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Road Safety – A Global Issue

Min Reading Time
Tags: #MobilityLifeBalance, Safety, ZeroAccidents
When it comes to road safety, there are significant differences between countries. The United Nations (UN) warns: vehicles sold in 80% of all countries fail to meet priority safety standards.
Friederike Pater, July 01, 2019
Friederike Pater studied journalism and writes – not only about the automotive – tech trends of tomorrow. On her travels she collects impressions from all over the world and gets inspired to new stories.
Usually it is a matter of seconds. At an intersection, the traffic light turns green and a truck begins to turn right – and hits a cyclist who was riding in the blind spot. This is just one of many possible scenarios that often end fatally. On average, someone is killed in a traffic accident every 23 seconds somewhere in the world. Not only does the World Health Organization (WHO) name this statistic in their latest Global Status Report on Road Safety 2018: a live ticker on the WHO website counts down the seconds until the next traffic casualty and adds it to an overall total. In 2016, a total of 1.35 million people died as the result of traffic accidents. This is an increase of 100,000 in the last three years.

Legislative measures establish a basis

The number of road traffic deaths continues to rise in low-income countries in particular. Even though these countries only account for one percent of the world’s passenger cars, they are responsible for 13 percent of all global traffic accident casualties. There are many reasons for this: too few laws, poor infrastructure, insufficient road safety education, and, not least, a lack of safety standards for vehicles.
“We know what makes a good law. We need to share this knowledge with other countries that have less extensive regulations. But having laws is not enough – they have to be implemented and taken into account by people,” explains Etienne Krug, Head of the Department for Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention at the WHO. According to Krug, road safety education is required in order to increase risk awareness. In many countries, people do not always wear seat belts or helmets. Parents are often poor role models for their children. Therefore, the WHO introduces global campaigns for road safety education at schools and other educational institutions. The following statistic from the WHO report demonstrates how important these standards are: wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of death among drivers and front seat occupants by 45 to 50 percent. More than 100 countries with a total of 5.3 billion people currently have seat-belt laws in place.
”I am optimistic that countries will start to take action and do more – after all, it makes sense on both a human and an economic level. More than anything, the topic of prevention will become increasingly important.”
Etienne Krug, Director of the Department for Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention at the WHO

Common goals for increased safety

Pedestrians, cyclists, or motorcyclists make up more than half of all fatalities in low-income countries. The infrastructure must be improved in order to protect the most vulnerable road users. Safer pedestrian crossings, bike lanes or even traffic-calming measures are essential. In overburdened infrastructures, such as the Indian city of Mumbai with a population of over 18 million, shuttles following the principles of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) could reduce the number of road users and, in turn, the risk of accidents.
The consistent use of safety systems can help to avoid such situations.

Focus on insufficient vehicle safety

“There is a wide range of factors that need to be improved. These include both medical care after an accident, the quality of vehicles and infrastructure as well as people’s behavior on the road,” says Dr Etienne Krug. Vehicles sold in 80% of all countries fail to meet priority safety standards. The UN World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations recommends seven vehicle safety standards comprised of active and passive systems, including electronic stability control, front and side impact protection, and front protection for pedestrians. Only 40% of all countries – primarily those with a higher average income – have implemented all seven standards. That is why the Stop the Crash campaign was introduced – it uses live demonstrations to show the effectiveness of safety systems to decision-makers in developing countries.
23 seconds
Statistically, a person dies on the streets of this world every 23 seconds.

Advanced driver assistance systems increase safety

Such safety systems are already a requirement for motor vehicle registration in Europe. With an average of 49 traffic deaths per million population, the streets on our continent are by far the safest in the world. Nevertheless, the European Union (EU) will not achieve its aim of cutting the number of traffic casualties in half by 2020. “Vision Zero” is the long-term goal: by 2050, the EU wants to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries to practically zero. To reach this goal, the EU pursues a “Safe System” approach that involves the development of a traffic system that is better able to offset human error. The plan will rely heavily on advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) such as predictive collision avoidance systems, intelligent speed assistants, and blind spot assistants.
In the coming years, automated assistance systems and fully automated driving may become important tools for road traffic without serious or fatal accidents. The goal is for networked vehicles, equipped with artificial intelligence and enormous computing power, to be able to recognize traffic situations and make the right decisions.


With an initiative, ZF focuses squarely on people with regard to mobility offers, showing where and how things can be improved.

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