Safety First

Volvo calls on UN to address vehicle safety inequality

Volvo, like other automakers, crash test their vehicles ahead of them making their way to dealership lots.

Photo courtesy of Volvo Car Corporation

Each year, an estimated 1.35 million people lose their lives in traffic accidents. Research by the World Health Organization shows that the risk of dying as part of a traffic incident is more than three times higher in developing countries than in developed countries.

Volvo Cars is calling on the United Nations to address the inequality. The company believes that the countries worldwide should promote safety belt usage by " introducing and enforcing seat-belt laws covering both front and rear seats." They also believe that the countries should develop infrastructure to separate motorized traffic from pedestrian and cyclist traffic.

" original_size="2500x1875" photo_credit="Photo courtesy of Volvo Car Corporation" alt="Volvo safety car test" expand="1"] Vehicles sold in the U.S. are extensively crash tested ahead of their debut on dealer lots.Photo courtesy of Volvo Car Corporation

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

The call to action has been announced as delegates from over 80 United Nations member states gather in Stockholm, Sweden to attend the 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety.

Volvo says that they are "keen to contribute to global road safety initiatives with its rich wealth of safety knowledge, as it has done for many decades in collaboration with governments, academia and regulators." This initiative has its roots in the 1959 introduction of the three-point safety belt, which the company took out an open patent on and promised not to enforce patent violations or charge others royalties to use.

In 2018 the rate of seat belt use in the U.S. was 89.6%, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Of the 37,133 people killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2017, 47% were not wearing seat belts. NHTSA research indicates that buckling up is the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself in a crash.

Only 105 of the world's countries have safety belt laws that cover front and rear seat occupants. There are 195 counties on Earth.

Lax safety standards are one reason that automakers sell vehicles in markets in Asia, Africa, and Europe that they don't sell in the U.S. Those regions tend to have less stringent regulations when it comes to required safety equipment, technology, and structural integrity.

Additionally, there is less cost involved in the production of vehicles with fewer safety features so they may be sold to customers in less wealthy nations for lower prices than vehicles in the U.S.

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Red light camera usage in the U.S. has declined over the last few years.

Photo by Mathieukor/Getty Images

New research shows that communities across the U.S. are not using as many red light cameras as they used to while implementation of speed detection cameras is increasing. Both have been shows to reduce the occurrence of automobile crashes.

A new checklist devised by AAA, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Safety Council (NSC) was designed to serve as a roadmap for communities that are establishing or expanding automated enforcement programs and to dispel myths surrounding the use of the cameras.

"Research by IIHS and others has shown consistently that automated enforcement curbs dangerous driving behaviors and reduces crashes," says IIHS President David Harkey. "We hope this document developed with our highway safety partners will help communities take full advantage of this tool."

From 2011 to 2014 more than 500 communities across the U.S. operated red light cameras. Today that number stands at 340. The systems are costly. In 2003, the U.S. Department of Transportation estimated the cost as $67,000 to $80,000 per intersection. That number doesn't include the manpower hours, ticket mailing fees, court costs, or maintenance time and money associated with the ticketing. Today, the cost of the system is estimated to be in the $100,000 range per intersection.

Running red lights kills hundreds and injure tens of thousands of people every year, according to IIHS. In 2019, 846 people were killed and an estimated 143,000 were injured in red light running crashes. Most of those killed were pedestrians, bicyclists and people in other vehicles and not the red light runners or passengers riding with them.

"Red light running and speeding are known killers on our roads," says Advocates President Cathy Chase. "Well-designed and implemented automated enforcement programs can deter these hazardous driving behaviors and reduce crash deaths and injuries. They can also provide an equitable, neutral option for upgrading safety. We urge states and localities to use this checklist together with road safety infrastructure improvements to help protect motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians and other vulnerable road users."

Nearly one-quarter of all traffic fatalities in 2020 (9,478 deaths) occurred due to high speed. Crashes that occur at higher speeds tend to have more severe results.

"We know from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety's research that more than two people are killed every day on U.S. roads by impatient and reckless drivers blowing through red lights," says Jill Ingrassia, AAA's executive director of advocacy and communications. "Automated enforcement can play a role in a comprehensive strategy to address dangerous driving behaviors and improve traffic safety for all road users. This new set of best practice guidelines is an excellent starting point in helping jurisdictions ensure these programs are well-designed, data-driven, transparent and equitably implemented."

Camera laws vary from state to state. Currently, Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia prohibit both red light and speed cameras. Montana and South Dakota disallow red-light cameras, and New Jersey and Wisconsin have outlawed speed cameras.

The checklist features first-, second-, and long-term steps including many common sense action items including:

  • Identifying problem intersections and roadways
  • Make engineering and/or signage changes
  • Establish an advisory committee
  • Identify key stakeholders
  • Utilize safety data to determine camera locations
  • Require regular evaluations
The full checklist is available now at IIHS.org.

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BMW's newest works are equal parts art and car.

Photo courtesy of BMW

BMW has revealed "The Ultimate AI Masterpiece", an exploration of automobiles at the intersection of art in conjunction with Frieze New York 2021, as well as the 50th anniversary of BMW Group Cultural Engagement. The virtual art installation is supported by videos of the exhibit's creation process on YouTube and Instagram.

The installment is the brain child of creative technologist Nathan Shipley of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, and Gary Yeh, art connoisseur/founder of artDrunk. The duo used the NVIDIA StyleGAN artificial intelligence model to "cross-reference over 50,000 images of artwork spanning 900 years of history and a curated set of 50 works from renowned and emerging contemporary artists BMW has worked with over the past 50 years", according to a release.

Frieze New York 2021: "The Ultimate AI Masterpiece"

Photo courtesy of BMW

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The artificial intelligence then used those pieces to create entirely new art, merging classical art with the work of contemporary artists. These new works have been projection-mapped onto a virtual rendition of BMW's flagship 8 Series Gran Coupe.

"For 50 years, BMW has supported the arts and culture through numerous initiatives as a way engage and interact with consumers around the world in an authentic way," said Uwe Dreher, vice president of marketing, BMW of North America. "As we continue these efforts into 2021, and look for new and creative ways to engage audiences, we shift to a virtual setting where we are combining centuries-old art and the latest AI technology to create something completely new and exciting."

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Shipley and Yeh collaborated digitally from their homes in San Francisco and Seoul for the project.

"During an unusually isolated time in history, we took the opportunity to curate and work with artists from around the world as a means to give viewers a true art experience digitally," said Gary Yeh, art collector and founder of ArtDrunk. It was particularly exciting to push the boundaries of art, see how technology may influence the art world in the years to come, and build on 50 years of cultural engagement at BMW."

Frieze New York is currently in its 10th edition and taking place at The Shed in Manhattan through May 9. The venue is new and features an event reimagined for its new location, bringing together over 60 major galleries. A dedicated edition of Frieze Viewing Room will run parallel to the fair, through May 14, and will feature an expanded list of over 160 exhibitors.

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