The roll-out of the European eCall in-car emergency system is approaching critical mass with 20 countries now committed to operating its supporting infrastructure.

The European Commission today (4 May) announced another five countries were implementing eCall services – Belgium, Denmark, Luxemburg, Malta and Romania. They join Austria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden Iceland, Norway and Switzerland in adopting the system.

European Union (EU) transport commissioner Siim Kallas said: “The eCall system can save many road users’ lives every year and I am therefore delighted that an increasing number of member states are now committed to putting the system in place”.

In a severe crash, in-car eCall technology automatically dials Europe’s single emergency number 112, transferring the exact location of the accident and other essential information to the nearest emergency service.

The commission estimates that eCall could save up to 2,500 lives per year when fully deployed and reduce injuries in 15% of all crashes, by hastening emergency service response. Its roll out has been backed by the Association of European Automobile Manufacturers (ACEA).

Brussels had wanted the system in place across the EU by 2009, but some member states have yet to sign up, notably France and Britain.