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Second FISITA World Automotive Summit tackles global traffic safety

8 November 2010

One hundred top technical executives from leading automotive companies, including FISITA Honorary Committee members, joined with experts and policymakers from around the world to address the issue of global road traffic safety at the second FISITA World Automotive Summit.

FISITA organised the Summit on 4-5 November in Mainz, Germany in the run up to the United Nations Decade of Action on Road Safety which begins on 11 May 2011. A global plan for the Decade is being prepared and, among key measures, the plan will call for programmes to make roads and vehicles safer, to improve the behaviour of drivers and pedestrians, and to enhance emergency services.

The Decade of Action is being coordinated by the World Health Organisation (WHO), headquartered in Geneva. Dr. Margie Peden, Coordinator, Unintentional Injuries Prevention unit, WHO and a specialist in road traffic injuries, told the Summit that the WHO estimates that 1.37m people are killed, with a further 20-50m injured in road traffic accidents every year.

“90% of these fatalities occur in the low or middle income countries where only 50% of the world’s vehicles are owned. Moreover, 70% of fatalities are vulnerable road users, ie those outside the vehicle”.

While casualties in the mature automotive markets continue to fall as a result of safer vehicles, roads and enforcement, the numbers killed and injured in the developing countries are projected to increase at an alarming rate. The WHO now predicts that road traffic accidents will move from 9th to 5th place as a leading cause of death by 2030, unless urgent action is taken.

Prof. Dinesh Mohan, Volvo Chair in Biomechanics and Transportation Safety and Co-ordinator of the Transportation Research and Injury Prevention Programme at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, described the road safety challenges in India and throughout the newly motorising markets. He stressed that material improvements in infrastructure were the number one priority for accident reduction, especially since the greatest gains were to be made in protecting pedestrians and riders of motor and pedal cycles.

“If we do things right, deaths do not have to rise along with incomes. However road design will need to change. The European or American experience is not good enough for countries which have quite different traffic and economic development conditions”

“The last 50 years were the era of “car safety”. If we want to progress in the next 50 years, this will need to be the era of “road safety”. Focusing on road design and road safety will have a far greater impact on fatalities than focusing on car design.”

Representing the European Union, Isabelle Kardacz, Head of the Commission’s Road Safety Unit, told the Summit about Europe’s 10 year plan to halve fatalities by 2020. She outlined the progress which had already been made using a legislative framework which covered infrastructure safety, vehicle safety and user safety.

“You have to get the basic legislative framework in place first. From this you can build and innovate, but the basics must be in place. This is the message we give to non-EU member states also.”

“Looking at the 27 member states of the EU today, we’re coming from 75,000 fatalities in 1991 to around 35,000 in 2010”.

She added that in Europe, as in the developing markets, two wheelers were becoming a major priority since this is the only category where fatalities are actually increasing and the Commission would publish a strategy for two-wheelers in 2011.

Overall she stressed the importance of shared responsibility between government, industry and road users.

“We must put PEOPLE at the heart of the road safety issue. Everybody is responsible for road safety. It is not something where you just ask the government to take care of it”.

This was a view shared by NHTSA Administrator, David Strickland, who told the Summit:

“Road safety is a public health problem, not a technology problem. It has to be looked at as a multi-disciplinary approach”.

Describing NHTSA’s recent policy focus on the issue of driver distraction he explained:

“When it comes to distracted driving, this is a global problem. In the US we view it as an emerging threat which has to be handled aggressively through a combination of legislation and high-visibility campaigns.”

The US DoT had seen a rise in accidents attributed to driver distraction from 10% in 2005 to 16% in 2008. As a result of the legislative and campaigning initiatives taken, the rate was held at 16% in 2009.

“OEMs are increasingly competing on the basis of services provided to drivers behind the wheel. It’s not going to go away, so we’re working on providing guidance to the OEMs. We need to have a technology package as well as a behaviour package. Above all, we have to get the message across to drivers that the safest thing they can do when they’re behind the wheel is just to concentrate on driving.”

Other expert speakers included Tony Bliss, Road Safety Specialist with the World Bank; Patrick Lepercq, Chairman of the Global Road Safety Partnership; Prof. Prof. Shouen Fang of Tongji University, a key advisor to the Chinese Government; Dr. Michael Strugala of Robert Bosch GmbH and Richard Harris, Director of ITS for Logica and a leading member of PIARC, the World Road Association.

Following a morning of informative keynote presentations and a lively panel discussion moderated by safety technology guru, Prof. Dr-Ing. Ulrich Seiffert, participants spent the afternoon in three parallel workshop sessions where priorities for further action were identified in the areas of:

  • Specific strategies for developing countries
  • Active & passive safety technology
  • Human behaviour, including driver distraction

In closing the Summit, FISITA President Ted Robertson told delegates that FISITA has applied to become a participant organisation within the United Nations Road Safety Collaboration (UNRSC), the body charged with planning and delivering the Decade of Action.

“As the world body for automotive engineers, FISITA is determined to play a part in the planning process for the Decade of Action. Engineers can and should be proud of our record when it comes to safety. Innovations ranging from advanced crash structures, to ABS, ESC and other Advanced Driver Assistance Systems have saved thousands of lives and contributed to year-on-year fall in the number of fatalities throughout the mature markets".

"But going forward, we need to think much more about how we can harness technology – not just to make the vehicle itself safer, but to change the behaviour of drivers and protect all road users. This year’s World Automotive Summit has helped to give those of us in the vehicle engineering community a clearer picture of the challenges we face, especially in the low and middle income countries. Now we look forward to using the results of the workshop sessions as a basis from which to supply advice and expertise for the Decade of Action on behalf of automotive engineers”.

FISITA created the World Automotive Summit in 2009 to bring automotive leaders together with key players from politics, academia and influential NGOs to work on issues of critical technical and strategic importance to the future of the automobile. Participation is by invitation only and is limited to 100 attendees. The theme of the first event was how to reduce CO2 emissions from road transportation.

Full details, including video and slide presentations, can be downloaded from the web site:

www.fisita-summit.com