MEPs back plans for car emergency call devices

Posted on March 4th, 2014 by James Luckhurst

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 08.38.23The European Parliament’s internal market committee recently backed EU plans for all new types of car and van to be fitted with automated emergency call devices. The vote on ‘eCall’ gave the go-ahead for a pan-European ‘type approval’ method to ensure the devices meet the necessary technical standards. The decision follows a vote in December in the transport committee to approve legislation for member states to develop the technical infrastructure for handling calls from vehicles that have crashed.

Antonio Avenoso, Executive Director of the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) said:  “After a serious car crash, the time taken for emergency services to reach you can mean the difference between life and death. This system has the potential to save many lives because it will enable the emergency services to respond quicker. It’s now crucial that Parliament negotiators support the strongest possible implementation of the technology during negotiations with member states on the final deal and ensure these life-saving devices are in all new types of car and van from the end of next year.”

The internal market committee said that the European Commission should investigate extending the scope of the legislation to other vehicles by 2018. Before becoming law, a deal will need to be struck with member state transport ministers and approved by the full Parliament.

A sensitive factor in determining eCall safety impact is the effect that more rapid medical attention can have on injured road users. To date, sufficient significant data has not been examined and estimates have been made after discussion with emergency services personnel. However, this project has identified a case study approach that has the potential to much improve the robustness of the estimates. A substantial study of accident case studies is recommended building on the UK and Hungarian work reported here. It is recommended that a 500 case study review be initiated.

eCall is expected to have an impact on the clinical outcome of injuries sustained during a crash as a result of faster medical intervention. In order to better explain this impact, some international agreements would be beneficial. For example, some countries define severity of injury in terms of trauma sustained (which eCall cannot change) and some define severity in terms of outcome (which eCall can influence). One approach would be to use the AIS 6-point scale rather than “serious” and “slight” and to agree how to value the change in injury outcome as a result of eCall. It would also need to be investigated whether sufficient data currently exists and whether practical new data collection requirements can be identified.

Substantial congestion benefits from eCall have been identified for the first time in this study; there are, however, significant differences between countries. As this study has concentrated on safety effects, the congestion impacts are relatively unexplored and would benefit from further work. In particular, the UK congestion impacts appear low compared with the other case study countries and should be further analysed. Also, at European level the unit cost of congestion approach needs to be compared with modelling studies to develop more robust ways of calculating the benefits arising from congestion reduction and refining the estimates provided in this study.

About 

James Luckhurst has been editor of GEM's quarterly magazine, Good Motoring, since 2006. Previously he worked at the BBC World Service and was a freelance contributor to the Daily Telegraph (where he had a weekly column), the Sunday Times, the Daily and Sunday Express and the Herald. His interest in road safety and driver behaviour has led to his involvement in a number of television and radio programmes, including So You Think You're a Good Driver for BBC1, where he was associate producer, Kerbside Justice for Granada Television, which he presented and occasional items for Radio 4, BFBS and the BBC World Service.