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European Parliament legislates to protect pedestrians

July 3, 2003 11:29 AM

European Liberals Democrats and Reformists logoNew cars will have to pass safety tests designed to protect pedestrians from death or serious injury, as MEPs are expected to agree a new EU Directive on pedestrian safety today.

The tests will involve simulating the collision of the human body with different parts of the front of a car at speeds of up to 40 kmph, and are due to be phased in over a period of ten years. By 2015, every single car on European roads will have to comply with the safety requirements imposed by the tests. The European Commission proposed this new directive earlier this year, under pressure from the European Parliament.

Ahead of today's vote, Parliament's rapporteur Herman Vermeer (VVD/NL) commented:

"We must use all instruments at our disposal to improve pedestrian safety in Europe. This will require active cooperation between all levels of government, the EU institutions, safety organisations and the car industry itself, in order to address all aspects of road safety. Big improvements can be made in drivers' behaviour, and in the way cars are designed. New technologies are emerging, which can improve drivers' awareness and reaction times."

"But even with all of these measures in place, accidents will still happen. So we must give an impetus to the car industry to continue to improve the way that car exteriors are designed, in order to reduce pedestrian injuries in a car accident."

Safety groups have expressed fears that, under pressure from the car industry, the Commission may seek to water down the proposal by introducing measures such as active breaking and external sensors as an alternative to better car front design. But many have also expressed reservations regarding the accuracy of the tests proposed.

In an effort to address these concerns, Mr Vermeer has proposed a procedure which will allow the tests to be speedily updated in the light of technical progress. At the same time, Mr Vermeer has introduced a requirement that the introduction of accident prevention measures can only be permitted as a partial alternative to car front testing, and must be agreed by the European Parliament and European Transport Ministers.