No effort should be spared in the fight to reduce the alarming numbers of people who die from road accidents each year. This is something that I really came to understand in the 1980s when I was a transport Minister in the Netherlands. I clearly remember sitting in my car one day – delayed in the traffic. It was because a little girl had been killed on a well-known danger spot on the road. I decided then that I would do whatever I could as a leader to make improvements to road safety so that these tragic events happen less often. It is such as waste of human life and potential.
Now that I am involved again in transport – not so much in road building, but in issues like ICT for car safety and monitoring the effects of extreme weather on roads, I am determined that we do as much as possible.
The UN estimates that more than a million people are killed on the world’s roads each year, 35,000 in Europe. The global figure could almost double by 2020, if no action is taken. Heading off this increase and fighting road deaths is what the UN’s “Decade of Action for Road Safety” is all about.
So I was very pleased that the European Parliament invited me to back the UN campaign using “my” project “eSafety Challenge“.
We have come a long way with seatbelts, crumple zones, anti-lock brakes airbags and more. The next stage is all about ICT like Electronic Stability Control. This ICT potential is why we fund the eSafety Challenge.
It’s also why I make such a fuss about “eCall” – the automatic emergency call system for cars. 21 Member States and 4 additional European countries are now committed to deploying eCall. Moreover, Russia has decided to adopt eCall for its road safety system “ERA-GLONASS”. So it is a terrible shame that big Members States like France and UK, and the holders of this year’s Presidencies, Hungary and Poland, are still dragging their feet. They should not delay any further and should now sign the eCall Memorandum of Understanding and take an active part in the roll-out of eCall.
In fact, that is what the Digital Agenda is all about: finding practical things like road safety and making sure we use ICT to improve daily life, and even save lives.
You can also see my video to the Michelin Bibendum conference about how ICT can improve mobility here.