Brexit “freedoms” could be exploited to get rid of EU car safety rules, the government has said.
The move could come despite the UK having been involved in compiling the bloc’s upcoming regulations.
The rules would include making cars and lorries less deadly for pedestrians by mandating better vision, placing advanced emergency braking systems in cars and vans and using designs which prevent head injuries in pedestrians and cyclists.
Road safety activists have warned ministers against dropping the new rules, arguing they will protect lives.
Jason Wakeford, head of campaigns at road safety charity Brake, told The Independent: “The EU proposals, which the UK helped to shape prior to Brexit, provide the biggest leap forward for road safety this century – perhaps even since the introduction of the seat belt.
“We urge the UK Government to commit to adopting these lifesaving regulations, helping reduce needless deaths and serious injuries on British roads.”
Stephen Edwards, interim chief executive of Living Streets, said: “Pedestrians cause the least amount of road danger but are often left paying the price on our roads, accounting for a quarter of all road deaths. We need the highest standards for vehicle safety to reduce the number of lives lost each year.
“If we want people to choose cleaner and healthier ways to travel, then we need to improve safety. This means the highest standards for vehicle safety alongside measures that protect pedestrians, including lower speed limits, more effective crossings and better street maintenance.”
‘Take back control’
Sarah Olney, Lib Dems’ transport spokesperson, said: “I’m sure that when the Tories to promised to ‘take back control’ people didn’t think it meant more dangerous roads and less safe cars.”
The new rules were first drawn up by Transport for London – and later adopted by Brussels.
But the Tories have vowed to use a new “Brexit Freedoms Bill” to cut EU “red tape” – and the road safety legislation could be on the chopping block.
Transport minister Trudy Harrison said: “The package of European measures known as the General Safety Regulation includes vehicle construction requirements covering pedestrian safety and a range of additional new technologies.
“The Department for Transport was involved in developing these requirements, but as they apply from July 2022 it will be for the Government to decide whether to mandate the same systems in GB. No decision has yet been taken.
“The UK’s departure from the EU provides Government with the platform to capitalise on our regulatory freedoms. The vehicle safety provisions included in the EU’s General Safety Regulation are currently under consideration. Government will implement requirements that are appropriate for GB and where they improve road safety.”
Boris Johnson has claimed the Tories want to “cut back on EU red tape” this year – just as lorry drivers are queueing for miles because of Brexit-related checks at Dover.
Related: Warnings that ‘Brexit Freedoms Bill’ will spark secret bonfire of EU laws