Vehicle safety

  • Published: European Commission Directorate General for Mobility and Transport, 2012
  • Authors: DaCoTA Project
  • Date Added: 24 Jun 2013
  • Last Update: 24 Jun 2013
  • Format: pdf

Objectives: This web text aims to give a summary overview of the main issues and developments in vehicle safety inEurope.

Methodology: Summary overview of the main issues and developments in vehicle safety inEurope.

Key Findings:

  • There is large future promise of casualty reduction from RTI avoidance and active safety technologies as long as development is prioritised to maximise casualty reduction.

  • The potential value of developing an integrated approach to vehicle safety, linking preventive, RTI protection and post-RTI approaches into cooperative systems for drivers, passengers and vulnerable road users as well as vehicle and road network safety systems is being increasingly understood.

  • Improvements to vehicle safety result from legislation (much of which is now agreed in the European Union and within the UN ECE process) consumer information, product liability considerations as well as specific initiatives of the car manufacturing industry. EU legislation aims for a minimum but high level of protection across the product line; consumer information aims to encourage the highest possible levels of safety performance based on state of the art testing; and car industry policies increasingly promote safety as a marketable commodity.

  • RTI avoidance or primary safety - Devices to avoid a RTI e.g. daytime running lights, electronic stability control, intelligent speed adaptation, alcolocks. EU level developments in safety are focusing much more around new vehicle based primary safety systems that may prevent RTIs occurring. Examples include Electronic Stability Control (ESC) (which are already showing substantial road safety returns), lane keeping systems and pedestrian detection and auto braking systems. There are high expectations that these new systems will provide the largest reductions in casualties into the future though the evidence in many cases remains weak.

  • The term active safety is often used to mean RTI avoidance but care should be taken in its use since it is also used to denote deployable systems such as RTI-protective pop-up bonnets for pedestrian protection or seat belt reminders.

  • In recent years there has been a move away from traditional approaches towards RTI avoidance and RTI protection towards holistic in-vehicle approaches. The aim here is to achieve a truly integrated technological vehicle response to the risk of RTI and better outcomes before, during and following the RTI event. Accordingly, more advanced technologies are under development and testing which support information connectivity between vehicles and with road infrastructure. These are known as co-operative systems.

  • ISA is a system which informs, warns and discourages the driver to exceed the speed limit. The in-vehicle speed limit is set automatically as a function of the speed limits indicated on the road. GPS allied to digital speed limit maps allows ISA technology to continuously update the vehicle speed limit to the road speed limit.

  • Research indicates that the more the system intervenes the more significant are the benefits. Estimates show that if mandatory installation of informative or supportive ISA, injury RTIs could be reduced by 20 per cent. The use of a mandatory ISA system, when combined with a dynamic speed limit regime, has the estimated potential to reduce overall injury RTIs by up to 36 per cent, fatal and serious RTIs by 48 per cent and fatal RTI by 59 per cent.

  • Daytime Running Lights (DRL) are multi-purpose or specially designed lights on the front of a vehicle for use in daytime to increase its visibility and avoid multi-party RTIs. There are various DRL options all of which have positive benefit to cost ratios. The options of mandatory manual operation of dipped lights in existing cars and a compulsory advanced DRL unit fitted to new cars seem most advantageous.

  • Meta-analyses of the effects of DRL use in cars show that DRL contributes substantially to reducing road RTIs, car occupant and vulnerable road user injuries whatever the country’s latitude. A reduction in multi-party RTIs of between 8 per cent -15 per cent was found as a result of introducing mandatory laws on daytime use.

  • It has been estimated that the fitment of DRL to cars in EU countries could lead to an annual reduction of 2,800 deaths.

  • Brake Assist in emergency situations is a technology which is fitted as standard on some new cars and will be mandatory for new cars in 2014 as part of a legislative package on pedestrian protection.

  • Several systems exist for detecting driver impairment caused by excess alcohol, drowsiness, illness, or drug abuse, which prevent the vehicle from starting or warn the driver or perform an emergency control function that will stop the vehicle. While many systems are at different stages of development with, in some cases, their feasibility being unknown, one particularly promising application is the alcohol interlock system.

  • A range of promising new RTI prevention technologies offer high potential for future casualty reduction, are being applied and require close monitoring to assess their effectiveness in real world RTIs. Their success is highly dependent upon proven feasibility, practicability and acceptance and use by road users. Important factors needing further research concern limitations of human adaptation to new systems and the acceptability of the driver to relinquish control over the vehicle. In general, there are no analytical strategies available to ensure that passive and active safety systems are optimised together to maximise the potential casualty reduction. In RTIs avoidance research, assessment methodology needs to be developed for pre-RTI sensing systems in passenger cars for occupant and pedestrian protection and in trucks.


Vehicle safety,


Very similar to the other DaCoTA document with a wider range of technologies.