Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Speed cameras for all?

No sooner has the dust settled on the enlargement parties, and the hangovers have started to subside, and the Commission is back on its weary path of integration. This time it is "the harmonisation of road rules" and it is crying in aid the disparity in casualty figures between the 25 member states.

Never mind that the Commission first offered its master plan in June 2003 - COM(2003) 311 final - with the grandiose ambition of "halving the number of road accident victims in the European Union by 2010" – a plan greeted with less than universal enthusiasm. But now enlargement gives the Commission an added impetus to achieve its goals.

This much Remy Heitz told reporters at a presentation of European road safety figures today. "The main challenge is to bring about the harmonization of rules and road safety, which is a part of holding European citizenship," he said, citing unnamed "experts" who say that "disparate traffic laws must be aligned immediately to save lives".

On the cards are standardised drink-drive limits, standard driving penalties and an EU-wide drivers’ database to assist collection of fines imposed on drivers who are caught in member states other than their own.

Also featuring high on the Commission's priorities is the standardised driving licence, some 80 different models of which are currently in use throughout the EU, despite earlier directive attempting to impose a standard format, which only the UK seems to have obeyed.

But, as with the road safety zealots in the UK, speed features high on the Commission’s list, and officials are looking at standardising speed limits throughout the EU, with more rigorous enforcement.

Are we going to see blue-painted speed cameras adorned with the ring of stars, with profits from ever-increasing fines shipped off to Brussels to fund a new road safety agency?

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