Friday 27 April 2018

Going global: why we're trying to get the world to slow down

Our Road Safety Authority expert details how UN road safety week focuses on killer speed

The UN is focusing on road speed
The UN is focusing on road speed

THIS is the fourth UN Global Road Safety Week, so road users throughout the country are being asked to join the international community and support the effort to reduce death and injury on roads.

This year the UN has decided to focus on speed and on what can be done to address this big risk factor in road trauma.

The week is designed to increase our understanding of the dangers of speed and to generate action on measures to address speed, thereby saving lives.

Speed contributes to around one-third of all fatal road traffic crashes in high-income countries and up to half in low and middle-income states.

Countries that have been successful in tackling road deaths have done so by prioritising the need to manage people's speed.

Among the proven strategies are building or modifying roads to include features that calm traffic, establishing appropriate and consistent speed limits throughout the road network, enforcing speed limits and using technology to do so.

Another successful factor is the use of in-vehicle technologies to assist the driver in sticking to the speed limit on a given stretch.

Changing attitudes to speeding and raising awareness about the dangers are vital too.

That's because if you don't have a public that accepts that speeding is not normal social behaviour, you will have a hard time gaining their support for enforcement or convincing them of the need for the other measures identified by the UN.

So how big a problem is speeding in this country?

Well, in 2016 the RSA published the results of forensic investigations into fatal crashes conducted by the gardai between 2008 and 2012.

It revealed that 322 people died and 74 were seriously injured in collisions where excessive speed was a contributory factor.

It also found that excessive speed for the road and conditions was a main contributory factor in one in three fatal crashes.

The speed at which you are travelling at the time of a crash is the single most important factor in determining the outcome.

Put simply, the faster the speed, the bigger the mess.

If you are travelling too fast for the conditions or the environment, you simply won't have time to stop safely or take avoidance action to prevent a crash.

These are the laws of physics.

The outcome can even be fatal at what some drivers might consider slow speeds.

For example, if a driver hits a pedestrian or cyclist at 50km/h, their chances of survival are, literally, the toss of a coin.

As the UN says, technology and engineering also have a big role to play in reducing speed-related crashes.

The use of Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) as a measure to reduce speed on our roads needs to be made a standard feature on new vehicles.

ISA uses a speed sign-recognition technology to advise drivers of the speed limit. The most advanced systems can give drivers the option to automatically limit the speed of the vehicle in a given speed zone.

ISA has the potential to reduce collisions by 30pc and reduce deaths by 20pc.

The RSA also wants to see the rollout of 30km/h speed limits in the centres of our towns and cities to protect our most vulnerable road users - pedestrians and cyclists.

The list of benefits extends beyond the obvious road safety ones. They include environmental, health and economic benefits. Dublin City Council recently extended their 30km zones in the city centre, and for this they should be congratulated. More local authorities need to follow their example.

But what can you and I do? Simple. Save lives, slow down and remember a speed limit is not a target.

Indo Motoring

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