Big wheels of safety tar­get the vul­ner­a­ble

TECH­NOL­OGY / Volvo Trucks re­veals new tech­nol­ogy for its com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles in bid to slash road ac­ci­dents

Business Day - Motor News - - COMMERCIAL NEWS - Mo­tor News Re­porter

The Volvo Group has been the pur­veyor of safety in its ve­hi­cles, with the com­pany hav­ing been the first to in­tro­duce the three-point seat belt in 1959, a fea­ture that re­mains a ba­sic safety item in ev­ery ve­hi­cle sold since.

Now, Volvo Trucks has re­leased a re­port fo­cus­ing on vul­ner­a­ble road users. It utilises the com­pany’s own ac­ci­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tions and data from var­i­ous Swedish and Euro­pean au­thor­i­ties. One of the re­port’s con­clu­sions is there is a greater need to fo­cus on re­duc­ing risks for vul­ner­a­ble road users such as pedes­tri­ans, cy­clists, moped riders and mo­tor­cy­clists.

ANAL­Y­SIS

“In the 2017 Volvo Trucks Safety Re­port we an­a­lyse and de­scribe why ac­ci­dents in­volv­ing trucks oc­cur, how they hap­pen and what should be done to re­duce the risk of ac­ci­dents and their con­se­quences. Th­ese are facts that are not only im­por­tant to our own prod­uct de­vel­op­ment but also to ev­ery­one who works for a safer traf­fic en­vi­ron­ment,” says Peter Wells, head of Volvo Trucks’ ac­ci­dent re­search team.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, about 35% of peo­ple suf­fer­ing se­ri­ous in­juries or fa­tal­i­ties in crashes in­volv­ing heavy trucks are vul­ner­a­ble road users. With the in­creas­ing pace of ur­ban­i­sa­tion and with more peo­ple and ve­hi­cles on the roads, there is a risk that in­juries will in­crease un­less se­ri­ous ac­tion is taken.

When­ever trucks are in­volved in a crash, the con­se­quences are usu­ally quite dire. In the South African con­text, we have seen road car­nage in­volv­ing th­ese big com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles where nu­mer­ous ve­hi­cles are af­fected sub­se­quent to a crash caused by an 18-wheeler.

“In the past decade the num­ber of se­ri­ous road ac­ci­dents in­volv­ing heavy trucks has been al­most halved in Europe. How­ever, truck ac­ci­dents in­volv­ing vul­ner­a­ble road users have not been re­duced to the same ex­tent,” says Carl Jo­han Almqvist, traf­fic and prod­uct safety di­rec­tor at Volvo Trucks.

In an at­tempt to al­le­vi­ate this scourge, Volvo says it is in­clud­ing an ar­ray of tech­nol­ogy in the ve­hi­cle so as to give the driver a clear over­view of the truck’s im­me­di­ate vicin­ity, which is cru­cial for ac­ci­dent pre­ven­tion. As one of many com­ple­ments to rear-view mir­rors, close-quar­ter mir­rors and re­vers­ing cam­eras, the man­u­fac­turer has a so­lu­tion whereby the driver can see what is hap­pen­ing in the front cor­ner of the pas­sen­ger side with the help of a camera.

“It is also im­por­tant for pedes­tri­ans and cy­clists to be aware of the im­por­tance to see and be seen and to as­sist in smooth, safe in­ter­ac­tion in traf­fic. That’s why we are di­rect­ing our ed­u­ca­tional ma­te­rial to both young­sters and adults, for in­stance our Stop, Look, Wave and See and Be Seen cam­paigns, which spot­light pre­cisely th­ese is­sues,” says Almqvist.

THE NUM­BER OF SE­RI­OUS ROAD AC­CI­DENTS IN­VOLV­ING HEAVY TRUCKS HAS AL­MOST HALVED IN EUROPE

As men­tioned, the seat belt re­mains the most pri­mary form of ac­tive safety in any ve­hi­cle, in spite of there be­ing a long al­pha­bet soup of safety acronyms that a ve­hi­cle might be equipped with. It has been well doc­u­mented how the sim­ple yet ef­fec­tive na­ture of a seat­belt can slash the prob­a­bil­ity of a fa­tal ac­ci­dent by as much as 70%.

“The re­port re­veals that far too many truck driv­ers don’t use their seat belts even though we know that half of the un­belted truck driv­ers who have died in road ac­ci­dents would have sur­vived had they been wear­ing their seat belts,” says Almqvist.

So what we can glean from the re­port is that while tech­nol­ogy will con­tinue to be at the core of ve­hi­cle safety at large and the fact that a com­pany such as Volvo will con­tinue to push the en­ve­lope in this re­gard, the seat belt will re­main the most im­por­tant safety item in a ve­hi­cle for some time to come.

Top: Au­ton­o­mous Emer­gency Brak­ing is a real ac­ci­dent pre­ven­tion fea­ture. Above: De­tect­ing cy­clists in a truck’s blind spot is a prob­lem al­le­vi­ated by camera tech­nol­ogy. Left: Volvo Trucks is also test­ing an au­ton­o­mous refuse truck.

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