Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Thursday, October 1, 1998 Published at 05:58 GMT 06:58 UK


EU gets tough on car safety

Until now european cars were not tested for side impacts

The toughest car crash test standards in the world come into force throughout the European Union on Thursday.

The new, tighter standards are intended to curb the high death toll on Europe's roads where more than 250 people die or suffer serious injuries every day in car accidents.

BBC Transport Correspondent Simon Montague shows how the tests will work
All new car models sold in the 15 EU countries will have to withstand rigorous front and side impact tests which are, for the first time, more stringent than American legislation.

John Prescott, Deputy Prime Minister with responsibility for transport in the UK, will unveil the new laws - which come after intense negotiations between motoring organisations, Euro-MPs and national governments - at the Labour Party Conference.

The Royal Automobile Club and the French International Automobile Federation, who played a key part in setting the new standards, will join Mr Prescott and transport minister Lord Whitty in Blackpool to welcome the change.

[ image: There were 9,000 deaths in the UK last year from front and side-on crashes]
There were 9,000 deaths in the UK last year from front and side-on crashes
Side impact test

The legally required front impact test has not been changed since 1974 and until now there has been no side impact test at all.

The RAC says these types of accident cause more than 9,000 deaths and serious injuries a year in Britain.

So now any new car will be tested for a front impact at 35 miles an hour into a deformable barrier - designed to replicate a real head-on collision - and a side impact at 30 miles an hour.

[ image:  ]
In 1994 an EU Commission tried to water down the test proposals, but was fought off by a coalition of motoring organisations backed by the European Parliament.

But it has still taken a further four years for the tests to become law in all 15 countries.

Paul King, the RAC's Head of Campaigns, says it is a crucial day for road safety: "After two decades these new crash test laws will reduce the toll of deaths and injuries on our roads. There is now a tough minimum level which all new cars must achieve."

Although many car makers already build cars which exceed even the new standards, Mr King said the law would ensure that any companies compromising on safety would be "brought to book".

The biggest worry for safety campaigners is not actually car construction. In fact mobile phones cause the greatest worries.

Campaigners warn of the dangers of hand-held phones and the distraction of a hands-free set.

[ image: The new tests are the tightest in the world]
The new tests are the tightest in the world

  • In the UK from March 1997 to March 1998, according to figures from the Vehicle Inspectorate, 807,000 cars were recalled for safety checks because they were potentially dangerous.

  • In April, Renault were reported to have used the bodies of dead children strapped into the Clio, Megane and Espace models for safety tests.

    The use of corpses was defended by Renault as "hugely useful" in improving car safety.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

UK Contents

Northern Ireland

Relevant Stories

23 Sep 98 | UK
Executive cars put walkers at risk

12 Feb 98 | Car Crash
How the dead have helped the living

28 May 98 | UK
European cars make an impact

Internet Links

International Automobile Federation


Dept of Environment, Transport and Regions

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online