MEPs to back car crash alert system

26.04.06 @ 17:38

  1. By Lucia Kubosova

BRUSSELS - MEPs are set to strongly back a proposal that would see all cars in the EU fitted with equipment that would automatically locate accidents and call up emergency services by 2009.

  • The electronic device would automatically contact emergency units in case of an accident (Photo: EUobserver.com)

Known as eCall, the technology would enable a signal to be sent to operators linked to the 112 number - the pan-European emergency number. The operators would be able to identify where the accident has happened and send out emergency help.

British Labour MEP Gary Titley argues in his report - to be debated and voted on Thursday (26 April) - that the novelty "could save up to 2,500 lives a year and bring about a reduction of up to 15% in the gravity of injuries."

"The installation of this equipment into cars already enjoys support among car producers and consumers. In a short time, it will be as natural to require it as airbags and some companies such as Peugeot have already started operating the system," Mr Titley told the EUobserver ahead of the debate.

There are different estimates about how much consumers will have to pay for the technology with the European Commission indicating it could be about €30 to €100 per car while the car industry argues it may well be up to €450.

"In any case, the costs - estimated at €4.5 billion - should be significantly lower than what the EU will save by applying this system, calculated as €26 billion per year," said Mr Titley.

The main benefit would be a reduction in the amount of time rescue people would take to get to the scene of the accident - experts argue it would be reduced by around 40 percent in urban areas and 50 percent in rural areas.

In a bid to make the initiative work, the commission has been pressing member states to upgrade their emergency services.

"We need to complete the system underpinning the 112 emergency call which requires that operators can locate those calling - or in the case of eCall, the place of an accident," said the commission's spokesman.

Brussels recently triggered an infringement procedure against 11 countries that still do not have the required infrastructure in place.

"We know that it is a very financially demanding project but all countries are bound by EU legislation to complete this emergency system," he added.

However agreement on the eCall scheme being built in all cars in Europe is based on a voluntary basis, with around ten member states so far having signed up to it, along with a number of car companies.

Germany and Austria have voiced some concerns over privacy issues linked with the initiative.

But for Mr Titley the argument about possible misgivings over civil liberties does not hold.

"We need to stress that the device will be triggered only in case of an accident and only then [will] a person be localised by emergency operators," he said.