Recent figures published by the European Commission, show that fewer people are dying on European roads, and in fact, the UK currently has the best safety record – great! However, when we look more closely, there is still much more to be done.
Whilst there were substantial reductions (37%) in road deaths in the UK in 2017, compared to the period 2005-09, the vast majority of this improvement was seen in the period 2007-2010, with only 3% reduction having been seen after 2010. This shows that we have actually hit a plateau in our road safety efforts and are now no longer on track to meet the target of halving road deaths by 2020.
Recent years have seen a large number of safety improvements being introduced to vehicles that aim to improve these statistics, including things like lane assist and adapted cruise control. However, what we have found is that the numbers are no longer reducing in response to additional safety measures in the same way that we have seen in the past.
So why is this the case?
There are two main reasons for this:
- The adoption of the smart phone
- The behavioural responses to the improved safety measures.
As society has become more and more reliant on their smart phone, it has become a distraction to our driving. People using their mobile phone while driving are 4 x more likely to have an accident, therefore significantly affecting our road safety. Our continuing addiction to our phones has found us habitually picking them up throughout the day, no matter what we are doing – and this, in many cases, is including whilst we are driving.
For this reason, any benefits of additional safety features and technology being implemented on our vehicles is offset by the increase in distracted driving. This is a huge problem for governments aiming to tackle the problem of road deaths.
In addition, studies have shown that sometimes drivers adapt their behaviour in a negative way in response to additional safety features. The feeling of being more secure has actually resulted in drivers taking more risks than they would have done previously, again offsetting the benefits of the new technology. For example, a study on Munich taxi drivers found that there was no significant difference in the number of collisions between those with ABS and those without – in fact, the rate for drivers of ABS-equipped vehicles was slightly higher than the rate for those without ABS. The study found that the ABS equipped vehicles braked harder, cornered more sharply, left shorter headways and failed to maintain lane positioning and merge with other traffic safely.
It is therefore apparent that improvements in vehicle safety alone can no longer be relied upon to produce the results required to meet road safety targets and that driver behaviour must be tackled if EU governments are to achieve their 2020 goal of halving the number of road deaths.
The Floow works closely with government bodies to advise on road safety and the impacts of technology. For more information, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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