Announcing that the Day will be an annual event which this year is dedicated to young drivers, under the caption, “Youth on the Road, Road Safety is no Accident,” Jacques Barrot, vice-president of the Commission responsible for transport, said, “My aim is that these European Road Safety Days should give an extra boost to the efforts we are all making to improve road safety. We have made a lot of progress but there can be no let-up. I am particularly happy that so many young people are now working to change things.”
Launched in 2001, the Commission’s European Road Safety Action Plan aims to halve the number of fatalities on
Declaring that in 2006, nearly 12,000 lives were saved in the European Union in comparison with 2001, Barrot told journalists, “Thanks to the concerted efforts of the European Union we can reach our target in 2010, provided we stay on course. There is no guarantee of this, however, so we need to maintain our efforts.”
Reiterating that road safety was a priority of his mandate, Barrot called on all member states to study the report that has just been published and to draw the necessary lessons from it saying, “Above all, I urge Member State governments whose figures are alarming to take firm action.”
Across the 27 member-EU the fatalities showed a downward trend with eight percent reduction last year compared to 2005 but a closer look at the statistics released in Brussels presented a divergent spectrum of varied figures across the enlarged Union.
The drivers on the Southern European continent roads seemed to be more accident prone than their Northern counterparts except island nation of Malta where lowest numbers of road deaths per million inhabitants and per million cars were reported
Overall, Ireland topped the list of young people killed on the roads with 30 percent of fatalities in the 18 to 25 age group while France, Luxembourg and Portugal did commendable work to reduce fatalities by more than 40 percent since 2001, saving several thousands of lives.
On the other hand, Estonia, Latvia and Hungary saw an up to eight percent more road deaths in 2006 than 2001 with blame being going to rapid rise in number of cars circulating on the road. The Baltic countries and Greece stood out as one of the most dangerous places to drive as data showed that the Baltic states had more than three times as many road deaths per head of population than Europe’s safest countries Sweden, The Netherlands and Malta.
According to the conclusion report from the results of the “SafetyNet” project, financed under the 6th Research Framework Programme, there are seven road safety performance indicators: alcohol and drug use; speed; seat belts and helmets; the use of daytime running lights; passive safety of vehicles; road infrastructure; first aid for victims.
Citing the first three indicators as both the most important and the best documented the report indicated that the project had laid the foundation for a European Road Safety Observatory, and had produced important research on performance indicators for road safety.
The statistics supported this as in some countries, 30 percent of people killed in road accidents had at least one driver drunk more than the legal limit while about half of all drivers involved in fatal road accidents did not respect speed limits.
Meanwhile, Scania, the leading Swedish manufacturer of heavy trucks and buses organised an event in Brussels on April 26 on “Focus on the driver for Road Safety” on the occasion of the European Road Safety Day, and within the framework of the First United nations Global World Road Safety Week.
A Scania Road Safety Truck, equipped with the most up-to-date safety technology was on display, while Veronica Andersson, a 22-year-old professional driver explained how the technology of the truck and trailer functions.
Cecillia Edstroem, senior vice president, corporate relations, of Scania told journalists that 1.2 million people die and between 20-50 million are injured in road accidents all over the world every year. She was of the opinion that “education” was one of the best ways to help cut down on the road fatalities.
Commenting on such staggering figure of causalities Marc Danzon, WHO Regional Director for Europe said in a statement, “While the number of people killed on European roads may be dropping, especially in the western part of the Region, traffic injuries are still the leading killer of our children and young adults, and we have a long way to go to reduce the toll that society pays for road traffic.”
Danzon added, “In the face of such a challenge, health systems have a key role to play in developing partnerships with other sectors, and in making them aware of the health and economic benefits of combating road traffic injuries, especially for the sake of the younger generation.”