A single day road safety event was held in Innsbruck on March 2, 2009, just one day after the regular session of the Steering Committee of the European Association of Toll Motorways Concessionaires (ASECAP). During this event, a strong emphasis was placed on the role of education and prevention in increasing current levels of road safety.

The event was jointly organized by ASECAP, Italian motorway association AISCAT, Austrian motorway company ASFINAG, and company for motorway management in Germany, TOLL COLLECT. Immediately prior to the start of the event, a holy mass and prayer was held in the St. Karl's Church in Volders, 15 km away from the South Tyrolean town of Innsbruck. The priest prayed for the safety of all passengers and drivers. This Baroque church built in 1710 was selected by the organizers as it is situated immediately next to the motorway A12 which serves several thousands of vehicles every day, and about one million of heavy vehicles each year. A private high school is situated in the monastery of this church.

The event was opened by welcoming addresses given by Bernhard Tilg, Member of the Tyrolean Government, Department for Health Care, Sciences and Traffic, and then by Klaus Schierhackl, ASFINAG Chief Finance Officer, Fabrizio Palenzona, AISCAT and ASECAP President, and Alain Estiot, TOLL COLLECT Managing Director.

Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, reminded participants that 44 percent of the entire cargo transport in the EU is operated via motorways, and that in 2012 the number of trucks will increase by 50 percent when compared to 1988. 40,000 persons are killed every year on European roads and, out of that number 4% of accidents were caused by trucks, and 14 percent of accidents involve fatalities. This is why the accountability and respect of others, and the respect of human life, is a primary prevention, which comes before every other action. The notion of education, especially the education of children and establishment of ethical driving principles, must be nurtured from the earliest age through family, associations of citizens, school and state.

EU aims to halve number of fatalities

In the second part of the event, speeches were presented by Reinhard Rack from the European Parliament TRAN Committee, and Annie Canel from the European Commission DG Transport & Energy. In 1990, 71,000 persons were killed in road accidents in EU, while in 2007 there were 40,000 fatalities in 25 EU countries.

Annie Canel reminded participants that EU wishes to halve the number of fatalities by the year 2010 and this in the scope of its Road Safety Action Plan. All member countries have committed themselves to make every effort to reduce the number of fatalities. Thus, appropriate actions have been planned at all levels: EU, national governments, individual regions, local communities, car industries, transport companies, and all individuals.

An integrated approach has been adopted, with the focus on changing the current behavioural patterns: education, information sharing campaigns, controlling respect of traffic safety laws, penalty points and driver's license withdrawal, safety of vehicles and infrastructure facilities and, finally, monitoring and control of traffic accident data.

Statistical data gathered by the European Road Safety Observatory point to the following critical spots: motorcyclists, for which the number of traffic accidents in rising, younger male drivers, which are the most frequent participants in traffic accidents, and rural roads, where almost 60 percent of all traffic accidents happen. "Only" 6 percent of all accidents occur on motorways. The alcohol is responsible for one out of every four accidents, and the use of drugs or medicine is the culprit in 15 percent of all accidents.

The new Action Plan for the next period from 2011 to 2020 will be issued by EU in 2009.

Germany - it is necessary to raise the level of road culture

Alain Estiot from TOLL COLLECT presented the German policies which are in fact compliant with those applied in EU, especially with the Road Safety Action Plan (2003 - 2010). The objective is to raise the level of road culture in Germany, to protect vulnerable participants (children, pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists), to reduce the number of accidents caused by young drivers, and to increase the road safety level on rural roadways. The actions are related to prevention and education, but also to imposition of sanctions. Statistical data show that the legislative measures systematically introduced since 1998 (such as the recommended maximum speed on motorways: 130 km/h, obligatory helmet for motorcyclists, obligatory safety belt, reduction in allowable concentration of alcohol from 0.8 to 0.5 per mill), have proven to be successful as the number of accidents has been reduced since 1998, and is still decreasing.

Challenges that still lie ahead of us are traffic congestions, which results in a higher number of traffic accidents, distraction of drivers by the excessive quantity of data and new technologies, young drivers, truck and bus drivers, and elderly drivers which stand next to young drivers according to the number of accidents.

Austria - integrated actions are needed

Klaus Schierhackl from Austria's ASFINAG informed participants that in 2001 there were 958 fatalities in traffic accidents on Austrian roads out of which 179 fatalities were registered on motorways. However in 2007 the total number of fatalities registered on all Austrian roads is 691, with 83 on the motorways, and the positive trend is continuing. The main causes of traffic accidents are: speed (27%), overtaking (17%), fatigue (16%), inadequate spacing between vehicles (10%), alcohol (5%) and other (25%).

ASFINAG primarily expects from EU the introduction of joint Law on Road Traffic Safety and joint activities for its control and enforcement, as well as the financially viable framework for its implementation.

As to the national bodies, ASFINAG expects coordinated cooperation among participants that are responsible for implementation of measures that have been set. On the other side, ASFINAG is committed to take the following actions aimed at increasing the road traffic safety: reliable network management, timely provision of emergency information, driving speed control via mobile units, and purchase of digital radars that will be installed along the network.

In its efforts to increase traffic safety, ASFINAG built in 2008 the second tubes for the following tunnels: Lainberg (A9) for the price of € 48.5 million, Katschberg (A10) for the price of € 112 million, and Ganzstein (S6) for the price of € 70 million. The second tunnel tube construction campaign has been undertaken in the scope of program for harmonization with the EU directive on road tunnel safety (to be implemented by 2019). Similar measures have been taken on other motorways where pavements are undergoing rehabilitation, proper median zones are established, safety barriers are replaced, and road sigs and markings are improved.

Italian experiences

The experience from Italy was presented by Paolo Cestra, Deputy Director of the Operational Division of the Italian Road Police. In Italy, the motorway traffic is exclusively controlled and supervised by the National Traffic Police, which accounts for 10% of the total police forces. It deals with prevention and control of various infractions relating to road traffic safety (alcohol, speed, license plates, overtaking, truck and bus control, joint patrolling with French and Austrian police in the tunnels of Mont Blanc and Frejus, and on motorways A10 and A22), responds to traffic accidents, investigates criminal acts committed in road traffic (theft, robbery, false license plates, false vehicle documents, false traffic accidents, false insurance coverage, false MOT tests, illegal driver's licenses, etc.), keeps national data base on traffic and traffic accidents, and organizes information sharing campaigns about various road traffic safety issues.

The National Traffic Police is the only entity that is competent to act on motorways based on agreements made with 23 companies and bodies in charge of the motorways. The Traffic Police has allocated 6,250 units, i.e. 55 percent of its human resources, for this purpose. The activities are operated around the clock, seven days a week. Each shift lasts 6 hours and covers 40-60 km of the motorway. Traffic police initiated in 2005, together with the Italian concessionary ASPI, the TUTOR project in the scope of which both medium and immediate driving speeds are regularly controlled. The project is implemented on 2,000 km of motorways and, one year after it was initiated, the number of fatalities fell by 51 percent, the number of accidents with injuries by 27%, and the total number of accident was reduced by 19%.

After the Italian presentation, the work continued with the presentation of cross-border cooperation among traffic police departments of Austria, Italy and Germany. As many as 130 police officers are employed exclusively for motorway control and inspection tasks on 260 km of motorways in South Tyrol, and they are assisted by an addition 60 traffic policemen. The cooperation is operated through joint patrols, and joint inspection of trucks. Several check points enable perfect inspection of heavy trucks. Cooperation is also operated in case of serious traffic accidents, traffic information is regularly exchanged, and periodic meetings for information sharing are organized.

In conclusion, Klaus Schierhackl from the Austrian ASFINAG placed once again emphasis on the key tasks to be realized in the ensuing period: setting realistic and practicable objectives, joint interdisciplinary work of all competent services and institutions, and education and information sharing aimed at changing negative behaviour of the users.

Presentations are available hereunder

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