agus iad siúd atá lag a eagrú leis an aidhm go spreagfaidh sé seo na tíortha laga níos mó a dhéanamh. Tá an tuarascáil an-cuimsitheach agus aontaím go hiomlán leis na moltaí atá inti. Is minic a fhaigheann daoine bás i bhfeihiclí ós rud é nach raibh aon tseirbhísí tarthála in ann a fháil amach cá raibh an timpiste. Creidim go mba cheart go mbeadh an córas E-Glaoch éigeantach i ngach feihicle nua. Ceapaim chomh maith go sábhálfaidh sé seo alán beathaí. I ndeireadh na dála is ag na rialtaisí na mBallstát éagsúla atá an dualgas sábháilteachta. Mar a deirtear sa tuarascáil, caithfear ceannaireacht pholaitiúil a bheith ann. Fáiltím go bhfuil Uachtaránacht na Gearmáine ag cur béime ar shábháilteacht bóthair ina clár don Uachtaránacht. Tárlaíonn timpistí bóthar ach i bhformhór na gcásanna, ní timpistí a bhíonn iontu ar chor ar bith. Tárlaíonn siad mar gheall ar dhrochthiomáint, ar luas agus ar alcól. An t-oideachas agus feidhmiú atá tábhachtach.
Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the Commission. (FR) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, this very rich debate deserves many replies. I shall try to stick to the fundamental points. I would like to thank Mrs Hedkvist Petersen once again. I would also remind her that exchanges of experiences will from now on be normal practice and that manufacturers have finally understood that safety could become a sales factor: I am talking about the Euro NCAP programme. The commitment of manufacturers in the European Road Safety Charter has specifically focused on seat belt reminders and electronic stability control for heavy goods vehicles.
I shall now reply briefly to the group speakers. Mr Koch and Mr Titley emphasised respect for rules, control and penalties. They are absolutely right: those are the key priorities. Mr Titley and a number of other Members mentioned daytime running lights. When we consulted the Member States, it was clear that no decision had been taken. It is true that daytime running lights are in force according to different procedures. Those who are making them obligatory appear to be relatively satisfied, but we have not taken any decision in that field. We will probably have to wait for dedicated daytime running lights.
Mr Degutis, several Member States that joined in 2004 are now making progress, and their efforts are bearing fruit, as you quite rightly pointed out. Mr Ó Neachtain, we are working on cross-border enforcement. I very much hope that, by the end of the year, we will have drawn up a system enabling us to crack down on offences committed in another Member State. Mr Meijer mentioned small-scale solutions. In fact, competence is shared between Europe, the States and the regions. Mrs Sinnott talked about the safety of infrastructures. That was the subject of the Commission’s last proposal.
I cannot reply to all of the speakers. I believe that they have all expressed support for our integrated approach, which is based upon three factors: the behaviour of drivers, the safety of vehicles and the quality of infrastructures. The speeches have confirmed that our two institutions take a similar view.
On ending this debate, I would like to thank everybody who has spoken and point out how much I am counting on Parliament to support the legislative proposals being discussed: the implementation of mirrors eliminating the blind spot for existing heavy goods vehicles, the management of infrastructures and, shortly, the cross-border prosecution of offences. I would like to thank Parliament for its willingness to pioneer such activities. Sometimes the Member States are more reticent. I have the impression that Parliament is entirely convinced that we must act with determination if we want to make progress on this important matter of road safety.
President. The debate is closed.
The vote will take place tomorrow.
Written statement (Rule 142)
Francesco Musotto (PPE-DE). – (IT) Traffic on Europe’s roads has tripled over the last 30 years and, even though vehicles are four times safer than in 1970, road traffic accidents still cause over 40 000 deaths a year, the direct and indirect cost of which is calculated to be EUR 180 billion, or 2% of European Union GDP.
The ambitious target set by the EU of halving the number of road traffic accident victims by 2010 cannot be achieved without taking into account the essential character of education. The report therefore urges the Member States to further stress and generalise their information policies and road safety awareness campaigns for all road users of all ages. Parliament also urges the Member States to intensify their efforts to encourage users to wear seatbelts in all vehicles, including buses, and proposes promoting information campaigns against tiredness at the wheel, installing motorcyclist-friendly crash barriers, and setting common minimum standards for the examination and certification of driving instructors. In addition, the report proposes that health and safety at work regulations should also apply to vehicles used as a mobile place of work.