UK Government 'Real-Life Crash-Test Dummies'

08 September 2011
Alyn Smith MEP has condemned the UK Government as 'real-life crash-test dummies' over refusals to use an in-car crash alert system that could save thousands of lives every year.
In the event of a serious road accident, the in-car device automatically calls the nearest emergency centre and transmits the exact location of the accident. Most other EU countries are implementing the system but the UK has, so far, refused to make it mandatory for new cars.

Alyn said:

"For road crash victims every minute is crucial, this system will save lives and the fact that the UK government won't mandate it for new cars is shocking. The European Commission announced today that it will be mandatory across Europe by 2015 - that's good news but it is four years away and thousands of lives will be lost in the meantime.

"It costs less than £90 to install eCall in each new car and start saving lives. The real-life crash-test dummies are the UK Government but it's real lives that are being lost on our roads every week.

"I am glad that the European Commission is acting to roll this out across the EU regardless, and I fully welcome today's Recommendation which will force action where none has been forthcoming. Voluntary deployment has just not happened: since the first mention of eCall in 2009, only 0.7% of EU passenger vehicles are equipped with it, and there is little or no continuity or interoperability either.

"Introducing this in 2015 is not soon enough for Scotland - the UK government should roll this system out now. With so many remote areas in Scotland, technology that speeds up the arrival of emergency services by an estimated 50% in rural areas is not just an optional extra, it is a vital tool for saving lives."

eCall is activated automatically as soon as in-vehicle sensors detect a serious crash. Once set off, the system dials the European emergency number 112, establishes a telephone link to the appropriate emergency call centre and sends details of the accident to the rescue services, including the time of incident, the accurate position of the crashed vehicle and the direction of travel (most important on motorways and in tunnels). An eCall can also be triggered manually by pushing a button in the car, for example by a witness to a serious accident.

To rule out privacy concerns, the eCall system does not allow the tracking of vehicles because it 'sleeps' and does not send any signals until it is activated by a crash.

The European Commission Recommendation that has been issued today urges every EU Member State to ensure that mobile operators treat calls from eCall devices like other 999 or 112 calls – i.e. give priority to them and do not charge for them. The Recommendation also indicates that Member States should ensure that mobile operators put in place systems to identify eCalls so that they can be routed to an emergency service call centre equipped to handle them.

The Recommendation is due to be followed by the adoption by the Commission of specifications for the upgrade of emergency call response centres (under the Intelligent Transport Systems Directive – 2010/40/EC) and a proposal for a Regulation to require eCall devices meeting the required technical specifications to be fitted to all new models of passenger cars and light vehicles from 2015 in order to obtain EU-wide type approval.

Commission Recommendation: www.ec.europa.eu/ecall

For more information on eCall: http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/esafety/ecall/index_en.htm