Road safety practitioners in Europe need to pluck the ‘low hanging fruit’ including simple infrastructure and safety improvements to help the continent meet its aim of halving road fatalities and serious injuries by 2020, according to the EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc.
Addressing more than 100 leading practitioners at the ‘Towards Zero – how to make safer roads and road users safer’ conference in Ljubljana, Slovenia on 23 June, Commissioner Bulc urged delegates to support a dynamic two-way dialogue in which professionals on the front line pushed their local knowledge up the decision-making tree to drive forward change. (Commissioner Bulc is pictured above being welcomed to the conference by EuroRAP chairman John Dawson)
Commissioner Bulc’s visit is the highlight of a three day event jointly organised by EuroRAP, the European road safety charity, and DRC, the Transportation Research Association of Slovenia hosted by AMZS, the Slovenian motoring club. In wide-ranging sessions, delegates have shared the latest thinking on road casualty reduction including traffic calming measures in urban areas, safe speeds and building safe road infrastructure around schools.
The Commissioner said a “quantum leap” was needed if Europe was to meet the United Nation’s sustainable development goal 3.6 of halving road deaths and serious injuries by 2020. In the last two years a sustained decline in road deaths had plateaued and this was unacceptable, she said. She pledged to do everything she could to support road safety professionals in ensuring innovative life saving strategies were put at the top of the agenda in the European Union.
‘Road deaths aren’t just statistics, they are lives,’ she said. ‘When I was seven a fellow pupil at my school was killed in a road crash – that experience changed me for ever.’
EuroRAP chairman John Dawson gave strong support to Commissioner Bulc’s comments: ‘The Commissioner has said road safety is a priority for her. She’s thrown us a challenge asking to help her. We know that simple life-improvements can be made quickly and affordably with high economic returns. Experience in Europe and outside shows this often simply requires no more than specifying one sentence Star Rating outcomes in briefs to road designers or targeting maintenance type spending to raise Star Ratings by removing all too frequent simple layout flaws.
Value for money
‘Road crashes cost more than 2% of GDP. Road safety can compete in value for money terms with all existing programmes – but it drops through the gaps in the Commission’s spending programmes simply because there’s no explicit goal to raise the Star Rating of new and existing infrastructure. Her guiding policy can be amended to reflect the new priority to saving road trauma.
‘In Slovakia we have seen a dramatic increase in 3-star or better ratings on a 327km stretch of the country’s motorways which will prevent over 350 deaths and serious injuries in the next 20 years. In Eastern Europe only 40% of the TENT (Trans-European Transport Network) roads are 3-star roads or better. If we raised this to 60% by 2020 we could prevent more than one hundred thousand deaths and serious injuries over its economic life.’