New vehicles – including those on sale in the UK – are to be equipped with a wealth of mandatory safety features starting in 2022 following European Union (EU) agreement.

The UK Government, following Brexit and the nation’s departure from the EU, is expected to mirror the EU standards designed to protect vehicle occupants, vulnerable road users and pedestrians and save lives.

The new mandatory safety features include:

• For cars, vans, trucks and buses: alcohol interlock installation facilitation (breathalyser that will cut out engines when drink-drivers get behind the wheel), warning of driver drowsiness and distraction (eg smartphone use while driving), overridable intelligent speed assistance (ISA), reversing safety with camera or sensors, and airline-style black box data recorder in case of a crash.
• For cars and vans: lane-keeping assistance, advanced emergency braking (AEB), and crash-test improved safety belts.
• For trucks and buses: specific requirements to improve the direct vision of bus and truck drivers and to remove blind spots, and systems at the front and side of the vehicle to detect and warn of vulnerable road users, especially when making turns.

The European Commission expects that the measures will help save more than 25,000 lives and avoid at least 140,000 serious injuries by 2038 as automation compensates for human error, the cause of most crashes.

The measures, it is claimed, could have the same impact as when seat belts were first introduced. While some of the features are already available in ‘high-end’ vehicles, they will be installed in all new models.

The political agreement reached by the European Parliament, Council and Commission in so-called trilogue negotiations is now subject to formal approval by the European Parliament and Council, which could take several months due to European Parliamentary elections in May.