UK Government Must Steer Road Safety In The Right Direction

04 June 2010

SNP Member of the European Parliament Alyn Smith is calling on newly appointed UK Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, to end years of UK foot dragging and implement an EU system that could save thousands of lives each year across the continent by enabling cars to report their own crashes.

Most other EU countries are implementing the system but the UK has, so far, refused to make it mandatory for new cars.

The eCall system is an extension of the e112 scheme, which automatically provides geographical information when an emergency call is made using 999 in the UK, or 112 anywhere in Europe. The device automatically calls the nearest emergency centre and transmits the exact location of the accident. Calls can also be made manually, at the push of a button, if someone is still conscious in the crashed car. The system can potentially halve emergency response times; reduce the severity of injuries and save the lives of around 2,500 people every year. The MEP has the backing of a number of Road Safety experts.

 A spokesperson for the Scottish Government Road Safety team said:

"The eCall system would appear to be a worthwhile initiative which would minimise the effects of road accidents. There are benefits for accident victims, who would receive more rapid and effective assistance, for the emergency services, who would have information to enable them to respond more quickly and effectively, and for route managers, to enable them to minimise the impact on traffic flows.”

Elizabeth Lumsden, Community Safety Manager, RoSPA Scotland said:

"There has been a steady downward trend in the number of road casualties in Scotland and this has been aided by innovations in vehicle technology, as well as improved medical care for victims.  A system that promotes greater response to enable casualties to be treated quicker and more effectively would be welcomed by RoSPA. The system would, however, require 'buy in' from all the agencies involved and to ensure consistent coverage across even the most remote areas in Scotland."

The eSafety initiative was launched by the European Commission in 2002. It brings together the EU and Member State public authorities as well as the private sector with the aim of promoting action designed to improve road safety in Europe. 20 Member States have now signed up to deploy eCall.

Alyn Smith said:

“New cars were supposed to support eCall from this year under an EC plan, but the UK has refused to make it mandatory for vehicles sold in Britain. Despite there being an estimated 40,000 serious road accidents in the UK each year, Westminster continues to drag its feet in implementing this life-saving system. I have written to the newly appointed Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, urging him to get to business fast and implement this communications technology which has proven to improve and save the lives of citizens.”

 Andrew Howard, Head of Road Safety at the AA said:

“The AA supports eCall and is involved in a number of private initiatives to bring it to UK cars in the near future.”