Autonomous Emergency Braking is a real accident prevention feature.    Picture: VOLVO TRUCKS
Autonomous Emergency Braking is a real accident prevention feature. Picture: VOLVO TRUCKS

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.

Detecting cyclists in a truck’s blind spot is a problem alleviated by camera technology.    Picture: VOLVO TRUCKS
Detecting cyclists in a truck’s blind spot is a problem alleviated by camera technology. Picture: VOLVO TRUCKS

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.

Volvo Trucks is also testing an autonomous refuse truck.   Picture: VOLVO TRUCKS
Volvo Trucks is also testing an autonomous refuse truck. Picture: VOLVO TRUCKS

"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.

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.

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