Innovating, cooperating, and achieving a future with safer roads – Newsletter Editorial May 2021

This week marks the 6th annual Global Road Safety Week, a time for society to reflect and be educated on an often undervalued concept of daily life. Under the patronage of the UN World Health Organisation, many stakeholders will take a concentrated stance this week to inform people and policymakers of new developments in road safety requirements, to prevent loss of life and the bereavement that devastates friends and families of people involved in fatal collisions.

This year’s road safety week coincides with the UN Road Safety Collaboration (UNRSC) issuing its draft of the new Decade of Action (DOA), which, once finalised, will serve as the foundation for new policy guidance on road safety from 2021-2030. Great strides have been made in safety during the last decade, but more needs to be done to prevent unnecessary injury and loss of life on roads.

road safety

The UN will enter the new Road Safety Decade with expert allies to achieve its plan of action

CLEPA has recently joined the UNSRC, the consultative global mechanism whose goal is to facilitate international cooperation and strengthen global and regional coordination among UN agencies, governments, civil society and other international partners to implement UN General Assembly Resolutions on road safety. A draft plan of intended actions has been released for public viewing and interaction by the World Health Organisation and includes a list of resolutions under the Stockholm Declaration declaring the official goals of the DOA, intended approaches to encourage state and private entities to cooperate to achieve these goals, and state engagement to encourage standardising UN safety standards across the world.

Road safety is an aspect within national policies that rightly claims high priority, with figures to date showing over 3700 daily, or 1.35 million annual fatalities occurring globally. These incidents result in injury, emotional devastation, loss of life, and from an economic perspective, a 2010 study funded by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention placed an estimated global cost of road collisions at $1.8 trillion from 2015-2030.

The UN Road Safety Week hosts a range of online activities this year that are accessible to all, with educational webinars delivered by international entities such as the World Bank’s “Saving lives on the road through streets”, and “Road safety and security in the age of new mobility” brought by the International Transport Forum. In the spotlight, at this year’s Road Safety Week is the Streets For Life Campaign, which is calling for 30 km/h streets where people and traffic mix help prevent road traffic deaths and promote physical activity. The policy associated with the campaign has been derived from standard UN Safety Policy values and the Stockholm Declaration, with an open letter appealing to the public and policymakers to support it.

CLEPA and the UNRSC will strive for road safety in the next decade in cooperation with a diverse range of state representatives on an international scale, UN agencies such as UNECE, Development Banks including the World Bank, NGOs, academia, philanthropic foundations, and private sector to deliver the next DOA which aims to reduce global road deaths and injuries by 50% before 2030.


Technology and innovation are what bring these safety advancements to reality

The automotive supplier industry in Europe has been at the core of the technology innovations that have helped in making safety milestones to date a reality. Suppliers pursue a future of zero mobility-related road deaths through a roadmap encompassing a combination of technology, infrastructure improvements, regulatory initiatives, safety education, and cooperation between stakeholders and policymakers.

Early traditional approaches to road safety were focused primarily on vehicle technology and driver protection, rather than acknowledging that existing road infrastructure and other factors were also key contributors.

The “Safe System” perspective, rather, is used in modern strategies such as “Vision Zero” and holds every part of the road safety system accountable for collisions, while advocating for “forgiving infrastructure”, so that if one part of the system such as the driver, vehicle design, or road infrastructure is compromised in a potential incident, the other parts of the system can compensate and prevent an incident or minimalise impact. The adoption of this system and its universally recognised value both on the innovators and policymakers side of the fence has been instrumental in the success of global safety campaigns and must be employed to an even greater level of cohesion to keep the next DOA on track towards its goals.

Automotive suppliers hold road safety as a devoted priority and have delivered life-saving innovations in passive safety systems like seatbelts, and airbags, which suppliers are currently in the process of reinventing through more diverse testing procedures and crash impact simulations. Automotive innovators continue to astound through active safety system developments in areas like anti-lock braking, electronic stability control, blind-spot detection, lane-keeping assist, emergency braking and a range of other advanced driver-assistance systems.

As technology is developed and improved, society will see increased levels of automation and the active safety benefits associated with it. The mechanism of new car seating positions and new seatbelt requirements following the dawn of autonomous driving is something suppliers have anticipated and prepared for, where in recent years testing procedures for force application have become increasingly more diverse and scientific, to encompass humans from any gender, age, or physical build.

Many of the technologies underpinning this goal are already in production with increasingly more sophisticated and effective safety systems being developed. More advanced virtual testing software and tools, as well as completely new protective technologies for driverless vehicles, are on the way.

The ambition to reduce a further 50% in road casualties by 2030 is something the automotive industry is committed to making a reality. Such is evident in the pledge between automotive suppliers through CLEPA, vehicle manufacturers through ACEA, and the road and vehicle users through the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) in 2019 which states the intention to work towards these goals, where cooperation between industry and policymakers will be of paramount importance when formulating standards and implementing safety applications and systems in vehicles.


Optimism in cooperation, entering the new decade

The previous DOA has laid the foundation for the next, and we will enter the new era of road safety with a wealth of testing evidence, global safety bodies, and partnerships. Perhaps the most significant development in the approach to road safety is in the fact that the new DOA encompasses road safety as a key pillar of governance alongside healthcare, education, and employment, and declares that road safety cannot be traded off or compromised for other social benefits.

The EU Commission has proven itself as a strong ally for automotive suppliers in its valuation of safety standards, such being evident in the recently approved General Safety Regulation and Smart and Sustainable Mobility Strategy, which seeks to assert the EU mobility safety standards on a global stage to further solidify cross-continental cooperation and make mobility safer for all road users, wherever they may be.

From industry expertise to the frameworks of partnerships and collaboration, CLEPA is confident that the next decade’s goals to minimise road tragedies can be achieved through the cooperation of stakeholders, innovators, and policymakers. Automotive suppliers will stand ready and eager to work in conjunction with new safety policy alongside the UNRSC membership to deliver a societal framework of mobility where road tragedies are a thing of the past.

Sigrid de Vries

CLEPA  Secretary General


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