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Ten ways to improve road safety
Vehicle accidents are one of the top causes of death worldwide. Find out how to protect your safety and the safety of others on the road.
February 21, 2013
Reduce speed (1/10)
Speed influences both the risk of a crash and its consequences. At 35mph (56km/h) you are twice as likely to kill someone you hit as at 30mph (48km/h). In Europe alone, driving according to speed limits and wearing seat belts could save about 12,000 lives and prevent 180,000 injuries per year.
There are a variety of ways to reduce vehicle speeds, including legislation, road design, and stricter enforcement (e.g. speed cameras). One innovative idea is Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA), a system in which the vehicle 'knows' the speed limit for the road it is driving on, and activates visual and audio signals if speeds are exceeded.
A three-year ISA project was carried out in Sweden, with various systems installed in 5000 cars, buses and trucks. The Swedish National Road Administration reported a high level of driver acceptance of the devices, suggesting that they could reduce crash injuries by 20% to 30% in urban areas.
Wear a seatbelt (2/10)
Today, you are half as likely to be killed in a car crash as 30 years ago. Various improved safety features such as airbags and advanced electronics help to keep you safe in your car.
Probably the best safety device ever developed, however, is the seat belt: it can reduce the risk of death in the event of a crash by up to 60%.
The introduction of mandatory seat belt laws in many countries has increased their usage; the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that in the UK, usage of the front seat belt increased from 37% to 95% after the introduction of compulsory use, followed by a reduction of 35% in hospital admissions for road traffic injuries. Unfortunately, up to 50% of cars in developing countries may lack functioning seat belts.
Use child safety seats (3/10)
The use of child safety seats has been shown to reduce the risk of vehicle deaths by 71% in young children, and by 54% for children ages one to four years, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Cost and availability can be barriers to using child safety seats in developing countries, while even in high-income countries, use can be limited; a CDC study in the US found that in one year, more than 618,000 children ages 0-12 rode in vehicles without the use of a child safety seat or booster seat or a seat belt at least some of the time.
Wear a helmet (4/10)
For cyclists, helmets are the most effective protection in the event of an accident: they reduce the risk of head and brain injuries by up to 88%. Some countries have made bicycle helmets mandatory. In countries where helmet wearing is not regulated by law, the wearing rate is generally less than 10%.
Helmets are also hugely important for motorcyclists, especially in developing countries where motorcycle usage is very high and helmet usage is low. For example, in Thailand, in the year following the enforcement of a law on wearing helmets, their use increased five-fold, while motorcycle head injuries decreased by 41% and deaths by 21%, according to research cited by the WHO.
Driverless cars (5/10)
Human error is the top cause of road accidents. If you remove that variable, our roads could potentially be a lot safer – which is why researchers and engineers are perfecting designs for cars that drive themselves. Computer-steered vehicles could improve traffic flows, reduce accidents, and increase fuel efficiency.
The Importance of Education, Information, and Publicity: Raise Awareness (6/10)
According to the UK Department of Transport, you are four times as likely to crash when using a mobile phone while driving. This poster is only a small part of the bigger campaign ‘THINK!’ that was launched by the UK Government to improve road user behavior.
(Source: Rik Pinkcombe/THINK!)
Increase visibility (7/10)
Many crashes result from road users failing to see each other. Poor visibility is a serious problem in low-income and middle-income countries, where roads are often badly lit at night and motorized traffic is not separated from cyclists and pedestrians.
The WHO recommends enforcing daytime running lights for motorcyclists, which reduces visibility-related crashes by up to 15 percent. Furthermore, cyclists should protect themselves by wearing bright, reflecting clothing that increases their visibility in poor daylight and in darkness. Cyclists should use front, rear and wheel reflectors, and bicycle lamps.
Enforce drink driving laws (8/10)
Zero tolerance for drink-driving offenders helps reduce traffic injuries. Cutting the legal blood-alcohol level from 0.10 percent to 0.05 percent reduces the risk of a crash by two thirds.
The level of enforcement of drink-driving laws has a direct effect on the incidence of drinking and driving, according to the WHO, which cites random breath testing as one of the most effective deterrents.
Improve roads and infrastructure (9/10)
Modern road traffic systems and roadside design can significantly reduce injury in the event of an accident. Roundabouts, for example, can reduce collisions by up to 40% and serious injuries and fatalities by up to 90%. Other potential improvements are controlled crossings for pedestrians, rumble strips and adequate street lighting.
Separating road users using sidewalks, crosswalks for pedestrians, and separate traffic lanes are effective approaches to improve the most vulnerable road user's safety.
Driver assistance systems (10/10)
Automakers continue to develop intuitive integrated safety features that can help mitigate some of the most common driving risks. In addition to existing features like seatbelts, cruise control and airbags, more sophisticated technology like motion sensors and alcohol detectors, even vehicles that can communicate with one another, are the wave of the future in road safety.