Fifty road safety industry organisations are urging newly-appointed Transport Secretary Louise Haigh to adopt tougher, mandatory EU vehicle safety measures which experts say could save more than 1,700 deaths and 15,000 serious injuries on Britain’s roads over the next 16 years.

The call comes in a letter delivered to Haigh yesterday (9 July) and signed by over 50 road safety industry organisations, including charity Brake, Axa Insurance, tech firm Webfleet, RoSPA, The AA, the RAC, and The National Police Chiefs’ Council.

The letter calls for the government to adopt the EUs latest Vehicle General Safety Regulation updates to the GB Type Approval Scheme.

The regulations make mandatory a number of vehicle safety measures including advanced emergency braking (AEB); intelligent speed assistance, which reads road signs and alerts drivers if they are speeding and/or reduces vehicle speed to within the speed limit; and attention warning in case of driver drowsiness – which monitors the steering wheel, head and eye movements for signs of drowsiness or distraction.

The letter states: “The UK played a significant role in the development of the Vehicle General Safety Regulation when it was part of the European Union, and we reiterate the call on the government to adopt recommendations that it has already made a commitment to, only a few years ago.

“Adding these updates to the GB Type Approval requirements will provide international harmonisation and clarity for manufacturers and vehicle users alike. Requiring no primary legislation through parliament, this is a time-efficient and very cost-effective way to save lives and prevent injury.”

The letter highlights the tragic death of eight year old Dev Naran in 2018, when the car he was travelling in came to a halt on the inside lane of the Smart Motorway section of the M6 and was hit by a truck.

It states: “Dev Naran was just eight years old when he died in a road traffic collision on the M6 near Birmingham. A lorry collided with the stationary car he was in. Advanced emergency braking technology can help reduce the risk of collisions in live lane breakdowns on any type of motorway or road. Dev’s mother Meera believes AEB could have saved Dev’s life.”

Pointing out that more than 30,000 people are killed or seriously injured on UK roads every year, the letter adds: “This is equivalent to all the inhabitants of a medium-sized UK town dying or suffering catastrophic injuries every year. The annual societal and economic costs of road harm amount to an astonishing £43.5bn.”

It concludes by calling on Haigh to “make good on the promises you made in the run up to election, and deliver ‘a new Strategic Road Safety Framework to address the terrible toll of death and injury’.”

Commenting on the letter, Alain Zweibrucker, AXA UK retail chief executive, said: “Road crashes claim thousands of lives in the UK every year, so we’re calling on the government to adopt the Vehicle General Safety Regulations to help significantly improve safety for drivers, passengers and pedestrians alike. Implementing mandatory vehicle safety features such as Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) and Advanced Emergency Braking (AEB) can help prevent crashes and protect road users. 

“As an insurance provider, we understand the importance of protecting what matters and AXA remains committed to prioritising road safety and promoting responsible driving habits. These regulations have the potential to prevent many avoidable tragedies on our roads and safeguard lives, which is something we wholeheartedly support.”

Ross Moorlock, Brake chief executive, added: “Every single road death or injury is as devastating as the next for the families and communities affected, and we see this first-hand through the work of our National Road Victim Service, which every year supports more than a thousand bereaved or seriously injured families.

“For years, our calls for proven measures to stop road crashes and reduce harm have been ignored. Now, as the new government is forming, we are hopeful for change.

“This request to the Secretary of State, to adopt the vehicle General Safety Regulation by updating already existing legislation, is a straightforward, effective way to save hundreds of lives and many thousands of serious injuries from road crashes. This is simple legislation to pass too - all that is required is a signature.”