industry, Motoring News, road safety

Volvo wants tech to save Africans – but who will pay?

LES STEPHENSON

WHILE the world is howling about the Coronavirus Volvo Cars has called on governments and regulators around the world to address what it calls ”large inequality” between developed and developing economies.

”Official data, despite progress through recent decades, has shown a significant gap in the number of road deaths between both categories of countries,” the automaker reported in a media release sent to The Corner.

”Each year 1.35-million people are killed in traffic crashes. That number alone underlines the need for action but data from the World Health Organisation also puts the risk of being killed in or by a vehicle is more than three times that  of developing countries.”

South Africa, of course, could be so described…

‘SEPARATE ENGINES AND HUMANS’

So Volvo, the first automaker to put belt restraints in its products, wants more people to actually use them in all cars (but, distressingly, not public transport) and pedestrians and other road-users to be separated from motor vehicles.

Volvo Cars believes countries should promote crash restraint use by introducing and enforcing their use, front and rear. Basic road infrastructure that keeps vulnerable road users separate from motorised traffic, it says, should be another key area of focus.

Have Volvo’s PR people ever visited a Third World country – which includes large parts of the hinterland of South Africa – or driven in India, one of the oldest of civilisations? Or most of Africa? Apart from large towns and cities they do not have tarred roads, let alone pavements and cycle paths – or even the money to build such.

In Malawi – alongside that magnificent lake – foot traffic is on the roads almost all day AND NIGHT on narrow dirt roads – ”seat belts” won’t do anything to protect those walking thousands.

‘SIGNIFICANT INEQUALITY’

Volvo Cars’ call for action comes as the Third Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety, hosted by Sweden and the WHO, starts in Stockholm (February 2020) where delegates from more than 80 United Nations member states will discuss ”the strategic direction for global road safety up to 2030 and beyond”. A covering contradiction there…

Malin Ekholm, head of Volvo Cars’ Safety Centre, says in the media release: “Global data shows a significant inequality in road safety. 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 use while infrastructure should focus on improving the safety of walkers and cyclists.”

Here in South Africa – a pretty sophisticated country if compared with nations further north – the state has long asked, particularly in rural areas, pedestrians to, at night, wear something reflective (jacket, armbands) and to walk facing the traffic.

CYCLISTS, PEDESTRIANS TOP DEATH LISTS

Little happened… nay, nothing happened. Pedestrians continued to die. And car passengers continue to flaunt the seat-belt rules so, through the 2019/20 holiday, nearly 600 people died on the roads.

Cyclists (motorised and pedal) and pedestrians represent more than half of all global road deaths, according to Volvo and so recommends ”that UN member states  focus road safety spending on clearly delineated pedestrian and cycle lanes with a barrier between them and roads.

The automaker seemingly does not realise that many, many, countries have more important things on which to spend their limited national income – schools and hospitals, for instance. Also on the list are deformable lamp posts, updated guard rail designs, and walkways.

SA ROAD-DEATH RATE HGHEST

Volvo SA’s Greg Maruszewski, MD of Volvo Car SA, says road safety is a major cause for concern on the African continent.

“According to the World Health Organization, the global rate of road traffic death is 18.2 per 100 000 people. In Africa it is 26.6.”

A Google search by The Corner shows that, in South Africa, the road death rate is the highest in Africa. Perhaps because it has more roads, traffic and average speeds that most of Africa. Maruszewski added: “According to the World Health Organisation South African is 159th out of 175 countries in total road deaths – and growing.”

And even SA has very few pedestrian/cyclist lanes.

…A FINAL WORD

And, finally Volvo gets to the point: ”Volvo has technology called City Safety which uses radar and camera technology to identify other vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians and large animals – day or night. It warns the driver and, if a reaction is not forthcoming, automatically applies the vehicle’s brakes.”

Let’s hope that makes a difference in Third World countries, where the most people are being killed. They sure can’t afford designated bike and foot lanes.

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