Third-rate road safety in developing countries

Each year, an estimated 1,35 million people lose their lives in traffic accidents. It’s no wonder that Volvo Cars called on United Nations delegates in February, during the 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety – hosted by Sweden and the World Health Organization (WHO) – to address deep-rooted road safety inequality.

“Global data shows that there is a significant inequality in road safety,” says Malin Ekholm, head of the Volvo Cars Safety Centre.

Statistics from the WHO reveal that the risk of road traffic death is more than three times higher in developing countries than in developed countries.

“Those safety gaps need to be addressed through technology, but also by creating and enhancing a global safety culture. We need to understand and address the variation in seat belt usage, while infrastructure should focus on improving the safety of vulnerable road users, pedestrians and cyclists.”

Road safety is especially a major cause for concern on the African continent, says Greg Maruszewski, managing director of Volvo Cars South Africa.

“The WHO states that the global rate of road traffic death is 18,2 per 100 000 population,” he notes. “But, in Africa, it is the highest in the world – at 26,6. On a global basis, pedestrians and cyclists represent 26 percent of all deaths. In Africa, this figure rises to 44 percent of deaths.”

The situation is especially concerning in South Africa, he says. “According to the WHO’s Global Status Report on Road Safety 2018, South Africa ranks 159 out of 175 countries in terms of total road deaths. And, in this country, road deaths over the last three years have seen an upward trend.”

He adds that pedestrians are especially affected. “Road fatalities among pedestrians in South Africa stand at 35 to 40 percent of the total road fatalities,” Maruszewski says.

Given the shortage of clearly defined pedestrian and cyclist lanes in South Africa, Maruszewski believes that the tech features in Volvo cars provide an interim solution. “For instance, we offer a technology called City Safety, which uses radar and camera technology to identify other vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians and large animals – day or night.”

He adds that Volvo Cars was the first company to introduce this type of safety system as standard in all of its vehicles. “It warns the driver if it detects an imminent collision and, if he or she does not react in time, it can automatically apply the brakes to help avoid or mitigate a collision.”

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