Europe takes a major step forward in vehicle safety on 1 November 2012 as a basket of new safety requirements for new types of motor vehicles comes into force.
Measures which become mandatory include safety belt reminders, safety requirements for electric vehicles, easier child seat anchorages (ISOFIX), better protection of passengers against the displacement of luggage in case of the accident and tyre pressure monitoring system.
In addition, cars will be also equipped with gear shift indicators to help drivers save fuel and reduce CO2 emissions. These new features are required under the General Safety Regulation, adopted in 2009. This one regulation replaced more than 50 directives without weakening any safety standard. It thus constitutes a sweeping simplification of European legislation and reduction of regulatory and administrative burden for the vehicle industry.
European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, said: "We are working hard to improve the safety of European drivers, passengers and road users in general. These new measures will substantially increase the level of safety by reducing the likelihood and consequences of accidents. This will be a tangible achievement of the European Union. And let’s not forget that General Safety Regulation also performed one of the most far-reaching simplifications of our legislation by repealing more than 50 Directives and replacing them with just one single Regulation."
The safety requirements made mandatory for new types of vehicles as of 1 November will have a real impact on the safety of drivers and passengers:
The driver seat will have to be fitted with a safety belt reminder. The device will remind the driver to fasten his or her seatbelt by means of an optical and audible warning that will persist even when the car is already moving.
Electric cars will have to fulfil strict electric safety requirements, ensuring that car users cannot get an electric shock from parts in the vehicle or engine compartment.
Cars will have to be fitted with at least two ISOFIX child seat anchorage points, which have to be fully integrated in the rear seats. These anchorage points can be used with compatible child seats, resulting in better stability of the child seat and better child protection. The child seats are also much easier to install on the vehicle seats.
In addition, cars will be fitted with new labels, warning against the placement of rearward facing child restraint systems on a seat protected by an active frontal airbag.
The rear passenger seats in front of the luggage compartment will now have to be made strong enough to protect against the displacement of luggage in the boot, in case of a frontal car crash. Occupants are therefore less likely to be struck by objects flying from the boot (trunk) in an accident, reducing likely bodily harm.
Tyres of passenger cars will have to be fitted with an on-board tyre pressure monitoring system detecting loss of air pressure and signalling this to the driver. The chance of tyre blowouts will be thus reduced significantly. Such blowouts can cause severe roll-over accidents. Proper tyre pressure will also ensure the shortest possible braking distance and save fuel and CO2 emissions.
Finally, new types of passenger cars will also have to be fitted with gear shift indicators aiding drivers to achieve better fuel economy by adopting a more environmentally friendly driving style.