As we approach a year after the European Union’s sweeping vehicle safety measures—often dubbed the “vaccine for vehicles“—the UK lags in adopting these potentially life-saving measures. The General and Pedestrian Safety Regulations (GSR) encompass a range of technologies aimed at not only increasing compliance with road rules but also protecting all road users.
At PACTS request, the TRL calculated that the adoption of this set of 15 measures could potentially prevent up to 1,762 fatalities and 15,612 serious injuries, amounting to an economic value of around £7 billion over a 16-year period. The UK has a history of leading in vehicle safety technologies. It is now necessary for the government to not only follow but also exceed these measures.
Since 2010 the long-term reduction in UK road death and injury has stalled. This package of measures which applies to new cars, vans, buses, coaches, and heavy goods vehicles, would kick-start a new decade of reducing deaths and serious injuries in crashes. The package includes automated emergency braking that detects pedestrians and cyclists, improved direct vision for HGV drivers, and a range of technologies to assist drivers in complying with the rules of the road and providing protection for those both inside and outside the vehicle in the event of a crash.
The measures particularly help avoid serious and fatal crashes and injuries and improve safety for vulnerable road users. They come at minimal cost to the taxpayer or consumer and would support the UK automotive sector. The technologies are also important to the UK’s ambitions for connected and automated vehicles and transport decarbonisation. The measures are integrated, designed to work together, and they must be adopted as a package, not “cherry-picked”.
GSR Success in the EU
Adopted in July 2022, The GSR currently apply to all new models of cars, vans, trucks and buses given type approval in the EU. From 7 July 2024, all new car sales in the EU are required to comply.
The GSR is the backbone of the safety measures now mandated for all new car models in the EU. This landmark regulation aligns with the vehicle safety recommendations of the Global Plan for the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030, which the UK government endorses.
The GSR systems have gradually gained acceptance and demonstrated success, showing a positive shift in drivers’ perceptions of these safety technologies – drivers acceptance of the systems are growing.
The Price of Inaction in the UK
The UK’s lack of equivalent regulations puts road safety at risk and imposes an additional burden on road users due to increased collisions and associated costs. Evidence shows that UK vehicle owners are paying additional charges to access the safety features that come as standard in EU-compliant models. The absence of these safety systems could also result in insurance penalties for UK consumers.
Furthermore, GSR technologies are essential to the UK’s goals for connected, automated vehicles and transport decarbonization. They serve as fundamental elements for the full technical capabilities of a wholly automated fleet.
Next Steps for the UK
“TRL described this package as “the biggest advance in vehicle safety since the seat belt”. With the UK now two years out of the EU, the government needs to introduce its own vehicle type approval system and update the vehicle safety regulations. We urge the government to at least match the standards now applied in Northern Ireland. It could use its new independence to go further and faster.”
By introducing the comprehensive package of vehicle safety measures into a new GB national type-approval scheme, the UK can boost its road safety record, reclaim its pioneering status, and—most importantly—save lives. It’s imperative for the government to act now and leverage these potential benefits.
One year on from the EU’s groundbreaking vehicle safety regulations, UK road users are still waiting for similar benefits. The government must take decisive action to prevent the UK from falling further behind its neighbours in vehicle safety. Adopting the GSR is not just an option; it’s an essential step towards saving lives on the road. Let’s make it happen.
Access More Information
- All Party Parliamentary Group for Transport Safety has written to the Prime Minister, in August 2023, urging him to adopt the life saving GSR measures – Letter to the PM and reply from the Transport Secretary can be accessed on the APPG website here.
- One year on – PACTS has renewed its call to action: PACTS briefing – Still unvaccinated – GSR one year on – 2023
- PACTS published a briefing in January 2022 – Vaccine for Vehicles – explaining why the UK government should promptly adopt this package of 15 safety critical measures for the vehicles in UK. These measures could help restart the UK’s long-stalled efforts in reducing deaths and serious injuries on roads.
- The Department for Transport (DfT) held a consultation – Future of transport regulatory review: modernising vehicle standards (closed 22 November 2021). PACTS submitted detailed proposals. This would lead to a new national whole vehicle type approval scheme for Great Britain, which is necessary now that the UK has left the EU. The government’s analysis and response to this consultation has not been published.
- PACTS coordinated a letter from 6 former transport ministers in February 2022 to the then UK Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, calling on him to swiftly adopt new vehicle safety measures. Reply from Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, can be accessed here.
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