Family's disappointment as EU shelves HGV safety proposals

European Commission shelves proposal to add cameras and sensors to lorries as not "cost effective"

by Sarah Barth   June 15, 2012  

HGV skip lorry cordoned off at the scene of a cyclist s death.jpg

The family of a cyclist killed by an HGV in London have seen their proposals to install sensors and blind spot cameras on lorries shelved by the European Commission because it is not considered ‘cost effective’.

Eilidh Cairns was knocked down in Notting Hill in 2009 after an HGV driver failed to see her. She died soon after from her injuries.

Her devastated friends and family set up the campaign group See Me Save Me and along with RoadPeace, the national charity for road crash victims, they campaign for safety measures to protect cyclists around HGVs.

The Commission report called for more research into the cost and benefit of the additional safety measures, saying that  “The Commission believes that further research is needed to assess their potential and cost-effectiveness. They are still at an early stage of development, and we must beware of overloading HGV drivers with extra devices that may distract them.

“Revision of the current EU legislation will only be appropriate once further evidence becomes available that justifies fitting additional devices to vehicles on a mandatory basis.”

The Commission also said that other ways of preventing blind-spot accidents by improving road infrastructure and giving better training to HGV drivers should be considered.

We spoke to Eilidh’s sister Kate, who said: “Sensors cost less than the price of a new tyre. The report on which the commission has based its response points out that drivers cannot look in all the mirrors all the time, even when they are being attentive.

“Time after time after time, drivers say of dead cyclists and pedestrians "I didn't see them", and this is deemed an acceptable excuse and an acceptable status quo by the police, the coroners and the crown prosecution service.

“This needless slaughter of our young, fit and defenceless by the blind and clumsy wielding of killing machines on our roads has to stop.”

Cynthia Barlow, chairwoman of RoadPeace, expressed her disappointment at the outcome.

She said: “I recently spoke at a conference/launch of a new system developed by ASL Vision, in which cameras all round the lorry produce images which are combined into one picture in the cab,so drivers can’t complain about ‘too much information’.

“At a recent meeting with Conway [a major UK haulage company] I did ask the Transport Manager if he had considered the issue of larger areas of glass in the passenger side door.

“He said they had, but had decided that, as their lorries spent most of their time on busy urban streets which often had Advanced Stop Lines at junctions, they felt that the most vulnerable place for the cyclist was actually just in front of the left corner of the lorry and that was why they had gone with a system of sensors which were fitted along the left side and also along the left front of the vehicle.”

However, Kate Cairns told us: "Eilidh was in front and to the right of the lorry, not in the traditional 'blind spot', showing that there is danger all around the cabs, not just on the left."

Lack of enforement of advanced stop lines is also a problem. "At the inquest of Daniel Cox this week the driver admitted being over the ASL and neither the police nor the coroner seemed to think there was anything wrong in this," said Kate Cairns.

"The Institution of Mechanical Engineers in April also called for mandatory installation of cameras and sensors in its report Intelligent Transport Intelligent Society," she added.

RoadPeace have already published a paper analysing the cost of a cyclist being killed by a lorry, both in emotional and financial terms.

It says that the monetary value of a death can be an average of of £37,000 to a victim’s family, in terms of funeral costs, legal advice, copies of documents, travel to the trial etc.

By contrast, the cost of fitting the sensors and cameras is around £400.

The cost to the taxpayer is much more. The report states that:

“The Department for Transport calculates each year the cost of fatal road collisions, looking at such issues as lost economic output, medical and healthcare costs, material damage, police and fire service costs, insurance administration, legal and court costs etc. Currently, the cost of each road death is £1.87 million.”

And the price is high too for the haulage company involved; both in material costs but also in reputational damage, leading to decreased contracts, and higher insurance premiums.

It also points out how dangerous HGVs are to other road users: HGVs over 7.5 tonnes account for around 2% of journeys in London, but 12% of the fatalities.

It remains to be seen whether the European Commission will agree with the cost analysis created by RoadPeace, however.

Click here to see an ITV video with Sarah Ludford, who is a MEP for London, who accuses the Commission of dragging its feet.

To read the Commission report, click here.

 

10 user comments

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Seems odd that we allow vehicles with driver blind spots on the roads in the first place. Perhaps the EU could be persuaded to revisit these rules too?

Cities could bring in rules (like london has on emissions) about the kind of vehicles allowed on their roads? Perhaps drivers of the wrong sort of vehicles rather than be banned cd pay more to use the streets.

robbiec

robbieC's picture

posted by robbieC [62 posts]
15th June 2012 - 15:42

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The 37,000 (or 1,870,000) to 400 comparison makes it seem obvious that the sensors are the correct choice, but you need to multiply that by a) the number of cyclists killed and b) the number of lorries. I have no idea whether the numbers add up - on a purely economic basis - but this kind of poor reporting does us no favours.

Regardless of the financial cost, the moral argument is that sensors should be fitted.

posted by mogrim [38 posts]
15th June 2012 - 19:01

4 Likes

do we not then run the risk of sensor reliance taking away something a driver should be looking for though?.

an example i will give is i have rear parking sensors on my car. they are brilliant. so brilliant infact i no longer feel the need to look behind me when reverse parking. if those sensors had a 'moment' i could end up crashing because the sensors have taken away the need for me to acknowledge whats behind me.

if i drive a different car my awareness drastically changes.

posted by russyparkin [579 posts]
15th June 2012 - 20:10

2 Likes

The EU have a habit of bringing in daft rules that make no sense and cost a fortune... Now they say a cyclists life isn't worth the price of a few sensors

posted by kylemalco [31 posts]
15th June 2012 - 20:12

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mogrim wrote:
The 37,000 (or 1,870,000) to 400 comparison makes it seem obvious that the sensors are the correct choice, but you need to multiply that by a) the number of cyclists killed and b) the number of lorries. I have no idea whether the numbers add up - on a purely economic basis - but this kind of poor reporting does us no favours.

Regardless of the financial cost, the moral argument is that sensors should be fitted.

Indeed. There are around 500,000 lorries on the UK's roads. So at £400 per lorry, that's a cost of £200m to equip all lorries in the UK. There are around 100 cyclist deaths per year. That gives a rough cost of £20m per life saved.

(To do the calculation properly you'd have to factor in some other things too, like that a lorry, once-equipped will be on the road for several years but you probably need to maintain the sensors so that will offset that to some degree. And of course not all deaths are caused by lorries but there'll potentially be serious injuries too which have a value for avoiding. And that sensors may not be 100% effective as drivers may ignore them. And once you've accounted for all of those things you'll end up with an idea of what you're paying per life.)

But that gives you a rough order of multi-millions per life saved. Some might argue that a life is worth more than that but that's the wrong question. The question we should be asking is what's the cheapest way of saving a life?

Even just in the world of road safety, lower speed limits or better enforcement of red lights might be cheaper but we should all - whether cyclist, driver or pedestrian - be trying to do the least cost things first and only when we've exhausted those moving up the curve.

A quick search found this paper with some data on this from Norway (http://ec.europa.eu/transport/road_safety/specialist/knowledge/measures/...) for instance shows lower speed limits and increased use of seatbelts are the best things. While airbags are relatively low. It's not quite the same problem but gives a suggestion as what you should be doing to think about this properly.

posted by thebongolian [37 posts]
15th June 2012 - 22:57

3 Likes

robbieC wrote:
Seems odd that we allow vehicles with driver blind spots on the roads in the first place. Perhaps the EU could be persuaded to revisit these rules too?

Cities could bring in rules (like london has on emissions) about the kind of vehicles allowed on their roads? Perhaps drivers of the wrong sort of vehicles rather than be banned cd pay more to use the streets.

Pretty much all enclosed vehicles have blindspots, it's unavoidable. And I'm not sure I like the idea of being able to pay to have a dangerous vehicle. I have visions of Chelsea tractors with Ben Hur style blades on the wheel to take out cyclists!

posted by thebongolian [37 posts]
15th June 2012 - 23:02

3 Likes

I have real problems with people relying on sensors to "help" their driving. Cyclists need to wake up to the dangers of close proximity to large vehicles at junctions/lights. And the operators of these vehicles need more training and more accountability for how they operate those vehicles. How many people take notice of alarms of any kind. To me the sensor would only be of use if it immobilized the vehicle until the cause of the alarm wad out of harms way.

"Sorry mate I didn't see/hear it" would become Sick new maxim.

bikeandy61's picture

posted by bikeandy61 [391 posts]
16th June 2012 - 9:44

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While I understand people's not wanting the authorities to drag their feet when lives may be at risk, I do think that in this instance there has been a rush to demand legislation before the case for sensors/cameras (different things) has been proven. They are new and more studies are required until we know, for example:
- do they assist or merely distract drivers?
- do they lead to over-reliance on them, to the detriment of driver's being aware of their surroundings? (Does the correspondent above now reverse without really looking? I shudder.)
- do they work reliably?
- do they give false positives that might lead to warnings being ignored?
And finally, are they cost effective? You cannot just say, 'Regardless of the financial cost, the moral argument is that sensors should be fitted.' The logic here goes something like:
1. Something should be done about the problem.
2. Sensors (or cameras) are something.
3. Therefore sensors must be fitted.
That argument ignores all the previous questions (i.e. is the measure effective -- and I suggest we need their being fitted in enough vehicles over sufficient period of time to get the data to make an assessment. Decisions made while something is a novelty often turn out to be flawed once the technology becomes familiar and taken for granted, e.g. we might see driver's allowing their awareness to lapse once they get used to relying on the technology, even if that does not tend to happen at first.)

I know it seems callous to try to put a monetary value on a human life, but 'cost effectiveness' is relative. Why fit expensive technology when adding an extra mirror or window would do the job as well?

What we CAN do straight away is conduct safety campaigns to raise drivers' and cyclists' awareness of the risk, and start to tackle the worst examples of blind spots in HGVs without imposing a huge financial burden on companies without sufficient evidence of justification.

Worst case scenario -- these things actually make the death rate worse! Do we KNOW they won't?

posted by arowland [84 posts]
18th June 2012 - 16:59

2 Likes

Using statistics to decide the acceptable amount of dead cyclists so money does not need to be spent is quite common amongst politicians. If it was there realitive who was at risk they would act differently. I live in the US and am able to avoid these kinds of incidents. Education of the cyclists would help reduce these deaths also. Training the drivers and cyclists how to be more observent and how to avoid dangerous situations would also go a long way. I have observed one hit and run and sever close calls cause by people just not understand what will happen. Pulling up the side of a large vehicle in there blind spot or having the large vehicle pass you and forget you are there after you are in your blind spot is a major cause of incidents. even with cars.

posted by reb1 [4 posts]
18th June 2012 - 20:04

3 Likes

It is not just politicians who put a price on a life. You do.

Let me ask you a hypothetical question: If it were shown that we could save 6 lives a year by fitting sensors to trucks but it would double the cost of everything you buy in the shops, thus making many things you now enjoy (e.g. food) unaffordable for you and certainly for the poorest in society, increasing inflation, causing companies to go to the wall and thousands to be made unemployed, would you argue that doing so is a moral imperative or not?

And if you decide not, would you like to face the families of those 6 people and tell them it just wasn't worth saving their lives? Well, politicians have to make that kind of decision -- and ask the public to vote for them too!

You might argue in my hypothetical case that the economic cost might actually cause more deaths, e.g. by malnutrition or increased suicide among the unemployed. Again, even more modest (and realistic) costs do have an effect. Increasing costs might really make truck companies lay off workers -- we have to decide, are the measures we are asking for really cost-effective? 'Cost' is not just a monetary term: it applies to costs in people's well being, health and all sorts and at some level we all make decisions about whether something is worth it or not. Do I take the car, which is cheaper, or the train, which is safer (valuing my own life here)? I could go on.

All I am saying is, it might appear to be a moral imperative to save people's lives, but cost is not somehow a dirty thing to think about, and we must be sure of the effectiveness of the measures.

posted by arowland [84 posts]
19th June 2012 - 18:27

4 Likes