A new report from the UK's Transport Research Laboratory claims that previous European statistics relating to the death and injury of 'Vulnerable Road Users' have been seriously underestimated due to under-reporting. The report shows that 12 400 cyclists and pedestrians are killed by cars each year in the European Union. Cycle helmet compulsionists will latch on to these figures as 'proof' cyclists need to be forced to wear helmets when, in fact, this is 'victim blaming' and what would save many more lives would be campaigning to make car makers produce 'softer' cars and local authorities create safer streets...

Cars kill more cyclists and peds than previously thought

Tens of thousands of people will be killed and hundreds of thousands injured, unnecessarily, if motor manufacturers fail to introduce long awaited design improvements immediately, says a report released today at the Euro NCAP press conference in Madrid, see story at link below.

The report by the Transport Research Laboratory states that previous European statistics relating to the death and injury of Vulnerable Road Users have been seriously underestimated due to underreporting. The previous estimates were 12 021 fatalities, and 123 574 ‘serious injuries’.

The TRL’s report reveals that the annual figures should by increased by nearly 400 additional fatalities and a doubling of the the ‘serious injured’.

The European Commission has been told that 1700 fatalities and 42 000 serious injuries to Vulnerable Road Users (pedestrians and cyclists) could be prevented each year if manufacturers produced cars that were compliant with the latest requirements.

Legislation, forcing the changes to be made, is being phased in and will not be fully in force until 2010 or beyond. And discussions are taking place to make the new laws less onerous on carmakers.

Professor Claes Tingvall, chair of European New Car Assessment Programme, said:

"Manufacturers make the mistake of thinking that people wouldn’t be interested in saving lives if they had to pay a few euros more. I can give them an absolute guarantee that they are wrong."

The changes called for include the repositioning and restructuring of the front bumper to absorb energy and reduce the chances of leg breakage, the softening of the leading edge of the bonnet and less rigid reinforcement under the bonnet.

TRL’s Graham Lawrence, who co-authored the report for the European Commission, estimates that the average cost per vehicle of such modifications will be around 100 Euros.

Colin Shieff, a consultant neurosurgeon from the Royal Free Hospital, London. a campaigner for head injury pressure group Headway, said:

"The brain is a very delicate organ. You can’t just mend it like a broken bone. Head injury is all too common a result of a pedestrian or cyclist being hit by a car. It often proves fatal and those that survive often suffer serious consequences such as memory loss, dramatic personality changes and in the worst cases loss of speech and mobility.

"In my opinion anything that can be done should be done and it should be done now."

Headway has called for cycle helmet compulsion but does not advocate helmet wearing for motorists, a measure that would save many more lives.

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