Most of the main political groups fielding candidates in the upcoming European Parliamentary elections support an expanded role for the EU in road safety issues over the next five years, according to a survey by ETSC.
However, there are differences between the groups as to what extent European as opposed to national action is the preferred approach. MEPs were surveyed on priorities for the new mandate published in ETSC’s own election briefing.
All of the groups that replied were supportive of the introduction of structured licensing schemes for young drivers that feature longer periods of training and accompanied driving. This bodes well for the upcoming revision of the Driving Licence Directive announced by the European Commission as part of its new road safety strategy.
Similarly, all of the groups that replied were willing to support EU harmonisation and collection of key road safety indicators such as seatbelt wearing rates and vehicles observed going above the speed limit, in order to better guide road safety policy development. The European Commission has already launched a process to define indicators to track progress in EU Member States as part of plans to cut road deaths in half by 2030.
Four of the main groups were willing to support harmonisation of laws on drug driving in Europe – the EPP and ECR group were not.
Referring to concerns about privacy, both the ECR group and Greens-EFA MEPs were not supportive of using vehicle and driving data to help identify and develop key road safety interventions.
Regarding a total ban on the use of the mobile phone while driving, four out of six groups that replied were willing to support such a move, with the liberal ALDE and conservative EPP groups unwilling to back such a measure. However, both groups supported limiting use of phones to navigation and blocking other applications linked to communication: including phone calls, messaging and internet browsing due to the role of distraction in road deaths.
Ellen Townsend, Policy Director at ETSC commented:
“The EU has played an important role in improving road safety for more than two decades; the European Parliament itself has strengthened legislation in many areas. There can be no doubt that minimum vehicle safety standards, targets and EU rules on infrastructure safety, professional driver licensing and driving hours, have all helped cut deaths dramatically. But there is still a huge amount of work to do, and significant new challenges such as regulating automation.
“Road safety should not be a party-political issue; ETSC has always worked with MEPs from across the political spectrum to inform and promote effective policy at the European level. We will continue to do so. We look forward to working with both experienced and newly-elected MEPs in the European Parliament later this year, and we will continue to make the case for European action where necessary, as well as encouraging Member States to share best practice with other countries.
“While some groups have indicated that they do not currently support some of our priority areas for EU action, our job is to present the scientific evidence and make a compelling case for action. We will continue our work of informing, debating and pushing for life-saving measures on EU roads throughout the mandate of the next European Parliament to contribute to reaching the EU’s new 2030 targets of reducing road deaths and serious injuries.”
The two smallest groups in the current Parliament, the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) and Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) did not reply to the survey.