A range of safety technologies will become mandatory on all vehicles sold in Europe from 2022. The Department for Transport has confirmed the rules would apply in the UK too, regardless of Brexit.
In 2017, British roads witnessed the highest number of road deaths since 2011. Road Safety campaigners have welcomed the initiative, believing it could help Britain get back on track in its efforts to reduce severe injuries and deaths on its roads.
The new requirements, described as the biggest advance in vehicle safety in 50 years, contain 15 measures including Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), drowsiness detection to warn drivers to take a break and the installing of breathalysers to prevent people driving when they’re over the drink-drive limit.
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Speed: assisting not limiting
The new system garnering the most attention is Intelligent Speed Assistance. It uses GPS, maps data and video cameras to alert drivers to changes in the speed limit and reduce their speed accordingly. The system isn’t a speed limiter, like the ones fitted to some lorries and other commercial vehicles. Drivers are able to override the system by pressing more firmly on the accelerator.
When entering areas with a lower speed limit, the system will not automatically make the vehicle brake, it will instead alert the driver to the new limit and leave it to them to adjust their speed. If the driver ignores this, the vehicle will slow down naturally by using less power.
Dr Suzy Charman, the Road Safety Foundation’s executive director, said, “We welcome these technologies with open arms, recognising that to make them work as well as they can we still need investment in our roads to ensure lining (for Lane Keep Assist to work well) and signing (for Intelligent Speed Assistance) are both as clear and consistent as possible so that cars can read the road to help us to drive safely."
In particular, she highlighted the number of lives that could be saved. "The package of measures announced today will offer huge casualty savings over the next few decades; Intelligent Speed Assistance alone could prevent around 20% of road deaths, that’s around 360 lives per year in Great Britain. In effect, we’re talking about almost saving a life a day.”