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EU could fit cars with speed restrictions

  Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Cropped image of EU flag. Photo by Yanni KoutsomitisEuropean drivers could face having their cars fitted with speed restrictions under new road safety laws being considered by Brussels.

All new cars would need to include camera systems that ‘read’ speed limits on road signs, before automatically applying brakes to reduce speeds.  

Vehicles already on the roads could be sent to garages to be fitted with the new technology, meaning that all cars on the road would be restricted to the speed limits on motorways, 70mph.

The European Commission’s Mobility and Transport Department hopes to roll out the ‘Intelligent Speed Adaptation’ technology (ISA) as part of a new road safety programme, with the aim of reducing the death toll from traffic accidents by a third by 2020.

More than 30,000 people die on the roads in EU countries every year, with approximately 6,000 of these deaths avoidable if drivers had obeyed the speed limits.

The new technology could work in one of two ways, either through satellites, which automatically relay speed limits to cars from databases, or by using cameras to read road signs. Drivers would then be advised to slow down, by an alarm, or forced to slow down, with the opportunity to disable the device as one proposed caveat. 

UK Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has been asked his views ahead of publication of formal proposals this autumn.  Reports have suggested that he had instructed officials to block the new laws as they constituted a “violation” of British motorists’ freedoms.

He has stressed that the UK already has one the best road safety records in Europe, with the number of people dying on British roads falling to 1754 last year, the lowest figure since records began in 1926; this is particularly low when compared to France, 3645, and Germany, 3657.

A spokesman for the EC said: “It is part of the Commission’s job – because it has been mandated to do so by member states, including the UK – to look at, promote research into and consult stakeholders about new road-safety technology which might ultimately save lives.

“This is done in close co-operation with member states and the UK has generally supported such efforts. There is a currently consultation focusing on speed-limiting technology already fitted to HGVs and buses.

“Taking account of the results, the Commission will publish in the autumn a document by its technical experts which will no doubt refer to ISA among many other things,” he added.

An AA spokesperson said that at low speeds the new technology could actually create, rather than reduce, road danger:

“If you were overtaking a tractor and suddenly needed to accelerate to avoid a head-on collision, you would not be able to.”

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