eCall

We are working with the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) to build greater awareness and understanding of eCall and eCall SOS button functions.

 

What is eCall?

As of summer 2021, over 90% of newly sold cars in the UK have eCall. This built-in safety feature is automatically activated in the event of an incident when the airbags are deployed. A driver or passenger can manually activate eCall by pressing a button - this button is known as eCall SOS.

Basic eCall is a public service and is free to use in the UK and in EU countries. You do not need to be carrying a mobile phone for this vehicle built-in safety feature to work. eCall operates on motorways, A-roads and local road networks.

How does eCall save lives?

When activated, eCall contacts a 999 operator. The built-in safety feature provides your vehicle’s exact location directly to emergency services. This means help arrives more quickly.

A Department for Transport report in 2013 concluded that across all UK roads, eCall can prevent 99 serious injuries and save 13 lives a year.

Since 31 March 2018, under EU Regulation 2015/758, all new M1 passenger cars and N1 light commercial vans must have built-in sensors and a system which can detect when the vehicle is involved in an incident. This is known as the emergency call system or most commonly as eCall.

  • M1 passenger cars carry up to 8 occupants including the driver, have four or more wheels.
  • N1 light commercial vans have at least four wheels, designed for carrying light goods not exceeding 3500kg.

"SMMT is pleased to be working with National Highways to build greater awareness and understanding of the emergency call system and eCall SOS functions in vehicles. This initiative is vitally important to inform and remind consumers of their cars’ additional safety measures including the ability to call for assistance in times of trouble."
Mike Hawes, Chief Executive, Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT)

Where is the button?

The eCall SOS button can be found in the ceiling console by the internal rear-view mirror, behind a pop-out hatch or on the centre console. Please refer to your vehicle manual, your car manufacturer or authorised dealership.

 

ecall SOS button on a steering wheel
eCall SOS button shown above inside rear view mirror
eCall SOS button shown on roof area

There is no need to check if your eCall is working, as the system will carry out a self-test each time the vehicle is started. In case of any fault, a malfunction lamp or message may illuminate or appear on your vehicle dashboard. Your car manufacturer or authorised dealership can provide further advice if required.

How does it work?

When eCall is activated, the system:

  • transmits your vehicle location including the direction of travel whilst contacting a 999 operator. This happens when eCall is activated automatically by vehicle sensors, and manually when you press the eCall SOS button
  • reduces the time it takes for the police, fire service or ambulance to respond and arrive at your exact location. This gets you quicker help if you or others have suffered a serious injury

eCall is not a ‘black box’ and does not monitor your vehicle’s movements. It will only locate your vehicle’s position when this safety feature is activated automatically by the vehicle sensors, or manually when you press the eCall SOS button.

Some vehicle owners have access to private eCall through a subscription service. Automatic and manual activation of the private eCall will connect you to your vehicle manufacturer’s call centre. The call centre operators work with 999 operators and will communicate your exact location to the emergency services.

Breakdown call button

Some vehicles also have a breakdown call button. This button is also known as ‘bCall’ and connects you to your breakdown service.

This function requires you to manually change the vehicle settings to be able to connect to your current breakdown and roadside rescue. Please refer to your vehicle manual, your car manufacturer or authorised dealership.

In a limited number of vehicles, the emergency, breakdown and concierge functions are combined.

A concierge button, breakdown button and eCall SOS button
An example from left to right, a concierge button, breakdown button and eCall SOS button

If your vehicle has the emergency call system installed:

  • locate the eCall SOS button
  • know when to use it
  • take a look at the safety guidance below

If your vehicle does not have an emergency call system:

  • know what to do in an emergency or breakdown, to keep you and others safe by visiting our breakdown page for more information

In the event of an incident or problem with your vehicle

If you are able, move to an emergency area. These are spaced regularly, are painted orange and are marked with blue signs featuring an orange SOS telephone symbol, to indicate the distance to the next one.

  1. Get behind a safety barrier where there is one and keep well away from moving traffic.
  2. Call National Highways on 0300 123 5000. We can close motorway lanes and send other help as required, such as a traffic officer.
  3. Contact your breakdown recovery or vehicle roadside assistance.

 

Emergency Refuge Area

Manual activation of the in-vehicle emergency call system

If you need to summon help as you are unable to follow our breakdown advice and move to an emergency area:

  1. Keep your seatbelt on.
  2. Turn your hazard warning lights on.
  3. Activate your vehicle’s built-in emergency call system by pushing the eCall SOS button to contact a 999 operator.

The 999 operator will automatically receive your vehicle details including your location and direction of travel. Through your vehicle’s speaker system, they will then ask for further information to establish the nature of the emergency.

You can also use this system to report debris on the road or a vehicle travelling in the wrong direction.

If the emergency call system fails to work when you press the eCall SOS button, use your phone to call 999 for help.

eCall must only be used in an emergency requiring the police, fire service or an ambulance.

Do not use the emergency call system or press the eCall SOS button if you only require breakdown recovery or vehicle roadside assistance.

Automatic activation of the in-vehicle emergency call system

If you are involved in an incident that triggers your airbags:

  • your vehicle sensors will automatically activate the onboard emergency call system and send your vehicle details including your location and direction of travel when contacting a 999 operator
  • the 999 operator will use your vehicle’s built-in safety feature to speak to you, and ask for further information to respond quickly and appropriately

If you can, clearly tell the 999 operator you need urgent assistance.

If you are unable to respond to the 999 operator, your vehicle details will be automatically passed to the police.

Press the eCall SOS button to manually trigger the emergency call system if your vehicle sensors fail to activate this feature automatically.

If the emergency call system fails to work when you press the eCall SOS button, use your phone to dial 999 for help.

"There are so many clever high-tech elements being built into modern motor cars that it’s all too easy for motorists to miss the ones – like eCall – that could be the most valuable in the event of an incident. Knowing how to work the infotainment system could take the strain out of a long drive, but knowing how to use eCall could save lives."
Steve Gooding, Director, RAC Foundation

When should I use eCall or bCall?

Manual activation of the emergency call system by pressing the eCall SOS button

If you are unable to follow our breakdown advice and have stopped in a live traffic lane:

  • stay in the vehicle, keep seatbelts on and turn your hazard warning lights on

Activate your in-vehicle emergency call system by manually pressing the eCall SOS button. This immediately sends your vehicle’s location and direction of travel directly to a 999 operator.

The 999 operator will contact you through your in-vehicle eCall using the speaker system. They will ask for further information to establish the nature of the emergency.

Inform the 999 operator you are in a dangerous/vulnerable location, and you are:

  • experiencing a medical emergency
  • disabled, or
  • a vulnerable motorist such as an older person

The emergency services can alert National Highways, so we can close motorway lanes and send other help as required, such as a traffic officer.

If the emergency call system fails to work when you press the eCall SOS button, use your mobile phone to dial 999.

Do not use the emergency call system or press the eCall SOS button if you only require breakdown recovery or vehicle roadside assistance.

Use of the emergency call system and eCall SOS button for other circumstances

If you see someone else who needs help and if it is safe for you to do so:

  • Activate the emergency call system by manually pressing the eCall SOS button.
  • A 999 operator will contact you through your in-vehicle eCall using the speaker system and ask for further information to establish the nature of the emergency.
  • Advise the 999 operator what you have seen and witnessed.

Once you have ended the call, the in-vehicle emergency call system will reset automatically.

You can also use eCall to speak to a 999 operator to report debris on the road or a vehicle travelling the wrong way.

Use of the breakdown call (bCall) button

If your vehicle has a problem, or if you get into trouble on a motorway, try to exit at the next junction or motorway service area.

If that’s not possible, go left, get safe and get help.

Go left

Put your left indicator on and move into an emergency area, onto a hard shoulder, left-hand verge or A-road layby.

Switch your hazard warning lights on, even during the day.

If it’s dark, use side lights and in poor visibility use fog lights as well.

Get safe

It may be safer to stay in your vehicle and wait for help than to get out.

If you decide to remain in your vehicle, keep your seatbelt and hazard lights on.

If you decide it’s safer to leave, and you can get out with any passengers:

  • Exit your vehicle on the side furthest from traffic.
  • Keep well away from moving traffic and your own vehicle, even if it’s raining, cold or dark.
  • Get behind a safety barrier where there is one, and where it is safe to do so as they offer extra protection.
  • If you’re on a verge, be aware of any unseen hazards such as uneven ground or debris.

Get help

Contact National Highways on 0300 123 5000.

If you decide to remain in your vehicle, press your breakdown call (bCall) button if available, to contact your breakdown recovery or vehicle roadside assistance.

The emergency call system and eCall SOS button must only be used in an emergency requiring the police, fire service or an ambulance.

  • If you have broken down and can leave your vehicle safely, press your bCall button or use your phone to call for breakdown recovery or roadside assistance.
  • If you have broken down in a live traffic lane and are unable to leave your vehicle, press your eCall SOS button for emergency services.
  • If the emergency call system fails to work when you press the eCall SOS button, use your phone to call 999 for help.
"British APCO are pleased to be able to support this initiative from National Highways, in providing clear guidance on the correct use of the emergency call system (eCall) that is now available in all new types of cars and light trucks. When used correctly, eCall provides vital information to the UK 999 emergency services in the event of an incident, reducing response time."
Andy Rooke, Vice President, British Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (British APCO) and 999 Liaison Committee member

eCall

  • can get quicker help if you have suffered a serious injury
  • allows the emergency services to get to you faster, reducing response time
  • can save your life

eCall SOS. Locate the button. Know when to use it.

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