EU wants cars with automatic emergency call system
When a serious car accident occurs, sensors in the affected vehicles automatically send information to an emergency centre including information on the time, location and driving direction as well as vehicle description.
Brussels -- The European Commission wants to see all new vehicles fitted with an automated accident e-call system to alert emergency services, and will draft new laws unless there is swift progress this year.
"Too many people are still dying on European roads," said EU Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding.
"The time has come for Member States and industry to move from talk to action," she added.
The 'eCall' system is supported by most members states -- though Britain and France are among those opposed to making it mandatory, mainly for cost reasons.
They way it works is that when a serious car accident occurs, sensors in the affected vehicles automatically send information to an emergency centre including information on the time, location and driving direction as well as vehicle description.
The system also automatically establishes a voice connection to Europe's emergency 112 phone service.
The "pan-European emergency call, 'eCall', is estimated to have the potential to save up to 2,500 fatalities annually in the EU," out of the total of 39,000 death, the commission said in a statement.
With emergency services able to respond quicker severe injuries could also be reduced and traffic snarl-ups eased, it claims.
The EU's executive arm is so convinced of the benefits that it will start drawing up new regulatory measures "if significant progress is not made by the end of 2009" both on the availability of the device in vehicles and the necessary investment in the response structure.
Although the technology is ready and common EU-wide standards have been agreed by industry, six EU countries -- Britain, Denmark, France, Ireland, Latvia and Malta "are still not ready to commit, due to cost related concerns," the commission said.
"I want to see the first eCall cars on our roads next year," said Reding.
"If the e-call roll-out does not accelerate, the commission stands ready to set out clear rules obliging governments, industry and emergency services to respond."
Once it is established EU-wide the accident response system would be equally available to drivers at home or on business or holiday trips elsewhere in the 27 European Union nations.
Non-EU nations Iceland, Norway and Switzerland have also agreed to introduce the system.
Road fatalities in EU nations have fallen by more than 27 percent since 2001.
Minesweepers scour Baltic Sea 70 years after start of WWII
Minesweeping operations in Estonian waters have been organised since 1994 with nearly 600 mines being found, while the estimated number of all unexploded mines in the Baltic Sea is around 80,000, most dating from WWII.
Tallinn -- One of the largest searches for unexploded sea mines dating from the World War Two began Monday off Estonia, some 70 years after the start of the conflict on September 1, 1939.
"The joint military operation called Open Spirit that started Monday and will last until September 11, 2009 is attended by 16 military ships from France, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Germany, Lithuania and Estonia," Ingrid Muhling, spokeswoman for Estonia's military, told AFP.
"In addition, a special joint unit with military divers from the US, Germany and Estonia is screening the sea bed for mines in the operation," she said.
Minesweeping operations in Estonian waters have been organised since 1994 with nearly 600 mines being found, while the estimated number of all unexploded mines in the Baltic Sea is around 80,000, most dating from WWII, Muhling added.
Military divers are to search for mines in two locations -- around Naissaare island located in Tallinn bay, some ten kilometres (six miles) from the capital, and near Hiiumaa island, in north-west Estonia, Muhling said.
During the post-war Soviet era Naissaare island was closed to the public, being used as a military base storing more than 6,000 sea mines that have since been removed.
Monday also marked 15 years since the last Soviet troops withdrew from Estonia after the ex-Soviet Republic regained its independence in 1991. Estonia, which joined the European Union and NATO in 2004, has three Sandown Class minehunters and a special unit of divers to search for and retrieve mines.