BRUSSELS, BELGIUM (AFP) - The EU wants all new passenger cars fitted out by October 2015 with a life-saving automatic dial-up system so emergency workers can speed to the site of a crash as swiftly as possible.
"When an accident happens, every minute counts," the bloc's Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas said on Thursday on proposing new legislation enabling vehicles to automatically call for help in case of an accident.
Last year, 28,000 people died and 1.5 million were injured on EU roads. The European Commission says the automatic eCall system could speed up emergency response by 40 per cent in built-up areas and 50 per cent in the countryside - saving up to 2,500 lives a year.
The eCall system automatically calls 112 - Europe's single emergency number - in the event of a serious crash, communicating the vehicle's location, even if the driver is unconscious or unable to make a call.
"Today's proposals are a milestone for safer roads in the EU," Mr Kallas added.
They will also help make European vehicles more intelligent and give a much-needed shot in the arm to the bloc's struggling auto industry, senior officials said.
Under the draft proposals released by the EU executive, all new models of passenger cars and light utility vehicles would be fitted with 112 eCall and infrastructure put in place to ensure handling of the calls at response centres across the European Union.
The number could also be triggered manually by a driver in trouble, a passenger or even a witness by pushing a button in the car.
Addressing concerns over privacy, the Commission said eCall does not allow the tracking of vehicles as it sleeps until activated by a crash to send signals.