Kallas highlights need for “road safety culture” among youth
By Isabelle Smets | Thursday 26 July 2012
Young people are still far too often involved in road accidents. This fact was hammered in at the fourth European Road Safety Day, organised by the European Commission and the Cyprus Presidency of the Council, on 25 July in Nicosia, focusing on young people.
Already in 2007, the theme of the first European Road Safety Day was young drivers. This is evidence that the figures are still very worrying. In a video message broadcast from Nicosia, Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas stressed that road accidents are the first cause of death and disability among young people around the world. Antonio Avenoso, the executive director of the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC), echoed Kallas’ message, recalling that between 2001 and 2010, 140,000 young people (15-30) died on the roads of the EU. This age bracket represents 20% of the EU population, and yet it is involved in 30% of road accidents. Avenoso also highlighted the fact that this is mainly a problem affecting young men: 81% of the young people killed between 2001 and 2010 are men. The ‘good’ news is that the number of young people aged between 18 and 25 who die on the roads decreased by 49% between 2001 and 2010 – this is more than the general average, at 43%.
Kallas said: “I am optimistic that we can advance towards our ‘vision zero’ for EU road safety [...]. Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go”.
What action can be taken? As usual, when it comes to road safety, subsidiarity comes into play. Each country will have its own solution. Possible solutions discussed include: a zero tolerance approach for drink drivers, better targeted information campaigns, a continuous and comprehensive road safety education from a young age and special programmes of re-training of repeated traffic offenders. Avenoso spoke of Spain and Latvia’s results, as these two member states have seen a more significant decrease in the number of young victims in recent years (a decrease that is higher than the European average). These two states have put in place stricter checks, driving licences with a points system and harsher penalties for young people, lower alcohol limits for young drivers, an increase in the age required to drive a two-wheeler (in Spain) and a large-scale awareness campaign.
In the ETSC’s view, the points system has proved very effective, and it recommends it being used at EU level. Indeed, as Kallas recalled: “The four ‘big killers’ on our roads have not changed: drink driving, speeding, running red lights and failing to use seatbelts”. “Only by changing young people’s driving mentality can we continue to save lives,” the commissioner stressed. He added that to create a road safety culture in young people – an aim which everyone is on board with – education and training are paramount. Another essential factor that was outlined at the event was the active participation of young people. The Commission insisted that “European youth must be encouraged to contribute to road safety, for example by sharing their own ideas on new ways forward”.
Young people’s associations were present in Nicosia and stated their wish to cooperate with public powers to instil this culture of road safety in young people. The conference provided an opportunity to launch the new
Facebookpage of the European Youth Forum for Road Safety (
www.facebook.com/EYFRS), which aims to encourage an exchange of views on the matter and increase awareness of the issue among young people.
There will be another important event on the same theme – a conference held on 20-21 November in Lyon, France, entitled ‘Young people and road safety’ and jointly organised by the Province of Québec (Canada), Belgium and France.
The ‘good’ news is that the number of young people aged between 18 and 25 who die on the roads decreased by 49% between 2001 and 2010