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Mobility & Transport - Road Safety

Vehicle technologies and road casualty reduction

Vehicle technologies and road casualty reduction


Vehicle technologies and road casualty reduction

Vehicle safety is a key strategy used in addressing international and national road casualty reduction targets to achieve a safer road traffic system. Vehicle safety addresses the safety of all road users and currently comprises measures for crash avoidance (or primary safety) or reduction of injury in the event of a crash (crash protection or secondary safety). In-vehicle and advanced driver assistance systems which aim to reduce exposure to risk and assist post impact care are also envisaged for future application.

Primary safety systems

Driver behaviour can modify the performance of primary safety systems and the human-machine interface needs to be assessed. There is large future promise of casualty reduction from primary safety technologies, as long as development is prioritised to provide maximum casualty reduction.

Secondary safety systems

Substantial and evidence-based improvements have been made in the last 20 years and research has identified continuing large scope for enhanced vehicle safety. Further implementation of existing secondary safety technology provides the best opportunity for saving lives in the short term and new crash protection technologies hold much future potential.

New technologies for road safety have collectively been known as Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) and transport telematics (although these cover a wide range of road and vehicle based systems), advanced driver assistance technologies and, more recently, eSafety, to reflect increasing use of electronic and telecommunication technology within the road transport sector. However, as the European Commission notes, "not all new technologies for cars are for safety; they can be for comfort, professional use, traffic management. Safety is a precious public good; there may be a temptation to declare technologies as safety technologies to get policy makers interested in promotion and funding, while the normal business case should prevail." [50]. New in-vehicle technologies have the potential to increase risk as well as decrease crash and injury risks [41].

Examples of new in-vehicle technologies
Electronic Stability Control Active Cruise Control with emergency brake
Blind Spot Monitoring Brake Assist
Adaptive Headlights eCall
Obstacle And Collision Warning Advance hazard warning
Lane Departure Warning Seat belt reminders

While many predictive studies on eSafety have been carried out, research on the effects of systems in practice is few and far between. Ongoing studies include TRACE, eIMPACT, PREVENT. Results of studies carried out to date are available on the safety effects website, and it is important that such resources are kept up to date. These studies utilise a variety of approaches and it is necessary to evaluate the statistical robustness of the approaches used.

While attempts have been made to classify the impacts of eSafety measures (including advanced driver assistance measures), it is acknowledged to be a young science [25][1][45][47]. While systems are under development, they are not yet mature. Before measures are described as eSafety measures, positive safety performance needs to be demonstrated before they are introduced widely.

Based on current knowledge (albeit limited) about safety impacts and feasibility, this site accordingly discusses measures in two broad groups:

The measures selected for discussion are those which are being promoted widely as 'eSafety' measures, the knowledge about which is slowly evolving, including information on the costs and benefits of measures.

A clear framework is needed urgently to identify, evaluate, deliver and monitor new eSafety technologies.