Ways to improve road safety

Recent research shows us that  there are many ways to improve road safety writes Geraldine Herbert

Understanding our frailty and vulnerability on the roads is crucial to making our roads safer but research show us that we all need to share the responsibility for improving safety. This includes road users, road designers, vehicle manufacturers, transport companies, State and local Government and road safety agencies.


What Research Tells us

  • Slow Down –Even slowing down by as little as 1 km can make a difference, evidence from several countries that a decrease in 1 km in mean traffic speed will result in a 3% decrease in the incidence of injury crashes and a 4-5% decrease for fatal crashes.
  • Protect pedestrians – The chances of a pedestrians surviving a crash decreases rapidly above certain impact speeds – for cars striking pedestrians the threshold impact speed lies in the range of 20-30km.
  • Safer Cars – New cars come with better safety and it makes a difference, in fact if every car had a safety performance equivalent to the best car in its market segment then safety could be improved by up to 26%.
  • Importance of Airbags – Research from the US showed a 37% reduction in the risk of death in driver side crashes for head protecting side airbags.
  • Auto Emergency Breaking – AEB systems improve safety in two ways: firstly, they help to avoid accidents by identifying critical situations early and warning the driver; and secondly they reduce the severity of crashes which cannot be avoided by lowering the speed of collision and, in some cases, by preparing the vehicle and restraint systems for impact. A Swedish study has shown that for cars fitted with AEB there has been a reduction of rear end crashes of between 35 – 41%.
  • Distraction – Glances away from the road totaling more than 2 seconds increase the risk of a crash or a near crash by at least two times.
  • Seat Belts – Only recently the RSA  issued a warning to Irish woman, in particular about how they wear their seat belt. Wearing a properly adjusted seat belt reduces the risk of fatal or serious injury by up to 50%.
  • Drink Driving – Should the use of alcohol ignition interlocks be considered? The device works like a breathalyzer, measuring the alcohol in a person’s system. If the amount of alcohol on the driver’s breath exceeds a pre-programmed level, then the interlock temporarily locks the vehicle’s ignition. An Austrian study showed a 79% reduction in drink-driving offending among repeat drink driving offenders by using a alcohol ignition interlock.
  • Roundabouts – Roundabouts consistently reduce casualty crashes by between 70% and 80%.
  • Speed warning lights – An Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA)  system warns the driver (visibly and/or audibly) that the speed limit is being exceeded. It is estimated that the reduction in fatal crashes as a result of cars fitted with an advisory speed alerting ISA device is around 18%

Source: The State of Victoria’s Road Safety Strategy and Action Plan 2016 to 2020


Geraldine Herbert

6th March, 2017

Author: Geraldine Herbert

Motoring Editor and Columnist for the Sunday Independent and editor of wheelsforwomen. Geraldine is also a regular contributor to Good Housekeeping (UK), EuroNews and to RTÉ, Newstalk, TodayFM, BBC Radio and Vigin Media. You can follow Geraldine on Twitter at @GerHerbert1

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