Emergency call devices that automatically alert rescue services to car crashes must be fitted to all new models of cars and light vans in the EU by October 2015, said MEPs on Wednesday in a vote on draft legislation setting up the eCall system. Road accidents across the EU caused 28,000 deaths and left 1.5 million injured in 2012.

“The deployment of a public EU-wide emergency call system represents a very important achievement for the safety of European road users. About 2500 lives could be saved every year in Europe as well as the severity of injuries could be considerably reduced in tens of thousands of cases. The eCall will be free of charge, for the benefit of any driver in Europe independently of the car he or she drives” said the rapporteur, Olga Sehnalova (S&D, CZ).

The in-vehicle eCall system uses emergency call number 112 technology to alert the emergency services automatically to serious road accidents. It indicates the exact location and helps them arrive faster, save lives, reduce the severity of injuries and cut the cost of traffic jams.

eCall mandatory by 2015

The draft rules set October 2015 as the final date for manufacturers to be ready to install eCall devices in new models of cars and light vans. However, to meet the industry’s request for more time to develop and test the system, MEPs left open the possibility of postponing this deadline.

Transmitting relevant data for rescue operations, but no tracking

MEPs strengthened a data-protection clause in the draft law to ensure that eCall-equipped vehicles are not subject to constant tracking When an accident triggers an eCall, the data sent automatically to emergency centres should be restricted to the type of activation, the class of vehicle, the type of fuel used, the time of the accident, the exact location of the vehicle, the direction of travel and the number of seatbelts fastened, says Parliament’s amendment.

Rescue call free of charge

Commission estimates show that eCall devices could cost around €100 each when installed in all vehicles. MEPs add that the eCall is a public service which uses the 112 number and should therefore be free of charge for users.

Next steps

The eCall regulation was approved at first reading by 485 votes to 151, with 32 abstentions. The Council could accept Parliament’s position or adopt its own position, for further discussion with Parliament.