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Auditors say progress on road safety in EU is ‘barely moving’

Oslo’s City Ring Road after multimodal safety improvements. Photo courtesy of City of Oslo, Norway

The European Court of Auditors has warned that the EU and its member states need to ‘move their efforts up a gear’ to reach targets of halving road deaths and serious injuries by 2030.

Investigators spent almost a year analysing the bloc’s current road safety efforts and visited four EU member states to carry out checks, culminating in a report which says implementation is ‘lacking or non-existent’ in several key areas. 

Antonio Avenoso, executive director of the European Transport Safety Council said the report showed ‘the scale of the challenge ahead’ if the EU is serious about halving the 20,000 annual road deaths.

The EU’s current approach is just not going to do the job as long as legislation is not ambitious enough, and proper implementation is lacking in many areas…we hope this report will be a wake-up call for the EU that efforts will need to increase in the second half of the decade,” he said.

‘No EU agency for road safety issues’

The findings will have been noted by campaigners working to try and cut the number of child road deaths which are still occurring ‘in huge numbers‘, according to the World Health Organization.

This new report has also given voice to doubts about whether the European Commission has enough resources to tackle major emerging issues such as the rollout of vehicle automation, and that an EU road safety agency should be established to take on some of this work. 

“It is hard to understand why maritime, air and rail all have dedicated agencies, but there is no EU agency for road safety issues,” said Antonio Avenoso.

The auditors suggest that the strategy for reducing serious road injuries is being hampered by a lack of harmonisation on how member states classify data on serious injuries, leaving the European Commission ‘unable to obtain an accurate overview of serious injuries at EU level and design well-targeted actions to reduce their number’. 

On speed, responsible for a third of deaths, the report notes that the Commission has not yet issued a formal recommendation to member states on safe speed limits, “even though the European Parliament had called upon the Commission to do so in 2021.”

‘Children facing acute and rising risk of death’

The auditors looked at more recent developments such as personal mobility devices (e.g. e-scooters) and automated vehicles and said these areas will require further integration and coordination of the Commission’s actions. The European Commission said in 2022 that it was looking into the establishment of an EU road safety agency, but that it would not happen ‘overnight’.

The European Commission has already responded to the recommendations in the report in a document published on the auditors’ website.

In December last year, the World Health Organization’s report, Global status report on road safety 2023, revealed that road crashes remained a ‘persistent global health crisis’ and that children and other vulnerable road users were facing ‘an acute and rising risk of death’.

Author: Simon Weedy

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