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Ellen Townsend: safety cameras definitely save lives


Ellen Townsend: safety cameras definitely save lives


Approximately 100 people have been killed today in the European Union, the same was true of yesterday and it will probably be the same tomorrow – on our roads. What are we doing about it? Could we do more?

Ellen Townsend, the Policy Director of the European Transport Safety Council answers your questions on I talk.

“Hello, I’m Katarina from Germany. My question is, why are there different speed limits on European motorways?”

Alex Taylor: “A very basic question. Why is it in Germany there’s no limit sometimes on the motorway and other countries have very different limits – why?”

Ellen Townsend: “Well this is an area where we would really like to see more harmonisation, especially having one, top limit. Speed kills and the bigger the speed the bigger the mess. Therefore taking all different sorts of measures to manage speed, including setting speed limits and enforcing them through police checks, safety cameras.”

Alex Talyor interrupts: “But it’s a matter for national governments to decide still, isn’t it?”

Ellen Townsend: “Yes, to a certain extent yes but we would like to see one common speed limit on the trans-European network which after all is an area where the EU does have a competency.”

Alex Taylor: “OK, let’s have another question on road safety.”

“Hello my name is Axel, I live in Brussels, Belgium. So, I’ve seen there’s been a rise in crashes due to distractions when driving such as texting and driving, calling and driving. I was wondering what the impact is of these new technologies on our driving behaviour? Now ipods and iphones are everywhere, we can go on the internet from everywhere, even from your car, so do you happen to have research about it – the number of crashes due to drivers checking their Facebook account? Thank you very much.”

Alex Taylor: “Not necessarily just Facebook but it’s true that I often see people just texting.”

Ellen Townsend: “Yeah, we live in a much more connected society. We have research that shows between 20 and 30 percent of all crashes are caused by what we call distractions. That could be distraction by using a mobile phone, either talking on it or texting.”

Alex Taylor interrupts: “What about smoking, what about talking to people?”

Ellen Townsend: “Yeah but the issue about talking on the phone, even if it’s hands-free is that your brain is somewhere else and the person you’re talking to isn’t going to see that you’re coming up to a traffic light or a roundabout, that needs your attention. So we would very much support blocking out any use, be it checking the Blackberry, or Faceboook whilst driving.”

Alex Taylor interrupts: “What about smoking? I mean, it takes movements for the hands. What’s your position on that?”

Ellen Townsend: “It’s another form of distraction, when you’re driving you need to have your full attention on the road.”

Alex Taylor: “OK, let’s have another webcam question here on I talk.”

“Hello my name is Pasi and I’m from Finland. What is the European Union doing about motorcycle safety?”

Alex Taylor: “The number of car crashes has gradually been going down, although that’s starting to slow down now, but motorcycles are still as bad.”

Ellen Townsend: “Yes, that’s one of the priority areas for us, for my organisation and also for the European Union and rightly so. At the moment, power, two wheelers make up make up 16 percent of total deaths but they’re only travelling 2 percent of all the kilometres travelled so the relative risk is very very high.”

Alex Taylor interrupts: “So would you say it’s more the bikers faults? Or more, the people people who don’t take care about the bikers?”

Ellen Townsend: “I think for sure, more needs to be done about increasing the awareness of the other road users but in terms of the bikers there is new legislation being discussed at the moment which would bring in advanced braking systems so that’s a good thing and the police should also be playing a role in terms of forcing helmet wearing but also we need to explain the risks of not wearing a helmet, especially now it’s hot, not just in the south of Europe and people are tempted to leave their helmets at home.”

Alex Taylor: “OK, this is a subject that’s had a lot of webcam questions here’s another one on I talk.”

“Hello, my name is Tarik Huber; I am from Bosnia-Herzegovina. More often than not, we’re hearing about technology that’s developed entirely by computers, where the human beings are merely observers. Do you think it’s right to use these technologies in the future and can we completely exclude the human factor from the roads?”

Alex Taylor: “I live in Paris, more and more of the Metro is now totally automatic, no driver. Do you think one day we’re going to have non driver cars? Perhaps that’s a solution to the safety issue?”

Ellen Townsend: “Well I think for sure that technologies can help and we promote three technologies linked to the three main killers so that’s: for speed, an application called intelligent speed assistance, which informs you that, by the way, you’re doing 40 in a 30 zone – and alcohol of course, there’s the alcohol interlocks, which is a system that won’t actually let you drive the car unless you give a breath test and you’re sober.”

Alex Taylor interrupts: “So you can do this yourself or what, through a phone or something and it tells you you can’t drive?”

Ellen Townsend: “Yes, it’s an instrument which is in the vehicle. And the third, very important one which has just been legislated for the driver’s seat is a seatbelt reminder. So all of these three are supporting technologies that help the driver to comply with these three areas of risk: speed, alcohol and non-use of seatbelts.”

Alex Taylor: “OK, let’s have another question on road safety on euronews.”

“I’m Nicolas from Belgium. My question is: is there any point in warning people about speed cameras? What’s the point of a speed camera, if you’re warned about it 100 meters beforehand?”

Alex Taylor: “A huge matter for debate, but does it make people slow down, is that good? Or is it bad that we have all these signs saying you will be controlled in a few minutes?”

Ellen Townsend: “Yes, it is good so we would certainly advocate safety cameras in general. The reason why police do tell motorists that there are speed cameras there is because it’s a high risk site. There have been collisions sometimes deaths there before.”

Alex Taylor: “Is that the same in all countries? Or do some countries have different policies?”

Ellen Townsend: “There are different policies in different countries but the key message is that safety cameras save lives. They’re not there to send you annoying fines it’s for road safety that this policy has for being successful.”

Alex Taylor: “And they definitely work?”

Ellen Townsend: “Yes, they absolutely work, if I give you one example from Italy which has recently introduced safety cameras on their highways, it’s called: section control, so one when you enter a zone and one when you exit, there they’ve reduced road deaths by 50 percent so that is just one of very many examples showing that safety cameras definitely save lives.”

Alex Taylor: “OK, let’s have one final question here on I talk for Ellen Townsend.”

“Hi I’m Antonio from Italy. Accidents involving vulnerable people are a problem in a lot of European countries. What does the European Commission plan to do about it and how much emphasis will be given to this subject in Horizon 2020?”

Alex Taylor: “Not too sure what he means by vulnerable persons but I suppose he means pedestrians, cyclists, people who are exposed to risks on the roads.”

Ellen Townsend: “Well the new policy at a European level but also at a national level now is to try to encourage people to walk and cycle more, especially for those shorter journeys. We certainly also want to promote walking and cycling but we also need to have safe environments for pedestrians and cyclists to move around in. So in terms of what the EU can and should be doing is tackling speed as I said before – speed kills, especially in urban areas, so for example recommending to national, local and regional levels to introduce 30 kilometres zones is one good example. Then making the pedestrians and the cyclists more visible, so for bikes that means having lighting, for pedestrians it’s having retro-flective stripes on clothing for example in winter.”

Alex Taylor: “OK Ellen Townsend thank you very much for answering all our questions from I talk here at the European Parliament in Brussels and keep sending your questions on webcams. You can find the next topics on our website.

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