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Procedure : 2010/2235(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0264/2011

Texts tabled :

A7-0264/2011

Debates :

PV 26/09/2011 - 21
CRE 26/09/2011 - 21

Votes :

PV 27/09/2011 - 8.13
CRE 27/09/2011 - 8.13
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :


Debates
Monday, 26 September 2011 - Strasbourg OJ edition

21. European road safety (short presentation)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  President. − The next item is the report by Dieter-Lebrecht Koch, on behalf of the Committee on Transport and Tourism, on European road safety 2011-2020 (2010/2235(INI)) (A7-0264/2011).

 
  
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  Dieter-Lebrecht Koch, rapporteur.(DE) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, in view of the present exceptional situation as a result of the financial, economic and budgetary crisis, decisions at European level should concentrate on urgent and important matters. That is the only way to rebuild our citizens’ trust in the sincerity of our actions.

My report deals with the strategy to prevent untold human suffering as a result of around 35 000 deaths and more than 1.5 million, often serious, injuries every year as a result of road accidents and to prevent the associated economic damage of EUR 130 billion a year. The number of deaths alone corresponds to what we would see if 250 fully occupied, medium-sized scheduled aircraft were to crash. Would we not do everything in our power to prevent that? The costs resulting from accidents exceed the European Union’s total annual budget by a considerable amount. I am therefore certain that it will be to our advantage to take long-term action in this area.

Thanks to the constructive cooperation of all shadow rapporteurs and many fellow Members we have succeeded for the first time with this report in drawing up a uniform, integrated, coherent approach to improving road safety. It takes into account the content of the UN Road Safety Charter 2010 to 2020 as well as the content and objectives of the road safety work done by the EU Member States and broader groups in civil society. For the first time, it contains ambitious, but realistic, objectives for the period up to 2020, with the ‘vision zero’ for the period after that.

Thus, the aim is to reduce the number of fatal accidents by 50%, although those involving children by as much as 60%, and to reduce the number of people seriously injured by 40%. That is very much in the interests of every single one of our citizens, but also of our economy. To the Member States, we recommend adapting the targets and methods to their territory and we expect them to produce their own road safety action programmes.

Secondly, the report specifies who is responsible for the individual activities and measures. This is by no means just the European Union. In the spirit of subsidiarity, the integrated approach means that the Member States, undertakings with regional or municipal responsibilities, indeed even each individual road user also has to take responsibility in terms of their duty of cooperation.

Thirdly, the report states how – in other words with which instruments, activities and measures – the objectives are to be met. Legislative proposals at European level are just one strategy. We cannot, and do not wish to, do without guidelines, recommendations and instructions. In this regard, particular attention must be given to the principle of subsidiarity, which means that areas of responsibility are clearly specified, including where responsibilities are split.

We value the diverse activities of the Commission. However, as they emanate from many different Directorates General, such as Mobility and Transport, Economic and Financial Affairs, Environment, Communication, Research and Innovation, Internal Market and Services and others, they are not always coherent, are often uncoordinated and sometimes they contradict one another. Therefore, we propose that a Road Safety Coordinator be appointed within the European Commission. In the long term, that will avoid the establishment of an agency for road safety and increase the efficiency of the European Commission enormously. Both the choice of measures and their evaluation require a scientifically sound approach based on comparable, high-quality data, definitions and statistics. We are therefore calling, among other things, for a harmonised analysis of the causes of injuries and accidents and the EU-wide exchange of data, whilst maintaining stringent personal data protection standards.

We have identified six main areas for action. They concern people as road users, the road traffic rules, vehicles, infrastructure, the smart networking of vehicles and infrastructure and particular consideration for vulnerable road users. I ask for your support tomorrow.

 
  
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  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE). - (SK) Madam President, I would like to present some statistics. In 2009, more than 35 000 people died in road accidents in the EU, and more than 1 500 000 were injured. For every fatal accident there are statistically another four accidents entailing severe permanent disabilities, and 10 accidents entailing severe injuries. Rural roads account for 55% of fatal accidents, urban areas 36% and motorways 6%. The payment of social benefits, which also involves our money and taxpayers' money, involves costs of up to EUR 130 billion a year.

We cannot remain indifferent to this. I say this as a doctor and as a citizen who cares about the EU, and who would like to see things improve, particularly in rural areas.

 
  
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  Katarína Neveďalová (S&D). - (SK) Madam President, road safety is an enormous challenge, especially with the ever increasing number of vehicles on the roads. The accident numbers are alarming. The 35 000 deaths and 1.5 million injuries a year mentioned earlier are too much.

The proposed reduction set by the EU for the number of dead and injured by 2020 is a target that will be difficult to achieve, but protecting the lives of our fellow citizens is our most important task. Member States have already implemented many proposals or have always had them in place, such as restrictions on alcohol in the blood, where I support absolute zero tolerance. However, harmonisation is necessary, and in many cases it is lacking. It is also important to support and improve international cooperation and to fight together against dangerous drivers for greater safety and the protection of all of us and our citizens.

 
  
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  Nathalie Griesbeck (ALDE).(FR) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, 35 000 people were killed in 2009. The target that we set ourselves of halving the annual number of deaths has not been met. This report is a timely response to an urgent need for action. It proposes original and innovative solutions, especially via life-long education and training, as well as improvements to infrastructure.

I wish to raise two points in the very brief time that I am allowed.

As my colleague has just pointed out, a zero alcohol limit for new drivers in the first two years and at all times for professional drivers is an altogether positive and realistic measure, since a scientific margin of error will now be permitted, thereby enabling this mechanism to be applied.

As for drink-driving, I support the call for alcolocks to be fitted to all new commercial passenger and goods transport vehicles.

Finally, given the importance of the debate on subsidiarity, I would like to stress in this case too that, behind these worthy measures, there lies the fact, let us not forget, that millions of Europeans are today highly mobile and that harmonisation is a necessity.

 
  
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  Eva Lichtenberger (Verts/ALE).(DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, yes indeed, we should concentrate on urgent and important matters in connection with road safety. I am firmly convinced of that, and in my opinion that means first and foremost the two greatest reducers of attentiveness while driving, namely alcohol and excessive speed.

The European Union must also say something in this regard and not merely propose technical measures, which, although good in my opinion, are a long way from being adequate. In towns and cities in particular, lack of attentiveness – the problem of inattentive drivers – is particularly dramatic. Therefore, the speed must be lowered here. I was very pleasantly surprised to see that there was a broad majority in favour of the recommendation for a 30 km/h speed limit.

Particular consideration must be given – this is also contained in the report, and I consider it to be important and positive – to finally focusing our attention on vulnerable road users, and I hope that these measures will at last, once and for all, actually be implemented.

 
  
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  Monika Flašíková Beňová (S&D). - (SK) Madam President, every death is tragic and unnecessary, but a death in a road accident is always an unexpected shock. In view of the frequency of such unhappy events we must do everything to further improve safety on Europe’s roads. The figure of 35 000 victims a year is absolutely astronomical, and yet we have managed to bring it down in recent years. Even one tragic accident is a lot, and I therefore very much applaud the proposal of the Fellow Member who calls on the Commission to adopt a target of zero mortality.

The Commission’s commitment to reduce fatalities on the roads by half over 10 years may be ambitious, and we would all be pleased if it was achieved, but it is also rather dubious from an ethical standpoint. In the long term we should try to prevent any unnecessary death. We will not achieve that just through regulations, however, but mainly through behaviour on the roads. The main problem is aggressive drivers. The Commission should therefore consider measures that are both restrictive and educational, in order to eliminate such behaviour.

 
  
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  Keith Taylor (Verts/ALE). - Madam President, I would just like to say thank you to Dieter Koch for the way we have been able to develop these road safety ideas in shadows’ meetings. Halving the casualty figures is a commendable target. As has just been said, every single death is a personal tragedy for someone.

I am particularly pleased that we have managed to tackle the three major causes of accidents: alcohol, drugs and speed. We have got here a uniform blood-alcohol level for the whole EU; we have a strong recommendation for 20 mile-an-hour zones or 30 kilometre-an-hour zones in urban areas; we have got safe routes to schools; we have got measures to avoid lorry blind spots.

We all have a chance to improve road safety for all road users. Please vote tomorrow to make that happen.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D).(RO) Madam President, I would like to congratulate Mr Koch for his report. I also welcome the recent adoption of the Directive on the cross-border prosecution of traffic offences. This directive will certainly help increase road safety across Europe.

Given the link between the high number of road accidents and the quality of the transport infrastructure, we call on Member States to develop their road transport infrastructures and comply with the road sign regulations, especially those for indicating roadworks.

We also call on the Commission to adopt as soon as possible the specifications for the intelligent transport systems mentioned by the Intelligent Transport Systems Directive, specifically: the provision of EU-wide real-time traffic information services; the data and procedures for providing minimum universal traffic information free of charge, when possible; the implementation of an interoperable EU-wide system, and the provision of information and reservation services for safe parking places for trucks.

Last but not least, I should emphasise the importance of devising and improving traffic education programmes, targeted in particular at children and young people.

 
  
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  Jaroslav Paška (EFD). - (SK) Madam President, I believe we are all concerned about the persistently high numbers of people suffering the consequences of road traffic accidents and incidents. It is therefore quite right, in my opinion, for the European Parliament to consider the possibility of introducing effective new measures for reducing risk on the roads.

Along with efforts to harmonise road signs and traffic regulations, we should focus more on developing a safe transport infrastructure. New, modern knowledge and technologies such as self-illuminating roads and double shoulders should also be supported by EU funding, as should rumble strips or intelligent road signs.

We should also continue to improve the passive safety of motor vehicles, and apply the latest knowledge on mitigating the effects of vehicle collisions. It would also be good to support an expansion of modern assistance systems, such as driver fatigue detectors or adaptive cruise control systems. There is considerable potential for improving road safety, and all we need to know is how to exploit this potential.

 
  
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  Siim Kallas, Vice-President of the Commission. − Madam President, first I would like to thank the rapporteur and his colleagues for their support for the Commission’s proposed road safety policy orientations 2011-2020.

One of the main messages in this report is that everybody can contribute to road safety, at the level of the EU institutions, Member States, regional or local authorities, NGOs, the industry and the citizens themselves who have, as wisely highlighted in the report, not only a right but also a duty to contribute to road safety.

I am particularly pleased to see that the report supports the Commission’s ambitious target to halve the number of deaths by 2020. One Member mentioned that we are worried about increasing accidents. Accidents actually are declining and the last period of this road safety action plan saw the decline of casualties by 47%. But still, every death is a tragedy – I totally agree – and we must fight to halve the number of deaths by 2020. I agree that, in the longer term, a ‘Vision Zero’ strategy where no one is killed on EU roads should be developed, and this goal has been integrated in the White Paper on Transport.

On the substance of road safety policies and measures, the Commission is ready to support most of the proposed actions and appreciates that they are addressed not only to the Commission but also to Member States, and industry should play its part too.

I would like to already give you my reaction to two topics that are more specifically addressed to the Commission.

The first one is the idea of establishing an ‘EU Road Safety Coordinator’ as part of the Commission. I understand the reason behind this proposal. In my opinion, such a coordinator should mainly act as an ambassador for existing actions, with a general mission of promoting road safety rather than coordinating or monitoring road safety policies and legislation.

Secondly, the report calls on the Commission to produce, by the end of 2011, a fully-fledged action programme incorporating a detailed set of measures with clear timetables for their implementation. We are, of course, reflecting on a number of high priority issues, such as injuries and safety of motorcyclists. My services have started to work with relevant experts on the definition of injuries. Besides, in early October the High Level Group on Road Safety will meet to discuss the concrete implementation of the Commission orientations. The Commission will carry out appropriate impact assessments before envisaging any legislative measure.

The Commission is grateful for the many useful and innovative ideas expressed. We will duly consider all these proposals when translating the road safety policy orientations into concrete actions.

The Commission will keep Parliament closely informed of progress made on the implementation of the road safety policy orientations 2011-2020. I can count on the firm support and commitment of the European Parliament to improve road safety when road safety legislative proposals will be put on the table of the core legislators. I am very happy that Parliament, before the summer break, adopted a very big decision about cross-border enforcement of traffic violations, fighting against four killers – alcohol, speed, failure to stop at red lights and non-use of seat-belts. So a very important step has been made and, in general, we all share the same objective: to reduce casualties and injuries. The question in detail is cultural background, different practices in Member States, where we can of course find common ground, but we also must also ensure that the objectives are the same and that everybody is working hard. So let us allow the Member States to take most of the responsibility for implementing these actions.

 
  
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  President. − The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow (Tuesday, 27 September 2011).

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Sergio Berlato (PPE), in writing.(IT) EU citizens are entitled to a high level of road safety. The statistics are encouraging: in recent years, Europe’s roads have become safer; indeed, between 2001 and 2009 the number of road deaths in the EU fell by 36%. The Third European Road Safety Action Programme 2001-2010 was instrumental in bringing about that fall, since it made progress in the field of road safety and helped save precious lives. A recent Commission communication sets out the new strategic objectives, in particular the ambitious proposal to halve by 2020 the total number of road deaths in the EU. Although I support and welcome the Commission’s objectives, we cannot fail to seek the highest degree of coordination possible at local, regional, national and European level in the preparation and implementation of the measures to be executed. Nevertheless, if current EU structures remain unchanged, decisive action to develop this integrated strategy is unlikely. I therefore agree with the rapporteur’s proposal to create the office of European Road Safety Coordinator which, with the Commission’s support, will play a valuable role by liaising between the various levels of intervention.

 
  
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  Ismail Ertug (S&D), in writing. (DE) The road safety measures called for in the report are practical and ambitious. That is the only way that we can reduce the number of accidents on Europe’s roads in future. With the call for a stringent alcohol ban for newly qualified drivers and professional drivers and the call for a ‘vision zero’, Parliament can send out a clear message that road safety has top political priority and road deaths are simply not morally acceptable.

If the Commission and the Council get behind the measures that we have proposed, we can at last actually begin to work towards such ambitious objectives.

 
  
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  Bogdan Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz (PPE), in writing.(PL) The subject of road traffic safety is particularly important even from our point of view, as we travel the length and breadth of Europe every week to sittings in Strasbourg and parliamentary work in Brussels. I believe that the report is generally correct in pointing out the need to reduce the number of traffic fatalities by adopting Vision Zero. Nevertheless, there are measures contained in the report which may cause controversy, such as the fitting of equipment which would check drivers’ blood alcohol levels before they set out in their cars. However, I feel more positive about the proposals for the emergency services to be given additional training to help road traffic casualties, for the harmonisation and implementation of provisions, for the creation of a road infrastructure geared principally towards user safety and for the protection of vulnerable road users. Therefore I think that we should spend more time creating a common vision in the field of road user safety in Europe, while trying to maintain a measure of rationality.

 
  
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  Franz Obermayr (NI), in writing. – (DE) The majority of Europe’s road network is designed to cater for the typical dimensions of modern heavy goods vehicles. The Commission favours ‘gigaliners’, however. ‘Gigaliners’ are up to 25 metres in length and weigh up to 60 tonnes. These giants impair the field of vision of other drivers and the overtaking distances on national roads are increased dramatically. Furthermore, much greater damage, both to people and vehicles, is to be expected when collisions occur. The EU’s plans to halve the number of fatal road accidents by 2020 thus seems like pie in the sky. Moreover, we can expect an increase in road haulage. I am therefore decidedly in favour of banning ‘gigaliners’ from our roads and favouring safer modes of transport like shipping.

 
  
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  Vilja Savisaar-Toomast (ALDE), in writing. (ET) Traffic safety in Europe is an extremely important topic, considering that in 2009 over 35 000 people died and more than 1 500 000 were injured in road accidents in the European Union. Although statistical data show that traffic deaths have fallen more than 30% in the last 10 years, that figure is nevertheless below the set target of 50%. In addition to saving lives, the improvement of traffic safety is also accompanied by social savings, because the social cost of traffic accidents in 2009 was assessed at EUR 130 billion. This is a considerable amount; in comparison, it is a quarter of the amount required to fund the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism. Returning to the topic of traffic safety, one must take into consideration that of traffic accidents ending in death: 55% take place on rural roads, 36% in urban settlements, and 6% on motorways. This is important information from the point of view of continuing the reduction of traffic deaths and for the development of legislation and various initiative programmes. This report fully supports the objective of reducing the total number of deaths from traffic accidents in the EU by half by the year 2020, and demands that new clear and measurable objectives be set for the same period: to reduce by 60% traffic deaths of children under the age of 14; to reduce deaths of pedestrians and cyclists in traffic accidents by 50%; and to reduce life-threatening injuries by 40%. In order to achieve the above-mentioned objectives, we need common and harmonised rules, since the transport sector is notably international. I request that you all support this report. Thank you!

 
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