Eight EU transport ministers have called on the European Commission to ‘speed up’ plans to upgrade vehicle safety standards, describing road safety as a ‘top priority’.

In a letter to the European Commissioner for industry Elżbieta Bieńkowska, the transport ministers of Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg and The Netherlands said ‘ambitious’ new vehicle safety standards are needed ‘to help Member States halve the number of road deaths by 2020’.

Every year approximately 26,000 people die on European Union roads, with at least 135,000 suffering life-changing serious injuries. Progress has been made in reducing these numbers, but has slowed to a halt and even gone into reverse in some countries in the last three years.

In December 2016, the European Commission published a list of 19 lifesaving safety technologies that could be made mandatory on new vehicles in proposals expected later in 2017.

At the time, the European Transport Safety Council said several critical areas for action are missing, and the proposed timescale is far too long considering that most of the technologies are already available today.

Commenting on the letter from Transport Ministers, Antonio Avenoso, Executive Director of the European Transport Safety Council said: “It’s great to see transport ministers demanding faster action on vehicle safety in Europe. They recognise that, while national governments can take many measures to improve road safety, improving vehicle safety is absolutely critical. Tougher European standards are urgently needed to ensure that effective, proven and widely available technologies like overridable Intelligent Speed Assistance, Automated Emergency Braking and Advanced Seat-belt Reminder Systems are fitted as standard, not as optional extras.”