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Direct vision lorries and buses and advanced emergency braking are among features to be made mandatory

A series of measures aimed at reducing casualties among vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians, including direct vision lorries and advanced emergency braking will be made mandatory on new vehicles sold in the UK from 2022 under proposed EU rules.

The new features, provisionally agreed by the European Commission yesterday, will apply in the UK irrespective of the outcome of Brexit, the Department for Transport (DfT) has confirmed, reports BBC News.

While it is the requirement to fit new cars and vans with speed limiters, also known as intelligent speed assistance (ISA) that has attracted the headlines in the mainstream media – most of its audience will be motorists, after all – several of the proposals make specific reference to protecting vulnerable road users.

Technology including intelligent speed assistance, advanced emergency braking and lane-keeping technology will be mandatory for new vehicles, with some of the features already being deployed on certain models from manufacturers including Ford and Mercedes-Benz.

The European Commission says that the safety features include:

For cars, vans, trucks and buses: warning of driver drowsiness and distraction (e.g. smartphone use while driving), intelligent speed assistance (ISA), reversing safety with camera or sensors, and data recorder in case of an accident (‘black box').

For cars and vans: lane-keeping assistance, advanced emergency braking, and crash-test improved safety belts.

For trucks and buses: specific requirements to improve the direct vision of bus and truck drivers and to remove blind spots, and systems at the front and side of the vehicle to detect and warn of vulnerable road users, especially when making turns.

Cars and vans would also be required to have an enlarged head impact zone to protect cyclists and pedestrians as well as safety glass in the event of a collision, while advanced emergency braking would allow vehicles to automatically brake to help prevent collisions with vulnerable road users. The full list can be found here.

Cycling UK said it was “delighted” at proposals to make direct vision standard for lorries, but also called for more resources for traffic police and enforcement against drivers who break the law.

The charity’s head of campaigns, Duncan Dollimore, said: “Cycling UK in our response to the EU’s consultation on changes to safety regulations identified direct vision lorries, pedestrian and cyclist forward detection, intelligence speed assistance, and crash event data recorders were all in our top five priorities for increased road safety, particularly for cyclists.

“Given the disproportionate danger lorries present to cyclists, Cycling UK’s first priority was the introduction of a direct vision standard for lorries to eliminate dangerous blindspots.

“We’re delighted to see the European Commission are proposing to introduce this requirement, which we hope the EU Parliament will approve, and the UK Government will adopt regardless of the outcome of Brexit.

“It’s also reassuring the UK Government have confirmed that any decisions made in Brussels about speed limiting technology will also apply in the UK.

“However, while technology has its place in road safety, we know people adjust their behaviour when there’s risk of detection, so it’s vital that we also see more roads policing and enforcement.”

The proposals are now due to go before the European Parliament, although they will not be debated until after May’s European elections.

According to the EU, which wants to cut road deaths to zero by 2050, the technology could prevent 140,000 serious injuries by 2038.

EU Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska said: “"Every year, 25,000 people lose their lives on our roads. The vast majority of these accidents are caused by human error.

“We can and must act to change this. With the new advanced safety features that will become mandatory, we can have the same kind of impact as when the safety belts were first introduced.

“Many of the new features already exist, in particular in high-end vehicles. Now we raise the safety level across the board, and pave the way for connected and automated mobility of the future."

The DfT said: "We continuously work with partners across the globe to improve the safety standards of all vehicles.

“These interventions are expected to deliver a step-change in road safety across Europe, including the UK."

Road safety charity Brake, which says that speeding plays a role in a quarter of road traffic fatalities on Britain’s roads, has welcomed the proposed regulations.

"This is a landmark day for road safety,” said its campaigns director, Joshua Harris. "These measures will provide the biggest leap forward for road safety this century."

IAM RoadSmart also welcomed the proposals, saying that it would result in lives being saved.

Neil Greig, the road safety charity’s director of policy and research, said: “Speed limiters have a role to play but on their own cannot eliminate all crashes.

“Advanced drivers don’t need to be reminded electronically what the speed limit is, but for others it could be a real life-saver, and help people not lose their driving licences at the same time.

“ISA as proposed for all new cars after 2022 will be overrideable so it is not the ‘big brother’ solution that some sources suggest,” he added.

“IAM RoadSmart believe the EU package of measures is important for road safety. Drivers and fleets can lead the way by specifying options such as autonomous braking tomorrow.”

In Great Britain (DfT figures exclude Northern Ireland), the number of people killed in road traffic incidents dropped by more than two-thirds in the three decades from 1980 to 2010.

But since then, with the Coalition Government abolishing road safety reduction targets, there has been no further improvement and there were 1,793 deaths on Britain’s roads in 2017.

Last week, the House of Commons Transport Select Committee issued a call for evidence as it launched an inquiry into road safety.

The committee’s chair, the Labour MP Lilian Greenwood, said: “We want to know what should be done to bring down the number of accidents. We are keen to hear from everyone who feels our roads could be safer and has ideas on how to make it happen. 

“Tell us how to make our roads safer,” she added. “This could be anything from the use of technology to make cars and roads safer, to road safety around schools. Your input will help us to decide which issues we will investigate in more detail.”

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.