The fifth annual ASECAP road safety event, dedicated to « Taking on the challenge of Vision Zero : the European motorways’ contribution to integrated action for road safety », took place in Copenhagen on 6 March 2012.

The European motorway's contribution to integrated action for road safety

Together with ASECAP President Mr. Klaus Schierhackl, representatives of the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Danish EU Presidency set the scene for a dynamic political discussion about how to bring Vision Zero into reality. In his welcome speech L. Larsen, CEO Sund&Baelt Holding A/S, stressed out how important it is to share responsibility for road safety and educate young people. He also pointed out that, although infrastructure is vital for the society and most important precondition for growth, we, as infrastructure owners, must provide high safety for infrastructure and be responsible for safety because as much as it costs to provide it, it costs even more to neglect it. M. Rotondo, ASECAP COPER II Chairman and K. Dionelis, Secretary General of ASECAP, both reflected on three pillars of road safety – vehicles, infrastructure and users, and also agreed that decrease in accidents and fatalities is not enough and it is important to apply measures in trying to achieve vision zero.

S. Schmidt, Head of Unit Road Safety, EC, DG Move took us back in remembering where we come from, meaning that road safety was not a common role, but was introduced by the member states. By the late 1980s road safety was interpreted differently and was not introduced as a community policy until the Maastricht Treaty in 1993. In June 2001, the first White paper – ‘European transport policy for 2010: time to decide’ was adopted by the European Council in Gothenburg and it was the first time a concrete target was formulated to half a number of deaths on roads. In 2011, a new White paper was adopted by the European Commission that goes even beyond and gives a vision until 2050 and clearly states that transport needs to serve the society and that sustainable transport system and road safety are crucial elements for which, in order to implement it, EC issued a number of policy orientations. He also stressed out that, although it is important to initiate legislation, it is equally important to enforce it. Among certain possibilities EC has in order to promote best practices, he also mentioned EU funds which need to be used for education and campaigns but has also stressed out the importance of improving the data base for road accidents, fatalities etc. Two important pieces of legislation were also mentioned (EU Tunnel Directive 2004/54/EC and EU Directive 2008/96 on road infrastructure safety management) which cover the entire TEN network whith focus on correct transposition to all member stated and exchange of experiences.

A.E. Jensen, Member of the European Parliament stated that in the area of road safety a lot can be done through campaigns, legislation, definition of standards and that common cooperation could be extremely helpful which was not even recognized until recently. Education is extremely important, where most attention should be placed on education of lorry drivers. ITS systems are also an important tool that increases efficiency and safety for which common specifications are defined as part of the ITS Directive published in August 2010.

T. Jorgensen, Head of Division, Danish Ministry of Transport gave a brief overview of traffic safety in Denmark. In order to improve the traffic safety, Danish government will improve roads with many accidents and increase the use of automatic speed controls.

Denmark over the last ten years (2000-2010):

  • number of accidents reduced by 1/3
  • number of severe injuries reduced by 50%
  • number of minor injuries reduced by 60%
  • lowest number of fatalities since the 1930s.

This all was mostly result of development of safer vehicles but also of continuous effort to improve roads, black spots, campaign work (focus on alcohol related accidents, usage of seat belts, speed control), change of legislation (3 strikes and you are out (introduced in 2005 for speeding, running red lights, unsafe protection of children etc.)).Statistics show that 67% of accidents occur in rural areas, high speed is a contributing factor to 44% of the accidents, 170 out of 225 fatalities in 2010 are man induced age 15-24, 50% of accidents involve one vehicle, 95% of accidents the conduct of the driver somehow contributed to the accident. In 2009 Danish traffic fund was established whose means were used for improvement of infrastructure, campaigns and developments of new methods. Some of the project examples financed from the fund include prevention of right turn accidents, wrong way driver projects, research projects (high speed and highway), more information statistics (killed and injured), appointment of “traffic safety city of the year”, improvement of roads with most accidents, campaigns etc.

Last but not least welcome speech was given by K. Schierhackl, ASECAP President where he referred to the conference as a panel of harmony and highlighted that, having in mind the immense importance of road safety, cost-benefit analysis must be taken into account. As an example of efficient improvement in practice he mentioned the establishment of emergency corridor in ASFINAG where blue light vehicles (police, fire brigade etc.) use the lane in the middle of the highway which has shortened their reaction time for 4 minutes. He also reflected on the important figure of contribution of the drivers for accidents which equals 95%. Nevertheless, investments will be continued as in technology as well as in education and information exchange.

Second part of the conference was dedicated to technical sessions under the common name Working towards Vision Zero. A. Canel from ASFA gave an important overview of implementation of EU legislation on road infrastructure safety which has shown that 30 000 km is for now covered by the Directive from 7 countries. Specifically in France, 13 000 km is covered by the Directive (8 500 km of highway and 5 000 km of national network (out of 12 000 km)) but the efforts go in trying to extend it to the whole national network and also regional and local roads. What turned out to be the main challenge in France was integration of the provision of the Directive between the existing procedures. When auditors are concerned, they are to be appointed at design, preopening and early operation stages and currently their number amounts to 100. There are three stages of auditor training, theoretical training (2-3 days), practical audit (2-4 months) and feedback and results (1-2 days). Certification is awarded by the Ministry of Transport for 5 years. There are 7 criteria according to which road safety is measured: visibility, obstacles, readability, shoulders, vehicle by dynamics, signage consistency and traffic management and the number of inspectors currently amounts to 80. One of the main issues momentarily is how to harmonise different accident databases and get to only one database for ranking methodology.

B. Lautner from ASFINAG gave a presentation on the topic Dealing with vulnerable users: motorcyclists and workers. Vulnerable users include children and elderly or handicapped people, road workers, policemen, operators’ staff and motorcyclists whose main characteristics include less protection and less task capability. In Austria less than 3% of motorcycle accidents happen on motorways, 5% are fatal and 65% cause only light injuries. Risk drivers are young drivers and those age 40 to 50 years. He pointed out the fact that in Europe there is no statistic which would differ worker fatalities from motorist fatalities and the strong need for a safe system approach. Excessive risk taking and negligence of the driver cannot be compensated by infrastructure measures, however obligatory road safety audits and inspections are highly important as well as obligatory safety management for two wheelers.

Another very interesting presentation was the one of R.Arditi from AISCAT-SINA who presented best practices for education and road safety where Italians have really done a great job. The goal of halving down the number of accidents laid down in the first White paper of 2001 was reached two years before the deadline while 67% reduction in fatalities was reached by 2010. Through numerous communications campaigns in Italy 43 behaviours were identified and for each of them a cartoon and a message on road safety behaviour was drafted for. Areas of interest according to which the structure of the message is defined include tunnels, motorway driving, construction yards, young people etc. while categories of messages can be divided into safe behaviour, risky behaviour and wrong commonplaces. We highly recommend to everyone interested in these highly imaginative and important campaigns to visit www.autostradafacendo.it.

Last part of the event was dedicated to Denmark and examples of best road safety practices where H.T. Thomsn, H. Ludvigsen from Danish Road Directorate presented developments in traffic road safety in Denmark, wrong-way drivers and protection of workers on motorways, and among others, J. Solund from Danish Road Safety Council also gave us an interesting insight into road safety campaigns aimed at the road users.

For more information and presentation overview please visit www.asecap.com

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