Mex­ico’s road death stats cited in call for safer cars

The Washington Times Daily - - Business - THE ECON­OMY

RAMOS ARIZPE, MEX­ICO | In Mex­ico’s boom­ing auto in­dus­try, the cars rolling off as­sem­bly lines may look iden­ti­cal, but how safe they are de­pends on where they’re headed.

Ve­hi­cles that will be ex­ported to the United States or Europe must meet strin­gent safety laws, in­clud­ing as many as six to 10 air bags. But for cars des­tined to stay in Mex­ico or go south to the rest of Latin Amer­ica, there’s no need for an­tilock brak­ing sys­tems, elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol, or more than two air bags, if any.

Be­cause the price of the two ver­sions of the cars is about the same, the dual sys­tem but­tresses the bot­tom lines of au­tomak­ers such as Gen­eral Mo­tors and Nis­san. But it’s be­ing blamed for a surge in auto-re­lated fa­tal­i­ties in Mex­ico, where laws re­quire vir­tu­ally no safety pro­tec­tions.

“We are pay­ing for cars that are far more ex­pen­sive and far less safe,” said Ale­jan­dro Furas, tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor for Global New Car As­sess­ment Pro­gram, or NCAP, a ve­hi­cle crash-test group. “Some­thing is very wrong.”

In 2011, nearly 5,000 driv­ers and pas­sen­gers in Mex­ico died in ac­ci­dents, a 58 per­cent in­crease since 2001, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est avail­able data from the coun­try’s trans­porta­tion depart­ment.

Over the same decade, the U.S. re­duced the num­ber of auto-re­lated fa­tal­i­ties by 40 per­cent.

The death rate in Mex­ico, when com­par­ing fa­tal­i­ties with the size of the car fleet, is more than 3.5 times that of the U.S.

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