Vehicle safety is a key strategy used to address ambitious targets for a safer road traffic system. Secondary safety technologies continue to deliver large savings; primary safety technologies are starting to contribute to casualty reduction and hold potentially large future promise. At the same time, new in-vehicle technologies under development have the potential to increase as well as decrease crash injury risk. Currently, there is uncertainty amongst road safety experts about the safety effects of some of the technologies that are being promoted widely in the name of safety. At the same time, more promising safety technologies, where benefits have been demonstrated, are being promoted or taken up at a lesser rate. Further research is needed urgently
eSafety is defined here as a vehicle-based intelligent safety systems which could improve road safety in terms of exposure, crash avoidance, injury reduction and post-crash phases. This text discusses a variety of measures which are being promoted widely as 'eSafety' measures, the knowledge about which is slowly evolving, including information on the costs and benefits of measures.
The evaluation of eSafety measures is a young science. However, research in the EU and elsewhere has confirmed that the following measures could make a large contribution to efforts to meet ambitious safety targets: Intelligent Speed Adaptation (advisory ISA, Speed Alert); seat belt reminders in all seating positions in new cars, electronic stability control, alcohol interlocks for repeat offenders and fleet drivers, and event and journey data recorders. All are at different phases of implementation. In some cases, the safety effects of measures are known e.g. anti-lock braking in car, but the available evidence does not indicate clear safety benefits.
Systems such as electronic driving licences and eCall hold promise. In general, most of the devices for improvement of braking and handling interfere with driver behaviour, and the questions of driver acceptance, risk compensation and driver reaction when the system is activated are important. Brake Assist, for example, is often cited as an eSafety measure, but its contribution to road safety is unknown. Collision Avoidance systems offer future promise and are receiving much attention, but will systems under development work in practice? Will systems address key safety problems and, if so, will the benefits be greater than other alternatives which have less active promotion?
Since 2000, the EU institutions have played an active role in promoting eSafety policy and research. Sweden has been particularly active in promoting evidence-based eSafety measures in the national fleet and their approach should be taken up widely. The EU should encourage the early implementation of systems which have proven safety benefits and give priority in long-term development to systems that have significant potential to improve safety. Above all, the EU and Member States should establish a monitoring system to evaluate the design, development and implementation of new in-vehicle technologies and their short, medium, and long-term impacts on road safety.
Although some aspects of this are being addressed within the research domain there is no accepted, systematic approach to predict the impact on safety of a new system. This is an essential component of any benefits analysis. An accepted, routine approach is now required.
A clear framework is needed urgently to identify, evaluate, deliver and monitor technologies which improve safety and to identify and discontinue work on those which cost lives. Measures described as eSafety measures; need to be demonstrably effective safety aids before they are introduced widely.
There is no information source that is readily available to the public to indicate whether the system offers large safety benefits or whether the system addresses other aspects of driving. A consumer information programme would be useful and should be developed.