Road Safety – A Global Emergency

The EU Direction of Travel (in the Covid-19 era)

In: European Journal of Comparative Law and Governance
Sarah Jane Fox University of Leicester, School of Law, Leicester, UK

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The reality is that transport and mobility matters to us all, it literally sustains our lives being an enabler of our economic and social life. ‘We’ take it for granted and perhaps none more so than the motorcar. Yet road transport also comes at a price – it takes lives.

From a United Nations perspective, it is identified that road crashes risk jeopardizing the whole sustainable development agenda.

This research commences by reflecting on the history and strategic direction being advocated at an international level. It considers the global divide, before attention and emphasis is turned to the EU’s approach to saving lives on the road. This is also compared with the US. The method applied is from a legal/policy measures approach – which puts the driver at the heart of intervention strategies. Focus in particular is accorded to the success of the EU driver/education law and policy.

Comparisons are also drawn within, between the pandemic of Covid-19 and this global epidemic (in terms of lives lost). It concludes by declaring road deaths as a global emergency, one that needs to be approached in the same way and with the same vigour and haste, in order to stop numbers rising.


The reality is that transport and mobility matters to us all, it literally sustains our lives being an enabler of our economic and social life. ‘We’ take it for granted and perhaps none more so than the motorcar. Yet road transport also comes at a price – it takes lives.

From a United Nations perspective, it is identified that road crashes risk jeopardizing the whole sustainable development agenda.

This research commences by reflecting on the history and strategic direction being advocated at an international level. It considers the global divide, before attention and emphasis is turned to the EU’s approach to saving lives on the road. This is also compared with the US. The method applied is from a legal/policy measures approach – which puts the driver at the heart of intervention strategies. Focus in particular is accorded to the success of the EU driver/education law and policy.

Comparisons are also drawn within, between the pandemic of Covid-19 and this global epidemic (in terms of lives lost). It concludes by declaring road deaths as a global emergency, one that needs to be approached in the same way and with the same vigour and haste, in order to stop numbers rising.

1 Introduction

Mobility is essential to our quality of life, with transport a key enabler of this freedom to move and travel. In many ways ‘we’ take this for granted, certainly in the western world and whilst modes are numerous and infrastructure to support these can be varied, (across the land, sea and in the air) invariably there is a central role to be played in terms of personal systems – such as the car, motorbike, moped etc.

Seen by many as a supreme icon of the twentieth century, the automobile, in particular, has become much more than a transport mode, it is a synonymous symbol, an indicative indicator of wealth and prosperity. Initially, the car was regarded as being a luxury possession, owned by the affluent gentry, an item that the working classes could only dream of owning. And yet today, certainly in the developed world, the motor vehicle has become a ‘must-have’ item, indeed, a necessity.

In fact, mankind would struggle to survive without motor vehicles – there is simply no return to the horse and carriage. However, there were some clear warnings of some of the associated risks of this new technology and mode – starting with this prophecy:

Carriages without horses shall go, And accidents fill the world with woe.1

The first cars drove onto the roads around 1890.2 Barely recognisable as cars by today’s standards, they were slow and lacked sophistication. Although the engineering was basic; the ‘first drivers’ were the inventors and, having a knowledge of mechanics were thus, able to operate their machinery. However, as enthusiasm to own a motorcar grew, demand also began to steadily increase yet, the new breed of driver was often inadequately prepared, receiving from the manufacturer just a basic set of operating instructions. More training was invariably needed.

The pioneering days of the motorcar were to be an early indicator that this new mode of mobility came at a price, not just in monetary terms but also at a cost to human life. In Europe, Mary Ward3 is believed to have had the misfortune of being the first person to die as a result of an automobile and in London, in 1896, the death of Bridget Driscoll is said to have coined the much used phrase ‘accident,’ a term applied by the coroner4 to a death or injury caused by a motor vehicle.

Since the 1900’s there have been many ‘Wards and Driscolls’ – casualties of the automobile. Whilst the training to drive has improved, and the sophistication and engineering of these mechanically propelled devices has advanced, the number of victims has steadfastly multiplied, so much so that it is an international health emergency. In the midst of a global pandemic – (primarily 2020–2021) this research reviewed the parallel epidemic of deaths on the roads.

1.1 Research Design

The research design is by means of a legal/policy approach, whereby consideration is given to the global drive and strategy to reduce the upward trend in fatalities. The primary emphasis is accorded to the EU roadmap, the past successes and future direction of travel aimed at increasing safety on the roads. Therefore, initiatives, best practices and lessons learnt from a policy and legislative perspective which have prevented, or aim to prevent, the loss of life and injuries on the roads are contemplated. Comparison analysis and case-studies are provided, with particular focus on the United States of America (US), being considered and threaded through the discussions. This is set against the backdrop of the United Nations (UN) and the related Sustainable Development Goals (sdg’s).

It should be also identified that the emphasis is primarily on the driver/rider (road user) rather than the vehicle in this regard, and, that one key element discussed is therefore the importance of training and education, which lies at the centre of EU success. In this respect, focus is given to the development EU driver licensing approach.

2 An International Necessity and Global Divide

At the end of the twentieth century the world was beginning to acknowledge the full impact of the motor vehicle. It is recognised that the automobile industry, and indeed the transport sector are major components both in the global and European economy, and that the car has had a direct, and for most part, positive impact on the quality of our lives.5 Transport serves as a facilitator of economic growth and job creation.6 However, the negative effects to our society must also be remembered.7 Every year, 1.35 million people die in road crashes – more than from aids and malaria combined, and more than 50 million are seriously injured.8

The challenge remains, to achieve equilibrium, by balancing the needs of the individual with the greater good of the many.9 There can be no denying that the advancement of the automobile has resulted in a whole array of legislation and policy initiatives that take into account these factors. This crosses into the realms of not only transport and mobility but free movement, access, equality and entitlements, as well as safety and security of the driver, and other road users. Alongside this comes the obvious need to ‘police’ the use of road transport, to educate and to inform and to ensure compliancy and enforcement of legislative acts and policies. The spectrum of policies surrounding road transport is truly extensive, extending into climate change, digital and other advancing technologies, to name but a few. However, with this expansion and development, also comes more risks and tensions – as new technologies and, changing mobility patterns, bring further challenges relating to the suitability of existing legislative frameworks, including across adjacent policy areas – such as privacy protection, data sharing and retention. Invariably, these factors may also stand to affect transport safety and the effectiveness of initiatives aimed at reducing casualties on the roads. These changes and advancement, rather than creating equity, inevitably, could lead to a further division of the world between those that can afford and those cannot – including government investments into safety measures and supporting road infrastructures.

There can be no denying that transport integrates the world, so effective action requires strong international cooperation. In fact, both the United Nations, and other regional, cooperative blocs, such as the European Union, continue to stress the importance and reach of transport in terms of affecting and sustaining lives. However, there remains global divides, which negatively affects regions and results in a variance of policies and legislative approaches, which perpetually stands to compromise and inhibit the lives and wellbeing of many.

A report from the World Health Organisation (who) advocated that the price paid for mobility remains too high.10 It identified that there were proven measures and lessons to be learnt from across the globe and that drastic action needed to be taken to put such measures in place consistently to meet the global target to save lives.11

2.1 Historical Contextualisation: the UN and EU

On 10 May 2010, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the period 2011–2020 as the Decade of Action for Road Safety.12 The goal was to stabilize and then reduce the level of road traffic fatalities around the world, saving millions of lives, helping countries “drive along the path to a more secure future…13 However, globally, despite these declared intentions and efforts, the objective to stabilize and then halve road fatalities and injuries by 2020,14 were not met.

In the period 2010–2019, the European Union (including the UK15) recorded a reduction of less than 10,000 fatalities and whilst this shows a modicum of success, it also indicates that there is more to be done.16

However, globally, the number of victims of road crashes continues to rise, particularly in low and middle-income countries, which account for 90% of road fatalities.17 Road traffic injury death rates are highest in the African region. Yet, even within high-income countries, people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to be involved in road traffic crashes.18

Currently, internationally, the ‘new aim’ is to now reduce road deaths and injuries by 50% by 2030;19 however, with these alarming trends, the world is not on track to meet the new road safety targets by 2030.

From a United Nations perspective, it is identified that road crashes risk jeopardizing the whole sustainable development agenda, costing developing countries between 2 and 5% of their gdp per year.20 This would also, therefore, prevent critically needed investment in schools, universities, hospitals, whilst also preventing investment and access to healthy water and improved sanitation. Climate action and other key initiatives would also be compromised.

The Sustainable Development Goals (sdg s21) contain two targets specifically relate to safe and sustainable mobility. These are within the goals relating to health22 and sustainable cities and communities23 and it is easy to see the overlap in terms road traffic collisions compromising the objectives within.

In February 2020, the Third Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety,24 was held and just prior to this a ‘road safety emergency’ was declared. The Special Envoy for Road Safety commenting that poor road safety was a health problem and one that could not be solved with a pill or vaccine. He also acknowledged, at the same time, deaths and injuries on the roads remains

…… a transport problem, an institutional, a societal and an inequalities problem that must be faced up to in a holistic manner and as a collective responsibility.25

A month later the UN declared the coronavirus disease, covid-19, a global pandemic.26 And, as of March 15, 2021, covid-19 had been confirmed in almost every country and territory around the world, with over 120 million cases being recorded and almost 2.7 million deaths.27 That roughly equates to two-years of deaths on the roads. Viewed this way, road safety remains equally a significant global health issue. As a result of national lockdowns, due to covid-19, there was a lower level of traffic volumes being recorded on the roads, certainly within Europe. That said, deaths due to covid-19, in the same period, were high in Europe, with the United Kingdom (UK), Italy, France, Germany and Spain, being positioned within the ten highest countries globally, recording deaths in the year – March, 2020–2021. In this respect, there has been an obvious global divide, arguably the reverse to that encountered in terms of road traffic casualties and fatalities, particularly, as compared to the African continent.28

In July 2020, the United Nations acknowledged this irony in terms of the need to ensure equity across the globe for a healthy and safer society. Particularly cited was road fatality reductions, with Dr Naoko Yamamoto (Assistant Director General for Universal Health Coverage and Health Systems at the World Health Organization) directly commenting, while “we don’t need a vaccine to stop traffic fatalities … we need to implement what we know that works by ….. investing in safe and sustainable mobility.”29

As the world continued to fight back against covid-19 with the roll-out of vaccines, it was acknowledged that European roads remain the safest in the world, with significant road safety improvements occurring in recent decades.30 Undoubtably, the EU has invested in safe mobility, one that sustains lives. In this regard, there is a need to consider and review what has worked in order to consider initiatives which could be used and shared across the globe.

3 The EU – Road Safety

On the 20 April, 2021, the European Commission published preliminary statistics for road fatalities for the year 2020.31 This data showed that there was an estimated 18,800 people killed in road crashes during that year. This equates to an unprecedented annual fall of 17% on 2019.32 However, in this period there were restriction to movements due to the global pandemic – covid-19, which resulted in lower traffic volume and therefore less distance being travelled. Arguably, this played a significant factor in this reduction, which equated to 4,000 fewer people losing their lives on EU roads in comparison to the 2019 figures.33 However, a clear understanding of the positive or negative impact of covid-19 to deaths and injuries on the road is debated and is certainly inconsistent across the globe.

3.1 The covid-19 Effect – Comparisons and Analysis (US)

In the EU, the economy, without doubt, suffered due to the restriction of movement – whilst not consistent across the 27 Member States (plus the UK) it is acknowledged that most countries, with the exception of Northern Ireland,34 experienced a historic drop-in activity particularly in the first part of 2020. While there was some recovery across the in summer, the EU economy suffered a further knock in the latter part of 2020, with the resurgence of the pandemic and further containment and preventative measures coming into effect.35 These measures, however, resulted in the EU going into recession,36 with some sectors – such as tourism, being particularly effected.37 Nevertheless, these extraordinary measures were seen as a necessary evil to save lives by stopping the spread of the virus, with it being identified that ‘the health of citizens remains the number one priority.’38

Consequently, this curtailment and ability to travel within the EU,39 arguably also saved additional lives on the road. This said, there has been a sharp uprise in the number of citizens taking up sustainable travel option – most noticeably cycling. Reports circulating across this period referred to the ‘2020 – bike boom’40 not just in the EU but across the globe, whereby demand outstripped the supply.41 In the United States of America (US) it was reported, for example, that one in ten American adults rode a bike for the first time during the first year of the Covid outbreak.42 However, as is identified by the EU Commission, around 70%43 of road fatalities in urban areas involve cyclists as well as other ‘vulnerable’ road users – that is, pedestrians and motorcyclists, who, more often than not, lose their lives to other motor vehicles. This is borne out again by data from the US whereby, preliminary data showed that fatalities actually spiked in 2020 in spite of lower traffic volumes.44 The US National Safety Council (nsc) estimated that 42,060 people died in vehicle crashes in 2020, which was an increase of 8% from 2019 and the first jump in four years.45 Excessive and increased speed was also cited as a contributory factor during this period due to quieter roads.46 According to the same report, this increase in the number of fatalities is the ‘highest estimated year-over-year jump that the nsc has calculated since 1924 – 96 years.’47

As well as road traffic collisions taking lives, an estimated 4.8 million additional road users were also seriously injured in crashes in the US, in 2020.48 In a period of hardship caused by covid-19, the estimated combined cost of motor-vehicle deaths, injuries, and property damage in 2020 was a staggering $474.4 billion.49

The who chief also identified the converse problem caused by drivers’ during the pandemic lockdowns, in terms of the global propensity to speed. This meant the number of deaths had not decreased proportionately to the lower number of road users during these periods.50 From the EU perspective, this was also confirmed. Emptier roads meant that drivers increased their speeds; and, therefore, road traffic collision had more serious consequences. Indeed, evidence from some EU countries confirmed a general increase in risk-taking behaviour, including speeding, during the lockdown periods.51

During the sixth annual UN Global Safety Week in May 2021, eight organisations asked the European Parliament to take action on speeding as part of the new strategy on road safety. This is particularly focused on protecting vulnerable users within a 30km/h zone.52

The US, like the EU is driven to reducing the number of deaths on their road across their 50 States, with their strategy aim, to reduce traffic fatalities to zero by 2050.53 However, the US starting point is noticeably different. As a comparison, the World Bank estimates, using 2019 figures, that the EU had 60 road deaths per one million people of its population, as compared with 130 in the US and 170 worldwide.54

Ironically, the US is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, certainly in terms of the growth of financial assets.55 Hence, it cannot be deemed a country of low to middle-income countries per se and one that should rate so lowly in terms of road deaths and the association to the lack of wealth. This said, its distribution of wealth is now being recognised to be more unequal than in any other country.56 As commented further below, this invariably correlates directly to those that are impacted most by road traffic deaths and injuries sustained whilst on the roads.

3.2 EU roads – Safest in the World

On publishing the 2020 road statistics, Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean stated, “With almost 4000 fewer deaths on EU roads in 2020, compared to 2019, our roads remain the safest in the world.” But, she went on to add, “Still, we are behind our target for the last decade and joint action is needed to prevent a return to pre-covid levels.”57

The EU remains the safest place to be on the roads globally, but again, like the US, this is not consistent across the States.

3.2.1 2020 – Data: EU-US Comparison and Analysis

Data shows that the biggest decreases – of 20% or more – was recorded in the following Member States: Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Spain, France, Croatia, Italy, Hungary, Malta and Slovenia. However, in contrast, five EU countries – Estonia, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg and Finland – recorded an increase in deaths.58 This said, it is acknowledged that the number of road traffic deaths in smaller countries tends to fluctuate from year to year.59

Similarly, whilst the US recorded one of the worst combined returns, for fatalities, for a number of years, for 2020, across the various states, there were marked differences. Based on the 2020 return, in fact nine states saw a drop in deaths: Alaska (-3%), Delaware (-11%), Hawaii (-20%), Idaho (-7%), Maine (-1%), Nebraska (-9%), New Mexico (-4%), North Dakota (-1%) and Wyoming (-13%). In contrast eight states experienced more than a 15% increase in the estimated number of deaths from the 2019 figures: Arkansas (+26%), Connecticut (+22%), District of Columbia (+33%), Georgia (+18%), Mississippi (+19%), Rhode Island (+26%), South Dakota (+33%) and Vermont (+32%).60 Given this, the nsc has pointed to the fact that more equitable practices and consistency is needed across the US.61 However, additionally within a nsc report62 it was identified that people of race and colour are disproportionately impacted by road transport policies, lack of access to public transportation and poor infrastructure. They are also likely to suffer disproportionately also, in motor vehicle crashes and it is identified that drivers are less likely to give way (yield) to black people walking and biking, than to white people.63

3.3 EU – 2010–2020 Period

The 2010–2020 action plan by the EU was in line with the UN’s direction and followed the European success in the previous decade. When it was launched it was identified that one of the purposes was to build on past success – whereby over 78 000 lives were saved through the EU’s 2001–2010 road safety programme.64

In the decade 2010–2020, the number of road deaths was reported as dropping by 36%. The target set for this period was to reduce the number of deaths by 50%. However, only Greece (54%) exceeded the target. Croatia together with Spain achieved the second biggest drop (at 44%), followed by Portugal (43%), Italy (42%) and Slovenia (42%).65 In total, nine Member States recorded falls of 40% or more. So combined, the objective was not achieved (Table 1: Road deaths per million inhabitants – preliminary data for 2020). This said it equates to the EU recording 2 road deaths per 1 million inhabitants, and hence, being the safest continent in the world for road users. As a comparison, the world average lies at more than 180 per 1 million.66


4 EU – New Strategy Approach: Building upon the Past Decade

From a global perspective, the UN General Assembly adopted the new goal on road safety through resolution A/74/29968 on road safety on 31 August 2020. The resolution included the key points within, namely, the

  1. endorsement of the Stockholm Declaration;69
  2. proclaiming a Second Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021 – 2030, with a goal to reduce deaths and injuries by 50% by 2030; and,
  3. a request for the World Health Organisation and other stakeholders to prepare a plan of action for the Second Decade.70

Despite having one of the safest records across the world, the EU acknowledges progress in reducing EU-wide road fatality rates has stagnated in recent years.71 In this regard, this is taken as a starting point for the EU Road Safety Policy Framework 2021–2030.72

Whilst the EU did achieve a degree of success in the past decade (2010–2020), it failed to reach the objective set. This said, prior to the UN announcing the new global goal, the EU had already, however, taken the lead and set itself a new 50% reduction target for deaths – the long-term goal being, to move close to zero deaths by 2050 (‘Vision Zero’73). Included also, for the first time, was a commitment to reduce serious injuries – by 2030.

This was as set out within two key documents:

  1. (i)The Commissions Strategic Action Plan on Road Safety,74 and
  2. (ii)The EU road safety policy framework 2021–2030.75

The new EU road strategy direction also endorses the Valetta Declaration.76 Similar to the US, reference is accorded to the financial cost associated with loss of lives and injuries on the roads within the EU. In 2015/2016 this was estimated77 to be in the order of eur 50 billion per year for fatal accidents alone,78 and more than eur 100 billion when serious accidents are included.79 Whilst in 2018 the combined cost of road crashes in the EU was estimated to be have increased to around eur 280 billion, equivalent to about 2% of gdp.80 In term of human losses, this translates to 25,100 people losing their lives on EU roads in 2018 and about 135,000 being seriously injured.81 The current EU Strategy identifies, ‘[t]his is an unacceptable and unnecessary human and social price to pay for mobility.”82

Returning to the definition coined by the Coroner in the Bridget Driscoll83 case – the World Economic Forum (wef) identifies that far too much emphasis remains regarding misleading statistics which identify many road crashes as being due to human error and defined still as an “accident.” wef identifies this is far too simplistic and that road collisions84 are the result of a systematic failure to sufficiently value safety as part of mobility. In fact, rather than attributing blame at road users, the focus should remain on reducing the likelihood of crashes – by taking concerted efforts through a number of measures85 and then limiting the severity of the consequences when they do occur.86 In essence, road safety is impacted by wider transport initiatives and other policy areas.

This is echoed in the EU, whereby this commitment is reinforced in relation to reducing the death toll across all transport modes, as identified within the later EU strategy on Sustainable and Smart Mobility.87

The Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy has an Action Plan involving eighty-two initiatives that are aimed at guiding all areas of the transport policies in Europe for the next four years.88 While this extends beyond the area of safety and indeed road safety – it does show the synergy across transport and other transport modes, including how best practices can be shared.

5 Policy Direction: Best Practices and Lessons from the EU

The EU aims (in 2021–2030) to build upon best practices to date, but equally recognises that there is no silver bullet – in other words, an easy solution. There needs to be concentrated action and a mix of measures.

Directly related to road safety, during the period 2010–2020, the Policy Orientations set the strategic target of reducing road fatalities by 50% with the focus on seven focus action areas; education and training of drivers, enforcement of traffic rules, safer road infrastructure, safer vehicles, modern technologies, injuries and emergency response, vulnerable road users.89

In 2022, the following priority areas remain reinforced:90

  1. (i)Infrastructure
  2. (ii)Safe vehicles
  3. (iii)Safe road use
  4. (iv)Driving licencing (and training)
  5. (v)And, post impact care.

5.1 A Question of ‘Competence’

From an EU perspective it is identified that although policy direction emanates from the EU, the competence for road safety policy is shared between the EU and Member States. In many ways, this aids to understand the variable statistics that come from the Member States in terms of deaths and serious injuries on the roads, whereby, the risk of being killed in a crash vary from one Member State to another. Although it is identified that this gap narrows every year, those living in the Member States with the highest fatality rates are still more than three times more likely to be killed on the road than those living in the countries with the lowest rates.91

Whilst more consistency has been achieved by the EU, particularly through a number of EU legislative acts,92 there is still a number of inconsistencies in terms of national legislation and policy approached – for example, in terms of the alcohol/intoxicant level permitted when driving/riding on the roads. This said, there is evidence that Member States are looking to their neighbours and applying national practices and legislation to dramatically increase safety on the roads.

5.1.1 Case Studies93

Lithuania: The Member State of Lithuania, historically has had one of the highest fatality rates but in recent years it has reduced the number of road deaths by 58% (between 2001 and 2010) and by another 37% between 2010 and 2016 – and is now close to the EU average.

During this time Lithuania has,

  1. (i)introduced stricter rules for drink-driving than most other EU countries – a maximum level of 0.2% of blood alcohol content for novice and professional drivers and 0.4% for all other drivers; and,
  2. (ii)the ensured the compulsory use of helmets for cyclists under the age of 18.
  3. (iii)Adjacent to this, Lithuania has also increased the effectiveness of enforcement of traffic rules (speeding, seat belt use).

Spain: Similarly, Spain also had one of the higher fatality rates in the EU but since 2001 this has dramatically decreased. Spain recorded 64% fewer road deaths in 2013 than in 2004.

The measures implemented during this period have included:

  1. (i)the introduction of a penalty point system for traffic offences;
  2. (ii)the deployment of an extensive network of safety cameras and stricter sanctions for traffic offences.

    Spain has also recognised a need to implement more drugs and intoxicant tests on the driver/rider – despite having a lower permissible level/limit than other Member States.94 For example, the UK95 allows a higher level of alcohol when driving, than most other States in the EU; however, Britain has some of the safest roads in the world – this is largely attributed towards education and enforcement (in terms of drink/drug driving).

Measures that are recognised to work particularly well remain education, training and enforcement, coupled with other innovative solutions aimed at vehicles and infrastructure.96

Education and training is viewed as key to success, whilst there is a need to mobilise society (private and public actors) in a drive to improve vehicle systems and the infrastructure, there are clearly measures that need to continue to be taken to improve users’ behaviour.97 At the same time, effective enforcement is also viewed as key, for both the ill-informed, the uneducated and the reckless minority who risk not just their own lives but others whilst on the roads. This will continue to remain a significant factor and one that necessitates equal attention across the Member States.

From an EU perspective, there has been a series of legislative initiatives, related to education and training that have greatly contributed to enhancing road safety and improving a European divide or diversity of approaches. For example, in relation to driver/rider training/driver licensing;98 and professional driver training.99 Whilst, additionally, there has also been cross border enforcement initiatives applied as a means to ensure the consistent enforcement of sanctions for road traffic offences committed in the Union.100

An obvious starting point for improving road safety lies with the initial training of drivers and riders.

6 The EU Driver Licence Directive

The EU’s driver licence directive has been recognised as one of the most tangible and well-known instruments of the EU road safety policy and initiatives.101

In fact, there have been a series of EU driving licence directives,102 each one leading to further mutual recognition and establishing a harmonised EU licence model.103 However, this was a reasonably new initiative, as it was not until the criminal proceedings against Michel Choquet, in 1978 and the subsequent Judgment by the European Courts of Justice (cjeu104) that triggered the first legislative response.

6.1 Increasing EU Competence and Enhancing Safety: Training

Choquet was a French man who had chosen to exercise his entitlement of free movement and work in Germany as an electrician. Whilst in Germany, Choquet was involved in a road traffic accident. As a result of this, his driving documents were checked and he was subsequently prosecuted, under German law, for driving without a valid driving licence, although he actually held a French licence.

[A]ccording to the provisions of the national road traffic rules a holder of a foreign driving licence who has been established for more than one year in the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany [was] obliged to obtain a German driving licence.105

As a consequence, the United Kingdom drew attention to the fact that there was no EU legal provision that specifically related to the issue of driving licences. The Court indicated that the Commission had earlier submitted to the Council a proposal for a directive on the harmonisation of laws relating to vehicle driving licences under the legal basis of Article 75 (1) (c).106 It was further stated that this Article ‘could indicate a solution to the dispute only by way of implementing measures adopted by the Council.’107

The Court also referred to the fact, that as it stood, in the absence of legislation to the contrary, the rules relating to the issue of driving licences, including the conditions under which a foreign driving licence maybe recognised, fell primarily within the scope of the responsibilities of the Member State within their territory and with respect to the ‘safety of highway traffic.’108

The Court highlighted the variations of the Member States approaches with regards to the issuance of driving licences and made reference to a comparative study that clearly indicated the differences in respect of the following associated areas:

  1. Driving tests
  2. Medical examinations
  3. The term and validity of driving licences
  4. The definition of each class of motor vehicle

It added that these issues differed to such as extent,

that the mere recognition of driving licences for the benefit of persons who elect to reside permanently within the territory of a Member State other than the State which issued them with a driving licence cannot be contemplated unless the requirements for the issue of those driving licences are harmonized to a sufficient extent.109

It was therefore recognised that more consistency was needed throughout the EU, starting with the training of the driver/rider. However, the First Driving Licence Directive, really only related to an ‘ideal’ scenario, recognising there would be a need to build towards the final objective of one community model (including the physical licence) and a more consistent approach in respect to standards of driving/riding. This said, the first driving licence directive did set in motion the need for a minimum standard for both the theory test and the training standards in order to take the practical element.

Within the ‘content’ of the theory test, commendable topics were identified, for example, knowledge and understanding of the obligations and requirements for a driver involved in a traffic collision,110 adequate knowledge and understanding of the importance of road safety matters,111 and safety factors relating to the vehicle, including loading and the carrying of passengers.112 However, this really failed to take into account the variations of national laws and approaches, even in relation to what would appear to be areas that did not readily open themselves up to differences between the various Member States. Many of these national differences also stood to negatively compromise road safety.113

The ‘ideal’ for the practical test was again identified in terms of ensuring that the candidate reached a minimum standard, irrespective of in which Member State the test was carried out. This necessitated specifying a minimum duration for the practical driving test114 and ensuring that a candidate undertook certain required driving elements and manoeuvres115 (dependent on the category of vehicle) in order that they could demonstrate a minimum standard of skill and vehicle control.

In reality, the test standard focused on the licence holder and failed to ensure an initial uniform standard with regards to the driving test examiner and the standards that they considered acceptable to pass a candidate. Therefore, what would be considered a pass in one Member State, may not have been considered a pass by another Member State, where higher driving standards were required.

The current driving licence directive is the third one,116 and this has addressed many of the failing of the first (and second) driving licence directives; hence aiding to ensure more consistency and therefore improving road safety across the EU. There is little doubting that this centralised approach regarding harmonisation of standards has played a key part in reducing casualties on the EU roads. Together with the recently modernised directive on professional drivers’ training, it forms a licencing and training framework that has aimed to keep up to date with developments in both vehicle and infrastructure technology.

7 EU – Future Direction (Similarities and Differences with the US)

The new EU road safety strategy approach equally recognises the importance of technology – from both a positive and negative perspective. For example, the need to take concerted effort to tackle the growing trend in relation to technology distraction – such as the use of the mobile phone; where again, approaches are not consistently being taken across the Member States to tackle this issue. On the other hand, the growing value of technological advancement – such as in connectivity and automation development – is being positively welcomed. This said, technology, particularly when applied to an individual bases – i.e. in personal transport systems, runs the risk of causing a further divide in terms of equity, particularly based upon income – which leads to associated disparities, including those relating to race and specific geographic populations.

From a US perspective it is argued that all approaches must take account of equity, with the nsc incorporating this aspect into the existing ‘E’s of transportation safety – Education, Enforcement, and Engineering – as the 4th E – Equity (4xE). Therefore, reinforcement is given to addressing disparities so as to ensure that fairness prevails regardless of age, race, gender, ability, income, background, or other personal characteristics.117 In other words, it is everyone’s right to be able to enjoy mobility options that are safe and accessible.118

In the EU, the future direction also accords emphasis to the same ‘E’s, expanding this perhaps more widely, or overtly obvious, into the realms of safe towns and cities – with clear reference to the synergies between safety/health and sustainability measures (as within the sdg’s). Statically, EU-wide, around 70% of road fatalities occur in urban areas and involve vulnerable road users (pedestrians, motorcyclist and cyclists). Tackling road safety in cities is therefore a key focus point for the EU Commission which strives to ensure that road safety is taken into account at all stages of urban mobility planning.119 In this regard, two European capitals – Helsinki and Oslo – are held up as achieving the milestone of zero deaths of pedestrians and cyclists in 2019. This success is identified as being largely attributed due to speed restrictions.120

Hence, road safety continues to be an important element of a new EU Urban Mobility Initiative which was brought forward by the Commission in 2021.121 The direction of the urban city initiative identifies a number of benefits, that again cross mobility and other policy areas such as health; identified is the fact that, less car use in cities combined with safer environments for pedestrians and cyclists will reduce casualties and at the time reduce CO2 emissions, improve air quality, reduce congestion – and help develop a more active and healthy population.122

Taking the stance, as advocated in the US, emphasis is additionally given by the EU, to similar synergies between enabling safe and affordable access to mobility to all citizens, cited, in particular, are disabled persons and the growing share of elderly people. However, more attention is now clearly being accorded to the gender aspects of road safety – and specifically cited as an illustrative example, is the new crash test with focus on restraint systems coming into effect in 2022 which now features a female crash test dummy.

In this decade (until 2030) there are a number of themes identified, in the EU, to tackle the biggest road safety challenges. These are: (1) infrastructure safety, (2) vehicle safety, (3) safe road use including speed, alcohol and drugs, distraction and the use of protective equipment, (4) emergency response. Whilst the horizontal issues that dissect all of these themes remains education, training and enforcement. Hence these remain fundamentally the principles as found within the US (nsc) – 4xE’s approach.

Currently, the EU is in the process of looking to revise the 3rd Driving Licence, which has been amended over ten times since it became applicable in 2013.123 Despite this being the third directive, there still remains noticeable differences regarding standards of driving within States and hence, across the EU. This may be due to the period (date) when a licence holder acquired their licence, or related to attitude, even culture, and also their knowledge after acquiring the permission to drive. Whilst there are set requirements as to what must be included in both the theory and practical components this had changed over a period of time, recalling also, from an EU competence perspective, this only started to come into effect in the mid-1980’s. The current requirements also remain minimal levels, whereby some States look to exceed these by adding in additional elements. At this time, the EU has also sought to create one physical model, but it is recognised that despite this intention, there still remains over 170 version of driving licences in circulation.124 This is viewed as the potential to compromise road safety through fraudulent use and abuse. The proposed amendments will take into account new challenges for mobility, including with digital processing of driving licences, and will help achieve the EU’s goals set out in the 2020 Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy.125

The revisions to the driving licence directive, aim to therefore, again improve road safety and make cross-border movement easier, by tackling five key problems that are preliminary identified as, the

  1. 1.Excessive number of road crashes with fatalities and serious injuries in which dangerous behaviour plays a part.

    The EU anticipates that the current rules and procedures on drivers’ testing and training, in particular, for what concerns experience and risk-awareness, will require amending. Recognition is also given to the fact that the consequences of road safety offences committed by non-residents is still limited and, that many penalties fail to change the behaviour of the offenders. This is therefore an area that the EU aims to give more emphasis to tackling in the new decade.

  2. 2.Excessive number of road crashes with fatalities and serious injuries in which insufficient skills, knowledge and/or medical fitness plays a role.

    It is constantly being identified that the more ambitious Union’s objectives and the societal and technological evolutions necessitate updating the current rules and procedures on drivers’ testing and training (including medical fitness). This means revisiting this on a constant basis alongside data supplied by the Member States in respect to road fatalities and casualties.

  3. 3.Lack of recognition of digital or virtual driving licences outside the territory of the issuing Member State.

    The current driving licence directive is recognised to be a barrier to digital transformation in the field of road transport. This is due to the fact that digital or virtual driving licences are not always recognised outside the issuing State.

  4. 4.Existence of remaining barriers to citizens when obtaining a driving licence or maintaining their driving rights when exchanging/renewing driving licences.

    It is recognised that there are instances whereby drivers/riders may see the exchange or renewal of their driving licence prevented or restricted.126 In addition, the provisions of the current driving licence directive can prevent applicants from obtaining a driving licence if they do not speak one of the languages available for the examination in their State of residence. In these instance, freedom of movement stands to be compromised and there is inequity with regards to access and the ability to be able to drive/ride a motorised vehicle. Finally, there is a need to tackle the,

  5. 5.Sub-optimal use of new technologies and mobility concepts for what concerns environmental performance.

    What this equates to is addressing insufficient skills and knowledge in relation to new vehicle technologies (e.g., alternative fuelled vehicles, autonomous driving) and mobility concepts (e.g. eco-driving or car-sharing). In this respect revisions to the driving licence direction need to factor in these developments.

In essence, the whole approach to safer EU roads is premised around training and education, which is more consistent across the Member States. The new proposal recognises the need to be a competent, skilled and knowledgeable driver/rider – who is fit to drive (ride) in their own State as well as other Member State. However, the new driving licence directive would aim to ensure ‘new’ drivers (riders) have the ability to keep pace with developments, including vehicles and the supporting infrastructure.

In many ways, from, a US perspective, it could be deduced that their system is where the EU was pre-1980 in terms of each of their States having a different set of driving requirements for new drivers (riders) and issuing a licence that meets these standards. Whilst this is still true from the perspective of a driving licences being issued within the EU, as it normally falls to the federal government or elected agency of the State to issue and monitor driving licences, there has certainly been a concerted push to ensure specific requirements are complied with in both the theoretical and practical test elements, regardless of where it is taken. Similar to the EU, in the US, this has resulted in a vast number of models of the actual physical driving licence, which aids to cause confusion and potentially stands to lead to fraudulent production and use. This has also resulted in a higher degree of variance with regards to driver training across each of the 50 US States and, therefore, the competence level of the driver who passes their test. The US also allows for the car learner to be a lot younger than within the EU (the average age in the US is 16-year, whereas in the EU it is 18-years) with some States127 allowing a learner permit to be issued to a 14-year-old. There is also a staged system of licences, which range from a learner’s permit-to-a restricted licence through to a full-licence. On the whole this is now the approach taken in the EU although the driving licence directive only relates to the issuing of a full driving licence (once the test is passed) and not to a provisional (pre-test) permit or licence.

The EU continues to work closely on road safety with the authorities in its member countries but where it has taken a decisive lead in terms of directing minimal standards for driver training there has undoubtably been marked progression. As an entity, it is best placed to build on national initiatives which have worked well, informing other Member States or advocating a more wider-adoption of the same or similar approach. To do this, part of the role is to set targets and addressing all factors that play a role in crashes.

7.1 EU Safe System Approach

The new EU road safety policy framework for the decade 2021 to 2030 is based on a Safe System approach, which is derived from European best practice128 and as a result has now been recommended globally by the World Health Organisation. The safe system concept represents the new performance frontier for road safety management embracing long term visions or goals to eliminate death and serious injury.129 Arguably, this approach also replicates and factors in, an approach found in other transport modes – particularly aviation, whereby there is a phased approach which relations to national, regional and international approaches.130 This is based on a systematic layer approach with oversight and reporting at key stages. Safe System embraces well-established safety principles and building on demonstrably effective practice using innovative solutions and new technologies.

The new EU road safety policy framework reframes the road safety policy methodology by focussing on preventing deaths and serious injuries and advocating that this does not have to be the inevitable price to be paid for mobility. In order to assess the effectiveness, of this approach, the EU are advocating a monitoring mechanism – for targets and performance tracking (Figure 1) relating to the Safe System approach. (This is based on a performance framework with a hierarchy of targets.)

Figure 1
Figure 1

Safe System results hierarchy at an EU level

Citation: European Journal of Comparative Law and Governance 10, 1 (2023) ; 10.1163/22134514-bja10041

This said, it is has to be acknowledged that this will only be an effective indicator if Member States report back and provide the necessary data and returns – for, as the EU Commission recognises, this is a voluntary undertaking for the Member States. However, clear reference is made, that in terms of increasing road safety within the EU – an attitude must be adopted, that we are all in it together, everyone benefits. Improving road safety lies with everyone and is in everyone’s interest.

8 Leading in Innovation for Safer Roads – Current Challenges

The EU has certainly taken decisive action to achieve safer roads and it continues to identify the ambition to provide road safety leadership at the highest level, not only within Europe but to influence internationally also. Achieving road safety results requires long-term governmental ownership, leadership and political will.

8.1 Governance and Oversight

The Safe System approach, adopted in the EU, is one that is advocated should be taken internationally, by all countries.131 It is certainly a step in the right direction, whereby the focus has changed from setting ambitious targets that are not able to be met, to one focused on monitoring and intervention. Thus, highlighting the importance of addressing road safety management weaknesses.

The first and crucial recommendation of a 2004 who, World Report132 concerned the identification of a lead agency in government to guide the national road safety effort, with the power to make decisions, control resources and coordinate the efforts of all participating sectors of government.133 In 2019, fifteen years later, at the Fifth UN Global Road Safety Week, reiteration was also given to the fact that strong leadership is needed to advance road safety in countries supporting achievement of global targets and related Sustainable Development Goals. But, ultimately this takes central coordination. This said, it is argued that internationally, the UN also lacks a specialist agency that concertedly leads and addresses road safety in the same way as is accorded by icao, for aviation. In this regard, from a road safety perspective, there are also lessons from aviation (and other modes) that urgently need to be adopted. For example, in aviation, a central aviation authority is a requirement for each country, which then has to comply with icao requirements and recommendations – which address (amongst other areas) safety. Regionally, the EU has also adopted oversight through an European Aviation Safety Agency (easa134) that, in many instances, goes above the icao guidelines. In many ways, this is the same approach adopted in respect to road safety, whereby, the EU has taken a central coordinating role, leading on certain policies – such as driver (rider) training. In this respect, there is perhaps a need to adopt a worldwide approach to driver training – much in same way as occurs with pilot training also, certainly more consistency should only be seen as a positive move and one that would lead to less collisions and fatalities. This would also take account of the New World Bank guidelines and good practice review, which identified the importance of a lead agency/department, on a ‘first amongst equals basis,’ which would lead action across respective governments supported by effective coordination arrangements.135

8.2 covid-19: Another Challenge

As was stated at the start of this paper, covid-19 has directly resulted in millions of deaths globally. It has also had an impact on the number of deaths on the road, as users’ habits and use have changed – particularly during lockdown periods and as a result of social distancing. Ironically, this has led to a symbiotic relationship in respect to road casualties, increasing deaths on the roads in some countries (such as the US) and reducing them in others (EU). There is little doubting that society has changed as a result of continuing to fight this pandemic, with transport use and modes reliance being altered from the pre-Covid situation. Long term the effects are not known as we have yet to fully stem this virus and return to a pre-Covid ‘norm.’

In the EU covid-19 also resulted in various Member States seeking temporary measures (exemptions) in view of the persistence of the covid-19 crisis concerning the renewal or extension of certain certificates, licences and authorisations and the postponement of certain periodic checks and periodic training in certain areas of transport legislation.136 From a driver’s perspective this directly affected the respective training, driver licencing and validity periods – the latter of which were been extended in some instance.137 It also resulted in extension to time limits for the periodic roadworthiness tests for motor vehicles and their trailers under Directive 2014/45/EU.138 Ultimately, these measures and extension, also presented challenges in respect to road user safety. Periods of lockdown ultimately lead to de-skilling of abilities and roads users’ perceptions and judgements being negatively affected – both as the driver/rider of machines as well as other, particularly vulnerable users – pedestrians and cyclists.

9 Conclusion

Road traffic fatalities are currently estimated to be the 8th leading cause of death across all age groups globally; by 2030 they are predicted to become the seventh leading cause of deaths.139

There is little doubt that the EU has taken a strong lead in terms of showing that the global trend regarding, the rising number of road crash victims,140 can be changed. One particular success story has been the introduction of the EU Driving Licence Directives, which sought to promote and aid free movement whilst at the same time increase road safety through a developing and harmonising approach.

European roads remain the safest in the world, with road safety having improved greatly in recent decades. However, even in the EU this progress has been shown to stagnate, and the divergence between the Member States, although receding, is still apparent.

In April 2021, recognising that an ongoing commitment is needed, the European Commission officially relaunched its European Road Safety Charter.141 This remains the largest platform on road safety in civil society. The particular emphasis of such on identifying the long-term Vision Zero ambition of reducing road deaths to almost zero by 2050.

Road crashes are said to be “silent killers.”142 Unlike covid-19, society has not got behind the drive to eradicate or at least minimise deaths on the road. Taking the EU alone, the number of people killed in a week equates to an Airbus A380 passenger jet crashing and all 500 people on board losing their lives. If this occurred there would be outrage and a cry for more action would be unilaterally sought. There would be demands for a change of policies, accountability and ultimately practices to prevent this and ensure safety for users. In fact, this is borne out by the fact that when the Boeing 737 Max had a succession of crashes and incidents it was grounded across the globe, for a period of 2-years whilst investigations pursued.143 It is recorded that some 350 people lost their lives in these crashes.144

Travel by air will always carry a risk but international bodies setting global standards ensure that suitably mechanisms are in place across the globe in term of commercial air travel, and as much as possible in an equitable manner.145 Safety is viewed as a core requirement and the airline industry ensures international cooperation on aviation safety is undertaken by governments and industry groups. It is advocated that the same approach should be applied to road transport.

There is more work to be done in terms of coordination and an equitable approach across the globe for road safety, however.146 93% of road fatalities are in low-and middle-income countries; and, even within a country, such as the US, where there is a high level of wealth there is noticeable disparity in terms of victims.

Mobility, travel safety and health will continue to overlap and there are clearly lessons for all to learn from covid-19 in terms of a concerted global approach. There are indications that as society is less affected by covid-19 and returns to the ‘new norm’ the utilisation of transport modes may have a longer lasting effect. There is reluctancy and hesitancy being shown in terms of using public modes and when the private car is used there is also lower occupancy, and, hence, a move away from sustainable car sharing. As is being identified, retaining the use of shared mobility is essential, not just because it reduces the number of cars on the road, but it also aids to avoid collisions147 and assist in meeting the wider SD Goals. Principally, there is evidence that the pandemic has impacted both positively and negatively on the mobility ecosystem.

Like aviation, there remains a need to apply a Safe System approach – a layering of measure that work together to prevent people from dying or sustaining injuries. This invariably must involve more harmonisation and the sharing of best practices and lesson learnt – which cut across not just the driver (education – relating to their attitude and training and awareness) but vehicle construction, improved infrastructure and enforcement. There is a real risk that new technologies could lead to an even wider global divide in terms of not just deaths, but injuries and the severity of injuries sustained. Essentially, there is a need to ensure no one is left behind and advancements in road safety do not privilege the wealthy.

There is little doubting that collisions on the road will continue to occur, certainly in the short term. Invariably, there will be more ‘Wards and Driscolls’ – casualties of the automobile. However, many of these are preventable and although we may not be able to give a vaccine, to prevent road deaths, collectively we should be able to take a more concerted approach and one that in many ways replicates lessons from good practices, such as the European Union, or even other transport modes such as aviation. Road deaths remain a global emergency and require the same focus as has been given to covid-19.


Mother Shipton Prophecies – as reported within: William Harrison: Mother Shipton Investigated: The Result of Critical Examination in the British Museum Library of the Literature Relating to the Yorkshire Sibyl W.H. Harrison, 1881.


There is some dispute as to the exact date of the dawning of the automobile and likewise, dispute as to the first ‘creator’ of the self-propelled mechanical vehicle. Karl Benz is generally recognised as being the inventor of the forerunner of the modern-day motorcar, for in 1888 Benz invented the petrol driven car.


Born 1827, died 31 August 1869, in Ireland, when she was thrown from a car that was negotiating a bend and fell beneath its wheels of, what was, an early steam powered motor vehicle, driven by her cousin, who, like Mary was a famed scientist.


William Percy Morrison (Coroner) is also widely reported as having commented, during the inquest into the death, that, such a ‘thing’, must never happen again. (See British Medical Journal – bmj 1998;317(7152):212 (18 July) and bbc Gloucester.) Also An interesting fact that emerged was that the driver, who hit Driscoll, was said to have only been driving for a matter of weeks. In the UK 18 months later, on February 12, 1898, a road accident occurred that resulted in the first death to a car driver, when Henry Lindfield lost control of his car and crashed into a tree.


The White Paper ‘European transport policy for 2010: time to decide’ 12/09/2001 Com (2001) 370 final.


As reinforced in the WHITE PAPER: Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system. Brussels, 28.3.2011. com(2011) 144 final.


The automobile, dependent upon crude oil, is a major contributor to carbon dioxide emissions and hence to global warning. Due to the sheer numbers that now exist within Europe and the developed world, cities and major routes are continually congested, with traffic queues becoming an everyday occurrence. The pollution aspect (air, noise and environment) together with the monetary cost of investigating fatal accidents and treating road traffic crash victims, entails enormous costs that places a considerable burden upon every country’s services.


Key facts found within the World Health Organisation (who) website:


The White Paper ‘European transport policy for 2010: time to decide’ 12/09/2001 Com (2001) 370 final; acknowledged this issue in the introduction stating,

Transport is a key factor in modern economies. But there is a permanent contradiction between society, which demands ever more mobility, and public opinion, which is becoming increasingly intolerant of chronic delays and the poor quality of some transport services.’


World Health Organisation (who) Global status report on road safety – 2018




UN resolution a/res/64/255.


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Message on the launch of the Decade of Action for Road Safety, 11 May 2011.


As enshrined in sdg Target 3.6.


The UK until the end of 2020 was a Member State nation within the European Union. Technically, the UK left the EU on 31 January 2020. However, a transition period remained in place – during which nothing changed – until the 31 December 2020.


The UN proclaimed the period 2021–2030 as the Second Decade of Action for Road Safety, with the goal of reducing road traffic deaths and injuries by at least 50%. A/74/L.86: Seventy-fourth session, Agenda item 12. Improving global road safety.






UN – Sustainable Goals ‘Special Envoy Jean Todt and unece issue urgent call for new road safety ‎paradigm for 2030’ 06 February 2020.


Adopted in a decision by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015. Transforming our world: the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. New York: United Nations; 2015 (a/res/70/1)., accessed 29 August 2017).


sdg3 – Good health and wellbeing (Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all age)


sdg11 – Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable In the unece region – an estimated 42% of the 105,000 road traffic deaths recorded annually in the 56 countries of the occur in built-up areas (2017 figures): unece region covers more than 47 million square kilometres. Its member States include the countries of Europe, but also countries in North America (Canada and United States), Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) and Western Asia (Israel.


Stockholm Declaration: Third Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety: Achieving Global Goals 2030 Stockholm, 19–20 February 2020.


The United Nations Special Envoy for Road Safety, Jean Todt, and unece, referring to an urgent call for new road safety ‎paradigm for 2030. 6 February, 20220.


As of March, 2021.


Cited within: UN Road Safety Fund to adjust its 2020 Call for Proposals to a world transformed by covid-19.


As presented during the Road Safety Conference. 20 April, 2021.






Naomi O’Leary, ‘Ireland only EU economy to grow in 2020.’ The Irish Times (online). 11, February 2021 at 13.10–1.4482192 (EU Commission expects Irish gdp to grow by 3.4% in 2021 and marginally faster in 2022).




Tourism and Transport Packages – 13 May, 2020.


Ibid. Also see and Sarah Jane Fox. An ‘obligation’ to provide air travel: In the covid-19 era (A European perspective) Issues in Aviation Law and Policy. (Published Autumn 2020).



Sarah Jane Fox. An ‘obligation’ to provide air travel: In the covid-19 era (A European perspective) Issues in Aviation Law and Policy. (Published Autumn 2020).


Adrienne Bernhard. Made on Earth: Road to Recovery The great bicycle boom of 2020 bbc online (date unknown). See: Watch our film about how bicycles have boomed in 2020.






Tom Krisher. ‘US traffic deaths spike even as pandemic cuts miles traveled’ 4, March 2021. ap News online at




German insurer Allianz report as referred to within the NYTimes (online) Jack Ewing ‘United States is the richest country in the world, and it has the biggest wealth gap.’.

23, September, 2020.












National Safety Council – Position/Policy Statement Equity in Transportation: Best Practices Framework. February 2021



It was also stated within the report that

  1. The pedestrian fatality rate for Native Americans is nearly five times higher than that of whites; for Blacks, it is nearly twice as high as that of whites.


COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE COUNCIL, THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE AND THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS – Towards a European road safety area: policy orientations on road safety 2011–2020. Brussels, 20.7.2010 com(2010) 389 final.


The percentage changes in the table are based on the absolute number of fatalities, not the rate per million inhabitants (EU – dg Move data).


Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 31 August 2020 Seventy-fourth session: Agenda item 12 [74/299] Improving global road safety.


Stockholm Declaration: Third Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety: Achieving Global Goals 2030 Stockholm, 19–20 February 2020


It was also identified that a high-level meeting of the unga on road safety, should be convened no later than the end of 2022.


COMMISSION STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT EU Road Safety Policy Framework 2021–2030 – Next steps towards “Vision Zero” Brussels, 19.6.2019 swd(2019) 283 final.




European Commission (2011), White Paper “Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system”, com(2011) 144 final.




EU Road Safety Policy Framework 2021–2030 – Next steps towards “Vision Zero.” Brussels, 19.6.2019 swd(2019) 283 final.


“Road safety endorsing the Valletta Declaration. Valletta, 28 – 29 March 2017


Based largely on data from 2015 – wherein 26 100 deaths in the EU were recorded.

Council conclusions on road safety – endorsing the Valletta Declaration of March 2017 – Council conclusions. 9994/17 trans 252. Brussels, 8 June 2017.


European Commission, Road safety study for the interim evaluation of Policy Orientations on Road Safety 2011–2020, 2015.


European Commission, press release, 31 March 2016, ip/16/863.


European Commission (2019), Handbook on the External Costs of Transport (


European Commission (4 April 2019), Publication of preliminary road safety statistics 2018:


COMMISSION STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT EU Road Safety Policy Framework 2021–2030 – Next steps towards “Vision Zero” Brussels, 19.6.2019 swd(2019) 283 final. This echoes the sentiment expressed by the UN – (see Footnote 10).


Discussed earlier – as per Footnote 4.


From a policing context the UK for example changed the reference of road traffic accidents (rta’s) to collisions (rtc’s) a number of years ago (change of the century).


R. Elvik, T. Vaa, eds (2004) Handbook of road safety measures, Elsevier.


World Economic Forum: Road crash deaths and injuries in the world’s cities can be stopped.


COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE COUNCIL, THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE AND THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS. Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy – putting European transport on track for the future. Brussels, 9.12.2020 com(2020) 789 final.


COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE COUNCIL, THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE AND THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy – putting European transport on track for the future. com(2020) 789 final. Brussels, 9.12.2020 It detail transport industry transition targets set to be met by 2030, 2035 and 2050.


European Commission (2010), Communication “Towards a European road safety area: policy orientations on road safety 2011–2020.” com(2010) 389 final.


Safer roads for all: THE EU GOOD PRACTICE GUIDE: European Commission publication.


Noticeably those aimed at driver training – see below discussions (particularly section 5.1.2. of this paper) and enforcement.


Safer roads for all: THE EU GOOD PRACTICE GUIDE: European Commission publication.


Spain’s drink driving laws are stricter than the UK. In Spain the legal limit is 0.5mg of alcohol per ml of blood. In the UK, the limit is 0.8mg (as below). This is even lower for professional drivers of those that have recently acquired their driving licence (had a licence for under two years) 0.3 grams of alcohol per litre of blood, or 0.15 milligrams of alcohol per litre of air exhaled. Also see:


Even within the UK there are variances:



See: European Commission (2010), Communication “Towards a European road safety area: policy orientations on road safety 2011–2020.” com(2010) 389 final.

Safer roads for all: THE EU GOOD PRACTICE GUIDE: European Commission publication.


Human error is a contributing factor to most fatal crashes. The percentage however for this varies across reports, but is recognised to be as high as 90% EU reports tend to refer to 90% – In the UK The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (rospa) refers to human error as a factor in 95% of all road accidents: 2017 report


Directive 2006/126/ec on driving licences.


Directive 2003/59/ec of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 July 2003 on the initial qualification and periodic training of drivers of certain road vehicles for the carriage of goods or passengers, amending Council Regulation (eec) No 3820/85 and Council Directive 91/439/eec and repealing Council Directive 76/914/eec, oj L 226, 10.9.2003.


For example, Directive (EU) 2015/413 facilitating cross-border exchange of information on road-safety-related traffic offences.


Sarah Jane Fox, ‘Past, present and future: A critical study of the Driving Licence Directives; the development of and contribution (actual and potential) to road safety and the free movement of persons 2009 (British Library). COMMISSION STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT EU Road Safety Policy Framework 2021–2030 – Next steps towards “Vision Zero” Brussels, 19.6.2019 swd(2019) 283 final.


Directive 80/1263/eec‘First Council Directive 80/1263/eec of 4 December 1980 on the introduction of a Community driving licence.’ oj L 375, 21/12/1980. Second – Council Directive 91/439/eec of 29 July 1991 on driving licences. Official Journal L 237, 24/08/1991 P. 0001-0024.


Sarah Jane Fox, ‘Past, present and future: A critical study of the Driving Licence Directives; the development of and contribution (actual and potential) to road safety and the free movement of persons 2009 (British Library).


Was previously abbreviated as the ecj – now cjeu (Courts of Justice of the European Union).


Case 16/78 Criminal proceedings against Michael Choquet [1978] ecr 02293. Paragraph 2 of the Judgment.


Article 75, (previously Article 71 tec) – now article 95 tfeu. (Ibid – Para. 4 relating to the proposal from the Commission for a directive, submitted to the Council on 5 December 1975 – oj 1976, C 8 Page 2.)




Ibid. Para. 6.


Ibid. Para 7 – Judgment.


Directive 80/1263/eec, oj L 375, 21/12/1980, Annex ii – Minimum Requirements for driving tests, Theoretical test, Content, as at 2.4.


Ibid, as at 3.


Ibid, 3.1.3.


For example, in 1980 it was acceptable for a car, in Spain, with four passenger seats, under certain circumstances, to carry 6 passengers. Therefore it was feasible for a family of six quite legally to drive through Spain and board a ferry to the UK. However, once in the UK the family would contravene British legislation in this respect.

In respect of this, it was permissible to carry additional children, between the ages of 2 and 12 years, in a private car, as long as the seats utilised in this manner did not exceed 50% of the number of authorised seats (excluding the driver’s seat.) This therefore, under the circumstances stated, permitted the sharing of seat belts by two children occupying one seat.

Note: this was only repealed by legislation in 2006, namely ‘REAL DECRETO 965/2006, of 1 September 2006, which modified Reglamento por Real Decreto 1428/2003, (21 November).


Directive 80/1263/eec, oj L 375, 21/12/1980, Annex ii, ‘Duration of the test’ as at 8.

8. ‘The duration of the test and the distance covered shall be sufficient for the checks prescribed in paragraphs 5 and 6 to be carried out. The duration of the part of the test described in paragraph 6 should be more than 30 minutes, but shall not in any case be less than 20 minutes.’.


Directive 80/1263/eec, oj L 375, 21/12/1980, Annex ii. See ‘Contents’ 5 through to 6.17. Also see ‘Location of the test’ – at 9 within this Annex.


Directive 2006/126/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 December 2006 on driving licences (Recast). oj L 403, 30.12.2006, p. 18–60.


NATIONAL SAFETY COUNCIL Position/Policy Statement. Equity in Transportation: Best Practices Framework


Sarah Jane Fox. “Mobility and Movement Are ‘Our’ Fundamental Rights”. . . Safety & Security – Risk, Choice & Conflict! Issues in Aviation Law and Policy. Volume 17 No. 1. Autumn, 2017, pp 7–43.


Government of Spain site: Spain among four European Union countries with lowest rate of traffic accidents (dgt) (Also see etsc report: 70% of road deaths in European cities are pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists)




Clean transport, Urban transport. Roadmap on new EU urban mobility framework published 27/04/2021(initially opened for comments until 25 May, 2021)

This has obvious links to the wider The Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy.


This build upon the initiative as identified within the EU-European Commission Publication: Reclaiming city streets for people Chaos or quality of life.


Revision of the Directive on driving licences Ref. Ares(2021)2730447 – 23/04/2021.

See European Commission link:


COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE COUNCIL, THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE AND THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS. Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy – putting European transport on track for the future. Brussels, 9.12.2020 com(2020) 789 final.


Especially when establishing their normal residence in another Member State.


Arkansas for example.


This approach has evolved over many years and derives most notably from the Swedish Vision Zero and Dutch Sustainable Safety strategies plus the concepts and good practice in other fields. See


See the International Civil Aviation Organization (icao) approach: for example:

The Global Aviation Safety Plan(gasp) sets out a continuous improvement strategy for States to implement through the establishment of core, and then more advanced, aviation safety management elements to enable the continued development of the aviation system of the future.

Global Air Navigation Plan(ganp) ensures that continuous safety improvement and air navigation modernization continue to advance hand-in-hand, icao has developed a strategic approach linking progress in both areas. Additionally, the more efficient air routes, facilitated by performance-based procedures and advanced avionics, serve to significantly reduce aviation emissionsa key factor supporting today’s more fuel-efficient, modern aircraft as aviation pursues its commitment to reduce its environmental impact.’


oecd (2008) Towards Zero: Achieving Ambitious Road Safety Targets through a Safe System Approach. oecd, Paris.


World report on road traffic injury prevention (2004) Edited by Margie Peden, Richard Scurfield, David Sleet, Dinesh Mohan, Adnan A. Hyder, Eva Jarawan and Colin Mathers.;jsessionid=858BC5F5EB119E10BF2E9672FC87352D?sequence=1.


T. Bliss and J. Breen, (2008) Implementing the Recommendations of The World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention Country guidelines for the conduct of road safety management capacity reviews and the related specification of lead agency reforms, investment strategies and safety programs and projects, Global Road Safety Facility, World Bank, Washington.


T. Bliss and J. Breen, (2008) Implementing the Recommendations of The World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention Country guidelines for the conduct of road safety management capacity reviews and the related specification of lead agency reforms, investment strategies and safety programs and projects, Global Road Safety Facility, World Bank, Washington.


covid-19 outbreak (Regulation (EU) 2021/267 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 February 2021 laying down specific and temporary measures in view of the persistence of the covid-19 crisis concerning the renewal or extension of certain certificates, licences and authorisations, the postponement of certain periodic checks and periodic training in certain areas of transport legislation and the extension of certain periods referred to in Regulation (EU) 2020/698 (oj L 60, 22.2.2021, p. 1.)) 2021/C 76 I/20. pub/2021/202. oj C 76I, 5.3.2021, p. 33–33.

For example Spain – Date of the Information to the Commission: 2.3.2021


Ibid. Article 3(1) concerning the validity of driving licences under Directive 2006/126/ec (2); and Article 3(2) concerning the validity of driving licences under Directive 2006/126/ec which had already been extended by application of Article 3 of Regulation (EU) 2020/69.


Directive 2014/45/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 3 April 2014 on periodic roadworthiness tests for motor vehicles and their trailers and repealing Directive 2009/40/ec (oj L 127, 29.4.2014, p. 51).


The UN proclaimed the period 2021–2030 as the Second Decade of Action for Road Safety, with the goal of reducing road traffic deaths and injuries by at least 50%. A/74/L.86: Seventy-fourth session, Agenda item 12. Improving global road safety.


The Charter was founded in 2004 by the Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport (dg move) as part of its Road Safety Action Programme.


COMMISSION STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT EU Road Safety Policy Framework 2021–2030 – Next steps towards “Vision Zero”.


2 years after being grounded, the Boeing 737 Max is flying again. 12 April, 2021.




The International Civil Aviation Organization (icao) is a specialized agency of the United Nations. icao’s core mandate remains to help States achieve the highest possible degree of uniformity in civil aviation regulations, standards, procedures, and organization. Aviation safety remains a key strategic objective.



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